Accidents happen: Part Two

Did I say “accidents happen” the other day??

What was I thinking?!

It’s like saying its q___t at work; never say the Q word!! It invites chaos and busyness and problem scripts one after another. But I said accidents happen, and so they did! Fate heard me, even though I don’t really believe in fate…oops, is that another invitation to the world to punish me?? Well punish is a bit dramatic, but you know what I mean.

So I’ve been recovering from accidents and errors ever since I wrote about accidents!! It wasn’t enough that I had my first ever minor car accident last Friday. On Wednesday, I had to go and fall down the stairs!! Like a really idiot!

I think it was sleep stupor, but to be honest I don’t really know. It was morning so sleep stupor could cover it; not much of a morning person, me. I took one step down leading with my right foot, another step down now with my left foot, another with my right and then I just slipped off the far edge of the next step with my left foot and I was gone. Our stairs go halfway straight down, turn 180 degrees then the other halfway straight down. Pretty standard. I slipped on almost the last stair before the turn. It might have to do with the stairs being shaped as wedges for the turn and I hit the tiny point of the wedge. I don’t really know how but somehow my left heel hit close to the edge of the stair and just slipped right out from under me and slipped over stair after stair after stair with no grip on any of them. My left leg was a useless slippery pointy thing sticking out in front of me causing nothing but trouble!!!

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Brain kicking into overdrive trying to figure out what to do, hoping to hit the wall at the bottom of the first half of the steps, grabbing the railing by instinct rather than thought, left leg useless sticking straight out front and can’t get a foot hold anywhere, getting half a grip on one stair after another but slipping over each and every one, poor right leg tucked underneath getting banged and scraped stair after stair after stair!!

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Luckily, and there is always an aspect of luck with me somehow, I was trailing my hand down the banister and managed to grab it! And even though my grasp slipped down the banister, it got caught on the post halfway down at the corner and I managed somehow to haul myself to a stop. I’ve seriously wrenched my neck and back and arm because of stopping myself but at least I didn’t go head over heels or something worse. And at least my hand was in contact with the banister when I fell; usually I don’t hold on at all! So it could have been much worse. Apparently its a workplace OH&S recommendation to have 3 points of contact with stairs at all times: 2 feet and 1 hand, or 1 foot and 2 hands if you are that person who just has to push the envelope! So maybe I need to put up some OH&S posters in my stairwell!

Panic as several steps went by and I missed the wall at the end, turning instead to start going down the next flight! Finally gripping the railing at the post as I slid to it and holding on for grim death!! Or is it life? Either way, I managed to stop on that poor banged up left hip with my useless left leg still sticking out in front, and the even more useless right leg underneath and my arm twisted backwards at some weird angle. So by the time my hand found a hold on the midway post, I was through the corner and heading down the next straight with my right leg tucked well under me getting cheese grated on each and every step where the carpet is bare and the strings are coming through. Basically I got a combination of carpet burn and grating right down my shin and a good few bumps on my left hip, which is swelling up nicely. I was feeling pretty shabby!!

So I was pretty stoked to have come to a stop, even if it was at the cost of the whole left side of my torso and arm. But how to get up?? I’m not a little thing, as most of you probably know. And unable to engage to use of either leg and one arm and side made getting up some kind of origami exercise! I actually can’t tell you how I got up, but there were a couple of bad moments where I started to slide again. But here I am to tell the tale!

So I grabbed on for dear life and managed to stop my fall. There was a moment of real horror thinking that the post might let go; I definitely felt it give. But when I went back afterwards it was as solid as ever. But as it turns out 120kg dangling by one arm is not only a threat to the wooden stair railing but to the muscles and soft tissue behind my shoulder blade. OUCH! Before too long I couldn’t turn my head to the left more than 20 degrees, behind my shoulder blade was singing and I was rapidly becoming frozen stiff. So a trip to the physio to get ironed out.

To look at you can’t even tell I’ve had an accident. Well not until I covered the grazes along my shin with white dressings that is, they kind of stand out on my tan! Not intentional but there you go. It saves me feeling like an attention seeker telling people about my accident; the bandages seek your attention on my behalf!! Is that the same thing?

Its amazing the pain and irritation such superficial scrapes create. Bed sheets, leggings, any clothing just rubs so I headed down to the pharmacy for some dressings so I can at least be a bit more comfortable. Now at least the stinging doesn’t keep getting set off again. But stretching the skin by moving it any way including walking is still aggravating. So here we are, another accident. What to make of this one? I really don’t know what went wrong so that I can avoid it again. Just one of those things? Or I should take more care?

So that was my fall. I thought that was enough, how about you?

But no. I get to work and start my usual Thursday; you know, all the packs and stuff that I wrote about recently. Then my boss brings one of the packs to me and says it has been brought back to the pharmacy over an error! That shoots straight through the heart. Especially right on the heels of having experienced a dispensing error and making (possibly) a big deal about it. As it turns out I hadn’t seen that there were 2 loratadine (you know, Claratyne the anti-histamine) tablets instead of one in Tuesday morning. It’s a robot error, but my job is to pick up that type of error, and I didn’t.

I could justify my omission by saying that its not that serious an error; in all likeliness there would be no side effects as loratadine generally has no more side effects than placebo (sugar pill). But the point is that I missed the error.

I could justify it by saying that the patient hadn’t taken it yet so it wasn’t so bad.

I could also justify the error with the conversations I’ve regularly had with other pharmacists checking packs discussing how extra tablets in packs is the hardest error to pick up, compared to other errors: broken tablets, missing tablets, wrong tablets. But I still missed the error. Not good. But it has made me further reconsider my response to the dispensing error that happened to me.

But wait, there’s more!! Unfortunately.

