The Struggle is Real

While this may have started as a catchy tag line to complain, nothing rings more true to me right now.

What is supposed to be a joyful time, welcoming a new baby girl into our family – has been overshadowed by my father’s early onset Dementia and my mother’s inability to handle this alone.

I pictured them soon to be retired, finally enjoying all they’ve worked for but instead my mother works tirelessly to keep him on a regimen that will at minimum slow his decline.

I’m angry. At everyone and no one at the same time. We’ve all been robbed of what life could have been, should have been. I no longer have my doting mother instead a woman consumed with my father’s care. I no longer have my helpful father, ready to help at a moments notice, instead I have a man I have to keep my eyes on at all times, watching his every move, for his own safety.

As I try to celebrate my growing family I am grieving my existing one – grieving a man who is still alive and grieving all the lost dreams of what could have been.

How, how can one stay centered in the midst of this chaos and sadness? A toddler in the throes of his terrible twos, a gasy little infant girl who both need and deserve my undivided attention and love. And my husband, my poor husband and all that he’s had to witness, endure, become enmeshed in while trying to stay a strong father and husband at the same time.

I’ve come undone, many times, and daily, with God’s help I put myself back together – sometimes moment to moment is all I can mentally endure.

But oh the blessings through all of this.

To be continued in part 2

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Bioterrorism and the Flu

Bioterrorism and the flu are two words one might not think to use in the same sentence but after careful review of recent events and the rising political climate, one might think again.  While the detection of a virus as a weapon of terrorists may not be an easily come upon conclusion, healthcare workers, public health and government officials together must be hypervigilant for this subversive tactic.  Bioterrorism involves the intentional spreading of a disease or death causing agent within a population (Girard, 2018).

As technology advances and science evolves the reality of an engineered bioterrorism event using influenza is all the more believable.  To determine whether a flu pandemic was sourced organically or intentionally spread, one would have to trace the travel and contacts of each newly infected person.  This task may be daunting but different cases placed in a database (as they currently are reported to the CDC) with the addition of recent travel or contacts could create a matrix connecting a source.

The scientific discovery of the bird flu being aerosolized is proof of the current abilities terrorist may have to spread influenza on a massive scale (Vogel, 2013).  If H1N1 could be disseminated this way couldn’t seasonal influenza as well?   In an attempt to address the difficult task of an outbreaks origin (natural or unnatural), scientists have proposed a methodology to assist with this determination (Cieslak, Kortepeter, Wojtyk, Jansen, & Reyes, 2018).  The nature of influenza as a virus that is spread by droplet, not easily detectable in large quantities and the lack of a true reversal agent ranks influenza on the higher (more dangerous) end of this scale (Cieslak et al., 2018).

It is difficult to quantify how many emergency department admissions or number of deaths due to the flu would raise suspicion for a bioterrorist attack.  More likely detection would be achieved by raising awareness of healthcare staff.  In the same way as people are screened for travel outside the country to detect for things like Ebola, flu positive patients should be questioned for recent travel (including domestically) and recorded.  Communication with other regional and national emergency departments and hospitals to track for patterns and cross reference data on patient’s recent whereabouts could provide a helpful framework for detecting origin.

References

Cieslak, T., Kortepeter, M., Wojtyk, R., Jansen, H., & Reyes, R. (2018). Beyond the dirty dozen: A proposed methodology for assessing future bioweapon threats. Military Medicine, 138, 59-65. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy2.library.drexel.edu/docview/1999112431?pq-origsite=summon&accountid=10559

Girard, J. E. (2018). Criminalistics: Forensic science, crime, and terrorism (4th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Barlett Learning.

