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Health literacy

It’s the new buzzword going around, it’s the thing we health professionals like to harp on about. It’s the latest fad. But it’s important. Health y literacy. Let me tell you something.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on this blog. But here and now, it’s time I started posting more. I’m a nurse and a midwife, I work in acute care in the Northern Territory. And health literacy is what I am on about.

When you present to me in the ED, I take your vital signs, and whether your vital signs are abnormal or not, I tell you. I tell you about the high number of your blood pressure and that 160 is too high, I tell you when your blood glucose level is above normal limits and why that’s a problem. I explain to you why it’s not ok to have a heart rate above normal, and I explain to you what I am worried about. I’ll even tell you that your weight is too high and that you should really think about doing something about that.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not perfect. I am not perfect weight, my blood pressure isn’t always normal, nor is my pulse or my blood sugar. In fact, my vital signs have been outside of normal limits. But that’s just it: they are MY vital signs, they are pertinent to only me.

I know what it is that my stats should be. I know what is going on with my body, and I understand what the worry is when things are not right. My patients should know and understand too. I don’t expect them to know on a indepth level like I do as their nurse. But I think if people took as much interest in their health as they do in the functions and features of the latest iPhone or android whichever it is you prefer, then the world might be moving in a better direction.

Here are the vital statistics to work on in my opinion. So weight is one to keep on track, my issues with weight are well documented on this blog. I have spent much of my life chasing that number. I am not coordinated or sporty. But I am active most days of the week. I’m not good at it, but I beat me. That’s all I set out to achieve. Beating me. The other vital statistics include resting heart rate, depending on your age, this should be somewhere between 50-75bpm. Of course, approach your health care professional for more information on your specific goal.

Blood pressure is also one to keep an eye on. Again, this is specific to age and other characteristics which may be individual to you. But aiming for something around 120/80 mark is a good start.

Take care of you: with the exception of the time you are in my care and I need to do something about your vital statistics, I don’t care what they are. But you should. I just don’t have the energy to care beyond the time I am responsible for you as a caregiver.

While this may come across as callous and horrible. I do care, because I know that the more little details you learn about yourself, the more you will want to know, the more you will want to learn. This will turn you into the greatest consumer of health care. You will ask questions of your doctors and nurses, you will ask them why they are doing the tests they are doing and force them to question whether they are really necessary. Medical professionals pride ourselves on working within an evidence-based framework. When patients question why we’re making the decisions we are it forces us to tie our actions to evidence, rather than to work with fear of litigation. And we owe our patients that.

What it’s worth knowing is what of these statistics you can change, and what you have control over. I think the key message here is: take notice of your body, keep it as healthy as you can. You only get one body: it’s easier to keep it healthy than it is to fix problems after they arise. Prevention is better than a cure.

Health literacy is the most important thing you can do for yourself and for your family.

 

 

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Gaining perspective…

I’ve got a confession to make. I’m rather ashamed to admit it. It’s really kind of awful. And I need some help… 

 
As some of you know I started the journey of weight loss in 2009. I topped the scales at around 110kg, and I am only around 165cm tall. I have always been large, and I have always really enjoyed my food. I am clumsy, I drop things and I trip over. I’m not at all co-ordinated, but most of my life I just fumble my way through. I’ve been driving a car for 10 years and I’m a terrible driver. I have improved over time, but I’m still shitful at it. I have accepted that. 
 
I also for a long time accepted being fat. I accepted that I was always going to be larger than other girls, so I did nothing about it. 
 
Over time I have grown in my confidence and whilst I have accepted being clumsy, I haven’t let that hold me back. I’m still not good at running or riding. I fell off my bike last week, but I’m better than I used to be. And I compare myself only to myself. It’s not fair to compare myself to others cos I am not them. And they are not me. 
 
Anyhow, back to the confession. I came this close to failing Uni last year. I let my depression and anxiety control me, I let it invade my every thought and every moment. I let it define who I was. I didn’t accept help cos I was blind to the fact that I needed it. I thought I could manage it on my own. In trying to manage the mental illness on my own, I almost ran myself into the ground. I almost failed a subject at Uni. My mental state had me in a place where I was not only trying to juggle that, but I was trying to handle everything else on my own too! And I was only doing a mediocre job of handling those things too. 
 
The truth of the matter is that depression and anxiety should not define me. I should be the one to define it. I am the one who is in control. Depression and anxiety is for me something that will probably follow me for much of my life. I have also accepted that now. But I think the bigger problem here would be if I allowed it to hold me back. 
 
