Who I am

who-am-iI tend to make old mistakes, again and again. Sometimes I think it’s because they are less scary than making new ones. One of them is trying to find out ‘who I am’.

I try to blend in with the culture I blame for my twisted thoughts, my presumptions, my obsessions. Like a chameleon I change my dress sense every time I change environment; nonchalant, hippie, sexy, feminine, outdoorsy, there is no end. And none of them are me, yet all of them are. Who am I? How do I dress/behave/feel to express my original self? Who even cares besides me?

I have my coffees in cafes that allow my laptop as a canvas for my futile attempts to poetry and thought trains that go in circles. No one really needs to read my verbal excretions, but god I do need to get it out of my system. But when I try to be a writer, a poet I fail. ‘what would I have to do, what should the quality be for me to BE this thing?’ When can I honestly say to people ‘yes, I write’. The question itself castrates me, and everything I’m trying to verbalise freezes into other people’s words and writing styles. I get stuck in writing the thing I think you might want to read. I get stuck in trying to portray myself as smart, clever, sympathetic, strong, optimistic, all-knowing.

I’ve had many jobs and job-titles, have moved around in different cities, different countries and never found myself in any of them. I think I wanted to be something/someone but could never find the right setting to become that person. I looked for other settings, without really knowing what it was that I wanted to be. ‘If If find the right setting, will I then automatically and finally become ‘me’?’

So there is the old questions: ‘Who am I, who do I want to be?’. And I’m growing to dislike this question because the answer is always going to be crap. I don’t want to be a manager or an employee of the month,  not a lady or a rebel, not a servant or a mistress, not promiscuous or a saint. And at the same time I want to be all of these things every now and then. But why should I aspire to be things I can define myself by with just one word?

If I NEED to define myself as something, in order for me to know how I am supposed to behave, what does this mean if I become sick, or poor or depressed. If this means that I can only be one or two things at a time (and include the appropriate behaviour) it could then mean that my whole being could be defined as sick, poor or depressed. I think this would not be helpful in any way.  I think a better alternative to this would be to perceive myself as a (complex, ever-developing, emotional) person and maybe suffer from these things every now and then.

If I feel like I need to behave a certain way because I decided that this definition is ‘me’, I am restricting myself and my creativity starves. It means I can never write a thought unless it makes for good reading. It means I cannot behave in a way that is going to provoke change. Defining myself as something pacifies me and makes me feel that I have no choice but to behave as expected.

Maybe I’m already who I want to be, who I wanted to grow up as. I’m not a manager, or employee of the month, not a lady, a rebel, a servant or mistress, promiscuous or a saint. I’m not even a writer. Maybe I am merely capable of being these things with different amounts of success and satisfaction when I choose to be. Maybe I should stop searching for who or what I am and explore the things I’m capable of and enjoy being capable of. The things that are helpful, satisfying, and make me feel happy with what I’m doing. The most important thing about the outcome of my actions should be that it is helpful for me and my place in the world (incl. relationships, health etc) and not about whether I fit the definition I was trying to become.

My dad died 4 years ago today. I think he was searching his entire life for who he was or what he was supposed to be, and consequently became a person who did not enjoy his life, family and job. I think he only found the non-importance of this question, and started searching for the things that made him feel proud of his capabilities after we stopped speaking to each other almost 7 years ago. I think this year is the first time I can admit that I am glad that he did realise this eventually.

And I am sad that I missed it.

Maybe I am an addict…

So addiction is still on my mind as I’m still drinking coffee, even though I lamely tried not to. I’m playing with this idea that addiction might not just be a human thing, but something that basically all life is susceptible to. I’m not trying to look for excuses for my addictions, or for a cure. I’m just trying to understand them better, to be able to understand my own behaviour.

I had a little bounce back in time and remembered that as a child I was able to play the same game for hours and hours on end, every day, for weeks and weeks, until a new game came along. I also remember eating myself silly on sweets at birthday parties and drinking soda until I felt green with nausea. There was also the kids channel which I would get up at 6.30 for on a Saturday, to be able to watch at least until mum and dad got up at around 9 or 10 and change the channel. I remember watching telly for hours and hours if I could. And it was fine, cause you know, we were kids, that’s what you do. Impulse control is something you learn later on in life.

It seems though that sometimes this same kind of behaviour occurs in adults as well. People playing computer games for hours on end, eating entire packets of biscuits or crisps, litres of soft drinks, or watching a certain TV show religiously, every day without exception. When this behaviour occurs in adults though, it’s suddenly regarded as one’s own choice… Somewhere between being a kid and being an adult, the ‘ she can’t help it’ turns into ‘she is choosing to do this’.

I’ve been thinking about this for the last few days and wondering if maybe addiction is just such a big part of human nature that it should not be approached as something that comes from a diseased mind, but from a natural process that needs acknowledging and controlling. I think many animals display addiction symptoms, the most obvious being dogs. Our dog could play fetch for freakin hours, and I’ve seen many dogs eat themselves to utter wobbly chubbiness. Overeating for example isn’t just a human problem I think. Goldfish tend to even eat themselves to death if there is an abundance of food.