Vogel, K. (2013). Expert knowledge in intelligence assessments: Bird flu and bioterrorism. International Security, 38(3), 39-71. Retrieved from https://muse-jhu-edu.ezproxy2.library.drexel.edu/article/537221

Marijuana Legalization and the Opioid Crisis

In 2012 Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use and since 2016 eight states plus the District of Columbia have followed suit (Girard, 2018).  As of 2017 twenty-eight states had legalized the medical use of marijuana (Girard, 2018).  While there are several proposed benefits to the legalization of marijuana (decrease in violent crime, less incarcerations, more taxable income) it has existed for a relatively short time, which makes weighing the pros and cons of its legalization difficult to measure.  Since the legalization of marijuana, The University of Colorado emergency department has experienced an increase in accidental ingestion of marijuana by children, a spike in burn center admissions as well as increased visits for pure marijuana intoxication, all of which were unexpected effects (Monte, Zane, & Heard, 2015).  Marijuana accounts for half of all drug related arrests in the United States and therefore decriminalization of marijuana would reduce incarcerations (Caulkins, Kasunic, Kleiman, & Lee, 2014).  In regards to violent crime reductions, there doesn’t appear to be any connection to marijuana legalization and reduction in violent crime (Maier, Mannes, & Koppenhofer, 2017).

Alcohol is more detrimental than marijuana, although it is a legal substance.  There are no documented deaths from marijuana, while alcohol intoxication can lead to coma and death.  Marijuana does not prove to have any physical dependence associated but strong psychological dependence, which can cause laziness, decreased concentration and memory loss (Girard, 2018).  Alcohol can lead to loss of emotional control and impair decision making, which can result in driving while intoxicated or engaging in violent behavior, not to mention the long-term effects on the liver (Girard, 2018).  The most pressing drug crisis at this time is not marijuana or alcohol but the abuse of prescription opioids.

The 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act authorized education campaigns but did not appropriate funds for them and the 21at Century Cures Act designated almost a billion dollars towards prevention strategies but there has been minimal attention paid to its implementation and effectiveness (Koh, 2017).  Education of lay people in administering the opioid agonist Naloxone has proven effective in places like Massachusetts and law officers and emergency medical personnel now carry it in Pennsylvania.  Intranasal Naloxone is even easier to administer than the intramuscular route and should be immediately rolled out as widely available in all public places.  Prescribing accountability must be enacted in every state and every effort must be made to minimize any new opioid prescriptions.  This must be framed as a public health crisis and the public’s perception of pain and how it should be treated must change.  Pain has never killed anyone but prescription pain-killers, which often leads to use of heroin due to its wider availability has taken thousands of lives.  Those addicted to prescription pain killers and or heroin often engage criminal activity in order to support their addiction in any way possible.  Synthetic forms of opioids, such as fentanyl, are sold on the street as a heroin substitute but is more potent and leads to many more overdoses by its users (Girard, 2018).  The approach to the opioid crisis must be multifactorial from healthcare providers, parents, educators, lawmakers, law enforcement and the general public.  Naloxone must be made available to the entire public for reversal of overdose, pain must be tolerated by patients and caregivers, and all prescribers must be made accountable in a national database in order to combat the prescription opioid epidemic.

References

Caulkins, J., Kasunic, A., Kleiman, M., & Lee, M. (2014). Understanding drug legalization. International Public Health Journal, 6(3), 283-294. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy2.library.drexel.edu/docview/1625577341?pq-origsite=summon&accountid=10559

Girard, J. E. (2018). Criminalistics: Foresnsic science, crime, and terrorism (4th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Barlett Learning.

Koh, H. K. (2017, September 17). Community-based prevention and strategies for the opiod crisis. Journal of the American Medical Association, 318(11), 993-994. http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.2017.13767

Maier, S., Mannes, S., & Koppenhofer, E. (2017, May 8). The implications of marijuna legalization and decriminalization in the United States. Contemporary Drug Problems, 4(2), 125-146. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0091450917708790

Monte, A., Zane, R., & Heard, K. (2015, January 20). The implications of marijuana legalization in Colorado. Journal of the American Medical Association, 313(3), 241-242. http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.2014.17057

What to do with insecurity

1. Talk to a trusted friend who will speak truth to you.

  • Most likely a lot of what you are thinking and feeling is over exaggerated in your own mind. Feelings lie to us, and insecurity is one of the most paralyzing feelings we experience.
  • Some of the crazy thoughts we have about ourselves or our situation are downright embarrassing. Be willing to share these things with a few trusted friends who will be able to talk you through your (most like irrational) fears are untrue.

