Dr. Felix Umeadi stared at the lady seated across from him in his office and stifled another yawn; fatigue was his constant companion these days.
After he had spent years in hospital practice and risen to the level of Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. Felix had an early retirement and decided to delve into private practice assuming it would be easier since he would work at his own pace.
Alas, it was not as he imagined; the pace did not slow down, and limiting his practice to Psychotherapy did not make any difference.
At the end of each day, he was drained, barely managing to drive home. The usual heavy traffic made it worse, he would get home exhausted and unable to spend time with his family. Then he would wake up tired the next morning, never getting enough rest.
He forced his attention back to the lady, this was her first therapy session. She was the last one for the day. This thought cheered him a bit and he felt some life return.
Forty-five minutes later, the session was over. He was preparing to leave the office when his newly installed intercom buzzed loudly – his secretary had news for him.
“Dr. Umeadi, the next patient has arrived. Should I send her in?” She inquired.
He groaned. What did she mean by ‘next patient’? “Didn’t we agree I would see only eight patients daily?” he grumbled. She replied that he had seen only six, he had two left.
He thought his head would explode. He used to have a firm grip on his activities but somewhere along the line he lost it.
Julia sat in the waiting room, feeling increasingly tensed. ‘I don’t have time for this’, she thought impatiently.
She had her plate full! She was running a Master’s program, she juggled this with work, alongside planning her wedding. She was falling behind in everything so she definitely did not have time to wait around for some doctor. Although she had barely waited five minutes, it felt like five days.
Julia was stressed and she knew it. Thanks to her extra busy schedule, her life spinning out of control with everything moving too fast. The brakes were off and she could not keep up. Her mind was constantly geared to overdrive.
Sometimes, she felt like she was in a rat race or she was chasing her own tail. She knew she had to relax and slow down but she did not know how. The few times she tried to relax, she could not; her overly active mind refused to rest. She decided she would relax after the wedding.
Things reached a head when she started hallucinating. It happened when she was with her closest friend, Oluchi.
They were at a training when Julia suddenly exclaimed that she saw Derin, a mutual friend who had been out of the country. Julia swore that she could see Derin waving and coming towards them. Excited, Oluchi looked around for Derin, but to no avail. They contacted the latter who confirmed that she had not returned to Nigeria.
“Julia, you have to see a psychiatrist”, Oluchi told her friend firmly.
That day, Oluchi forced her to book an appointment with a psychiatrist. Actually, she threatened her. Oluchi threatened that if Julia didn’t take care of her mental health, she would step down as her Chief Bridesmaid.
So here she was. Waiting to be called to see the psychiatrist.
“Julia Obong, the doctor will see you now”, the lady at the desk broke into her thoughts. Julia approached the door uncertainly. The tag on the door read ‘Dr. Felix Umeadi, Psychiatrist’.
She went in.
Julia did not know what to expect from the session, but she got more than she expected. As the session progressed, she felt herself truly relaxed for the first time in months.
The doctor advised her to allow only the essentials into her schedule.
Was her Master’s programme currently important? Would it be convenient to defer?
Did she mind employing a wedding planner?
What were her criteria for taking on projects at work? Did she take on every request asked of her even though it was more than she could handle?
Was she effectively delegating tasks at her workplace and at home?
How was she handling family and other personal matters?
It was not a question and answer session as she had thought it would be. He provided a fresh perspective to her routine.
He advised her to exercise and take long walks to clear her mind. He suggested she give herself treats, take herself out, hang out with friends and strictly observe her own quiet moments.
When the one hour session ended she was reluctant to leave and decided to pay for an extra thirty minutes. The doctor hesitated, then finally refused. She was surprised and confused at his refusal, after all it was on his website that he ran that package.
He apologized, explaining that he had an appointment to keep. He told her what to expect from the next session and gave her deliverables he expected her to work on.
Julia left the doctor’s office feeling more alive than she felt in a long time.
After the last patient, Julia Obong, left, Dr. Felix remained in his seat, brooding. The words he said to her bounced back to him and made a resounding impact. His own words struck him hard.
He was great at helping others improve their life and mental health but was terrible at improving his.
He had released control of his time to others – friends, clients, and traffic. His weekends which ought to be days of rest were always filled with activities – from wedding parties, to other parties, to meetings. He never chose what invitation to honour and which to turn down. He accepted all as they came.
That would change, he decided.
He had been as surprised as the lady when he turned down her offer to extend her session. It was the first time he would turn down a client’s offer to extend a session. He never said no to them and this added to his workload, hence his constant fatigue.
That would also change.
He decided that henceforth, he would take a maximum of three offers for extension daily. Only three, no more.
In addition, he would take time off yearly, like an annual leave. That was very important.
Last but not least, he would get a driver. That way, he could relax even in the traffic.
He wrote down his new work structure and informed his secretary.
Minutes later, Dr. Felix was on his way home feeling better and more lighthearted and emotional eating than he had in years.
Ricochet – cause to rebound off a surface.