Ramblings from the Psych Ward

I’m finishing up my second week working on a psych ward. Before I began I had spoken with my therapist and asked him if he had any recommendations. He asked me only to do one thing, “look at them as if they are real people with real issues. Remember that how they act makes sense, at least to them..” I’ve tried to do just that and in the process I’ve learned a few things about myself.

I’ve learned that it’s a very thin line between ‘normal’ and ‘crazy’. I’ve met people who still have dreams but life has thrown a bunch of garbage at them.

I’ve met a young man who, for no fault of his own, cannot stop moving his mouth. He has tardive dyskenesia along with some catelepsy. It’s not fair that he can’t use one of the drugs we’d like him to have because he’d have no way to pay for it out of the hospital.

There’s a lady who rather than embracing her upcoming retirement has decided that life just isn’t worth living, or at least bothering with. She barely eats, barely sleeps, and just lies in bed all day, despite being on several medicines that should be helping her by now. We keep hoping she’ll try ECT but so far she refuses. She doesn’t believe she is depressed, just that she’s a realist.

Another lady, who is so similar to myself that it scares me, is manic. She doesn’t remember the difficulty the police had bringing her in, nor the way she behaved in the ED. She doesn’t understand why she’s still being held ‘hostage’. When asked about it she has changed the story so much that it makes me wonder why she’s still there. The reality, though, is quite a bit different when you talk to those who met her that first day. Still, some of her story is true. She really has lived several places, really has suffered tragedy, really has had life turn upside down on her. I look at her and I see just how close I came to being there as a patient with her. Instead, though, I discovered ways to handle my stress, ways to grow my way out, and continue to grow. I have to remind myself that she is not me and does not have the skills I’ve learned, despite our similar circumstances.

The truth is all of these people could be you, or me, or someone we walk by. They are no different than we are, not special, not broken. They have just become overwhelmed and need someone to help guide them out of their own caves. Today, I nearly broke down in tears listening to a man who had to move back in with his mother because of an unexplained seizure that then turned his life upside down. He’s my age. I think how my parents would be if I lost my ability to take care of myself, and I think of how I would be if my own children found themselves in a similar place. I feel for them all.

And then, there is a man, who if he could only control his anger could provide such beauty to the world. He’s an artist who has covered his walls with drawings he’s done while waiting. He is also a gifted musician and can provide so much more to this world. Smart, well-kept, handsome, young, and strong… all the qualities a man his age would love to have. He’s there trying to explain to us that his problem is that he can’t sleep, that is the reason, he says, that he sees so many strange things. Visions when he closes his eyes, radio waves in the air, dots on our bodies… He believes there are aliens and he is worried there will be war because of them. He may be right, he might not; it’s not my place to say. There’s a lot of perfectly ‘normal’ people walking around who believe in aliens so that isn’t something worth arguing about.

So what do I say to myself? What do I think? I think it’d be best if when we talk to those who are in the ward that despite how crazy they sound, despite how far-fetched their stories may be, that we should give them the benefit of the doubt. So, yes, I choose to believe my patient when she says she swallowed a bunch of flexeril as well as oxycodone, mobic, and citalopram with vodka. I believe her when she says she doesn’t know why she started feeling suicidal, that it doesn’t make sense to her. I believe her when she says she really wants to live, despite being alive only because someone else found her. I believe her. And? If my patient says he believes in telepathy, why not? Who are we to say what another has experienced? We aren’t them. If they say they lived in Europe, or DC, or wherever, then who are we to say they didn’t?

These are good people, not liars, nor embellishers. They are telling us exactly what they think to be true. They are only being honest with no filters…. if everyone was as honest as these, we’d all be in the psych ward…

thank you for reading,

me

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Geriatrics Rotation… A much better fit

I have to say, being in Pharmacy school is hard. Doing the studying, the exams, the science, the math… all of that is part of it. But the hardest part? All of the exams, math, and science are useless during rotations. When you see a new drug that came out you think it’s great! You’re like, it’s about time, let’s get some people well. And then, then you realize that your guy wouldn’t have qualified for the trial. He’s too old, too fat, too young, too sick… they only use mostly healthy individuals for trials… people who only have the one disease they are trying to fix, or no disease because they’re trying to prevent it.  This is true for all of the trials and has an effect on all patients differently.