This, I suppose, is what happens when you only work twice a week. Short of them texting you about issues on your days off (it happens!) they save them up for next time you come in!

So, it seems that I dispensed a patient’s 500mg Epilim (valproate) correctly, then attached the labels to 200mg tablets. THIS is a problem. This is a big problem. I don’t know why the patient was taking Epilim but irrespective, taking this error over weeks to months WOULD have resulted in a relapse had the patient taken it: a relapse of epilepsy resulting in seizures, a relapse of bipolar resulting in depression, mania or suicide or worse. As someone who takes Epilim and dreads the probably inevitable day that I relapse, I can totally empathise with the patient in this scenario, as well as my position as pharmacist!!

I could justify this error by…nope, nothing!! I should have scanned the medication against the dispensing; this would have shown the error. I should have compared the original script to the box of tablets to reconcile the strength; this would have shown the error. I could have reviewed the history, but that’s an extra step. All I needed to do was the 2 steps mentioned; that would’ve prevented the error. Luckily the patient identified the error, brought the medication back and no harm, no foul.

Sound familiar?? My high horse is sinking through quicksand and I’m about to go down with it, unless I jump off and acknowledge that I just made an error as significant as that other pharmacist, and how do I want to be treated over this? What lessons do I need to learn? How would I feel about being reported to the pharmacy board? My boss knows, so that aspect can’t get worse, but he was very good about it actually.

Can I console myself with the errors that I did pick up today? 5 missing doses of magnesium in one pack, 2 missing dose of metformin (for diabetes) in another, a broken Panadol tablet making an underdose, a broken clonazepam tablet (for seizures or spasms) underdose, double the Efexor (antidepressant) dose in one slot, a random thyroxine (for underactive thyroid) tablet found in a pack where the patient doesn’t take that medication, and more. Does it make up for letting a more severe error pass through to the keeper? In short, no.

But it does make you think. Here I am, on a squared playing field, accepting that human error exists but there are systems to obey to minimise it, and ignoring the systems is just not on!

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Canberra Day Thirty One

[Tuesday 11th October, 2016]

Well I’m just home from a horrible experience! This is a first for Canberra, and its not Canberra’s fault at all. I thought it would be fun to go to the walk-in bird aviary, after all I love birds, and the promo photos of kids feeding birds in a large aviary looked lovely. But no, ick, awful!! I should have flushed my $12 down the toilet instead; it would have been better spent as far as myself is concerned. I have never seen so many inbred and disgusting looking birds! Have you seen the pigeons in the city? They’re meant to be grey with iridescent green and purple highlights but instead some are white, some are brown, some are black and white, most of them are patchy, and pretty awful and scummy to look at. That’s what this was like! Red-rumped parrots in weird white and yellow colours, rainbow lorikeets crossed with musk lorikeets, olive based colours on rainbow lorikeets, scaly breasted lorikeets crossed with musk lorikeets, olive based scaly breasted lorikeet…it just looked terrible to me! As far as I know this sort of thing only results from mutations and cross breeding. I asked some more more experienced birders online afterwards and they say some inter-breeding could be accidental amongst parrots who have the highest occurrence of inter-breeding compared to other types of birds (but would be weeded out by natural selection in the wild), but some would have to be intentional cross breeding to bring about a new species; this new species should be unable to breed but that isn’t always the case. And some are accidental mutations of colour genes during breeding. So obviously the aviary is a melting pot for all kinds of mix ups!! Not attractive, well not to me anyway. Maybe other people enjoy it. Maybe I’m off key here and those birds are actually rescue birds that are recovering; maybe all of the Australian birds have been rescued. But it felt like they were just inbred and weird. Yes it was mildly exciting with rainbow lorikeets (of all different cross breeds!) landing on my arms and shoulders to eat apple out of my hands, then squabble over meal worms…except for when one left a live meal worm on my neck!! Then they’d all take off at once and fly madly around the enclosure shrieking at full volume, not sure why. It was all just overwhelming and I just felt sad. I stopped taking photos and just watched them. Poor little things in cages. I didn’t say anything on the way out, just handed back the bowl and meal worm container and left. Then I stopped outside and shook all the spilled apple and bits of meal worms out of my shopping bag. Shaking the dust from my feet, so to speak.

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Notice the olive backs and duller blue heads of two birds – a colour mutation apparently

I left there with a huge lump in my throat. Not like when you’re about to cry. It took me the drive home to realise that it was anxiety; I was seriously distressed! It was the kind of lump that you can’t swallow, and the more you try the more you feel like you can’t breathe and that right there is the beginnings of a panic attack!! Luckily I realised what is was in time, and starting taking long deep breaths and talking myself down but after a 15 minute drive home it still took me 3 tries to sign in to my computer with shaking hands, and my breathing is still a bit too shallow and fast…I’m working on it. I just feel dirty and bothered. I’m not much of a fan of birds in cages, although I’ve owned a budgy and ducks in my lifetime that were kept in cages. Sometimes it can be done really nicely, like the way that Zoos Victoria manage their aviaries with healthy happy breeding birds that stick to their natural patterns both at Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary. This was just dirty and felt wrong.

Once I get past this, I’ll remember the good parts of the day that came before this experience. A drive around Hall Village, and some fun shopping at Gold Creek. But for now I need a distraction to clear my mind and wash it clean.

