Sunday, November 17, 2013

Frustration. You New Normal Doesn't Have To Be A Bad Thing...

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I haven't posted anything on the blog in about 3 weeks now.

I've been through a rough patch...

Nearly 3 weeks ago now, I had a couple of seizures. I'd had a few before, if you've read my previous post on hallucinations, you'd know it was a result of PRES syndrome and that the weeks after the seizures were the scariest of my life. During that time, I'd question even the most mundane aspects of life, be hugely forgetful and would be confused by things, such as movie plots, that normally wouldn't phase me.

The day before I had these last seizures, I'd asked my doctor if the ones I had before could affect me over the long term. I'd been feeling for a while that my ability to memorize things had been compromised. I was finding it harder to understand things, and it became more and more evident as I started studying for exams that those previous seizures had impacted my capability to learn and remember things.  

Then, the next day, the seizures happened. I was put onto a maximum dose of anti-epileptic medications. And, almost straight away, my mind was REALLY affected. It made me feel fuzzy, unable to concentrate, confused and perpetually drowsy for the next few weeks. This time though, they couldn't even figure out what had caused the seizures. They'd just... happened... overnight and it was lucky I was sleeping next to a wall so my parents had heard me banging against it when I started convulsing and could come to my aid. And to make things worse, my exams were only a week away.

I was scared.

And I started doubting myself.

It seemed all my positive attributes, not only my brain and mental capability, but also my physicality and my looks, had taken a huge hit during my treatment.

It's made me wonder... what if this occurs forever?

What if my mind and my body will be affected for my whole life by all this?

 What if I never get back to what I used to be. What if this was my new normal?

Before, when I used to doubt myself about my losses in looks and physicality, I could always fall back to the fact that I was still smart to keep me happy and positive. But even that's been jeopardised by treatment...

Now I find myself really questioning all the struggles I've been through and all the effort I'd put in to get past them.

The strict control of my diet for months... what was that for? I wasn't losing any weight, I wasn't getting any fitter and I certainly wasn't starting to look like what I used to either.
The constant exercise I was doing? Why bother when I'd be going to hospital every two weeks where I'd lose all the minuscule gains I'd made? 7 months after my transplant and I can barely last 5 minutes in a game of basketball, yet alone get anywhere close to dunking. 
After being through so much, I guess I expected a bit of smooth sailing every now and then, or a surge in progress or SOMETHING to show for all the pain I'd put myself through. But it hasn't.

And it's... JUST... SO...  FRUSTRATING.

The frustration got me to a point where I was asking myself; what is the point in life? I mean we all go through it and go through our journeys... but what's it all for in the end? Our thoughts, feelings, emotions... in the end, aren't they all just a bunch of chemical reactions? Who cares about us and what we feel? In the long run, aren't we just tiny pieces of some huger puzzle that no-one knows the answer to? 

After a while of this confusion, I needed a way out. After a while, I opened up a browser and headed over to this blog and reread all the comments and messages about how it had helped people. I re-read the post about the lessons I'd learned from cancer. I decided to take my own advice. What I'd done before, I did once again for this newer... longer challenge.

I took a step back and looked at where I was objectively... almost as if I was someone else looking at my life. That pushed the anger and frustration into the background. Then I asked myself why I was feeling pissed off. Why I was getting depressed. 

That's when I realised that the frustration I was feeling; the negativity, the anger, the depression - that was all coming from ME. It was a product of MY MIND. Why was I getting angry then? What was it doing... other than making me more frustrated? 
There wasn't an answer to that question. Getting frustrated about something I couldn't help... that made no sense. 
Why not instead focus on the things I could control instead? 

For the first time in weeks... that haze of anger faded away. But there were still some things that bugged me.
And so I kept asking myself... why?

So the transplant and my treatment have ended up changing me for good.
Why should I let that make me feel down? It was something I couldn't control, and putting myself down for something I couldn't change was useless, and only harming myself.

