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An empath’s growth

Last night I had dinner with two of my friends. The main topic of the conversation was the dilemma of being the person who is there for everyone. While I was listening to my friend, I thought about the past. I too, used to be that person.

I would be there for a colleague who needed money for a family emergency, until she ends up not paying. I was there for a friend who had big problems in her personal life, I would sit with her until 5 AM just to make her feel better and I would lose sleep for her. When my best friend broke down I would drop everything that I was doing and be there in a whim. In my past relationship, I would cancel on a prior commitment just to be there when he was in need. I was the person who would bend over backwards for anyone even if it means I would lose sleep, get sidetracked, and lose myself in the process. I was too much of an empath. I was too helpful, too kind, too compassionate.

I thought it was the right thing to do. I thought that always being there for someone is a basic human characteristic that we all should possess. Over time, I noticed that I would get sad randomly, and that I was absorbing the emotions of my friends. I was conflicted because I want to be a good friend, but constantly being there for others was taking a toll on my mental health. I found myself in a really dark place, for quite a long time. Can’t I just be present but not get dragged into the loneliness? Am I a terrible person if I establish boundaries on who gets to access the empath in me?

It took years of practice for me to not absorb the sorrows of the person I am talking to. I realized later on that I can both be be there for them but not be engulfed in their pain and sadness. I started establishing boundaries. I decided that my energy should now be intentional. Since I have a limited amount of energy, I have to be mindful of where I place it. I can be a good friend without suffering the side effects of being the reliable one.

I learned how to say no. I learned how to protect my time. I became more mindful when the energy starts to take a toll on my psyche. I now have an internal alarm system that tells me to take a step back and not go further, or just stay on my side of the fence. “Just listen, Kate. Be the knowing presence. Be present. It doesn’t mean that I should feel every single heartache. I can just be present. My friend’s story is not about me. What my friend needs is someone who will hold his or her hand while they are going through this painful process.”

When I started doing that, it was like a certain warmth came over my body. I felt at ease. I now know that I shouldn’t be losing sleep over someone’s suffering. I am an effective problem solver when I have a full night’s rest. I can still choose to keep my internal peace even if a close friend is going through a difficult time. My friend can count on me but I am now careful to not let other people’s state, affect my wellbeing. I still have people that I will run to on a heartbeat, however, I have limited that to my sisters and my partner. The rest would need thought before I bend over backwards to attend to them.

I can only give when my cup is full. I cannot give from an empty cup. This is one lesson that I have learned from Oprah. I am just one human being. I can’t save the entire world’s problems. But what I can do is be present in every moment and offer every person that I interact with that presence. I attentively listen to a person who is talking, I now keep my phone whenever I’m in a conversation with someone. I try to improve on being a better human, day in and day out.

I hope that you, reader, can also learn how to establish and maintain healthy boundaries with your friends and family. Our energy is limited, so we can’t go around and let everyone take from our limited energy pool. We have to be mindful.

The north star gave a visit

When I am at a turning point in my life, I would always go to to my father for advice. Should I do this or that? What would my next step be? How do I deal with this challenging situation? That is probably one of the things that I mostly missed about him. He was just the light that guided me. He wouldn’t exactly tell me what to do but he just says something that makes me look at any situation differently, and then I would be able to decide firmly, without any second thoughts.

Last night, I dreamt of him. He visited us, his four daughters. In the dream we transferred to a new apartment near a river, as usual my dreams of him would have a green colored element. The apartment we moved into was green.

In the dream, it all felt so real, as if no time has passed, though I knew deep down that it was just a visit. I knew that he was just wondering how we were, the usual him, making sure that everything was set whenever we have to move in a new dorm or apartment.

I needed that dream. Even though it was probably my subconscious that was being put into awareness while I was sleeping, I like to believe that Papa’s soul was visiting. If he was alive, I know that he would do that for sure. Again, as much as I want that dream to be real, when my alarm rang, I went back to reality.

In his honor, I will live a life that he would be proud of. I miss him, but all this pain, I shall keep on transforming into something beautiful. Thank you Papa for the visit.

On slow living

I’ve been caught inside the wormhole of hustle culture. After having spent five days on home quarantine, I realized how much I’ve been taking myself for granted. My soul was withering. I couldn’t find the sense in what I was doing. I was perpetually tired. My room was a mess. I was just dragging myself everyday at the hospital and not thinking about how it was affecting my body. I got totally disconnected.

