Day 942

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My optimism is foolish

For more than 25 years, I have practised anaesthesia. One would think that by now I would know for sure that procedures take much longer than they are scheduled for and that every list these days is overbooked. Still, foolishly I hope to finish in time every day. Even though I have had to cancel after-work plans on many occasions, at every new opportunity I want to give a chance to the possibility of a desirable outcome.

When Saagar was ill, I was optimistic. I believed that he would get better. That it was only a matter of time. The messages I got from professionals reaffirmed that belief. My faith in life and confidence in Saagar and myself kept that belief strong.

Now when I am with worried parents and friends, I hold their uncertainty and mine. Things can go one of many ways. We don’t know. We just need to be with that uncomfortable uncertainty with positivity. That is compassion. Understanding.

In quantum physics, Heisenberg’s principle of Uncertainty says that there is an inherent uncertainty in the amount of energy involved in quantum processes and in the time it takes for those processes to happen. Vacuums are often defined as the absence of everything. But not so in quantum theory. It is possible that for very, very short periods of time, a quantum system’s energy can be highly uncertain, so much that particles can appear out of a vacuum. This is well within the laws of quantum physics, as long as the particles only exist fleetingly and disappear when their time is up. Uncertainty, then, is nothing to worry about in quantum physics and, in fact, we wouldn’t be here if this principle didn’t exist.

“One misconception is that entrepreneurs love risk. Actually, we all want things to go as we expect. What you need is a blind optimism and a tolerance for uncertainty.”

-Drew Houston

 

 

Day 941

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Karma – Good or bad, to each his own.

Valmiki started his life as a thief — looting to feed his family. He felt that he was protecting them and doing his duty. He was about to steal from Saint Narada who questioned him on his stealing ways.

Saint Narada: Why do you steal?
Valmiki: It’s my duty to protect my family. I only know how to steal and kill.
Saint Narada: By killing and robbing others you are acquiring lot of bad karma. Go and ask your family members whether they can take any part of your karma.
(Valmiki goes to his family)
Valmiki: Can any of you take part of my karma that I have incurred for you, due to my stealing habits.
Valmiki’s Mother: I didn’t know anything about the bad things you were involved in. Therefore, in no way can I be part of it.
Valmiki’s wife: I didn’t know anything about the bad things you were involved in. Therefore, in no way can I be part of it.
Valmiki’s children: We didn’t know anything about the bad things you were involved in. Therefore, in no way can we be part of it.
Valmiki (to Saint Narada): Nobody is willing to share any part of my bad karma. What’s the salvation for me then?
Saint Narada: Chant ‘Rama’, all day and all night.
Valmiki chanted ‘Mara’ as he misheard the saint. He chanted for many years. An anthill formed over him. People heard only the sound. When he came out of his meditation, he wrote the famous epic Ramayana.

Day 940

The dark thing that sleeps in me

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Thomas Joiner, author of “Lonely at the Top: The high cost of Men’s success” is an avid suicide researcher. He lost his father to suicide.

His career choice is dismissed by some as : “You’re just trying to fix your own psychological problems, just like all mental health professionals.” Having psychological problems is not insulting. They are common, often treatable and nothing to be ashamed of.

Surely, heart and cancer researchers are not perceived in the same light. This is another reflection of the stigma that surrounds suicide.

Stigma is fear combined with disgust, contempt and lack of compassion – all of which flow from ignorance. We need to understand that suicide is not easy, painless, cowardly, selfish, vengeful or rash. It is not caused just by medicines, anorexia, smoking or plastic surgery. It is partly genetic and influenced by mental disorders which in themselves are agonising. That it is preventable (eg. through means restriction like bridge barriers) and treatable (talk about suicide is not cheap and should warrant specialist referral).

Once we get all that in our heads, we need to let it lead our hearts.

“I am terrified of this dark thing that sleeps in me,
All day I feel its feathery turnings,
Its malignity.”
– by Sylvia Plath

Source: ‘Myths about Suicide’ by Thomas Joiner.

Day 938

Oooops! Sorry!

If a previously healthy man recognises that he is a huge risk to himself. If he takes himself to a mental health facility and pleads for help. If they admit him and then classify him as ‘low risk’ and leave him unsupervised. If he then goes on to end his life in the hospital within hours of being there. This has got to be wrong. One would think this to be nearly impossible. It isn’t. It happens.

A Canadian study published in 2014 on inpatient suicides concluded that “It is possible to reduce suicide risk on the ward by having a safe environment, optimising patient visibility, supervising patients appropriately, careful assessment, awareness of and respect for suicide risk, good teamwork and communication, and adequate clinical treatment.”

Recently, a Coroner’s report on an inpatient suicide found the same things that came out in Saagar’s case:
-Risk of suicide was not properly and adequately assessed and reviewed
-Transfer of verbal and written information was poor
-Risk assessment and quality of observation was poor
-Adequate and appropriate precautions were not taken to manage the risk of suicide
In addition, they found that previous recommendations on risk and environmental factors were not implemented adequately. This means that similar deaths had occurred before but nothing had changed.

