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

Fighting Nature

Yesterday it was sunny and in the 60s in December in North Carolina. I love NC with its ever-changing weather. They say here that if you don’t like the weather today then check back next week because it will surely be different. Today the weather is rainy and in the 50s, I love it. Tomorrow will be cooler more and then by Christmas Eve we will be back up to pushing 70.

I knew the weather would be changing so I took my younger two to the boat yesterday. We drove the two hours without much fuss and then on the boat, just the three of us. I motored out of the marina and onto the Pamlico until we found some open space deep enough to set the sail. There’s just something to setting the sail and turning off the engine that is difficult to explain. The peace? The power? The quiet? When the wind fills up the sail and the boat slides through the water I know that life is going to be okay.

Maybe it’s the rules of nature? Maybe that’s the reason I love being near the water? When the rest of the world is in chaos, nature is firm, solid. Nature never fails to do what she wants to do. She brings her storms and her winds; her rain and her sun. She brings these and we must submit to them, work around them. Nature is a guarantee of things to come. You can count on her changing her mind and on her making her rounds.

The sun will rise and set again. The winds will come and leave. The rains will fall and the rivers will fill. Nature. Nature will change her course with the seasons but she will always continue. As humans we can either fight her or welcome her and that can make such a difference. In the boat when I face up wind I have very little hope of sailing, yet when I turn and face downwind I can sail as far as the water allows.There is a constant bargaining with her as I attempt to arrive at my destination. Nature is always true to herself, she knows who she is.

Back in the city, however, there is the chaos. The constant fighting of nature and never allowing her to be: the coats and umbrellas, the cars and the horns, the noise of the people, the lights and decorations. People have always fought Nature like no other being on the planet. That, I think, is what sets us apart so much. Without fighting Nature, there would be no libraries, no hospitals, no towns. Fighting her has its place. Harnessing her, though? That has power. Harness the wind and I can sail. Others harness the wind for electricity. How many ways do we harness energy from her? wind, water, sun, coal, oil, fire… Without her we are nothing. We cannot even eat without bargaining with her.

When I leave the chaos and join Nature in her fury, I feel her power and I am comforted. I know that despite everything, she will continue her patterns. She will continue well beyond anything I ever do. When people leave her alone, she will turn their creations back to dust. Nature. When we die we will be turned back to dust as well. She is a reminder to me that the chaos is limited. No matter what others say or do, they are limited. I am renewed having emersed myself in her, ready to live another day in the chaos.

thank you for reading,

me

Morning Coffee

I awoke quietly from my slumber this morning. It was as if there was a slowly increasing awareness of daylight. I was comfortable and warm lying there in my bed. I had nowhere to go and no reason to get up. No one else has claim upon my day today. If I wanted I could stay in bed forever. Instead, my body rolls over and snuggles the dogs a few more minutes. I lie there enjoying the warmth and the companionship. Why should I get up this morning? No reason, but I do. I’m not upset, not excited, I’m just here being me. I let the dogs outside and I start a cup of coffee. It’s about seven in the morning, a little later than normal but just fine.

My coffee is in my favorite mug. I went to the fair last year and carefully touched and held several different hand-made mugs until I found the one that felt just right. It has a lovely little bump where my thumb lies and it feels good in my hand. It’s not too big and not too small. I may never drink from another mug in my life, I like this one so much.

It may not look like much but this is my favorite mug. (Just finished my coffee, so it’s empty.)

I sat down in my chair and sipped on my coffee thinking about my day and just letting myself decide what I want to do. Today I could have gone to little Washington and looked around some; and I could have gone and cleaned up some on my boat as well. But instead I’ve decided to stay home with the kids. Christmas break is just beginning for them and the time is already flying by. I’m happy with my decision to stay home.

Life can throw so many curve balls that it can be hard, sometimes, to figure out which way is up. I love living life fully, even if that means a day goes by where I don’t actually do anything. That’s part of living. Living has ups and downs, hard balls and easy tosses. Life is about accepting each day with all of its roller coaster rides. It’s about accepting that sometimes there’s wind blowing into your sails and sometimes the waters are flat. None of it is ‘wrong’ it’s just part of living.

The hard part is recognizing that life is supposed to be with all of these extremes. Life is meant to be lived with ups and downs. I grow when I face the struggles, and I rest and heal on days like today. It’s about taking care of myself and knowing that it’s okay to do so. It’s simple, not easy, accepting life for what it is.

thank you for reading,

me

Tension?

Tension. I woke up this morning anxious. It’s 7 am and still kind of dark outside. I’m not sleepy but I wish I could stay in my bed where it’s warm, my house feels cold. I always turn the heat down at night and then put it back up in the morning so I did that already. What do I have to be anxious about? The ex has court this morning because he hasn’t paid his share of the property settlement. I’m sure he’ll get off scott free but I hope not. He has a way of almost getting in trouble and then getting more time or just getting a slap on the wrist… it’s frustrating and I try to forget about it since I can’t really do anything… but it’s frustrating.