Is it necessary to live this kind of life? My body keeps on telling me that there was something wrong. And so I have to go back to writing to check myself.

No, this is not the life that I want for myself. I want to show up with energy and lightness. Getting COVID taught me that I was stepping on the gas too much. It’s time to reassess how I was approaching life.

Let us live slowly. Let us be more present in our interactions and in wherever we are. Working in the hospital had me doing things on a speed of lightning, which eventually backfired. What really matters, Kate? Is this the life you imagined? Is this the life you gave up your previous career for? Burning your own candle so that you can save others?

It all feels wrong. This is not it.

I want to work so I could live, not live, to work. That is just wrong in a lot of aspects.

Yesterday I had such an excruciating headache, it was probably still COVID. I couldn’t do my job properly and it was just so debilitating. I woke up today feeling more refreshed because I was able to sleep. I realized when I woke up what I really need, a better work life balance.

I hope the next steps I take would lead me to a life of balance.

On days when the north star is remembered

It still is painful for me to write about you, because you are the most important person in my life. How I wish I could share all the good things happening right now. How I wish you are physically here to enjoy the fruits of your labor. I miss you. We miss you. But I know that you lived a life well lived. We are and we will keep on living.

As your fourth death anniversary approaches, I keep on remembering you more and more. But most of all, I realize more and more how lucky we are to have you as our father. Your laughs and dad jokes are missed, but I live everyday in celebration of how well I was raised by a man like you.

I love you so much Pa. Thank you for everything.

Compassion fatigue

Working in a public hospital has its own set of pros and cons. The pro is that you get exposed to a huge bulk of patients. You have hands on cases and you get to practice and learn how to manage patients on your own.

I am grateful that I get to help patients and learn along the process. I am amazed with the medical profession overall but again, as someone who cares deeply about so many things, handling poverty-stricken patients still breaks my heart.

Patients who don’t have money to buy sutures for his wife’s cesarian section because the hospital doesn’t have enough supplies. Hypertensive disorders in pregnant women who chose not to seek prenatal care because they don’t have money. Women who keep on giving birth even if they obviously couldn’t afford another child anymore. Living in a country with backward laws for women. Needing the permission of the husband for tubal ligation consent. Grand multiparity patients who have chronic diseases but since they are not using any form of contraception, they keep on getting pregnant even to the risk of their own lives. Violence against women and children.

I am absorbing all these frustrating energy. I am having compassion fatigue. I feel like our country is just so far away from ideal. It hurts me that day in and day out it’s almost always like this.

Should I stop caring about things that I get upset about? Should I just be okay with how the system is. I know that in my own way, I am doing my part. I am helping by living a life of service. But until when will circumstances change?

The why

Yesterday, I had a meeting with event organizers composed of medical staff. I was tasked to host a lay forum and a fashion show, one was for menopause and the other was for pregnant women. I instantly said yes when I was offered to host the event. It’s one of the things that I do which I truly enjoy, and it’s also a change of pace from my usual routine of going on duty then going home.

As the meeting was about to conclude, the organizers asked if we have questions about the event. One thing dawned on me, I wasn’t aware why we have these events. For the menopause clinic, I believe that its a way of celebrating women’s month, but for the pregnant fashion show, I asked them, “Why did we have this event?”

People got silent for a few seconds, and they told me to think of a reason and just include it on the script. Oh my God, people have been preparing for this event for more than a month and yet they couldn’t answer me what the fashion show is for.

I figured out that the reason why people are so burnt out in our workplace is because they do not have a north star, a clear purpose. That is all that I was thinking about. These hardworking people do not know why they are organizing this event in the first place. I wasn’t surprised that they weren’t aware. I just got sad.

That meeting made me reflect on what I am doing. Amidst the burnout that is slowly creeping in my body, I still feel connected to my purpose. I know that I am training so that I will have the skills and competencies needed to practice as a medical doctor and to serve the community. I know that I want to help people have access to proper care and make them feel safe and supported despite them battling diseases. I know that if I study well, I could help provide answers and let them take charge of their health even if they don’t have money.