Basically when I admitted I needed some help, I started seeing a psychologist, a GP, and I went easy on myself. I feel much better mentally now, but I have slipped back into my old ways. And as a result, I haven’t been going to the gym, I haven’t been running or lifting weights, and I haven’t been focussing on healthy eating. I’ve put on 7kg. Sounds like a lot, but truly… It’s not that hard for me. I like my food. And once you slip back into old ways it just sort of goes on. The first 5 went on during the last semester of Uni and the last 2kg in the last 2 weeks of end of year festivities. 
 
I’m not for making New Years resolutions really. I think I made some on twitter that included going to Disneyworld in 2013, doing more bike riding and going skiing for the first time ever. 
 
I don’t mind a new Monday resolution. But even that. I just need to get back to my new old habits of eating well, not smoking, and drinking only on weekends. There is something about a new year, a clean slate that gives you high hopes. We’re humans, we like the idea of opportunity, the idea of possibility, the idea that things can be better. And I think that’s ok. 
 
One New Years resolution I am ok with making is this. I’d like to find some way where my self esteem is not tied in with how much I weigh. I’d like to find peace with being who I am and what I look like. I know it’s not important in the scheme of things. But I also know how much it drives me. I’m more than ok with the fact that it might take me more than a year to happen. At the end of the day, I think I’ll always be ok with who I am if I am trying to improve. I’ll never be perfect, but I don’t need to be. I only need to be me. The best version of me! ^_____^ ImageImage

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Gaining perspective…

I’ve got a confession to make. I’m rather ashamed to admit it. It’s really kind of awful. And I need some help… 

 
As some of you know I started the journey of weight loss in 2009. I topped the scales at around 110kg, and I am only around 165cm tall. I have always been large, and I have always really enjoyed my food. I am clumsy, I drop things and I trip over. I’m not at all co-ordinated, but most of my life I just fumble my way through. I’ve been driving a car for 10 years and I’m a terrible driver. I have improved over time, but I’m still shitful at it. I have accepted that. 
 
I also for a long time accepted being fat. I accepted that I was always going to be larger than other girls, so I did nothing about it. 
 
Over time I have grown in my confidence and whilst I have accepted being clumsy, I haven’t let that hold me back. I’m still not good at running or riding. I fell off my bike last week, but I’m better than I used to be. And I compare myself only to myself. It’s not fair to compare myself to others cos I am not them. And they are not me. 
 
Anyhow, back to the confession. I came this close to failing Uni last year. I let my depression and anxiety control me, I let it invade my every thought and every moment. I let it define who I was. I didn’t accept help cos I was blind to the fact that I needed it. I thought I could manage it on my own. In trying to manage the mental illness on my own, I almost ran myself into the ground. I almost failed a subject at Uni. My mental state had me in a place where I was not only trying to juggle that, but I was trying to handle everything else on my own too! And I was only doing a mediocre job of handling those things too. 
 
The truth of the matter is that depression and anxiety should not define me. I should be the one to define it. I am the one who is in control. Depression and anxiety is for me something that will probably follow me for much of my life. I have also accepted that now. But I think the bigger problem here would be if I allowed it to hold me back. 
 
Basically when I admitted I needed some help, I started seeing a psychologist, a GP, and I went easy on myself. I feel much better mentally now, but I have slipped back into my old ways. And as a result, I haven’t been going to the gym, I haven’t been running or lifting weights, and I haven’t been focussing on healthy eating. I’ve put on 7kg. Sounds like a lot, but truly… It’s not that hard for me. I like my food. And once you slip back into old ways it just sort of goes on. The first 5 went on during the last semester of Uni and the last 2kg in the last 2 weeks of end of year festivities. 
 
I’m not for making New Years resolutions really. I think I made some on twitter that included going to Disneyworld in 2013, doing more bike riding and going skiing for the first time ever. 
 
I don’t mind a new Monday resolution. But even that. I just need to get back to my new old habits of eating well, not smoking, and drinking only on weekends. There is something about a new year, a clean slate that gives you high hopes. We’re humans, we like the idea of opportunity, the idea of possibility, the idea that things can be better. And I think that’s ok. 
 
One New Years resolution I am ok with making is this. I’d like to find some way where my self esteem is not tied in with how much I weigh. I’d like to find peace with being who I am and what I look like. I know it’s not important in the scheme of things. But I also know how much it drives me. I’m more than ok with the fact that it might take me more than a year to happen. At the end of the day, I think I’ll always be ok with who I am if I am trying to improve. I’ll never be perfect, but I don’t need to be. I only need to be me. The best version of me! ^_____^ 

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care and caring

Today I started placement again. Allow me to refresh your memory. I am now into my 4th year nursing/midwifery degree at a local uni. I am *this* close to realising a life-long dream. And yet, I am *this* far too. I am tired. 

But, lets get back on track. Today I went back to a hospital I went to for placement in 2nd year. The day was good. I walked on shift at 7am, and I caught a baby before morning tea. Everything was normal, baby was healthy, mother did amazing. And she did it all herself. Though she did scream at me in the half hour before baby was born that I was lying to her each time I told baby was close… 😉 hehe! 

