Today, I made my first ever visit to the doctor in Finland (actually, first visit ever abroad). Unfortunately, I have exercise-induced asthma, and conveniently my inhaler went dry last week. I saw the school nurse, then she made me an appointment at the health center that the university employees use.
I had been having a great day. It was sunny and not so cold. I had been productive in my work. I even managed to use a Google map to locate the doctors office rather easily.
I even managed very well with the receptionist who did not speak any English. I used enough broken Finnish and body language to communicate my purpose.
Me: "Moi. Anteeksi, en puhu suomea."
--Hello. Sorry, I don't speak Finnish.
Then, I resourcefully say and point to the name of the doctor I was there to see.
She nods in understanding, realizing I'm the non-Finnish speaking student that was scheduled.
Receptionist: "Mikä sinun nimi on?"
--What is your name?
I give her my name, and she instructions me to go to "huone kolme," room three.
The doctor consultation was difficult but not impossible. She spoke broken English, but enough I could get the gist of what she was saying, and she understood me very well.
When it came time to pay, I was told that they would send an invoice to my mailing address. Here enters another problem: I'm currently not registered with some organization which prevents my receiving of mail to my address. How do I convey this problem to the non-English speaking receptionists? I don't. Luckily, I was resourceful enough to call the Finnish lady I work with and have her explain the issue over the phone. Finally, all was resolved.
Now, that I'm writing this, it doesn't seem like such a big deal. However, immediately after leaving the doctors office, I was overcome with such strong panic/anxiety/what-the-crap-am-I-doing-here emotions. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't upset because they couldn't speak English. We are in Finland. I was upset because I couldn't speak Finnish, not even enough to survive, not enough to change my address.
Here's what began to swirl around in my head:
I doubted my decision to come here and my plans to stay and go to grad school. How could I live here if I can't even go to the doctor? Sure of course, I could take my boyfriend. Maybe once or twice, but I can not rely on him to always be there when I need to go to the doctor or dentist or wherever. I am independent by nature and feeling helpless cripples me. I realized that this was not a healthy reaction. I should have felt more motivated to study Finnish so that next time I will be able to communicate better. Instead, I felt hopeless. I wanted to run and hide. I wanted to go home.
After about 30 minutes of my emotional nose-dive and watery eyes, I finally started to resurface. I felt a surge of renewed motivation to study Finnish, to do whatever possible to not be helpless.
This is the lesson I learned today: you can't always trust your first reaction. Sometimes, my emotions catch me in a whirl wind and take me for a ride, but eventually the calm will come, and I'll see some sensible light at the end of the tunnel. I know that I can't entertain such a negative emotional spiral for too long or it will only get bigger and darker. I allowed myself to wallow and whine for about 30 minutes. Let's face it, sometimes we just need to feel, even if its negative. After 30 minutes, it's time for some positive reinforcing thoughts. It's time to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and figure out how YOU can CHANGE your situation for the BETTER.