Yesterday the kids and I went to go find a Christmas tree. We soon discovered that most of them are sold out or dead. The rest? Expensive. Seventy to a hundred dollars for a tree too big for our place. The younger kids started complaining about this being the ‘worst Christmas ever’ and I just wanted to cry because I was having a hard time finding a decent tree that wasn’t too small or dead and that I could afford… Christmas has been the most difficult for the kids to adjust to. Their dad just isn’t very celebratory and I’m broke. We did find a cute little one for forty-five dollars, but it is by far the littlest tree my kids have ever had and they’re disappointed. I tried. I forced myself to stay positive and to keep encouraging them as we decorated the tree and then put lights on outside. My youngest lit a fire in the fireplace and that helped a lot. We ate a good dinner and then watched a Christmas movie as well. All in all, the day turned out well but the moods never really changed. The holidays are the hardest to be positive when the kids are the ones who suffer. It’s not their fault their parents aren’t together any longer and it’s not their fault their father is no use.

As a mom, I want to fix everything. I want them all to have smooth sailing and never an upset day. I don’t want them to struggle through anything and I want to be able to buy them whatever they could possibly want. Yeah, I know, not my job to give them everything. It’s my job to help them grow into great people and to love them unconditionally. I do love them but it’s hard to watch them struggle. It’s also hard to allow them to see me struggle. I can’t really help it though and we’ll all be better off and stronger for our struggles. That’s the way we grow.

Life is supposed to be filled with good days and bad days. We aren’t supposed to have all good days. If we did, how would we know they were good with nothing to compare? How would we grow if we never had to work for it? How would our lives get better if we didn’t know how to handle the difficult stuff? I look back at my life over the last several years and I see how amazing it currently is. I’ve come this far because I have been willing to struggle through it and there’s no way I’d ever go back to who I used to be. The struggles are all worth it.

thanks for reading,

me

Bringing my boat home – 3rd leg and home

It’s home, at the dock as I type. My boat, my dream, resting well in her new home. She’s had to put up with me learning along the way but she survived and so did I. We’ve gotten to know each other better over the last couple of weeks. This last leg was from the beginning of the Albemarle Sound down the Alligator River over to Pamlico and finally Little Washington. She’s stubborn and prefers to be with plenty of wind. Her engine is electric and has an attitude of its own as well.

If she’s not fully charged she’ll let you think you’re OK until she decides you’re not. Then she just slows down, creeping forward, eternally slower and slower… you begin to notice the land isn’t moving next to you and that you’re giving her all she’s got… The ICW requires motor power unless the wind is absolutely perfect, which it wasn’t. It’s beautiful for sure, but, without a way to recharge my engine it begins to look very, very long. I can see the last bridge in the distance. I know that afterward I’ll have a chance of more wind but alas, I stare at the bridge for over an hour, it never gets closer. Such a lovely bridge, less than a couple of miles away. I could have probably swam that distance faster than my boat was going. Sigh. No wind, darkening skies, engine slowing and now not even moving forward…

I can see the bridge in the distance…

I finally make the call. I call for a tow boat. I really don’t want to but I’d like even less to spend the night on the ICW with no batteries and no way to charge them and no hope of more wind in the morning. It has to happen. I make the call, and we wait. It’s dark now with the bridge just slightly closer and we see them rushing towards us and then slowing to ask us if we’re on the hook. No. We’re not on the hook, we’re just not moving. They come and tie ropes onto us and then off we go. Six plus knots now, the icy wind in our faces for an hour, maybe more? As we head to our destination marina for the night to charge up and begin all again, I ponder why I wanted to do this in the first place. With less thought than was required to give them a call, I discover that I don’t mind the icy wind, nor the quiet night. I don’t mind having to take more time to get where we need to go. I just love being on my boat regardless of the circumstances. I discover I have no regrets, none.

We make to Belhaven, set the boat to charge up for the night and go to bed. Next morning, the charge still isn’t complete and I worry. I wonder what is wrong and if I’ve done something wrong. Yup! I sure have. I didn’t plug the 30 amp cord in correctly. I’ve melted my cord and it’s a wonder I didn’t set my boat on fire. We still have some battery and the winds today are supposed to be stellar. We plug in better with another cord and go get breakfast. A little more charge makes me feel better. After breakfast we’re off to a great start. Once we are out of the marina the wind is perfect, we’re sailing now. 6, sometimes 7 knots with the wind at our backs. My boat is loving this! She’s meant for weather like this. Before we know it we’re already on the Pamlico heading toward home. There’s another marina we consider stopping at to recharge some over lunch but the wind is so good we don’t want to waste it so we keep on sailing.

As we get closer to the river leading to Bath, I notice we’re not moving as well. The wind is a little less and off our side so I adjust the sails some and we’re still doing well, about 4 knots. I look over and notice the land isn’t moving again. What have I missed? There’s still a little wind but it’s not enough to keep us moving forward. I try tacking and do pretty well for a little while. Then when we turn I use the engine a little to get us ready to tack again. We’re at least moving forward again. But what is going on? Why is it so hard? The tide! The tide is going out, against us. We use the engine more but the battery is already complaining. We’d passed up the marina we could have charged at. The only other option is Bath. Bath is a mile and a half up the river just to our right. I might have enough battery to get there. I radio them and decide to go for it.