Geriatrics… I’ve been working with a population of men (because they’re veterans) who are between the ages of 74 and 95. 95?! Wow. Do you expect to be able to live to 95? What a ride that will be! But, back to my patients. When they aren’t in their youthful ages anymore, when they are just trying to stay alive another day but still loving their lives… then the rules of the medicines doesn’t really apply. There are almost no trials in elderly people. No one has any idea how the medicines will act in their bodies. AND! every single one of them act differently. In one man, if he takes a statin he won’t be able to walk. In another, it has no effect on him. Another can’t take anything like aspirin or ibuprofen, but can take Tylenol. Another only needs 15 micrograms per week of warfarin and the one next to him uses 30 micrograms per week…

For these, and really for all of us, age is just a number and has no bearing on the amount of medicine a person needs. The most important factor on whether you live to 95 or 102 is how old you feel, not how old you are. Over the last few months I’ve met people who are older than me but technically a lesser age. And I’ve met those who are 95 and look, act and feel, like they’re just in their 50s and 60s.

I ask them what they do? What they did to get to where they are? One man told me, age 95, that I had to go to war. He said it doesn’t work unless I go to WWII and then Korea, and learn to jump out of airplanes for 30 years. I could have listened to him for hours. I had to ask him if his birthday was right, I just couldn’t believe he was 95.

So, yeah, I love geriatrics. Here I deal with people who have lived full lives, who have had their chance already to make mistakes and to make dreams come true, or not. I love listening to them and getting to know them. They are a treasure trove of information and advice. This community is growing exponentially and needs people who specialize in their medicines. The wrong drug could destroy an otherwise healthy individual, but the right one can help. I look forward to being done with school… only three more months!

thanks for reading,

me

Living MY Life

I woke up early this morning having remembered another dream. I try to write them down before I forget them. I find it interesting how my subconscious works and whenever I get to see a picture of it after a dream I grasp at it in order to learn more about myself. It seems I’ve been on this long trail of discovering who I am since I am no longer being held back by my past… The weirdest thing of all is that when I put my past behind me is that my future became a giant possibility. I literally could become anything or anyone I want to become and it’s weird. I like the word weird… not quite scary, not quite fun… different, weird.

The part of my dream that I was able to capture was like being in a 3D movie as if I was flying a plane off of a cliff and then dipping down and finally leveling off safely ahead. My first impression when I woke up was that I was scared of my future. But I don’t worry about being scared anymore. Fear is healthy, it helps me plan and tests me. Fear is something I follow now so that I can understand me. I’ve discovered that as I follow my fears that I am able to grow and that life on the other side can be amazing.

Last night was the first night I spoke to another person about my intentions of moving, the first time I verbally said that I am going to relocate after I graduate. Up until now I’d say I was thinking about it, not that I actually am going to do it. Words have power. When I said I am moving it became real for me and so fear set in. It’s like jumping off of a cliff and then learning to fly and finally soar.

I’m excited, I’m scared. I’m beginning to create my life as I would have it look and it’s an amazing feeling. Now that I’ve said “I am moving,” I will take action, real action. Whenever I make a final decision followed by action, my results are guaranteed. I sometimes take forever to come to a decision, but once made, things move quickly. And I’m certain things will move quickly now… I graduate in May, pharmacy boards after, and job… I’m less than 6 months from when I plan on moving. Wow! scary… exciting.

Do something scary today, let yourself grow.

thanks for reading,

me

Being Weird

Weird – out of the norm; state of being that allows unique and unfamiliar traits to be represented; not going with the status quo; being true to oneself; living an abundant life…

I like that word, weird. It’s very useful when you experience an emotion you’ve never experienced before. It’s useful when trying to describe something that is good but completely new. Weird.

I have found that I use that word frequently lately to describe where I am. As I come closer to graduation I am confronted with the fact that I get to choose my life. Weird. I get to decide whether to relocate or to stay local, whether to keep in touch with some people or not. I get to decide if I want to work in a hospital, or a clinic, or a store, or on my own. It’s like I have a multiple choice game, a choose my own adventure kind of life ahead of me. I can decide for myself whether I like the ocean or the mountains or the plains or whatever. I don’t have to do what I’ve always done any longer. The only word for it is weird. Weird.

Why is there no word for being able to choose your own life? Why is it that people typically fall into a place and just make the best, or the worst of it, rather than change the place? Why is it that all of the decisions in the past were based on what other people thought, or did, or didn’t do… why did others pave my path instead of myself? Weird. Seems it’s more common than not that we don’t actually choose which direction we go. Why not?