Yet I’ve noticed many people look at overweight people as being stupid for not eating the right kind of stuff and the right amounts. It’s kind of seen as a choice someone makes to overeat or eat unhealthy food and although I do have a bit of a loud and obnoxious opinion on modern food and diet, I also think it’s important to recognise the difficulty of choosing to eat healthily. It’s difficult, it’s expensive, it’s no fun, it goes against what you really want right now and involves a lot of energy. And sometimes even with all that effort, a healthy diet doesn’t even work for people to lose weight. (more on that in a later post)

If adult ‘harmless’ habits like playing computer games, overeating or watching telly all day are choices, then maybe addiction is something like ‘being unable to choose not to’. And maybe having to choose to not please yourself with something goes against our nature. I guess everyday things like games, wheat, television, coffee etc. seem to be triggered by an abundance of stuff that makes you feel good. And of course we live in a time of abundance, where we can literally buy all the food we want, play all the games we want, watch telly all day, drink coffee til we drop, smoke heaps of tobacco and drink alcohol most nights. There’s enough of it around, making it really hard to choose to not use it. A lot harder at least than when it’s just not there.

Now I really am not advocating for having all types of triggers removed, we are adults after all and shouldn’t need a babysitter. But I do think we need to recognize our own addictions and how hard it is to get rid of them, before we judge the addictions of others. I’m not talking about the harm or harmlessness of them, but the actual process of quitting. I think it would be good to at least get rid of one of the symptoms of addiction, which is denial. And the path to getting rid of denial is proper recognition.

I’m quite addicted to coffee, although something in my mind still says ‘no I CHOOSE to drink coffee, because I like it’. But it’s when I start to think about never drinking coffee again that I panic a bit. Because I do really like coffee. I am a bit of an addict and am unable (today) to choose to not drink it. I’ve overcome other addictions before, so I know that I should be able to make that choice at some point. But maybe I need a good enough reason, something to hit home. It’s hard though, with all these amazing coffee shops around me.

And you know, in the end some of our addictions are pretty harmless. Some addictions might be slightly annoying to others but then again, sometimes it is really nice to have a reoccurring thing to fall back on and get pleased by. Sometimes they are even worth the adverse long term effects. Someone said that life is our greatest addiction, and as the long term cost is of course aging and death, that’s pretty much accurate. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it though… agh, I don’t know.

In the end, I’m no expert and this is all just a mind blurb. Again, as stated in the previous post, addiction comes in many forms and sizes. I’m talking about more everyday life addictions here I think, and feel like I shouldn’t even go near the subjects of alcohol and hard drugs for lack of education and lack of knowing what I’m talking about. It’s brain storms, mind blurbs, thought trains.

Bedtime

Jude

Wonder drugs!

Here’s a riddle for you (and me actually). Four people, four different conditions, but only one medication to cure them all, what is the medication? I’ll elaborate and give you the conditions:

  • 25 year old girl with packet-a-day smoking habit has had chronic bronchitis for over 2 months.
  • 27 year old girl has sudden and very intense hormonal problems with nausea,  lumps in the breasts and fatigue for 3 weeks out of 4.
  • 27 year old boy has severe allergic reaction to god knows what, breaks out in hives, has full body rash, faintness, sweating, the works.
  • 27 year old girl has chronic shoulder problems, with possibly some inflammation around the joint.

So, what do you think is the wonder medication prescribed to these 4 people, by (incidentally) the exact same GP? Now, I’m not saying the good doctor is wrong, please be aware that I have no medical training and am not able enough to make such judgments, I’m just saying I find this interesting…

It’s Prednisolone, or better known as steroids.

But you might have guessed that… because it’s a very common reaction of GP’s to whip out the old steroids, be it corticosteroid cream for ANY skin condition (and I mean ANY, with capitals, yes), and now apparently Prednisolone for any… eh… other condition. In every one of these cases (and I’m not saying there was never a need of steroids, mind) the GP in question had a look at the person for 5 seconds, a look at the chart for 30, and a look at the medicine cabinet and then the bill for about 360 seconds.