Maybe this would have happened anyway today, some anxiety, some panic; I don’t know. Today is a big day, other than the above: it’s moving house day! I’m sorry to leave my lovely brother and sister in law and Peanut, but it’ll be nice to spread our wings as grandma put it, and to leave my stuff all over the house! Hubby is already having nerves of his own over me spreading out, I’m sure!! Moving is a big deal because it means leaving the one comfort zone that I have in Canberra. Now everything is new: accommodation, still newish city, suburb, places. The quicker I make myself at home, and feel like its really home, the better. I had settled where we were, I knew my way around the suburb and into the city, I knew where the shops where that I needed, where to find the nature reserves. Now I’m starting over and that’s stressful to a degree. So maybe the anxiety was already there before the aviary and maybe it affected the way that I experienced it. Maybe I did overreact. Who knows? As always I’m trying to be positive and hold on to the thought that I can do this, but it takes a toll. Like packing took a toll; it really drained me! Partly because I didn’t want to pack up because it meant leaving, partly just because its tedious. The unknowns are always the killer for anyone with anxiety, depression, mental illness, and for other people to, I realise. They play on your mind until you’re frazzled and frayed. But positive thoughts right?

The other trigger for a panic attack today was thinking about someone I knew who passed away from suicide earlier in the year. I talked about it here. Somehow my head just got on that train of thought: how sick he was, how he’d always been impulsive, how awful things must have been for him to consider suicide, could anything have prevented it or was it inevitable, and so on. So I was probably in a funny frame of mind before the whole aviary thing. Not in a way that I was considering it for myself, just feeling bad for someone else to be that sick and understanding it.

Our apartment is on the second floor, a small flight of steps up and its small but I think we’ll be good here. One bedroom, small bathroom but big shower, cute small kitchen, full laundry in a cupboard, small verandah, and living/dining area, all designed for two. I don’t know if I could live in it forever but it’ll be grand for now. The one thing that I might struggle with is the underground car park…it’s fine I’m sure, but I just get a horror film/stalker type feeling going through the garage door…anyone know where I can buy pepper spray or a foghorn?

So to celebrate the occasion we had tea out altogether and a commemorative group photo with the self timer. The whole packing thing sucked, miscommunication causing some unpleasant moments with sulking and shouting! But we got there in the end, somehow; we seem to have expanded since we moved here. Well my stuff has, apparently hubby only has 2 bags, so why do I have so many bags??

And now to bed, I’m wrecked.

R U OK?

Today is R U OK? day. It’s an annual day nominated by the R U OK? suicide prevention charity to think about the people in our lives and consider if they are okay. More than that, it’s a day to take ourselves in hand, try to be brave and open a conversation if we think someone we know is struggling. Of course this is something that should happen every day. But today is a day to revive our intentions to be a good mate to our family, friends, colleagues, anyone we bump up against in our daily lives. It’s a day to understand a bit more about what drives people to consider suicide, and to learn ways that we can safely help them.

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I’d love each one of you my readers to check out the R U OK? website. Just pick one topic and give 5 minutes of your time to taking on some new knowledge, or understanding, or strategy. It really can change and even save a life. It’s that important.

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Some of the topics I think are great are Mates, resources for every day, news stories and information, but I’m sure you’ll find the topic that makes most sense, or means the most to you.

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I’ve been a mental health advocate (at least I think I have been) for a lot longer than I’ve been ill with mental illness. By that I mean that I’ve considered mentally ill people the same as myself just with a condition requiring treatment, and tried to show to others that they don’t need to be feared. As a child I was used to being around mentally unwell patients. One family friend had schizophrenia and another had bipolar disorder. We saw them regularly, saw them better and worse, visited them in hospital and knew they were just people like the rest of us. And they were just the people who had known, obvious, must-be-treated illnesses. Who knows how many people in my acquaintance had depression or anxiety that was more or less invisible. I wouldn’t know. It was never talked about. If they were there, I never knew. Which is a terrible shame.

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So today is about conversations. I want people to have conversations. But first of all I want to tell you why R U OK? as a charity and a question is so important to me.

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When I was depressed or anxious, I felt awful. I was barely dragging myself around, limping from bed to work and from work to bed. My brain was either whizzing or sluggish; it wasn’t very useful. I felt like all of this must be pasted across my face, and that surely someone would notice today that I was struggling and ask me about it. It had to be written on my forehead, I thought, why can no one see it, why is no one wondering what’s wrong with me? I was just dying for someone to see it and come to my aid.

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But nothing happened. I didn’t want to be attention seeking and bring it up myself, I wasn’t one of those people who was always making a fuss. But I was in pain here, it must be obvious. I thought of a hundred ways to bring it up, but I just couldn’t. It was too obvious a way to start a conversation, there was no easy lead in.

“So you’re having tuna for lunch, that’s interesting, did you know that I’m depressed?”

So I dragged myself around, wondering and waiting and hoping that someone would do the hard part for me and bring up so I could let it all pour out. And do you know the funny thing? Having felt so isolated, like no one could see the real me inside, like I was alone in this experience and so on, once I was officially sick and had told people about it, I had several comments along the lines “oh I thought so” and “I figured something was wrong” and “I knew something wasn’t right” and “you didn’t seem like your usual self”. If just one, only one person had actually said that out loud, it would have been such a relief, a balm, a comfort! It probably would have meant that I got help sooner. It could’ve shorten the process, and I would have been so thankful. It would’ve meant such a lot.

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Speak up. If you can see a change, say something. If things seem different, say so. The worst that can happen is that you’re wrong, and they are just having a bad day or week, or are preoccupied. But how can it hurt? At the least, I’m sure they’ll appreciate your concern, the effort that you’ve gone to, your care. It would be a rare person who would take exception to your kind heart.

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The second part is knowing what to say. The reason for this charity’s name is that R U OK? is a powerful question. It might not seem like it, or seem much different to our usual greetings, but it works. We say hello, hi, howdy, how are you going? what’s up? how’s it going? how’s things? alright? and a hundred similar things so many times a day. And we’re programmed to response almost rote: good thanks, hey there, great, how about you? not much, well, yep and so on. So much so that if someone says something different to these, we can accidentally get caught saying good thanks before we’ve even registered that they’ve asked us what’s up?!