2. Reflect on the root of your insecurity.

  • While most of what you are worrying about or feeling insecure about is unfounded, there likely exists something you may have done or said that is worth reflecting on.
  • Address whatever mistakes you may have made but then immediately move on and do not let yourself dwell in the land of insecurity any longer.

Staying positive in the midst of uncertainty

Positive – to be sure of something. Positively charged, giving and generating energy as opposed to negatively draining energy.

How does one stay positive when there are so many uncertain elements in one’s life?

Here’s what I’ve learned/am learning so far:

  • When your goals seem unclear – you must put them in front of your face every single day. I suggest a vision board or as simple as a post it.
  • Most of the exciting, hyped up time of getting after your goals is short lived, which sucks. Most of the time spent in creating the future of your dreams is lots and lots of HARD WORK. And a lot of it isn’t fun.
  • Change your expectations or timelines with your goals as life happens – and don’t let your goals get in the way of life (family, being responsible).
  • Remember why you started this journey in the first place. God may be taking you through the valley to get you to the mountain top.
  • Don’t despise these hum drum times – it is building you for the life you were made for.
  • Keep on keeping on. Run that next mile. Sign up for that next class. Say that kind word. Believe in the good you are doing – even when no one else does.

Remember why you were so certain of your goals and dreams in the first place and don’t let the everyday frustrations cloud your vision. Inspiration will come and go, and I think that’s the hardest part about this whole thing. Act and the feelings will come.

Confrontation

I love the show Blue Bloods. Perhaps because they often put themselves in uncomfortable situations to stand up for what is right, a trait I admire greatly.

Confrontation makes us uncomfortable. Why? Are we afraid to be seen for what we truly are? Fear is a big player here.

I’m working through my fears to address wrong and right when I need to. It’s empowering and easier to sleep at night in some ways but also terrifying in other ways.

Most of us hide our true feelings for the sake of saving face. At what cost? I love the saying ‘you can say anything to anyone it’s all in how you say it.’ Let’s remember that when we are afraid to confront. I think a big fear I have is controlling what I say in an uncomfortable situation. What if I come off this way or that way? Really, the best I can do is practice beforehand and rehearse the lines instead of letting my emotions speak.

I have to watch my motives and make sure I’m confronting for the right reasons as we all must. The goal should be for mutual understanding and mutual learning, not for chastisement.

Real growth happens when honesty is spoken kindly.

Here’s to growth with confrontation in 2018.

Stillness, Unrest

Sitting down after a 15 hour day, contemplating, musing about all the things you cannot change.

How can one keep hope when so much cannot be changed?  How do you sit in the stillness?  How do you deal with the unrest within you heart and mind?

Many stuff it, claiming never to have cared in the first place.  Many lash out at others and blame their rage on circumstantial things.

Why did we all enter this profession?  Why did we start these families?  Why did we ever dream a dream?

Somewhere in our hearts we knew we could make a difference.  Somewhere deeper still we knew we could change the world.  In the deepest place is our fear that we never will, and that nothing we do ever matters at all, to anyone, let alone ourselves.

People say to pick your battles yet wars are won by small victories. People say things will never change.  But…they do, change.

The worst moment an optimist may come to face is the moment YOU change, when your heart has seen its last defeat and felt its final hurt.  You join the ranks with the rest of the cynics and jaded souls who make up most of this world.  Deep down you know you don’t belong.  Sometimes the fight is too hard alone.