Why was I getting down and depressed about that? First of all, were they eventhinking those things in the first place? Even if they were, why should what someone THINKS about me make me feel bad? Did I even know them? Even if I did,wouldn't getting down, negative and angry about it only hurtme? And probably make them happier?

So I wasn't as fit as before. 
Why should I get down about that? I could still work towards getting back to there. Yeah I couldn't get there quickly.. but losing weight and getting fit wasn't something that happened overnight for anyone, yet alone me. Because I knew it'd take time, I could give myself time to get there. My mentality was the best thing on my side in that battle... having getting back into basketball as a goal would be a great goal to keep me busy, that was for sure... (here's how I managed to do it over time. And how you  too can put the best thing on your side in the constant battle of staying healthy - your MIND). 

Indeed, why wasn't I happy, or proud about what I had done already? 
To come back from not being able to walk to being able to run around the suburb and play a few basketball games (not well I might add, but I did manage to play a few) is a HUGE achievement. Something that I should be proud of, something I could draw from later in life.

This "new normal" of mine... it wasn't something to adjust to. It was something far beyond what I had before. 

That version of me in the past, could he have gotten through what I have in the past 2 years or see life as clearly as I can now? Could he walk down the street, always comfortable in his skin? He did care about people, but could he feel what they had? Did he know what it was really like? He couldn't then. But I can now. And if you've been through hard times yourself, you can too (though trust me - you don't wanna wait to learn it the hard way). 

All the doubt I was having about life after all of this... I re-examined.

What was the purpose of life if all my work could get thrown away in an instant by my health? 
Even if our lives seemed meaningless, our feelings and thoughts still exist. And, if there is no other clear reason for us being here, why not make our purpose to leave this place in a better place than we found it, make others happy and enjoy ourselves in the process? The power we have to give happiness to others can never be taken away. And that, in the end, is what matters, and what lasts. 

Seeing the hundreds of thanks and messages of appreciation I'd gotten from others about my posts made me realise that the happiness I could give others from sharing my experiences was more rewarding than the superficial, fleeting moments of joy that good looks, money, power and fame could bring.

But despite seeing all this, losing some of my mental proficiency was still a scary prospect. Since finding out I had leukemia, I'd held on to a dream of someday becoming the guy who found or helped find the cure for cancers. But these seizures and the side effects I was getting from the medication was making that dream seem unattainable. Hell, I couldn't even count on myself to be the best doctor I could possibly be now, yet alone one who could think up cures for diseases.

And so I fell back into that spiral of doubt. I got scared again. What if I never got back to being as sharp as I was before?

But a few words from my doctor a few days ago took away that fear. 

Those words were very much like what he first told me (that the good news is you're 17 and you have leukemia, but the bad news is, you're 17 and you have leukemia) and was HOW I'd realised that you always had a second way of looking at things.
He told me of a professor of his while he was studying maths (before he decided to do medicine of course) who'd told him that any problem was solvable. All you had to do was take a step back and approach the problem from another direction, from another perspective, over and over again until things became clear.

The same thing I'd realised myself... in someone else's words. 

And so I started looking at my current situation a little differently.  

Maybe I'd end up getting bad marks in my upcoming exams because I just couldn't grasp the logic behind things or remember things as well as I used to. But for the rest of my life, I would have the knowledge that I could still pass in a very hard course while my brain wasn't even functioning properly. 

Why should I stress out over exams that I physically was incapacitated for? Wasn't that only harming myself and wasting time I could put towards getting a few extra marks?

After exams were over, why should I stress about the results? What would that stress achieve other than making me feel bad about myself? It definitely couldn't change the results.

Why was I worrying about the side effects of the medication? I was confused and drowsy right now, but that doesn't mean those side effects would stay with me in the long term. It was because I was put on the maximum dose without any build-up or weaning into it that I was having these symptoms in the first place. Worrying about it wasn't accomplishing anything other than making me feel bad... so why do it?