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But R U OK? hits a different nerve. It makes us really think about how we are, and it elicits an honest answer.

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So here’s what I want to do. I want you, one day over the next day or two, to count how many greeting encounters you have in one day. I consider one encounter to be one person say hello and/or how are you and the other person responding. Now I know for myself, home most days, there aren’t very many encounters. But for people working in retail there might be many, maybe more than what I’ve allowed for. I really want to know what your number is! Please get involved and let’s see how many times we bump up against each other each day.

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I’ll post the results as early as possible once you’ve had a chance to respond with data from your working life today and tomorrow. If you don’t read this until the weekend, give me your weekend numbers too.

My aim for this poll is to think about how many times we have a typical hi/how are you conversation. The next step after this is to consider what might happen if we changed ONE of these rote conventional habits into an R U OK? conversation. What could U achieve, how could U have an impact on someone else’s life? You already read my tales of mental illness, so you already have a kind heart and I daresay you want to help others too. This is the perfect chance, and I hope to take the baton and run with it.

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Sad songs

This has been a pet project of mine for ages, in my head and on my Shazam app at least. Finally I’m getting around to sharing it with you. This isn’t going to be an in depth discussion of songs, so much could be said, but this is just my list of songs that help me.

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Since I got sick I’ve wanted to put together a collection of songs that have spoken to me about being ill. Songs that have resonated with me about being depressed, being manic, being anxious, being unwell, being out of touch with the rest of my friends and peers, about not being very much at all!

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By calling this sad songs, I’m not suggesting that this is a bunch of depressing songs to get you down and make you more miserable than you are at the moment. I’m planning this to be quite the opposite; a reel of songs that you can turn to when things are a bit bleak. For me these are songs that get me singing and bopping and nodding in agreement. These songs make me feel that I’m not the only one out there feeling off and poorly and badly used. They make me feel part of something, and they make me dig out my would-be-karaoke-star voice, my rapper’s beat and my drummer’s tapping of my feet, or of my hands while I’m driving in the car. They breathe something into me that changes me from how I am in that moment to something better, happier, more alive, more active, more confident and braver to face the world, and every one of those things is a miracle in itself!

Avoiding silence

Every time I go out in the car I turn the radio on. Many people advocate silence and mindfulness and I get that, I do. But a lot of times I just wanna blow my thoughts right out of my brain and listening, singing along and pretending I’m killing it at karaoke (which I’ve never done) and “talking” with someone who gets me, is important to me. Sometimes it’s the only way to express awful thoughts and it can be like a cry for help when you don’t know how else to find the words. Sometimes, it’s just music.

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I believe that music can be and is very powerful at reaching into people and making something happen in them. If you feel that way too, then check out these songs and I hope that they inspire you like they inspire me 🙂

My playlist:

  1. Bom Bom by Sam and The Womp, if nothing else in the world can make you dance, this will! “As I go bom, bom, bommm!”
  2. Forget You by CeeLo Green, a great beat and another one to get you dancing
  3. The Middle by Jimmy Eat World, “it just takes some time”
  4. Firework by Katy Perry, “do you ever feel you’re paper thin”, “scream but no one hears a thing”, empowerment plus
  5. Wake Me Up by Avicii, “wake me up when its all over when I’m wiser and I’m older” – this talks to me of suicide and why people do it, to go to sleep for a while
  6. Sea of Air by Portugal. The Man, “when the time comes around, I’ll be brave”
  7. Cheap Thrills by Sia, “I don’t need no money as long as I can feel the beat”
  8. Comfort You by Eskimo Joe, just lie back, close your eyes, this is all you need right now in this moment…
  9. All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor, the right amount of girly sass to shout aloud
  10. Hands Open by Snow Patrol, bop, nod, tap along like a sick percussionist 😉
  11. Something In The Way You Move by Ellie Goulding, bop bop bop away
  12. Are You With Me by Lost Frequencies, lie back close your eyes you’re on holiday
  13. One Call Away by Charlie Puth, “Superman got nothin’ on me I’m only one call away”
  14. Apologise by Timbaland ft. One Republic, great singalong song
  15. Never Be Like You by Flume ft. Kai, “I’m only human can’t you see I made a mistake, please just look me in my face tell me everything’s okay, I’ll never be like you”…apologising for the insufficiencies that mental illness brings about and asking others to tolerate us, and acknowledging that we’ll never be as good as them
  16. Cry Me A River by Justin Timberlake, an oldy but a goody for a personally rainy day
  17. Lush Life by Zara Larsson, clap clap your hands! “Gotta get back in the groove!”
  18. It’s My Life by No Doubt, “it’s my life don’t you forget”
  19. Brokenhearted by Karmin, just a fun tune and love the rapping, “Cheerio!”
  20. Domino by Jessie J, just a good beat
  21. Livin’ It Up by Ja Rule, I’m a sucker for a good rap/R&B
  22. Valerie by Mark Ronson ft. Amy Winehouse, love love Amy Winehouse’s voice
  23. Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots, reminiscing about easier earlier days
  24. I Love It by Hilltop Hoods ft. Sia, I love rap, I love Sia, and it’s all Aussie 🙂
  25. Brave by Sara Bareilles, “I wanna see you be brave”
  26. Reality by Lost Frequencies ft. Janieck Davy, a good chill out tune
  27. Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis ft. Ray Dalton, a nice beat and a great rap, way faster than I can actually understand! Just sit back
  28. My Sunshine by Mashd N Kutcher, a remix, “Don’t steal my sunshine”
  29. Here by Alessia Cara, sums up my avoidance of socialising since I’ve been sick
  30. My House by Flo Rida, I don’t know why but I just love bopping along to this
  31. All My Friends By Snakehips ft. Tinashe and Chance the Rapper, another song about why I don’t want to go out
  32. Hotline Bling by Drake, great beat, fun rap, just an entertaining song
  33. Stay by Kygo ft. Maty Noyes, don’t like the lyrics but the beat is nice
  34. Higher by Hilltop Hoods ft. James Chatburn, rap plus that voice! “HIgher”
  35. In The Night by The Weeknd, “dancing to relieve the pain”
  36. Summer 2015 by L.E.J, 3 talented girls and an a capella summer mix tape
  37. You Make My Dreams by Hall and Oates, bop bop bop along to the beat!
  38. The Hills by the The Weeknd, “when I’m f*&*^% up that’s the real me”
  39. Habits (Stay High – Hippies Sabotage Remix) by Tove Lo, “can’t go home alone again need someone to numb the pain”, “I gotta stay high all the time”
  40. Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys, “this girl is on fire”
  41. Good Girl by Carrie Underwood, turn it up and sing along with Carrie!
  42. Downtown by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, hilarious!!
  43. For The First Time by The Script, just easy listening
  44. Demons by Imagine Dragons, a good sad day wallowing type of song, “don’t get too close it’s dark inside its where my demons hide”
  45. May It Be by Enya, turn it up and let it wash out your mind and bring peace
  46. Sax by Fleur East, sassy singing and a great beat for your steering wheel tapping
  47. Ex’s and Oh’s by Elle King, blast it through the speakers and sing your loudest!!
  48. Hall of Fame by The Script, always convinces me I can do whatever I want!
  49. Her Diamonds by Rob Thomas, “her tears like diamonds on the floor”
  50. Shake It by Taylor Swift, the ultimate I don’t care what you think song
  51. What Do You Mean by Justin Beiber, sometimes I just can’t express what I want
  52. Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5 ft. Christina Aguilera, “mooooooves like Jagger”
  53. Lips Are Moving by Meghan Trainor, “lips are moving, hey, your lips are moving”
  54. Hello by Adele, that strong powerful voice and my amazing singalong prowess!!
  55. This Ain’t Love by Jessica Mauboy, “cos I made it through the night!”
  56. Wild Ones by Flo Rida ft. Sia, rap and Sia!! Need I say more!
  57. Young And Beautiful by Lana Del Rey (Cedric Gervais Remix), “will you still love me when I’ve got nothing but my aching soul..I know you will, I know you will”
  58. How To Save A Life by The Fray, for the obvious reason of how to save a life
  59. Faded by Alan Walker, a nice voice and soothing tune
  60. Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol, “would you lie with me and just forget the world”
  61. Fire And The Flood by Vance Joy, “everything’s fine when your heads resting next to mine”
  62. Out Of The Woods by Taylor Swift, “are we out of the woods yet?”
  63. Be Together by Major Lazer ft. Wild Belle, THAT voice!! “Maybe if the stars align…”
  64. Never Let Me Go by Florence + The Machine, sad day anthem played at painful loud
  65. Mad World by Vintage Vaudeville style cover ft. Puddles Pity Party & Haley Reinhart, “the dreams I have of dying are the best I’ve ever had”
  66. On Top Of The World by Imagine Dragons, a groovy beat and great happy day anthem
  67. Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself by Jess Glynne, for the obvious
  68. Ain’t Nobody by Felix Jaehn ft. Jasmine Thompson, another great voice and fun beat
  69. Riding Solo by Jason Derulo, “I’m feeling like a star you can’t stop my shine”
  70. Gold Digger by Kanye West ft. Jamie Foxx, a fun rap by 2 hilarious guys, beat along
  71. Chandelier by Sia, my original song because it speaks to me about being suicidal
  72. Happy by Pharrell Williams, because in the depths of my depression I would still light up and clap along! That’s powerful!!
  73. Titanium by  David Guetta ft. Sia, “I’m bulletproof, nothin’ to lose, fire away, fire away”
  74. Better Now by The Vespers, because I’m better now 🙂
  75. Team by Lourde, that voice and “we’re on each other’s team”
  76. Pompeii by Bastille, “how am I gunna be an optimist about this?”
  77. Elastic Heart by Sia, “you did not not break me, I’m still fighting for peace”

music is therapy

Obviously I’ve been at this project for a while! You won’t be listening to these all at once; maybe you won’t listen to any of them ever. That’s okay, it’s for me as much as anything.

music as painkiller

A great piece popped up in my Facebook newsfeed while I was writing this blog, music for the body and mind, article from BUPA. It’s just another perspective maybe with a bit more oomph than what I’m spouting. And then this article, from Lifehack about how heavy metal music influences your mood. Lastly I like this article about making music and our brain. Maybe they mean something, maybe it’s just more noise but I like the idea. Music therapy I’m sure is a whole other fascinating field of health professionals.

Anyway, enjoy or don’t enjoy, this is my music and I’ll be singing along!

The end

A medication order comes to the dispensary late in the day. It’s from the adult psychiatric ward, who only have an attending clinical pharmacist for half of the day, and a pager service for the rest of the day. Because the order is up to the 7th day and the bottom of the page is initialed by ward pharmacists from 3 different days that show they have reviewed the whole chart, it seems straight forward to supply with no need to page the busy ward pharmacist. Especially as the last initial was from the day prior. This shows me that all of the  work has been done to make sure the order is safe, appropriate, avoids their allergies, is monitored as necessary and is okay with all of the other medications. Not a lot of people see the work that pharmacists do to keep them safe while they’re in hospital, but those 2 letters at the bottom of the medication chart mean a great deal!