I had a good shift, I didn’t know where they kept things, how to use the taps, or what their policies and procedures are there. There’s something comforting in knowing what is supposed to happen and when. Something comforting in knowing how many times I need to take blood pressure, where the gloves are and what to do with the placenta. These are all small matters to patients. But a lot of them are about patient safety. I can do my job better when I know these things. 😀 Imagine if you walked into your office every day and you didn’t know where the bins were, where to find a pen, how to print something up. Where the toilets are, where to put your bag for the day. They’re all about providing good care… 

But the most important part today is that I walked in there and I felt confident. I didn’t worry too much about those things. I just asked when I needed something, and I confirmed what I was thinking with my supervising midwife, which was really cool. 

I walked in there and there was something familiar about the place, but yet so different. Took me awhile to realise what it was. It’s me. I am what is different. Labour and birth care is the same. It’s every bit as amazing as it always has been. And don’t get me wrong, there are bad days.. But we won’t go into them… 😉 Let’s just suffice to say, when you’re working with people that you may not always agree with or like everything they do…. 😉 People are people. But more than that, people are vulnerable people when they’re in labour, in pain, or fearful. 

I think that now, I am ready to be a midwife. I am ready to be a nurse. I am kinda ready to get out there and change the world a little bit. Which is the thought I have been struggling with for some time now. I am not so idealistic to believe that I can change the whole world. But I like to think I might have a shot at changing my little corner of the world. It’s the little things. 

As long as I can leave my little fingerprint on the world, and someone knows I was there, that makes it all worth it. 

 

 

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an honest post

I don’t like R U OK day. I don’t like it a single bit. I like the premise behind it, in that you’re asking people around you if they’re ok and checking in, that you’re not waiting for someone to ask for help before. I know I suffer with depression, and 2 of the symptoms of my worsening depression are that I don’t sleep, I have no motivation, and I have anxiety attacks. I am an extremely stubborn person, and I know that when I ask for help I am at the end. I am at the point where I can’t do it. I’m at breaking point.

What upsets me about R U OK day, is the simple fact that people walk around on this one day of the year bandying about to anyone they meet asking “R U OK?” It’s not the sentiment that annoys me. It’s the inconsistency. It’s like we only buy flowers or chocolates for the one we love on valentine’s day. Anyone who’s been in a real relationship that has lasted the distance knows that love needs to be expressed more than once a year. Love, just like concern for a person’s well-being is something that needs to be continually expressed. It’s something you need to live and breathe for it to be genuine and felt.

This year I have had an even tougher time with uni and studies than I ever have before. I have struggled through and I didn’t ask for help. I didn’t ask for help from anyone because I was too stubborn to think anyone cared. I was too set on doing it by myself. The consequences of this has been traumatic and lasting. The people in my life have been effected by it, and I have not been living up to my true potential. I think in this life I can only try to be the best I can. Anything more is a plus. But if I am not trying and getting out of bed each day is too hard then I need help. I need treatment for my depression and subsequent anxiety attacks. I need to do this so I can reach my potential. I need to do it without drowning.

I think that part of the reason I don’t want help is that it makes me feel weak. I don’t want people to know I have depression cos I am scared it makes me weak. I am scared it makes me defective as a person. I am scared that friends or family will view me as fragile and somehow try to shield me from things. That they’ll treat me with kid-gloves. That is something I can’t stand most of all. The thought that I might get special treatment that I don’t feel I deserve. I guess that’s the main thing. It’s not that I think poorly of myself that I don’t deserve it, it’s that there are others in this world who need support more. It scares me to think that a friend may try to sugar-coat reality for me cos they’re scared I might not be able to handle it. That said, this whole thing has taught me that it is ok to cry. It is ok to express that something is upsetting me. The whole experience with depression has yet again taught me that it’s ok to ask for help.

I sometimes think that just because I’ve dealt with this depression for a number of years that I know all about it and I know how to handle it. That’s not the case. I don’t. I do know however that I will do all I can to lead a normal life. To be happy and healthy and to be the best version of me that is possible. That’s all I can be, and I am the only person who can be me. Which isn’t so bad. There’s no yard-stick, so I win at it. 

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Ok, bare with me… (Bear with me…? I always get that mucked up…. meh!)

I have always been a fat person. I in some ways still feel like a fat person, even though I’ve lost 37kg and counting. I was born being an enjoyer of food. I was born as someone who doesn’t seem to have an off switch. And with 2 younger sisters who seem to have natural athleticism and metabolism’s to boot it doesn’t seem fair. I can come up with all the explanations in the world as to why I simply look at a cheesecake and feel the fat stack onto my thighs, in fact I have some plausible explanations surrounding this, but they all fall down to  an excuse. And it doesn’t change the simple fact that walking past the bakery will have me walking away 2kg heavier than others. 