I see medical training as somehow like being an army. You have this rigorous training which is physically and mentally taxing, but at the end of it, you come out as a stronger and more equipped person. You know what to do and you are able to make quick decisions especially when the life of a person is literally on your hands. I see training that way.

If I am not clear with my why, I could have quit a long time ago.

I also see medical training as something like that of studying to be a priest. “It is a calling.” That’s what my friend who is studying to be a priest told me. Medical training is indeed a calling. It is a call for me to serve. How do I know this? There are tons of careers out there that I could have chosen and yet, I chose this torturous and bittersweet path. Why? Because I just couldn’t shake it off. I tried to get away from this itch, but I just couldn’t so I gave in. Now that I am seven months away from being a doctor, as hard as each day of training could be, my heart knows that it is in the right place.

So much thought came from that meeting. I remembered how a clear why changes the way you see and do things. I just hope that more people are clear with their why, maybe then this world will be filled with passionate and aligned people.

Recenter

On putting yourself first

I’m starting to put myself last. That is what I have noticed in this past week. I am getting caught up with the whole OB-Gyn drama. Of course, this has to stop. There is a better way of living. There is a way to chase your goals and still be healthy, calm, and at peace and that is by putting myself as a priority. So I promise that today, I will put myself first. I will fill my cup until it runneth over. I will learn as much as I can in the last few days of this rotation.

Refocusing

At yesterday’s prenatal clinic, I just had an epiphany. When I start focusing on my patients and how to best serve them, I suddenly feel at peace. Aaaaah, this is what I am training for. I want to serve them in the best way that I can. I had an advanced maternal age patient yesterday who had long-standing hypertension and was referred to our hospital since hers was a complicated case, and I talked to her about the plan and explained the importance of her adhering to the plan. I saw in her eyes that she was glad that she can understand her situation. When I get to encounter patients in the clinic, that’s when everything starts to make sense again. I like feeling that way.

Turbulence

There has been friction recently at work and I have been thinking about it for quite some time and maybe I shouldn’t be but as an empath and sensitive person, it baffles me when I sense that some people don’t just care enough as long as the consequences of their actions do not affect them. They care, and they don’t have the intention for bad things to happen to you, but they just don’t care enough. As a person who is the complete opposite of this, it is sad when I work with people who are not vibrating on that same level. Anyway, I have to accept that it is just the way it is. You cannot force concern and empathy to suddenly arise in other people. What I can do is just be who I am and improve on everything that I still have to work on. Inhale. Exhale. Not everyone will have the same heart as you but it’s okay.

Just grateful

My heart is filled with gratitude for my teammates who are just some of the most amazing people I’ve met. I’m grateful for my family who provides me the best chance to thrive. I am so blessed with my partner who is holding my hand as we face this rollercoaster of life. I am filled with love and joy even if sometimes I tend to forget. It’s a beautiful Sunday morning as I am writing this and I my heart is beating calmly. This is what matters.

A simple thought

Since I have been diagnosed with PCOS, all of the emotional breakdowns, fatigue, migraines, and feeling so defeated makes sense. At least now that I know what I am dealing with, I can do the necessary steps to control it.

Dear readers, I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, it is a disease that is entangled with having high androgens and insulin resistance. The menstrual irregularities, insane migraine attacks, and weight gain now makes sense.

I was actually scared to get a diagnosis because I don’t want to believe that there is something wrong with my body. Now that the elephant in the room has been addressed, I know that I can manage this. I have to lose weight. I started calorie counting yesterday and today I ran for 20 minutes in the track. I can and I must because I want to live a longer life and of course to prevent diabetes, hypertension and infertility.

I’m actually terrified by the thought that I might not have kids in the future, but I’ve decided that I’ll take every challenge one day at a time. What matters for me is that, I do what I can so that tomorrow me would be proud. Again, I will not be perfect, and it will be messy. But I don’t want tomorrow me to say that, “I should have done better.”

I don’t want to fall into the trap of being too hard on myself again. Let us face whatever’s in front of us, one day at a time, one minute at a time on a moment to moment basis.

OB-Gyn thoughts

Becoming a medical doctor has been a dream of mine since I was in high school. I didn’t know what kind of specific doctor I wanted to be at that moment. This month, I began my OB-Gyn rotation. I remember this as my favorite rotation in clerkship. I just love the outcome of majority of cases. There are babies, and it reminds me of having a fresh start. Each baby that we deliver carries a lot of possibilities. Childbirth is a positive thing for me.