Also, and this is VERY important as we’re not just giving out sugar pills here, at no time was there an explanation on how the drug works, what side effects it will probably have, which side effects it might have that need medical attendance, or what counter effects it will have on other medication. Now that is just sloppy and lazy. I think… personally…

But let’s start with what prednisolone does. It reduces inflammation. My simple understanding of the things is that it mimics a hormone that you would make in the adrenal gland (corticosteroid) to reduce swelling and inflammation. This is incredibly useful when you’ve got a big allergic reaction. You can for example take antihistamines, followed by prednisolone to take down the symptoms that occurred. Awesome. People with chronic severe allergies can live a more pleasant life with steroids, as they are not constantly under attack by their symptoms. Also with people that suffer from chronic inflammation like rheumatic arthritis, asthma and Crohns disease, this drug is literally  a life saver sometimes. There is a big list of conditions that steroids can be used for:

http://www.rxlist.com/prednisolone-drug/indications-dosage.htm

Awesome again. Is it then really such a wonder drug

Hm… maybe, maybe not. I had a good look at this website and realised that  most of it really should be directly communicated and at the very least put on paper for the patient upon distribution. This webpage describes a (very long) list of side effect and precautions:

http://www.rxlist.com/prednisolone-drug/consumer-side-effects-precautions.htm

a few that jump out at me are:

Side effects:
Nausea, heartburn, headache, dizziness, menstrual period changes, trouble sleeping, increased sweating, or acne may occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, tell your doctor or pharmacist promptly.

‘side effects’ means undesirable symptoms caused by this medication. It’s stuff that will possibly occur because it is known that it can have this effect on your body. It is actually quite difficult sometimes to be able to notice the difference between side-effect and persisting or worsening side effect though.

The side effects are followed by:

Remember that your doctor has prescribed this medication because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.

That kind of implies that I’ve been evaluated by my GP, but what to do when you haven’t really, and what if you, when you think of it, don’t think the benefit is greater than the risk? The word `risk` also implies that you’ve put yourself in a dangerous position. I reckon most people that started on these meds hadn’t really thought of it like that. Not at any point in all 4 cases have the patients been told that this medication puts them at risk.

Also I found this list of side effects and interactions:

http://www.rxlist.com/prednisolone-drug/side-effects-interactions.htm

it’s a big list, and I don’t expect you to read it all, but maybe just get the impression of the extent of it.

That’s a lot, and a lot to look out for, yet we didn’t get this on a sheet of paper when we left the hospital, nor were we told to look it up on the interwebs.

Precautions now, as these are very important as well:

Before using this medication, tell your doctor or pharmacist your medical history, especially of: eye disease (such as cataracts, glaucoma), heart problems (such as heart failure, recent heart attack), high blood pressure, liver disease, kidney disease, thyroid problems, diabetes, stomach/intestinal problems (such as diverticulitis, ulcer), brittle bones (osteoporosis), current/past infections (such as tuberculosis, positive tuberculosis test, herpes, fungal), bleeding problems, blood clots, mental/mood conditions (such as psychosis, anxiety, depression), low salts in the blood (such as low potassium or calcium), seizures.

Wow… is there really a doctor out there that would take the time to ask about these things? We don’t know that he or she needs to know these things before we take this medication. When we don’t know that these precautions exist, we might very well choose to not bother them with the fact that we have a wee lurking herpes infection or have low potassium, or we might simply forget to mention it.  I can imagine… It’s such a flash visit, you’ve got like 10 seconds to give your medical history until they lose interest and start working on notes/prescriptions/bills.

This drug may make you dizzy. Do not drive, use machinery, or do any activity that requires alertness until you are sure you can perform such activities safely
No one told us that… and that’s important.

This medication may mask signs of infection. It can make you more likely to get infections or may worsen any current infections.

The annoying thing is that it seems this medication is sometimes given for an infection (with the chronic bronchitis for example). Doc should know this right? Right? I’m not sure if I’m right here, but it seems strange. 25-year old chimney smoker was on the steroids for about 2 weeks and hardly felt better, apart from breathing slightly easier. She was still coughing ugly things up. That to me sounds like she’s got an infection that’s not going away.

I think that is about all I can put into an already massive post. I think I’d like people to be aware of the risks that come with taking ANY kind of medication, and especially when taking it while not generally well. Side effects might very well occur, but when you have the slightest feeling they aren’t right, let someone know. When you feel dizzy on blood pressure medication, you’d rather have a doctor tell you (after examination!!!) that you are fine, than end up with kidney failure (true story). We’ve only got the one body, it’s an incredibly finetuned little machine that runs on thousands of types of fuel. To just put in another type of fuel might mean things will go wacky, so just be aware.

Also your doctor might know best, if he or she knew everything about you, but sometimes, be it because you have a new GP, or an old one that doesn’t necessarily remember you all that well,  they will only know a tiny little detail about your life and health. Often there just isn’t enough time. Not enough time for you to explain yourself to them, and not enough time for them to explain themselves to you.  The only thing you can do personally is squeeze in as many questions  and history as you can and do your research. Even when that annoys them, you should. It’s your body, it’s their 10 minutes of work, who wins when it comes to being most important?

Again, I also want to mention that Prednisolone is a very useful medication, but it’s also a very serious drug. My rant was triggered by the careless distribution of one GP, and does not mean all GP’s that give patients steroids are therefore bad, bad people. I think we need to know that medication is useful and dangerous. Both of those. Also, information is power, easily obtained power. The internet is your oyster…

Jude