What are we to believe?  What are we to fight for?  For how long?

If you have hope keep holding onto it and never let it go.

Hope is all I have sometimes and its all I can do to sit in the stillness, with the unrest in my soul.  Lord, help me change the world, please.

A 30 Year Legacy

I walk inside to my parents’ home yesterday and almost into the dozens of boxes and bubble wrap that now fills the living room.

A wave of emotion comes over me that I did not expect. This is what we were praying for, needing, the sale of this home. Why then does my stomach sink and my eyes fill with tears?

The memories, oh the memories built here. My childhood home. The place where I learned to crawl and walk and ride a bike. Where I hung posters on my bedroom walls and wrote prayers in my closet.

I walk into my room, now unrecognizable as ever having been mine. It’s staged with an oak bedroom set, flowery linens and curtains to match. One would never know of the dreams that originated within those walls. The nights spent longing to be far away from where I was. Little did I know I’d be standing here at 30 years old crying at the thought of never being able to be here again.

I came to help my mother pack, I was little help as my tears triggered hers. The only way I knew how to cope was to joke about taking her beautiful furniture ‘off her hands.’

What is a home? What does it represent? Your life, the formation of your very self happened within those walls. How can a part of you not be lost along with the sale of it?

Will this new family understand the love that happened here? Will they appreciate the blood, sweat and tears my parents put into raising four children inside these walls? And why? Why must my mother be robbed of her beautiful home when she should be able to enjoy it the most?

These are the questions I will ask God on the other side of heaven. You must remember a house is just that, a house. Home is where your family is. Not in the walls of a structure. Not in the photos but in the events that happened in them.

Let yourself cry and grieve because I am. My father is sick, needing 24 hour care from my mother and they need this money from the sale of their home to do what is required to help heal my dad’s brain. I hate that this is the reason for the sale of my childhood home. If my father is healed I will thank this house all the more, for the money it provided to care for them both.

A 30 year legacy is coming to an end, but as my sister reminded me it is a new beginning.

So here’s to another 30 year legacy for the both of them – and let God make it 20 times as blessed.

The Plague of Perfectionism

Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘done is better than perfect’?  And if you have any shred of perfectionist in you, you cringe.  This is the truth of life though – done is better than perfect.

If you are wondering if you are a perfectionist ask yourself some of these questions. Do you always find yourself putting tasks or goals off until the timing is ‘perfect’?  No such things exists of course so do you find yourself in the middle of several tasks or projects at once?  If you know you can’t do something or finish something well – do you give up?  Do you put yourself in circumstances that if you do fail, you can blame your failure on?  Such as waiting until the last minute to write that paper or study for that test?  Do you shy away from attempting things you aren’t natuarally good at?  Do you find yourself embarrassed if someone sees your failed project or half done? Do you feel like you have to make excuses for why things aren’t up to par – even if it’s your own standards in your head?

If you relate to any of these questions I am going to ask you to sit back and think about how silly some of our perfectionist thoughts are.  If you were speaking with a friend who was feeling badly about any of these things, what would you tell them?  If you would be kinder to your friend than to yourself – take your own advice and cut yourself some slack.  I want to exceed at everything I attempt – the first time.  Well that is just ridiculous to think that would be the case.  Were it not for deadlines others imposed on me many things would go undone because I would be endlessly revising it.  I know in high school I used to leave my paper writing and studying until the last minute because I justified that if I didn’t do well I could blame it on cramming.  How silly is that? 

I’m happy to say that I’ve come a long way since high school but I still have to force myself to feel comfortable just where I am, which is far from perfect.  If I’m ok with admitting I am far from perfect why can’t I also be ok with the things I attempt being far from perfect too?  I am going to try to be ok with the in between, because that’s where all the growth happens, right?  So let’s get things done – not perfect – because otherwise the world is robbed of our gifts – no matter how imperfect they may be.

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