In my head I tell myself to move cautiously. I can see obstacles in the way: I am an outsider when it comes to physical health and wellbeing. Yes, off course, I spent the last two years navigating mental health supports. The issue is when you set a goal of improving physical health for the year ahead, and out of necessity you have to engage the larger overall health care system, it’s a different set of challenges altogether.
Systems develop over a long time and move in very small, very calculated and calibrated ways. Threats of rapid change are met with a circle-the-wagons defence, with everyone on the inside heading for the basement tornado refuge, emerging when the storm passes with closer intimate bonds. I believe babies were made in air raid shelters during the Blitz. Similarly, institutions where conflicts occur daily over budgeting and policy resort to a kind of beurocratic inbreeding when confronted by outside threats.
Fundamentally, I am an outsider. I don’t know the language or the protocol. My mind has been honed to a business, project management, deliberate and nimble knife edge; up front negotiation, clarifying and evaluating, then charging forward. My life is a schedule, narrowed down to 15 minute actions. My communication is electronic; I can track it that way. I make notes, outline, and communicate very effectively. I hold on to adages like, “If it’s not in my schedule, it doesn’t happen!”
Yet, in small ways, I have been able to make significant changes using technology. I am now able to take my blood sugar levels three times a day: 9 a.m., noon, and 4 p.m. It’s in my schedule. As a Type 1 diabetic I haven’t been able to track this for years. I’ve gone further and make notes on diet, insulin, and recently I replaced lunch with a diabetic shake and power bar – the levels are starting to even out and are closer to normal than in years!
The ‘system’ has its own way of doing things. To see a specialist to review my diabetes condition I am told to attend a hospital education program. Uh, oh, not only have I been through this in the past with diabetes, I’ve also been through so-called programs with mental health supports. I can assure you that in order to ‘graduate’ and move on, you have to conform. They finally get you in a One-Flew-Over-The-Cuckoo’s-Nest kinda way.
I don’t have time to go with the flow! So, I am now a disillusioned outsider and I haven’t even begun. To be clear, I am not resisting change, or help. I have put years into understanding me, peeling back the onion. Developing intelligence early in life, along with curiosity and creativity and a need to evaluate the world, is a very dangerous thing. Do not encourage your children to question authority or think divergently. It is dangerous and will lead to a lifetime of struggle and mental health issues. I am living proof! It is abusive for parents to encourage their children to think for themselves. If your children show the slightest spark of intelligence, take away their books, pencils, and subject them to cold baths. Hurry, do it. You don’t have time to waste. You must think of their future happiness and success!
Hyperbola aside, I am still left pondering if the health care system in Ontario is going to be my next cross to bear. Do I have the capacity or the energy, or will I end up bitter and declared “difficult.” Perhaps, if I can manage the process, I will create small wins over time – and do all the things I have learned through experience and practice – just maybe I’ll come out of this year OK.
Finally, I saw a clip in a documentary on Thomas Edison this past weekend. Most people apparently think of Edison as trying over and over again to create the light bulb. A historian in the show mentioned that Edison spent little time dwelling on past mistakes. In contrast, he used creativity and imagination to create new solutions to problems daily. I’ll consider this approach but I’m also reminded of the last scene in Cuckoo’s Nest – Chief Bromden finds McMurphy in bed after being lobotomized. It’s the final push the Chief needs to escape. We wait all film for this breakthrough moment. I’ve been waiting a while too.
Thomas Edison – sound bite – didn’t look at past mistakes
Health Care System – complex environment – outsider – new language and environment
Mental Health – personal experience – incremental change works best – 2 years
Commitment – thought/ stress/ time available/ impact/ attention span
Capacity – small additions to established patterns
Process – overwhelming – mapping landscape – burn-out
Approaches – cross to bear – conflict – shut out – accessibility – difficult persons
Recording – note-taking – linking to sources – comments/blogs/articles