How many people need to be sacrificed before something changes?
Ed Mallen, 18, died while he was on a waiting list.
Many thousands are still waiting!

Ruby is a lovely young lady who shares the joys of being on a waiting list, among other things. Here’s the link. This time it’s 18 minutes.
Thank you Ruby! We wish you well!!!

Day 937

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Just a rant

Another Thursday. Another musician. Another suicide.

This Facebook post brought up the same old questions. I am not the only one asking them. They are a big problem for many families, individuals and communities. But sadly, the easiest thing to do for a medic at a consultation is to write a prescription rather than invest time and resources in the individual.

“Just reading about Chris Cornell and how according to his wife he took too much of his prescribed medication, out of it, because he was on his medication. Whether it was a suicide or “accidental death” I am outraged at the system. I didn’t really know Chris Cornell’s music until recently, but I lost my dear friend, another talented musician, to a similar situation recently. And before that I lost my mom, who became psychotic when given anti-depressants and took the whole bottle a few days after she had started taking them. I am so frustrated by a medical establishment that refuses to treat the whole disease and the whole person, and so tired of people I love dying from the very medication that is supposed to prevent it. If you work in (mental) health, please consider the risk when prescribing medications. Years ago, I myself was prescribed ativan and other medications and became addicted and had to take myself off everything completely without the support of a doctor because they thought I needed medication, while in reality the medication was making me suicidal.

Medication without therapy from my perspective is no different than drinking or smoking or taking drugs. I see the system changing as the trauma-informed approach enters the mainstream but in Nova Scotia, so many mental health problems that need deep spiritual healing are treated with drugs. Drugs that sometimes exacerbate the problem, or create a whole new problem, without leaving the person spiritually and emotionally sober enough to make sound decisions that could save lives.

I look forward to the day when the mental hospitals and outpatient aftercare support radical healing on a whole-person level-the kind of work that the International Association for Human Values and Body Talkers are doing-treating the whole person and providing them with actual physical stress and trauma relief tools.

Just a rant. I’m done. Love to all. Please no more state/big pharma-sponsored suicides…”

Eleven years ago, purely by chance, I learnt a breathing-based meditation technique called ‘Sudarshan Kriya’. It has kept me strong through deeply traumatic life-events. Our breath is a subtle but powerful bridge to knowing the ‘self’. It has precious secrets hidden in it. It energises and detoxifies. It keeps us alive. If we are willing to learn, it teaches us the art of living.

 

Day 936

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Born to run

“Patti will observe a freight train bearing down, loaded with nitroglycerin and running quickly out of track… she gets me to the doctors and says, ‘This man needs a pill’.”

 His new memoirs speak a lot about his long battle with depression. Bruce Springsteen had a strong family history of mental illness. He didn’t do drugs as a rock star which is unusual. He was afraid  they would unmask his genetic potential for insanity but he was already suffering  with serious melancholia.

On the therapeutic value of touring he says, “You are free of yourself for those hours; all the voices in your head are gone. Just gone. There’s no room for them. There’s one voice, the voice you’re speaking in.”

His wife of 25 years, Patti understands his illness. She helps him manage it. “A lot of his work comes from him trying to overcome that part of himself”, she says.

The media often reinforces negative stereotypes of people with mental illness, depicting them as inadequate, unlikable, dangerous, confused, aggressive and unpredictable. The Boss’s devotion to many progressive causes sharply contrasts that image.

Public stigma leads to self-stigma. It stops us from talking about mental illness and worse, ask for help when we are struggling. Patti was initially apprehensive about the book in which Bruce speaks openly about how years of depression left him crushed. It would be read by millions. But then, she saw the value in that.

I watched Bruce Springsteen in 1985 at a Live Aid Concert in Delhi. I was terribly envious of the young lady he invited on to the stage from the audience to dance with him.

Long live The Boss!

“In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway nine,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin’ out over the line”
H-Oh, Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
`Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run.”

 

Day 932

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A Cast for a Pod?

When I was in India for a couple of weeks, I missed all the Archers and Desert Island discs. I couldn’t listen to BBC Radio 4 but was content in the knowledge that I could listen to these programmes when I got back as they would all be downloaded as Podcasts on my I-pad. While in the Himalayas, I attended a writing retreat where we talked about blogging and podcasting. I learnt that I could make podcasts of my own and put them on-line. I didn’t believe it but I liked the idea of trying it some day.

One of Saagar’s friends, Nate kindly came to cat-sit for us while we were away. He was home when we got back and it was a delight to have him around. I was assured of excellent technical assistance with him here and he very kindly agreed to be the first guinea pig. So, we got on with it and made a little recording this morning.

Here’s our first experimental, unscripted, unedited podcast. A brief conversation (8 minutes) between 2 amateur participants about what the world looks like from the standpoint of this young man. Comments, suggestions and volunteers welcome. 🙂