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.”
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!!!
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.
At the end of my meditation, I don’t want to open my eyes. There is nothing more to see. I don’t want to open my mouth. There is nothing more to say. All is done. There isn’t much more. It would be ok to have a quite existence in an obscure little place that no one has heard of.
At the end of my meditation, the word ‘acceptance’ hits me like an arrow right in the middle of my forehead. What is the distinction between ‘acceptance’ and ‘resignation’? How can either be experienced without a sense of defeat?
Where is the need to wake up to an alarm every morning? Where is the need to wade through the London traffic every day? What for? There are more peaceful ways to get through time. I long for them.
The last bit of Liz Lochhead’s poem ‘Favourite Place’ written in memory of her husband:
“But tonight you are three months dead
and I must pull down the bed and lie in it alone.
Tomorrow, and every day in this place
these words of Sorley MacLean’s will echo
The world is still beautiful, though you are not in it.
And this will not be a consolation
but a further desolation.”
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. 🙂
Sweetest memories come from mundane everyday activities.
When Saagar and I went for our weekly shopping, he loved to take full charge of steering the trolley around. He wouldn’t want me to touch it. Sometimes I would mistakenly place a hand on it and get a glare from him. Other times I would deliberately touch the trolley with the tip of my little pinky, just to get a reaction from him. I was never disappointed. He obliged. We also had a ritual of rewarding ourselves with a chocolate éclair each, on our way home.
Soon after Day 0, I couldn’t manage to go to that supermarket without a major heart-break. I would stand in front of the bakery section and cry like a school kid with sobs and tissues and both my fists covering my eyes. It didn’t matter who was around. It didn’t matter that I made a spectacle of myself. It just happened.
Today, it didn’t happen. We went there and finished our shopping. We went to the bakery section. Si stood beside me and put his hand on my shoulder as we got our chocolate eclairs. We went to the car-park, stood in the sun and enjoyed our sweet rewards. It felt like Saagar was there. He was there in our hearts and minds.
The Japanese have a word, kaizen. Kai means change and zen means good. Kaizen is based on the philosophical belief of continuous, incremental improvement. It believes that everything can be changed for the better. Nothing is ever seen as a status quo – there are continuous efforts to improve which result in small, often imperceptible, changes over time. These small changes add up to big changes over the longer term.