Wednesday, October 31, 2018

How to get things done right, when the going's rough

Image courtesy of Geralt on Pixabay
Pressure and stress leads directly to muddled thinking. It doesn't matter how cool you are, or how clever. When the balloon goes up, we are all liable to react without thinking properly. And that's when we make mistakes.

Cool thinking under pressure is very, very difficult. One thing that helps is that if you go through the same trouble over and over again, you get better at dealing with it.

Sounds totally sucky, right? But this is why training for doctors, emergency services, police, military and other people who work in hugely stressful situations consists of endless drilling. 

Drilling exercises are designed to help people react automatically in ways that are most likely to produce good results no matter what is going on. So a fireman who sees a fire won't be brave and rush right in, but she will check her gear, and go in only when she's fully prepared.

If you don't happen to be rushing into flame and gunfire but feel as if your office or home is running along the same lines, here are some coping tips.

  1. Accept and embrace the pressure. It's a sign of being alive.
  2. Are you being accused of something? Breathe. Then reflect honestly and see where you are accountable.
  3.  Don't let pressure and other people yapping distract you from your goals. Figure out what matters, what needs to be done, and do it.
  4.  Learn to fight your inner personal demon giving you the negative self-talk.
  5. Feeling is great but logic brings balance and thoughtful, effective solutions.
  6. Consult with those who have faced and dealt with similar problems successfully.
  7. No pain, no gain. Remember, you're learning.
  8. If a certain 'fix' makes you feel dirty, it's the wrong solution.

 And, you can always consult with me. ♥♡♥(ꈍᴗꈍ)ε`*)♥♡♥

Thursday, October 11, 2018

I signed Do Not Resuscitate papers for my father. I expected to feel guilt, but that didn’t happen. This blog post explains why.

Two days ago I signed Do Not Resuscitate papers for my father. I expected to feel guilt, but that didn’t happen. This blog post explains why.

I don’t usually talk about family because I am quite a private person. However, I had a long conversation with Tom, my husband, last night and we think sharing my experience may be helpful.

A bit of background: my father walked out many years ago. He came back into my life just over a year ago because he had cancer.

It was not a Disney moment.  An attempt to reconnect failed.

This week I got a call from a doctor who informed me that matters are now coming to a close, and could I come for a discussion.

The other thing you should know about me is that back in the late 1990s, I helped my mother nurse a dear friend of ours, Christine, who had cancer. Back then, medicine wasn’t as good as it is now, and her doctors were callous.

Christine died in a lot of pain; so much pain, that her screams still haunt my mother and me today.

So, when my father reappeared to say he was sick, we wanted to be sure he had end of life care. That means palliative care and painkillers.

Luckily, Malaysians are compassionate people. There is a culture here of alleviating pain.

And this is what brings me to the message I want to share:

In modern life, we become insulated from many of the harsher elements of life. Sometimes, we don’t truly understand how much suffering a person can go through. As a result, when it comes to end of life care, we tie ourselves up in knots, wondering if we’re ‘interfering with fate’ or worse ‘killing’.

When I signed the DNR paperwork and then more papers to allow strong painkillers, I did so with gratitude. I felt grateful because I know how ugly passing from cancer can be. Making sure my father will not suffer an agonizing death is my gift to him.

I’m sharing my thoughts because I want to say that if you have to face a similar situation, please do not feel guilty. There is no benefit whatsoever in having someone suffer.  

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Six questions to ask your doctor about medication for depression, anxiety and other mental health issues

Going to take meds for depression and stress? Here's what to ask. Photo: jnittymaa0.

It's impossible to make an informed decision about your health choices when you're processed in a system that just shuttles you from A to B without explanation. Sadly, many hospitals are faced with too few staff and too many patients and there is just no time to talk.

On paper, it looks efficient to batch process  people but it hides all kinds of problems. For example, there's a letter in The Star today that says some people avoid X-rays and CAT scans because they believe in viral rubbish scare stories and doctors simply don't have to the time to debunk the myths. Read the whole things here.

From what I hear, too many of us are seeing doctors about depression and stress, only to come away with pills but very little else.

I am not a doctor and I can't fix the system to magically give everyone more time. But what I can do for my clients is to help them make the most of their visit. I tend to talk about this in short consultations but I thought it would be useful to write it up here.

First, should you be seeing a medical doctor for stress and depression? I'd say a trip to your family doctor for a general checkup is always a good first step. See why here.

Second, if you are depressed or stressed, should you go and look for pills or talk therapy first? My thoughts on how to make a decision that suits you are here.

So, suppose you decide to see a psychiatrist, a specialist medical doctor about your mental health issue. Here are my top tips for making sure you ask questions that will help you make the most of your time.

First, if you can, take a trusted friend with you. Most of us are nervous when seeing a doctor, and so we forget to ask stuff or forget to listen. Having a friend to listen with you can be a big help.

If you're too shy for company, take a notebook with your questions listed and a pen to make notes of the replies so you don't forget what you're told.

Questions to ask your psychiatrist about medicine:
1. What will this drug do for me? (IE, why am I taking it?)
2. How do I take this drug? (IE every day at the same time? Only when XYZ happens?)
3. How long before we know if the drug is working? (Because some drugs like antidepressants can take weeks to kick in)
4. Drugs can have bad effects, too. When do I know something is very wrong and I should come right back to you?
5. Is this drug addictive?
6. If I take this drug, and I change my mind later on, can I just stop taking it? (Because with some drugs, it can be very dangerous to just stop taking them; you need to be weaned off them slowly, with the help of a doctor.)

If your doctor is too rushed, unapproachable or you don't understand her, my best advice is to have a chat with the hospital pharmacist. Pharmacists are good at answering them and they often enjoy being consulted, so be prepared for loooooong educational lectures.

Also, go back and see your family doctor.

Should you ask a psychologist, therapist or counsellor about your medicine? No, we cannot give advice about drugs. You need a medical doctor for that.

But there is another question to ask: if you see a psychiatrist and take meds, should you also seek talk therapy? I'd say you should think it over because:

1. Pills can't fix your life. If you are on medication, and your stress and depression are not from a purely physical issue, it can be a good idea to add in talk therapy.

2. Also, pills for depression can take weeks to kick in, so a bit of talk therapy at the start can help you manage symptoms while you wait.

3. If you are stopping medication, and you need support for managing the psychological effects of withdrawal, talk therapy is also useful.

Now, psychiatrists can offer talk therapy too but in some countries there are so few of them that they don't run that kind of practice. If you also want to combine meds and talk therapy, ask when you visit. If they say no, you can always 'add on' someone like me. 

As for getting more info about drugs, should you Google? Honestly, I am on the fence with this. There is so much utter trash out there, that part of me says it's best to just stay away. But there's also some good stuff and if you're lucky enough to find it, then it may be useful. I like WebMD as it's written by doctors and Quackwatch which specialises in debunking popular health myths.

However, I know I don't have the basic knowledge to make really good informed decisions (do you? check this for my take on how to find out) and so when I rick my back, have a fever or some other issue, I go to the pharmacist. If they say I need to move up a stage, I see my family doctor. If she says it's beyond her, I see a specialist.

Basically, I see people I trust and I do what they say. It's a system that suits me.

I hope you found this interesting and that it helps you in some way. The main thing is this: don't be shy, reach out and get the support you need.