Being fat is a disability to me. It’s something I will have to live with. I will forever live with the fat girl inside screaming out to be fed. It all just depends on how I often I give in to her as to how fat I am. I call what I do with my life fat maintenance. I get up each day, I count my calories, and I regulate what goes in. I go to the gym everyday and I place limits on myself as to how much alcohol I consume. 

When I was fatter I couldn’t shop in normal ppl clothing shops, I couldn’t buy clothes of the latest fashions.  I couldn’t wear shorts, cos they’d ride up, and I hated summer cos summer meant chafing of my legs. 

Being fat means people stare at you. They stare at you when you have seconds. They don’t care that you skipped lunch cos you were too busy in your 12 hour work day to find something. It means that this week when Mum made dessert brownies for my sister’s birthday, she didn’t make one for me. She meant well, when I asked her why she didn’t make one her response was “I thought it’d be easier for you if you didn’t have an option to have one, I didn’t want to tempt you”. People don’t worry about tempting skinny people. They don’t worry even though skinny people might live on french fries and cheeseburgers. Skinny does not necessarily mean healthy. 

People say things to fat people they wouldn’t say to skinny people. “Are you sure you need that bread roll?” or the best one last night when I described to someone I used to be fat, and she looked at me and said “fatter than that?” That still bites. Being fat is pretty awful when all you want to do is be invisible, but in actual fact you’re ever more visible than you hope. In first year at uni I started riding my bike to get around in the hopes I would lose some weight, I had to get the wheel replaced because it buckled, which is something that happens over time. It’s when the wheel bends out of shape. But at the time my mum asked me “do you think the wheel buckled because you’re too heavy for the bike?” :/ 

So long story short I have worked my ass off quite literally, I go to the gym between 5-6 days a week and I cut my calorie intake to 900-1000 calories a day. I do this because not only do I want to be healthy, but I have to starve the fat girl on the inside. I am happy, but it will be something I do for everyday for the rest of my life. Some people wear hearing aids, some people wear glasses, some people take insulin shots and other people use asthma preventers and inhalers. I watch what I eat and I exercise. It’s just my make up. It’s the body I have to deal with. I can’t be unhappy with that. I have to work with what I have. Sucky metabolism and all. I’ve lost 37kg so far, and many many cm’s off my waistline. I’ve dropped from size 18-20 and now down to a size 12. I will be a size 10 by the end of this year if it’s the last thing I do. 

I won’t be the most athletic person in the gym ever. But I will be the person who does the best I can do. And that’s all I can ask for. I look to where I’ve come from as someone who couldn’t walk up the corridor without being out of breath. Someone who at the age of 24 had high blood pressure and high heart rate to now at the age of 27, having low blood pressure and clinically low heart rate. Those are things that do not lie. I threw out 3/4 of my wardrobe at summer, cos it doesn’t fit. And the dress I had made for my year 12 formal is now too big. I am proud of these accomplishments. I am not proud of becoming the size I did before I did something about it. 

But I do believe, being a fat person is something I will deal with forever. Cos the fat person is still inside, she’s just a little hungrier…. 

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Ever felt like you have something you need to get off your chest, something you need to share? Ever felt like you need a safe space to share your thoughts, to openly write about something that is on your mind? I know I have felt like that. I have felt that opening myself up and sharing what’s on my mind, could also open the floodgates for criticism, judgement and people misunderstanding my purpose behind sharing. Sometimes sharing is just enough to lighten the load. Sharing helps if only just to get if off your chest.

For this reason, I am going to host a blog post or 2, for a wonderful friend who needs somewhere to share the things that are on her mind. And for different reasons, would rather to share it on a blog that is not as accessible to family and friends. I guess there are times in life when you need the freedom to express whats on your mind.

I don’t love you anymore.

Perhaps not the worst words one can hear. But absolutely devastating nonetheless.

Only a few months ago my life changed irrevocably when I heard those words.

First, denial, incredulity and searing pain – unimaginable pain that the person whom I trusted most in the world could withdraw his love from me.  And do it so easily, so completely, in just five words.

But there I was; dying inside and putting a smile on my face for my two young sons, my visiting family and my brand new job.

A very wise friend told me that I would be glad to have that new job, despite my fear that this was the worst time possible to start a new career. She said it would see me through.

How right she was.

As my marriage changed overnight from happy and successful to one reminiscent of a pile of cold damp ash, my friends (both old and new) rallied around me and my job gave me confidence, hope and Joy.

It’s not easy – not by a long shot. But, you know what, I’m still here. And I can still smile.

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