Why is it we are constantly trying to prove ourselves to people we don’t know or don’t like? Why do we try to do things that we know we don’t care for? Why do we work in places we hate, live in cities we can’t stand, and never ever dream? Weird.

Who is it that decided we would grow up and be a doctor, nurse, teacher, lawyer, game designer, architect? Did we decide it? Did we really choose? Or did we ‘take the advice’ of our parents, our teachers, our peers? Did we try something and fail and decide with only one failure to just give up? Did we decide we weren’t good enough? What a terrible loss! How did we decide to give power to others on how we live our own lives? Why didn’t we just do what we felt best? Why didn’t we get out our hatchets and carve our own path instead? Weird.

I love the word weird. I love being weird. I love creating my own life how I feel is best. I love the fear that comes with the unknown, the knowledge that if there’s a twinge of fear that it’s good, that I will be challenged. I can feel the fear, the excitement, physically. Now that I am learning to listen to myself, my own feelings, now that I am doing that I am beginning to use my body as a measure of which way to turn. If there is a crushing feeling in my chest, if I cannot breathe and my heart begins to break, then I know that is the wrong direction. If the fear is there, the anticipation, the opening of my lungs, the breathing deeply and enjoying the breath then I know that that is the better choice, the better path to follow. All of this time has been wasted listening only to my head, listening to the lies others have told me, and not listening to my heart. Weird.

Maybe we could all be a little more weird. Weird in our own individual ways. Maybe we can actually step up and into who we are meant to be. Maybe we can actually tell it like it is, speak truth in love and let others know how we feel. Maybe we have to start with ourselves. Maybe we need to learn to listen to our dreams, our own individual purpose. There is hope, there is peace but to get there you have to believe. Believe in yourself and trust in your power to accomplish more than you’ve ever knew possible. Let fear be your friend and your guide, who knows what’s on the other side of the bend? It may be a life that you love.

thanks for reading,

me

Ambulatory Rotation

Another month of pharmacy school has gone by, this one at a doctor’s office where I was able to work with an amazing team. Each day we had new people come in to ask questions about the meds, to find out how to get healthy again, to find out how to stay healthy… these people, patients, needed time to digest what their doctors have told them. They needed time spent face to face to go over their conditions and to know that someone was listening to them. We would often spend an hour or more talking with them, getting to know them, finding out their likes and their dislikes, finding out how we can help them take charge of their health. It was humbling.

They would look to us because we understood their conditions and because we understood their medicines. They would trust us when we told them they needed to change something because their kidneys were bad, or because if they stayed on it they’d mess up their hearts. We would help them understand how to take their blood thinners and how to measure their sugars. We did all of this and so much more.

One man came in with blood pressure to the roof and we put him directly with a doctor and recommended what would help right away. An hour later his blood pressure was back down and he understood a little better how dangerous that could be.

One lady came in and just happened to mention she felt like an elephant was sitting on her chest a few nights before, she was there to check her blood thinner. We sent her back for an ECG to make certain she would be OK to go home.

Another couple came in because his blood work didn’t look good, they were scared, they thought this must mean the end is coming quicker than they thought. We were able to give them comfort and reassurance that all he needed to do was change his diet some, drink more water, and have an evening walk every night. Simple things that every one can do to prevent the fears they had that day. His wife began to cry she was so relieved that this was something they could handle.

Another man came in to make certain he wasn’t bleeding internally because of his blood thinner. He had started it because of a blood clot of unknown origin. I see him sitting there and I wonder quietly like the rest why it happened and pray to myself it’s not an early sign of cancer.

Real people, real blood, real dreams, real lives. Dozens of them over the last month. And to think a pharmacist does nothing but count pills? Nonsense.

thank you for reading,

me

Life is for living

Live dangerously. Take chances. Dream. We all come into this world the same way. We all leave it the same way too. We are born and we die. We know how it begins and we know how it ends, why not make the middle more interesting? That’s the living part.

I’m tired of living vicariously through others. I want my own adventures, my own chances to fail. I want to live for the sake of living. It’s interesting, coming to the end of my school career. I’ll be a licensed pharmacist by this time next year. So what am I going to do with it? Who am I going to be? How do I want my life to look in ten years? five? three?