However, the work needed and the culture is not something that I want to subject myself to. To be honest I am surviving on, Omeprazole, pain meds and multivitamins.

I love the art of learning these information and all the skills that an OB-Gyn has but, the experience as a post-graduate intern has been draining for me. Maybe I changed? Maybe being a junior intern is just different with being a senior intern. The responsibilities are bigger and heavier.

I can’t actually believe that I am saying this, but I am on the process of discovering who I really am, and what I want my medical practice to be. I will just approach the succeeding weeks as part of my training to be a well-rounded physician and find ways to still be curious in the cases and gain skills. I will shift my focus to the patients. I will keep on studying and learning as much as I can for my future patients. They deserve a kind, smart, and competent doctor.

I will get through this. We will get through this.

Every single day is a new learning experience.

The rain caught up with me

No matter how beautiful the previous weeks have been, I still find myself sad, this day in particular. I keep thinking of the reason as to why I am feeling this way despite every blessing and beautiful thing that is happening. My rational mind says this is probably hormonal or medical, but my spirit junkie self says, this is part of being human. Moments of emptiness are parts of the human experience. We are all flawed and yet beautiful.

I have been struggling to wake up early because at night, I feel like I have to finish everything so that tomorrow’s hassle-free environment is guaranteed. Even though I very well know that there will always be things outside of my control, I still want to at least have a say as to how the day will unfold. Right now, I am teaching myself how to be at peace and present.

Being present is probably the one area of my life that I am most struggling with. Sometimes I can’t control the scenarios that play in my head. What if this or that happens, what should be my plan A,B, C, and so on. How do I navigate each scenario? More often than not, these scenarios don’t pan out. The need to be in control comes from not wanting to be caught off guard with possibilities that could arise. I just want to know that I can handle anything, no matter what it is. That’s one lesson that I have learned when Papa passed away, that I should be ready for anything that could happen. In this world filled with randomness, anything is possible.

I am proud of myself for sleeping earlier last night though. I was kind of skeptical that I would be able to sleep early because I had spanish latté in the afternoon, but alas, my mind and body were both exhausted. I also didn’t watch kdrama and chose sleep instead. I also found myself scrolling through Facebook yesterday because I wanted to thank the Facebook wall greetings last week, and so I drowned inside the vortex. I’ve met so many people who have an amazing online presence but a shattered real life. It makes me sad to think that we are living in a world wherein posts and likes matter hence I try to keep distance with social media.

Bad days happen and negative thoughts arise. Even though I have worked hard to be in my current mental state, I know that days filled with self doubt and frustration will arise. Again, these are all parts of the human experience. On bad days, I may not understand what the point of living is but I have to soak in every single emotion and feeling. The contrast makes us appreciate every moment anyway.

Sunday Coffee

I used to have weekly check-ins and grab coffee alone way before the whole coffee shop obsession became a thing. I started doing this eight years ago when I got my first job. I dreamt of doing that as soon as I could afford it. I would do errands and cap off the day with drinking coffee and writing.

You see, I am a worrier, I have to unload all the mental chatter on a piece of paper or a digital platform. It probably lessened now but to be honest, there are times when the darkness still gets to me.

I’ve been used to having Plan A to Z just to be sure that everything is going to be okay. Now that I am finally at a place in my life wherein things are finally working out, not perfect but 1000x better, I can’t help but think about when the next shoe is going to drop. What is the next curve ball and if I happen to cross its path, what will be my approach? But isn’t it about time to breathe and just stay in the moment? Isn’t it possible that the worst part is over afterall?

I want to believe that everything will work out because still existing is a proof that no matter what comes your way, you can still survive. I guess bad habits die hard? But let me just enjoy this coffee, and how much we’ve surpassed and how we thrived in the past couple of years. At least, for this moment, while I’m sipping this coffee, let it be me staying here, at the present, just being grateful with everything that there is. Let me just feel that, hey, you are doing great girl. Inhale. Exhale.

Doesn’t it feel good? Isn’t it nice to just accept good things, and know that you’ve earned every single bit of it? You got this.