I sat silently, tapping my foot as my psychiatrist took a moment to update her notes on my chart. I hate this part. I hate this part because I can’t lie, and I shouldn’t lie. Any altered physical or emotional symptoms have and should be reported, because, well, I’d rather not die.
She finally breaks and smiles at me, and I’m bracing myself for the question. Oh, God. Here it comes.
Any changes in mood? Are there any physical changes I should know about?
“Check the most recent weight the nurse took.”
Her eyebrows wrinkle in concern as she paws at some paperwork.
“130 lbs. Is that bad?”
“Yeah, considering I weighed 136 a week and a half ago.”
I had lost six pounds in just under two weeks, all because of medication. I don’t want to eat, and when I do I eat very little. And when a serious side effect comes along, that usually means more medicine. More medicine means my pattern and routine is reduced to dust. More medicine means more side effects.
“I’m not surprised,” she replies. “It’s a common side effect of Lamictal. Try buying some protein shakes.”
Oh, thank the Lord. I can do that. I can down disgusting protein shakes like a picky toddler.
And that is one of my branches on my life tree. This is my stress. The constant fear of some organ system failing, the constant pseudo-influenza when a dosage changes, all of the stick-and-pokes to the arm to get labs.
See, you have a trunk. You have this strong, central base. It’s composed of, well, you. It’s composed of your most solid, concrete personality traits and most overwhelming debilitations. And from this trunk come these beautiful (and not so beautiful) branches.
Constant run-ins with medicinal side effects: branch.
Constant insecurity that I’m wasting my life: branch.
My original prose and free verse writing: branch.
My awful and tacky watercolors: branch.
The mental and physical bruising after an awful mood swing: branch.
All of these things contribute to your “life tree”. Every branch is an off-shoot of your most basic being.
Sometimes, we don’t like all of the branches. We want to cut them down, we want them out of sight. We want them gone by simply taking a chainsaw and hacking that sucker down. We don’t want the pain. We don’t want to struggle through it. We always want the easy way out.
But think about this for a moment: what would your tree look like if you cut out what you don’t want, and, more importantly, what you don’t want others to see:
It’s like looking at a hairless cat. No. Just no.
All your pain, sufferings, struggles, and flaws are a part of you. They make you who you are.
One of my favorite spoken word poets Neil Hilborn puts it so eloquently in his piece entitled “The Future” :
My sadness is my old paint under the new…I would still be me without it, but I would be so boring.
Instead of chopping off branches, trying watering instead. Shower yourself with love, perseverance, kindness, quality time, intentional behavior, and a sense of purpose and acceptance and I promise you, those branches you hate and despise will no longer wither but thrive. #LoveYoBranches
It is only when we are strong and in full bloom that we can offer shade to others.