It's Just a Spark
Maybe you've heard this masterpiece called "Last Hope" written by Hayley Williams and Taylor York. Or maybe you're just uncultured swine who has lived under a rock since their self-titled album "Paramore" debuted in 2013. Either way, go listen to this song right now. Yes, RIGHT NOW! It will change your life. Maybe. I've attached a YouTube link below so you can watch the live version that's even better than what they recorded for their album:
"It's just a spark, but it's enough to keep me going."
Things are tough in the world right now. COVID-19 remains a part of our lives whether we like it or not. Ukraine is a long-forgotten headline. Racism, sexism, and so many other -ism's continue to run deep through the veins of our beloved nation. Inflation is at an all time high and the essentials are more expensive than ever. Mass shootings continue to happen around the country. We're sitting in limbo waiting to hear next steps for student debt. Monkeypox is a thing. Olivia Newton-John just died (RIP). All sorts of horrible things happen in the world every day and I'm probably forgetting hundreds of big topics so please don't berate me for not including them here.
I'm not saying all of this to make you depressed. I'm just saying there's a lot in the world right now that has the potential to make us feel all the feelings and put us down in the dumps. So if things are just going to keep being horrible all the time why do we even try? Personally, my depression weighs heavy on me some nights. I often wonder to myself and occasionally out loud, "what's the point of trying??" I have all these skills that I have learned through therapy to help cope with life and all of the messiness that comes with it. But sometimes the most difficult part of depression is deciding that it's worth the effort to feel better. If you have experienced depression, you're probably familiar with that metaphorical dark hole we sink into and how we sometimes become comfortable there. Sometimes I decide it's too much effort to even start to claw my way out so I just sit there and decide to be miserable which obviously only worsens my depressive state.
So what do I do when I'm stuck being miserable and decide that my skills aren't worth my time or energy? I have to search down deep and find my spark.
"Every night I try my best to dream tomorrow makes it better. Then I wake up to the cold reality that not a thing has changed. But it will happen. Gonna let it happen."
This lyric is uncomfortably familiar for me. I wrote another blog post recently about revenge procrastination. For me, that means putting off bedtime because I am not ready to face the difficulties of the next day. I know it's just going to be the same old thing. Wake up early, feel tired, get through a day of work, and come home and think about how I have to do the same thing again in less than 24 hours. What a way to live, right? Part of this song is about letting go of your need to control the situation in front of you. I know that I have to go to work and I know that I'm going to face difficult patient situations. I have no control over how the hospital runs or how busy it gets or how a patient may yell at me for something that's not my fault. So why do I stress over it? Why do I spend my whole evening fixating on it? I have come to accept that work itself will not change. The only thing I have control over is how I react to it and how I manage my own day. I also have the ability to spend my evenings the way I want to - gardening, playing with the dogs, spending time with my husband, completing monotonous chores around the house, taking a warm bath, etc. Work does not have any control over my personal life. I have started to learn how to let go of control and let things happen the way they're going to happen. It's a huge undertaking and I think I'm always going to struggle with it, but at least I know I'm working on diminishing the control-freak side of my personality and letting my free-spirit run wild.
"The salt in my wounds isn't burning any more than it used to. It's not that I don't feel the pain, it's just I'm not afraid of hurting anymore.
And the blood in these veins isn't pumping any less than it ever has. And that's the hope I have, the only thing I know that's keeping me alive."
These lyrics ignited a spark in me a few weeks back. I was feeling a lot of weight on my shoulders and these words helped me to remember that it's okay to feel that weight. It's okay to hurt and be sad and feel angry. Depression makes me want to feel numb. To shut out the hurt and not let it get to me. To avoid the messiness in life and find an easier way around. But when I shut out the negative emotions, I end up shutting out the positive ones, too. I miss out on joy, love, happiness. I feel like I'm a walking "live, laugh, love" sign as I type this. But seriously! You can't appreciate the good in life if you don't experience the bad. Face your fears and your hurts head on. There's some good waiting for you on the other side that you will completely miss if you go an alternate route.
I texted my family about a week ago to tell them how depressed I was feeling on that particular night. I didn't have a reason for feeling depressed. Nothing specific had happened. I just felt depressed. I wasn't feeling any sort of spark. I knew which skills I could use, and specifically which ones would work best. But I didn't feel like trying. My mom suggested going to a store and buying something for myself. But I had already been out once that day and didn't have it in me to go be around happy people. I knew I would just roll my eyes at them because I get envious of happy people when I'm like this. I ended up deciding to do a couple tasks around the house that I had been putting off for weeks - hanging up my diplomas and my PT wall license in our home office, and installing a new towel rack in the bathroom. And before I knew it, I was feeling a whole lot better. I had successfully found SOMETHING to ignite that spark instead of just sitting in my depression. It wasn't much, but it was enough. And it kept me going through the night.
My manager recently asked our department to write down our "why" on a sticky note. What gives us purpose, joy, or fulfillment at work? Why do we do what we do? It can often be a thankless job, and some days you feel that the harder you work, the less you get done. It can be extremely frustrating to know that I worked SO hard through many years of school to get here, and for what? I've experienced some frustration with work recently and I have been hesitant to write my "why" on the board because I don't want to give in to the positivity. I'm comfortable in my miserable, dark, cramped hole. But I do know my why. I don't do my job for my boss. I don't do it for my coworkers. I don't do it for the hospital. I sometimes don't even do it for myself. At the end of the day, I got into healthcare because I care about the patient in front of me - I do it for them. I'm pretty sure that every student applicant to every healthcare program gets asked, "Why is this the career path you've decided to pursue?" I know that I answered this question the same way that many applicants answer: "To help people."
So that's it, folks. That's my spark within my work life. Many of my patients don't appreciate the time and effort that I spend preparing my session for them, pouring my energy into their recovery. And that's okay. I don't need to be constantly thanked or recognized for what I do. I know I'm good at it and I give my patients my best. But every once in a while someone says thank you or compliments my bedside manner or tells me that our session has made a huge difference in their journey to recovery. And that helps to re-ignite that dimly glowing ember sitting all alone in my heart. "It's just a spark, but it's enough to keep me going."