And so looking at things from another perspective and asking why is helping me to get over the frustration and self doubt that had been building up inside of me for a while. I'm not completely over it yet, I still get angry at myself and depressed when I puff out within minutes of starting a workout, or can't remember things in an exam or when I look at myself in the mirror. But I'm working on it. And I'm feeling happier and happier and less frustrated every day. 

It can be hard seeing another way of looking at things, especially when your brain is against you. It's even harder when you've made negativity a habit, something you reflexively feel and do. But if you can share your feelings with someone else, if you can do positive, reinforcing things like setting an alarm, going for a job or if it comes to it, re-reading these posts when you're at your lowest -  you CAN be happy and you CAN accomplish whatever you want to.

All you've got to do is give it take a step back and give it some time. 

Hopefully the next one won't take as long to post up. This one took a very long time to write with the fuzzy head and I'm honestly not sure if it's that good or if I keep repeating myself... the next one won't take as long hopefully and will probably be about why you can't afford not to give blood. <-- If you or a loved one needs help or if you enjoy my blogs or if you're interested in medicine, like my page on facebook =]


  1. Ups and downs are part and parcel of life, think of this whole episode as a little hiccup - stay strong and positive.. The whole universe is with you, you have a great soul, people around the globe pray for you and you will get back to yourself very very soon.. Keep trying and Never Ever Think You Can't and Keeping Trying.. Love you bub...

    1. Thanks mum, you guys definitely make this much easier for me to do. not sure how i could do it without you tbh thanks a lot

  2. What a legend mate. It's so damn hard going through cancer and now you have seizures...and you're still so happy!! God bless your heart. Don't stop at what you're doing!

    1. Thanks buddy. Hope it helps you/your loved ones through any problems you may be facing. Do share it around if you think it can and as long as people keep benefiting from it i will continue to write, so will do on that regard =]

    2. Very well said.Thank you for sharing all these thoughts. My son is going thru all these emotions now as he battles his cancer and he is 22 and a college student. Very powerful blog thank you again for sharing. You are helping people you may never know . Inspiration a good word for you.

  3. You rock brother.taking a step back and reasoning out why our feelings are bothering us and surely a step towards conquering our mind,which Lord Krishna says in the Gita is most necessary to do great things.Thanks for showing us a logical, rational method of getting out of the influence of feelings which may end up weakining us.

    1. Thanks man, yeah being a master of your mind is something I hope to achieve someday. It's not easy but it can be done over time - keep posting these things and good luck with exams

  4. You are the blessing of our life and we are so very proud of you.

  5. pretty inspiring to see you fight through all of these barriers, good on you man, keep it up

    1. Will do dude. Hope to help as many people as I can. Hope it helps you/someone you know.

  6. Hey Nikhil,

    Just wanted to let you know (again) that I find your blog really inspiring, and wise, and helpful. I really admire your honesty, and the way you show such persistence and determination to keep getting back to a good mental place, even when you face setbacks, and progress seems slow, I think you're doing amazing things with your life already, and will go on to an amazing future in medicine.

    PS. I am subscribed to your blog by gmail but don't seem to get an email when there's a new blog?).

  7. Thanks Claire - I hope to help others with what I've learnt the hard way so keep sharing it and I hope it keeps helping you.
    Not sure about the subscription thing, didn't know that was an issue. I'll check it out - lemme know if the next one comes up on gmail will ya?

  8. Man you're a beast. You have all these unfortunate things thrown at you but you always manage to pull through and see the positive side of things. Truly an inspiration :) I hope you get a chance to relax and take it easy over the summer break now that all the exams are over :)

    1. Thanks man - I just want people to know they don't have to be down or depressed or unhappy with their lives and that they can change themselves for the better. And yeah - pretty awesome exams are over - that's the plan i guess for the summer =P

  9. Great Nikhil, you are really an inspiration for everyone. Keep it up I am sure it is encouraging many many people . You r teaching a beautiful n most important lesson of life to all. God bless you dear. Love you. Anisha Sahapathi from India

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