I go to dispense the medication in our software, and it comes up that the patient is in the oncology ward! Confusing, since the order clearly has the psych ward written on it. So I ask the oncology pharmacist and get a story like no other that I’ve heard yet!

This patient has met SCLC. That’s medical shorthand for advanced lung cancer that was possibly incurable from the the start, most likely caused by smoking, which has spread from the lungs throughout the body via the blood stream and deposited in the usual place that lung cancer goes to: the brain. Isn’t medical terminology amazing? 7 letters that tell me all of that!!

When a cancer spreads the medical term is that it metastasises. The cancer clumps that have spread away from the primary, or first discovered/diagnosed cancer are known as metastases, shortened to mets. This patient has brain mets. The cancer has spread from the lungs into the bloodstream and traveled around the body before settling in the brain and growing there. This is now a secondary cancer because it has come from the primary cancer. We can prove this by taking samples of both cancers; they will have the same histology or cell type, and the same structure and growth pattern. Each type of cancer has a typical pattern of where the mets will appear. Patients with lung cancer will be screened for brain mets. Breast cancer patients will be scanned for bone mets and etc.

I sometimes hear or read of people saying that a person has breast cancer and bone cancer and brain cancer, as though they were 3 different types. The odds of that are really absurb; it’s a once in a lifetime patient sort of odds. Much more likely, it’s breast cancer which has spread to the bone and then the brain. That’s nothing to do with the anything, just something that I’d like people to know.

SO getting back to the story! Our patient has advanced, likely to be life-ending lung cancer that has spread throughout the body and has established in the brain. At this point they cannot be cured of their cancer without very extensive surgery to remove the cancerous lung and brain tissue, and severe chemotherapy and radiation therapy…and even then it’s doubtful! And its a very high cost to pay, especially removing part or all of the lung/s and part of the brain!! Brain and lung surgery? And possible transplant to replace them? for no guarantee? It would be a very brave doctor to recommend that course of treament, unless the patient were very young and fit…which is unlikely given this cancer is caused by smoking.

So at this point we offer palliative care, or end-of-life care, or comfort care. Or try to.

Usually we try to get the patient back home with the appropriate supports of doctors visits to the home or at their usual clinic, nursing care in the home if the patient can’t do for themselves, plenty of medications and basically whatever it is that they’d most like to fill their final days or weeks or months with. If they can’t be sent home we at least give them a private room, unlimited family visits, their little dog/cat coming in, vases for flowers, unobtrusive nursing care and medications, comforting doctors rounds, limiting anything not fully essential like blood tests or blood pressure checks, and again, basically whatever they want that is feasible.

Once we had a wedding, in the patient’s garden around the side with the couples children and close family then day leave and permission for one alcoholic beverage. She died 3 days later at 40 something. Everyone cried about the wedding, either at it, or thinking about it, or seeing her come in from home in her wedding dress on oxygen holding her kids hands.

I’ve seen patients is deep distress changing completely when their little dog is brought in. They coo and talk to it, cuddle it, put their face next to it, and just relax so much. It’s such a tear jerking experience! The change in them, that peace, all that matters is they’ve seen their little dog and it’s going to be okay, and all is okay with the patient somehow.

But in this case, that isn’t going to be an option as such. In this unfortunate patient, the cancerous growth of the brain mets has set off a full blown psychosis! The pressure of  the extra growth onto the brain stretching the brain sac, the location of the mets pushing on certain areas of the brain, physical and chemical changes etc can cause different symptoms like confusion, delerium but I’ve never heard of this before. Think hallucinations, delusions, aggression and violence…such that the oncology ward wasn’t able to deal with the patient anymore and they’ve been sent to the psych ward! That’s not the place for comfort care, for a nice big room with flowers and family spending quality time at the end of life. Instead it’ll be sedation, anti-psychotics, possibly restraints, surrounded by other disturbed patients in an environment that’s hardly welcoming.

And that’s how little control we have over the end of our lives.

Medical conditions eventually get us all, one way or another. I think we should recognise that. We will all die of a medical condition, and can I add, or mental health condition. And we don’t have a lot of control over any of it!

Now it’s full psychosis as a result of lung cancer as a result of smoking.

It might be kidney failure and second daily dialysis as a result of diabetes as a result of a fatty diet.

It might be suicide as a result of desperation as a result of depression.

Where is the control?

So wouldn’t it be nice if we thought of them all the same?

I would love to live in a world where no one ever described death by suicide as selfish.

Because if we can call suicide selfish, what on earth would we call the death due to smoking or a bad diet?? We feel very emotional about the unfairness and randomness of cancer, but is that really in line with how we think about suicide? Depression can be very random and is never fair. It distresses us to see patients on dialysis and in the inevitable spiral to death that comes with kidney disease, but isn’t that just exactly how we could describe the progress of an unwell patient with insufficiently treated depression?

I’d prefer there be no blame on anyone.

As a fatty who is struggling to exercise and diet through her medication haze and bipolar up and down blips, am I really going to say I told you so to diabetes, high cholesterol, and all the consequences thereof, stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, kidney failure to name a few?

As a depressive who has spent 3 years trying, trying, trying through all the low mood, low motivation, low energy, low self esteem, low interest, low care and everything that comes in that huge big black box, I certainly can never blame anyone who just couldn’t take it anymore, and doesn’t know how else to escape but through death.

The smoking one I’m still in debate with myself over. I guess because I’ve never smoked and I’ve never had to quit, I can much more easily see why it’s a bad idea. However, my judgement is reserved for those who didn’t know it was bad when they took up the habit. People who grew up in my era (can I call it an era yet?) know it’s bad, and took it up anywhere. But again, because my mind sees all angles, I realise that there could still be a lot of factors as to why they did take it up: parents who smoked, peer pressure left over from the 90s, depression/anxiety, and a bunch more. Point being, I don’t think you should smoke but I do know it can be incredibly hard to stop, just like the gym is something I should do and find hard to!

