Monday, October 18, 2010

The One Week Depression

I thought I was supposed to love it here. I have now come to terms with the fact that I don't. Right now, I'm not even sure that I LIKE it here, much less love it. I'm sure this is aided by the fact that I am going on day 4 of illness despite medication and the rainy season has started. However, even without those things aiding in my situational-depression, I'm just not feeling it. Everyone else who has been here from Seattle seems to have loved it so I'm trying not to feel inadequate or ungrateful or just downright a bad person. But, there it is. I can't hide from the truth any longer or I just might go insane.

It makes me feel better that at least I am not the only one here in Kijabe who feels this way because my missionary roommate, Sarah, cries about twice a day. She has even gone so far as to price an early ticket home but with the $2K price tag, has decided to wait out her two weeks. I oscillate between trying to comfort her by staying positive and wanting to just give in to my feelings and cry right along with her (those of you who know me well know that I DON'T cry easily.)
Is it that we feel like we have no place or purpose? We don't really.
Is it that there is no community here for us to feel a part of? Kijabe is NOT like the rest of Kenya.
Is it just plain old homesickness and loneliness? Definitely part of it.
Is it the frustration of the medicine? Also very likely.
Is it the lack of communication between the interns and us (the supposed attendings) who then have to go clean up the mess when things fall apart because no one called us sooner? For sure.
I'd like to add to my own personal list: likely electrolyte derrangements with dehydration, feeling totally isolated among the missionaries who talk about religion all the time (which makes me very uncomfortable,) and just purely missing my friends and family back home. I haven't felt this sad and lonely in a LONG time and I am truly struggling with how to deal with it and still maintain some semblance of a good time here.

I have a morning conference schedule which said that we had staff prayer today at 7am so I showed up at 8am hoping that I would "accidentally" miss it since I'm more of a "spiritual person" rather than an "organized religion" person. In fact, I'd say I have a DIY attitude about religion and like to both be left alone regarding my beliefs and to let others practice the way they feel is best for them. This, however, is not how they do things here. Turns out, my schedule was wrong, staff prayer started at 8 and rounds were at 8:30am instead. After I made an excuse about wanting to check on a patient in the women's ward that I admitted over the weekend (which is true, I did check, she died,) I then proceeded to try to hide in the basement to avoid the massive church services that I had to attend last week and instead spend that time introspectively soul searching for ways to psych myself up for another week and get out of this funk. Turns out, the medical staff prayer room was right next to my hiding place and not only did they snag me thinking I was just lost on my way there, but I also finally ran into the medical director whom I've been waiting to meet for a week. Not exactly the frame of mind I was hoping to be in when finally meeting him. Oh well, I put on a happy face.

Then, to my horror, staff prayer was way more involved than I anticipated and included me having to offer my prayers outloud to the whole group. Inside, my prayer went like this, "Dear God: Hi, it's me Juliann. I'm not sure if you remember me since I don't formally pray very often but in case you do, please GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE!!!!! Thanks. Umm, I mean, Amen." Luckily, for my actual spoken prayer, my Catholic school days kicked in and I avoided sounding like a female version of that horribly uncomfortable scene in Meet the Parents when Ben Stiller is asked to pray at the dinner table. By the time the service was over, I was sweating profusely despite it only being 70-something degrees and practically in tears (again.) Sarah looked refreshed and smiled at me before we went off to rounds. At least that's working out for her.

The rest of the day has been better and at least Wednesday of this week is a holiday so Sarah and I are planning on going to Nairobi for the day. I think Thursday I'm going to try to go out into the community again since that has been the one thing that I've done here that I really enjoyed-- I just need to find a way to make that happen. I'm still hoping that I will adjust and will one day look back on all this and think, "Yeah, I had a GREAT time in Kenya after I got over those first few bumps." Until that day comes, I'm just trying to take it a few hours at a time :)


  1. First, I am sorry your patient died.

    But one thing, I must say Jules, is that you have managed to keep a semblance of humor in your misery. Your silent prayer will hopefully be answered with a change in situation soon. Your honesty is refreshing and surely it relieves some of the pressure of "putting on a happy face," a position we are so often forced to take. The interns must have no idea what a treasure trove of information and sensitivity you and your colleagues are, otherwise they would be consulting you regularly.

    As for having to offer prayer out loud - I just always thank the universe for whatever. No one is offended and I have not compromised my own BS (belief system).

    Most importantly, get well! As you and all of us know, physical debilitation certainly bears its toll on our mental health, little consolation that may be at this point. Expect daily emails from me, in the hopes that it will cheer you up and not the opposite.

    Wish I could send you some Gatorade.

  2. Ditto what MK said. She is pretty smart and in tune with reality.

    I know you said that this is not a "mission" trip, but if you look at it as if it were a mission trip that may help with your mental perspective and balance. I always regarded doctors as being in the mission field anyway, healing the sick. If you have access to a Bible, check out Col. 3:23 - one of my favorite verses.