It’s easier to know what I don’t want than to know what I want. I don’t want where I’m at. I don’t want to get up, go to work, wish I was off, go home, go to sleep, and get up and do it all over again. I can hear my ‘friends’ saying, “but that’s what growing up is all about”. I can hear them saying, “get over it.” But I don’t care what they say. I don’t want that and so I am not going to put up with that either. I can hear them again, “you’ll learn” and totally discounting me, thinking I’m naive and that I just don’t know anything.

But I do know. I do know a lot. I’m not a kid, I’m in my 40s. I’m not naive, I have an incredible grasp of life. Maybe that’s the problem? Because I have such a grasp of life and because I understand how amazingly fragile it is, maybe that’s why I refuse to let it slip away unnoticed. I refuse to give up or give in. Not ever, never again.

I will not let my life go unnoticed. I will not let the days slip by without recognizing the love and the pain around me. I write. I write to save my memories and to remember my dreams. So what do I want in the next few years? Freedom, peace, adventure, love. I know something others around me don’t realize. I know that people do live lives they love. I’ve met them and I want to be like them. I’m not saying I don’t love my life now, I’m saying that I am not content to let it be this way forever. I am content that today I will go to work to learn and that I will be challenged and tired. I am happy to do that today. Even tomorrow and so on for weeks, months, maybe even years. What I am not content to do is allow my work life to be my only life. I will play and I will live.

thank you for reading,

me

Random Thoughts This Morning

1 – Why do people find the bad in everything? It seems so much easier to find the pitfalls, the mistakes, the ‘it didn’t work’ parts… why can’t we start to see the great things? Why can’t we see the beauty? I posted on Facebook asking if any of my friends sail. I got a lot of positive comments such that they like to but no one really does. I had two who said they would love to go sailing with me but I’m not sure I’d be in the same stadium as them let alone, alone on a boat… then there’s the one comment “the happiest days for boat owners are the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it.” REally? Then why do people keep buying them? Why do people actually live on them sometimes? The downer really got to me. Burst my bubble some. I try hard not to do that to others, I’m sure that I do but I try not to.

2 – I have a friend who is thinking of leaving her marriage. How can I help her? She sounds so much like me but she’s so much earlier in it than I was. I don’t want her to destroy a marriage that could still work yet I don’t want her to stay in it if it will destroy her drive, her love of life. I can only tell her to trust her heart but I want to make everything better. I think often that marriage should be more of a time limited contract. If everyone thought, “if I don’t straighten up then she (or he) won’t renew” then maybe we’d behave better? Let’s say every 5 or 10 years you have to decide whether the other partner has kept his side of the deal. Has he supported her? Helped keep up the house? Has she helped him? I mean, it doesn’t really matter what the role is, so long as they are agreed upon. And a clause that says you can get out if you find you just aren’t compatible? Why would someone stay if they aren’t happy anyway? My ex was never happy, yet he didn’t want a divorce? That just didn’t make sense to me. If he hated me so much then why wouldn’t he leave? Oh well.

3 – So do I get a boat? I still want one. I still imagine the feel of the boat rocking under me day and night. I imagine waking with the sunrise, or with the storm. They both delight me. I imagine living wherever I want to live, leaving and coming as I please and taking my home with me. I imagine being able to still come to land when needed, working for 3 or 4 days a week and still being able to enjoy my home. I imagine I would be the black sheep of the family, because I prefer my own company to theirs. I imagine living a life of adventure, where I can love on others and I can still have my peace and privacy… I know there will be downers but they aren’t me.

4 – I spent the day outside yesterday, the weather was perfect. I laid on my blanket under a tree and studied and read and just rested my soul. It was wonderful. I so much prefer to be outside than inside no matter the weather. I have two weeks left to this rotation and then I have a month off. It’s beginning to feel as if I might actually make it, I might actually graduate in May. The questions remain what will I do then? I have a lot of the what, just looking for how. How can I convince my family that living on a boat is a good idea? How can I learn to sail without having a boat yet? (I will be spending a week on one in south Florida after graduation.) How can I be sure I’m doing the right thing? How do I get a job that will allow my random, crazy ideas? How can I live the life of my dreams? “Trust my heart, it sees things my brain refuses to see.” The more I trust myself, the more excited I become about living. I never knew how much more life was out there when I was in my dungeon!

And so we all begin another week, another day, another morning. May this week be filled with love and passion and dreams that come true.

thank you for reading,

me