My aim for us all: let’s work together to realise that in the end, we quit, we exercise, we try, but that’s not a guarantee, just a higher likelihood of control.

 

Partners

This one is for the partners.

My head doesn’t hurt today, so let’s do this.

Without partners, many of us wouldn’t be here today. So many of us owe our partners our lives and our health, however much of that we have.

Who’s we? Could be anyone. I’m referring to myself as someone with mental illness. But it could be anyone with a physical disability, a handicap of any kind, some issue that needs regular treatment and support.

In the background, often silent, are the pillars that we lean on, often heavily, to stay upright.

I don’t think these amazingly supportive people are known and recognised enough. They deserve all kinds of medals, and recognition, and prizes, and awards.

But that’s not why they do it. They simply love us, even in our un-lovableness, and do their best by us and give us the greatest gift ever; someone who will stand by us through it all. That is amazing!

What’s even more amazing? In a lot of cases, they didn’t sign up for this.

They committed to us long before they knew, or we knew for that matter, that we were going to be a burden on them. They could be excused for feeling “I didn’t ask for this, I shouldn’t have to do this, this isn’t fair!”. But that’s not how they react. At least not outwardly, and who would blame them for thinking this inwardly??

They give us love and kindness and support, and that is a beautiful thing! They have such a capacity for longsuffering, even when we are a real trial to them!

Speaking for me, my husband has had to deal with panic attacks, paranoia, depths of depression including being suicidal, not showering for a week, doing nothing around the house, hypochondria, manic episodes, non-existent romantic life, sleeping all the time, having to come home from work to cook, clean, do the washing etc, me not working for 16 months, my absent memory and recall function…I could go on. But this isn’t about me.

This is about him. Sure he occasionally gets frustrated, angry, fed up, feeling overworked and underpaid. I’m not surprised! This is a thankless job! I’m trying to make it more thank-full. And he gets worked up a lot less often than he could!

But without him, I really do often feel like I would surely fail.

He stood by me in the emergency department arguing my case when I was beyond being able to argue anymore. He sat at home for days on suicide watch. He’s been to countless appointments, suffered through my drug side effects, tried to coax me along when I was cranky as anything because I felt lousy!

I’m trying to stand on my own feet more, and I am, a bit. I’m trying to notice the dishes, the washing, the cooking, the cleaning more and do a bit more. Because it means something to him mostly. Also a bit because it makes me feel a little less worse about my uselessness around the house.

I’m back at work, and it’s going well. So I’m contributing to the household a bit more, and feeling a bit more confident in myself.

All things that I do not think I would have achieved by myself. Maybe I would, who knows? No way to find out.

But I do know this. The support, the encouragement, the listening ear, the pep talks from my husband went a long, LONG way to getting me to where I am today.

My GP, my psychologist, my psychiatrist have all commented about what an amazing support he is. I sometimes think my psychiatrist likes to see my husband more than me! Haha!

But seriously, it’s a hard gig when you suddenly have someone on your hands who’s mood is liable to change before you’ve even got a hang of the last mood! In fact

Who is useless with deep depression, sleeping, eating and not showering; who is bouncing off the roof with boundless energy and babbling at 100 mph with mania; who has weird turns of suspicion and paranoia about how the partner is out to get them! This one gets my hubby the most, and afterwards I can completely understand why! After all he has done for me, which is unable to be actually counted up because it’s so vast, for me to turn and say he’s out to get me? That goes like a knife to the heart. Of course it’s not something I even feel, let alone would say on any normal day, but this paranoia has really shown me again who’s boss in my brain, and it isn’t always me!

I’m sure the same applies to many other situations. The question of ‘what would I do without them’? I have another example. A paraplegic man, twice the size and weight of his mother who has cared for him, to the detriment of her physical health, for 40 years!!

How can you thank them enough? How can you ever repay them? How can you ever begin to even out the balance of power?

They don’t ask for thanks, or repayment, and they don’t even consider the balance of power. They just give, and give, and give. What can we do to make it up to them?

I don’t know the answer, but for me it feels like the repayment is getting better and staying better, and getting back to doing my fair share, and giving him a break. How about that? Let’s give that a go.

Of course I’m a lucky one. Not all people can get better. I don’t know the answer in these cases. Maybe it’s one of those challenging things in life that you somehow have to eventually make peace with. Of course I can’t make myself better for life, it will recur at some point, but I can do as much as I can when I can, I guess.

At this point I remember all of the people going it alone.

I feel for you! I don’t say that because you are alone you can’t do it. I think you can. I think maybe you are stronger because you lean on yourself, not anyone else. But I wish that for a little while I could give you the relief of someone to lean on, someone to do the things you feel you can’t, someone to give you a break.

So partners.

Thank them today.

They are amazing, their role in improving our health is immeasurable, and most of all they do it out of love and don’t begrudge us the effort and time and strength that it costs them.

I can only aspire to be such a selfless, loving, caring, forgiving, understanding, giving and undemanding person towards others! Well that list certainly gives me a lot to work on!

A little less

[Started 10th September, 2015]

Okay, time to be a bit less serious.

Sun, glorious sun!!

Sun, glorious sun!!

There has been too much D&M lately. Meaning deep and meaningful, of course!

My bad. As well as causes, I love issues!!

But it’s spring, and there’s something in the air. I walked home in broad daylight tonight! That’s exciting! I’ve only been working 8 weeks and already my walk home has gone from almost pitch dark to sunlight. Yay!

