Archive for October, 2010

mental health….

I’m on placement at the moment.. For those who don’t know I am studying a double degree in nursing/midwifery. This includes a midwifery degree and a general nursing degree… I think it’s good to do it this way because it gives me a good foundation of knowledge while still working toward the ultimate goal of working in midwifery.. Doing the general nursing degree is also good as it gives me more scope to work with.. More flexibility in the workforce as such.. Anyway… enough about that..

I’m on a placement for mental health at the moment.. And apart from being interesting, a total shift in the normal dynamic of nursing that I am used to as far as the busy-ness of a ward and patient allocations, always doing things *for* the patient’s, it’s just pretty damned TOUGH some days… Mentally and emotionally speaking of course…

To start with, it’s interesting….. There are things I am learning here that I have not been exposed to before now… I am seeing people with mental illnesses cope with, and live with their symptoms on a daily basis. I am seeing them recover and rehabilitate from some pretty horrendous episodes of psychosis. And I am seeing how they cope, their families, and their friends <—- if they have any family and friends left…. 😦

As far as the busy-ness of a normal ward. On a normal ward on any given day, a nurse has a certain allocation of patients to see to. The nurse needs to make sure they all get appropriate meals, get their meds at the designated times, that they get other complementary therapies administered, that they get showered and changed, and needs to support the patients emotionally as well. In an acute situation, patients can be quite stressed, as well as their family members. Communication is going back and forth between doctor’s and patients, physio’s, occupational therapists, and surgeons and other health care professionals, all working together as part of a team. Well, this is the way it is *supposed* to work.. Life on the ward is a balancing act between the acuity of the patient’s and the urgency of what the required task is. It doesn’t always work perfectly and it can be a little hard to get the balancing act right…. But I’ll get there..

Here on this mental health facility, it’s a lot quieter.. It’s difficult cos I am so used to doing things for my patients, but in this circumstance we are working here to rehabilitate patient’s encourage them to return to some level of functioning in everyday life…. The majority of the patients here are diagnosed schizophrenics, or recovering from schizophrenic episodes… A lot of them are my age. And if they’re not, they were diagnosed when they were my age… So you can see, it’s tough… It’s hard cos I need to step back and let them learn how to do things for themselves, I need to somehow find that healthy balance between assisting patients and doing it for them.. Cos that doesn’t help them…

But the truly heart-breaking bit, is those patients that *won’t* recover. That I *can’t* help… I wish I could.. But I can’t. There are just some people who I can’t help.. And that’s really hard.. I mean, 9 times out of 10, you give someone a panadol for a headache and the headache goes away.. But these people get their medications and they still hear voices, they still have delusions.. They still have these ideas of grandeur. They have suicidal ideation which is completely and utterly justifiable in their minds.

It’s truly heartbreaking to think that these people are just going through the motions, doing the things required of them by their recovery and rehabilitation nurses in order to be declared well again. To be declared “well” enough to re-join society. But these illnesses still exist.. And so often the treatment is cognitive behaviour therapy.. Basically re-training the way you think…Have you ever tried to change the way you think? I have, it’s bloody hard work. To think the every day for the rest of their lives they will have this internal battle within themselves, fighting to separate reality from the altered reality that tries to snake it’s way in…

We can’t see the voices like we can see someone who has a broken leg. We can’t see the delusions like we see someone who has lost a leg to diabetes, we can’t see the paranoia in the same way we can see a person who is can’t walk because of arthritis. People with mental health issues somehow get lost in society, they drown in the world of their mind. How incredibly isolating and painful it must feel to be in a world that no-one else understands, no-one else is a part of. How exhausting that even if you have the motivation to explain your world and let people in, that you need to do this at all….

I will say that this is the toughest placement of all… And I still have another 2 weeks to get through…. I can’t imagine it will get any easier…. :-/

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For those who have followed my story for some time.. You will know I have been on a weight loss rampage.. I have been working very hard and over the last 10 or so months I have lost 27kg. I have lost 30cm off my waist line, and I have re-discovered life. I was feeling fitter and stronger than I ever had. I even learnt how to run…. And run I did…. But you can read more about my rampage here.

The point is: I have done it. I have lost the weight, and now I am just keeping it off, as well as enjoying the spoils of my new body… I am enjoying all the new things I can do.. I love watching people’s faces when I tell them I used to be 27kg heavier than I am now… I can’t lie.. I *do* love that reaction!!!!! Most have a look which is a combination of shock/horror/disbelief on their faces….

I also love all the new things I can do.. I can run, I can lift weights and I can run up the stairs at work without being puffed… I can wear pretty mini-skirts and short shorts and most of all.. I feel as though I look on the outside how I have always felt on the inside… Only better…. So all in all.. I am pretty proud…

I was at uni earlier this year with my special friend K… She and I were first googling some errr.. funny stuff :-S , all in the name of education, and then we got to talking.. We decided to do a half-marathon…. I was dubious to begin with… But I was willing to try…. And try I did.. K and I embarked upon some serious training and between us we racked up some decent k’s worth of running… We were on top of the world.. We were training like mo-fo’s…. And we were doing well.. smashing it out.. Both of us noticing some major toning going on and just general overall fitness… It was great…

But here’s the thing.. I have sciatica. Google it. But it’s basically got to do with the compression of the sciatic nerve which runs directly down the centre of each buttock. It causes a huge amount of pain and can cause some numbness. It can come on suddenly with twisting or turning the torso and thus compressing the nerve. It can be resultant from strenuous exercise or from a bulging disc etc. I happen to think my spine is likely to be out of alignment. And it’s something I am going to have to have looked at. Last year when I got up suddenly after a lecture, I was so crippled with the pain of it that I could not stand. My legs just wouldn’t work. And the pain was so excruciating. I have never felt anything worse in my life…..

Anyhow, all of this fun…..? How could my training possibly go wrong? Right? RIGHT? Nooooooooo!! So while I was on placement this year, training slipped a little.. You’ll have to excuse me…. But the 7-day-weeks were a little hard to handle. And training was tough to make.. But Idid keep it up.. Instead of training 5-6 days a week, I slipped to 2-3 times a week… That’s not so bad…..? Is it….?

Then a few weeks ago… I went to hit the treadmill for a big run.. I was ready.. I was well-prepared mentally… But as I started to run, I noticed my legs were losing feeling as I would run.. Which was *very* hard to handle… Numb legs are not that easy to control.. It was hard to handle.. The first time that my body was not allowing me to train… Even though I am at the peak of my fitness… I mean, I have trained so hard before that I fall to the floor in exhaustion.. I have trained so hard my body can’t take another step…. But this was something new.. My body wasn’t even going to let me exert myself so far… My body quite simply: WASN’T WORKING!!

So it is without further ado that I get to my point… I have withdrawn the half marathon and downgraded to the 10km.. I will try for the half next year.. I can’t do everything….. Not this time…… This time last year I fell off the treadmill when I put the speed up to 8km an hour.. Now I can run at 11km an hour for at least 20 mins straight.. And all. without. falling. off!!!!!!!!!

Needless to say… K is amazing and will be running the half on Sunday without me.. That girl is an inspiration. And with her help, I will get to the half next year.. That’s if she’ll still wanna do it again…..?

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