When we do finally arrive at Bath we are moving along at about a knot and a half. It took us over an hour to make it there with our engine slowing down the entire way. We plug in using the owner’s cord since I don’t trust mine, walk to the local Family Dollar to get some sandwich meat and then go back to the boat. It was a good stop, we met a few people, enjoyed some conversation and learned some more about my engine. What we failed to do, though, was stay. About 4 o’clock, I got antsy. I wanted to get home tonight and I really thought we could do it. We took the boat and motored back to the Pamlico and made our turn, no problems.

Then, then the damn thing decides it’s not going forward any longer. The battery slows but the wind picks up a little and we’re begin moving forward at least, just not quickly. It’s starting to get dark again and we still aren’t at our destination. Looking at the map, we just aren’t that far away. Why can’t we make it there? Do I really have to call for a tow, yet again?? I hate asking for help. Yes, I know that’s a problem but it’s just the way I am. I’m learning to ask more often but I still don’t like it. I wait. We are sailing somewhat after all. It really is getting darker, though, and colder. I make the call, again. AGAIN! Can I not get home without help?? No. I can’t. I have to allow others to help me and I have to learn to ask. They say an hour, and an hour passes. An hour fifteen, an hour and a half… I call again. That boat got into the crab pots and a different one was heading our way but would be another hour. We wait. Finally we see them and they make their way to us. I’m relieved beyond belief! It’s time for us to get home.

The sun is setting and the boat is slowing.

Thankfully, we arrive at our home marina full of health and in time to catch our ride to the house. My boat is home, resting, and charging with her shiny new 30 amp cord. We’ve made it. Our journey began in Norfolk, Virginia and ended in Washington, NC. We followed the ICW most of the way and we learned a lot. I’m no longer clueless with sailing. I’m not an expert but I’m much better than I was when I began. I started out not knowing anything. Instead of giving up or never trying I kept at it and I’ve become captain of my own sailboat, one that I can sail on my own if I choose. I’ve faced my fears and I’ve allowed myself to grow. I can’t imagine having not at least tried.

I look forward to my adventures to come. What would life be like if we all lived our dreams and didn’t let fear stop us? Thank you for allowing me to share mine with you,

thank you for reading,

me

7 Ways to Waste a Perfectly Good Day…

How do you waste a perfectly good day and still have a perfectly good day? I feel like a pro. Let me give you some pointers:

1 – Don’t plan what you’re going to wear the night before. Don’t do anything the night before that will require you to do anything in the morning. This is important. If you plan something it needs to be canceled or you will ruin your perfect chance for a wasting a perfectly good day.

2 – Once you get in bed, stay there. Read something useless until you feel sleepy then let yourself go to sleep. A perfect day really does begin the night before. It’s important that you set yourself up just right or you may ruin your chance for a perfect day.

3 – Finally, morning has arrived, the sun has risen, your eyes have opened of their own accord because they are so used to opening in the morning. Don’t worry, just lay there a few minutes longer. There’s nothing to do and nowhere to go. Lay there, check out your Facebook feed, read some more… anything… just Do Not Get Out Of Bed, not until there is absolutely no chance of falling back to sleep.

4 – The time has come, you’ve gotta pee and you aren’t even the slightest bit sleepy any longer. Good. Go ahead, get up but don’t get dressed. There’s no reason to, not yet. Heck, this is your day, you don’t even have to get dressed unless you just want to.

5 – Now if you must, which of course I did, go to the kitchen and fix yourself a cup of coffee. Stand there, wait, do nothing… watch it brew and just enjoy the anticipation of holding that warm cup and sipping it in peace. Take it to a place to sit comfortably and just let yourself be with your coffee for as long as you need. This is excellent for you… being still and being present to now and nothing else. This is what you’ve been told you need to do more than once. Just be still for a few and let yourself feel or think anything that comes up or nothing at all. You will be better for this, trust me.

6 – As the morning changes to noon to afternoon and then evening just marvel at the fact that you were able to sit still for so long. You are merely thanking your body for all the hard work that it has put forth over the last few weeks. Your body deserves this amazing break and you deserve to enjoy it as well.

7 – As nighttime approaches put a movie on, drink a beer (or a cider like I do), put your feet up and end your day on a positive note. Popcorn might be a good idea but only if it’s not too much work.  Praise yourself for letting yourself rest. You’ve done well.

There are other things that you can do to waste a perfectly good day and still keep it perfectly good but why bother? Wasting the day away is what the goal was and you’ve done well, adding more might just ruin all of your hard work. I have thoroughly enjoyed wasting my perfectly good day. Tomorrow will be different and busy, but today? Today was a perfectly wasted perfectly good day.

thank you for reading,

me