Walking out into the sunshine! Perfection!

Walking out into the sunshine! Perfection!

So let’s have some fun and enjoy the light, little, fun things in life.

[Continuing 12th September]

A cheeky lorikeetHere’s a cheeky Rainbow Lorikeet playing peek-a-boo and considering acrobatics to get you into a playful mood!

Today the air was warm. I put a foot outside, and it was warm; not cool, not chilly. So unexpected. And how exciting! My pilates teacher back in Warragul said once that she loved hot days because it felt like the air was giving you a cuddle. That’s a beautiful way to think about those hot, cloistering days. Wrapping themselves around you and keeping you cosy and warm.

There is no magic cure

There is no magic cure

Isn’t this just the way to think about life??

I’m not there yet, but I really love this meme, and this saying.

When life is overwhelming and having to go forward feels impossible, wouldn’t this saying just help to bring you back from snowballing thoughts, and overthinking, and digging yourself into a giant sinkhole? Or at least it might send you in that direction.

I do so relate to the aims of this theory!

So many shades of yellow in the wattle bursting out all over the place

So many shades of yellow in the wattle bursting out all over the place

  1. An easier day. I have loved the feeling of bliss and achievement that is an easier day than yesterday since I’ve started back at work. Since I started bike riding. And less noticeably over the course of my getting better, but I notice that in hindsight over months not days.

Getting fitter and stronger, having more stamina and energy, and coping better feel like great victories compared to recent life that has been lived on the couch! I’ve only been back at work for 8 weeks, but I can feel my progress every time I go back. Which is so delightful. I wish I could share this feeling with every person every where, because it is so powerful and so good for you, and gives you a feeling that you are good for something after all.

Cygnets hiding in the grass

Cygnets hiding in the grass

2. An unexpected laugh. Nothing is so wonderful as an unexpected laugh when you didn’t think you could possibly!

I called one of the help telephone lines once, can’t remember which one now. My husband was away for the night at a work thing, staying away til the next day and I was braving it at home. This has always been something that’s difficult for me: the night, monsters, shooting people, muggers, rapers, people breaking in and stealing stuff etc. Yes my mind works in drastic ways! I had not long been diagnosed with depression, and my anxiety had really flared up again. I’d had a panic attack the month before, and I knew I was fragile. So I tried to look after myself, made a nice tea, had some good snacks, watched a movie to distract myself.

Swamphen chick last spring at the Botanic Gardens - check out those huge feet!

Swamphen chick last spring at the Botanic Gardens – check out those huge feet!

I chose Sunshine Cleaning or whatever its called with Amy thingamybob, bad idea! It’s most sub-textual but in the past the mother had committed suicide in the bath by bleeding to death, and one daughter has learned to cope and the other sits under the railway line having her ears blasted to death while she cries about it. Obviously by the end of that movie my thought processes weren’t in a good place or heading in a good direction, and it wasn’t too long until I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t call hubby tonight, extra panic. And so on until I was in a pretty nice state!! I had these numbers from different depression websites, so I called.

And the lady was brilliant. I wish I remembered the details to give her feedback because she was truly awesome! I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t breathe, I was so distressed and she calmly spoke down the phone to me for a good 10 minutes before I could really participate back. And when I could talk but started to flare up again she kept on talking. And then she made me laugh! I don’t even remember how, but she had found out a few things about me and knew enough to get on my wavelength and then she made me laugh! It may have been a wet, sobbing/gasping laugh but I felt that laugh and nothing could be more powerful to giving you the idea that you are going to be okay.

Masked Lapwing, or Spur-Winged Plover baby being all kinds of cute last spring

Masked Lapwing, or Spur-Winged Plover baby being all kinds of cute last spring

You just laughed. How amazing it that! You’ve been so distraught but you laughed! People don’t laugh when things are really bad. Therefore things must be getting better, all because you laughed. It is a true gift to give to anyone at anytime; give them a laugh.

Not a condescending laugh; oh look at you, silly billy, making a big deal out of nothing.

Not a laughing-at-you laugh; look at how seriously you’ve taken all of this, just admit that you got carried away and acted crazy.

A genuine, I’m-with-you-in-this, here’s some common ground that will make us both feel better and that will lead us to better things.

A little trickling waterfall is always music to my ears

A little trickling waterfall is always music to my ears

I sincerely, genuinely, honestly recommend help telephone lines for anyone and everyone. Nothing is too small, not serious enough, not a big deal. Why wait til it gets bigger, more serious, a really HUGE deal? Just call. There’s no reason not to. Just call. If you just need someone to talk an issue through with, to commiserate with and to understand just how you feel, call.

Obviously don’t abuse their volunteer service, but if you have a shadow of a doubt that maybe you should, just call!

Being on top of the world!

Being on top of the world!

3. A mirror that doesn’t matter anymore. The mirror thing is an ambition of mine,  and maybe one day it won’t matter anymore, or at least not so much as it has.

I’m not going to go down the mirror path in this most uplifting (I hope!) post…but seriously, mirrors are conspiring against me! I just get an outfit sorted that I think sort of flatters me, then I walk past some window and got a shock! a fright! a surprise to find that the once thinner me actually has a big butt and bigger belly! Where’d that come from?! How’d that get there?! When did that appear? That’s not what I look like in my mind! I thought I’d gotten rid of that. Well, yes, you did get rid of it, in your mind. But then you woke up today and because you haven’t done anything actually about it, it’s still there. Huh!

Golden afternoon light on my subject; best way to end the day!

Golden afternoon light on my subject; best way to end the day!

I hope you have enjoyed some photos of some of my favourite spring things! And hopefully you’ve found something here to feel good about, or at least to get you going in a goodish direction. Till next time! D x