I didn’t get sick overnight, nor did I get depressed in a wink. As we say in Chinese, the ice cannot stand at 3ft only in one day’s cold. Everything was accumulated, slowly, stealthily, silently. I dismissed the signs, or rather didn’t even recognize them. Laughed everything off…
Looking back now I realize how there have been so many warning signals, it was just that I didn’t know any better. Moreover, of course, it was my inability to admit that these were signs telling me I was tired, exhausted, drained, and stressed. I tricked myself into believing that as long as I frequented spas to sleep and rest, swim regularly, meet up with friends and have a social life, I would be rejuvenated, and any stress from work or personal life would vanish.
But of course the symptoms persisted. I got stomach aches everyday in the afternoon, just a slight cramp but enough to make me wince in pain. What did I do? I went on typing my emails and filling in the excel spreadsheets – we had a deadline of 12pm HK time after all. The financial industry was crumbling down. I was responsible and I needed to do my job, and do it well.
I was too busy to eat either. Time was of the essence. Lunch was a sandwich or some sushi wolfed down in 15 minutes, dinner was at 11pm most nights with an instant noodles. Then it got to a point I was so tired when I got home I didn’t even want to cook my instant noodles. So I went for cup noodles instead. Yummy, all that MSG!
Then I went straight to bed, and perhaps was able to fall asleep in an hour or so after my mind finally got tired of thinking about what I did that day and what tasks were ahead of me. But then just as about I was to slumber, I would wake up around 2 or 3am to check my blackberry – any news from the US? Has another bank collapsed? I needed to be on top of things.
In the wee hours of morning I would get to work as early as possible, reading my blackberry on the trains whilst being jostled around by all the “salary men” on the Ginza line… tick tick tick tick my blackberry went as my nails stabbed the keys to reply to the inbox. I swear I can win the fastest blackberry typer award if there was one.
I guess that also my face was very pale and green, because my assistant once whispered in my ear, ” maybe you should put some make up on before seeing the client, you look very tired…”
Then came the occasional flu. Was every 3 weeks with the flu of some sort plus a headache normal? I didn’t keep track then. But it was very frequent, so frequent that even my friends commented on it and said “again?” when I said I wasn’t feeling well and wanted to stay home instead of meeting up for coffee at Tsutaya. I thought it was the air-con in the office, or the change of weather. Now I know that it was because my body was so stressed that the immune system had weakened.
Oh but it’s not like I slaved away throughout the year. I had my annual leave and holidays too – though every time the first few days would be spent being really sick. One time my mum came to visit me, and I was so faint that by the time I got to the metro to pick her up, I actually did just slump down on the road outside Omotesando station. She had to carry her suitcases – and me -back home, call my friend and ask for a doctor to come to the apartment. I had a very high fever apparently, and then stomach flu, diarrhea.
I snoozed all these wake-up calls, and never looked at all of them wholistically in a chain but only as isolated, individual events. The alarm eventually gave way and thundered.
Are you ignoring your warning signals too? Put them together and see if you need to make some changes to the way you are living your life…. before it is too late!