Posts Tagged ‘life’


Parliamo Glasgow

December 17, 2008

Got an email from my brother in Alburquerque today about being Scottish.  I’m guessing it’s unlikely he’ll be hearing anything like this in New Mexico.

Learn the ‘patter’ in Stanley Baxter’s Parliamo Glasgow.  Genius.


Darkness Visible

July 3, 2008

A few weeks ago I was in the library searching for something or other and in my travels came across this wee gem of a book which I’d recommend to anyone interested in mental illness, especially depression.

In the eighty four pages of Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, William Styron describes his descent into depression through reflection on melancholia, despair, physical ailments, social phobia, alcohol, therapy, hospitalisation and eventual recovery. He gives an extremely moving account of his preparation for suicide, feeling like an observer to an oncoming disaster in an almost theatrical fashion. His attempts to write a farewell note seemed too ridiculous for they sounded either pompous or comical so he tore up all his efforts and resolved to “go out in silence”.

“Late one bitterly cold night, when I knew that I could not possibly get myself through the following day, I sat in the living room of the house bundled up against the chill; something happened to the furnace. My wife had gone to bed and I have forced myself to watch the tape of a movie in which a young actress, who had been in a play of mine, was cast in a small part. At one point in the film … the characters moved down the hallway of a music conservatory, beyond the walls of which, from unseen musicians, came a contralto voice, a sudden soaring passage from the Brahms Alto Rapsody.

This sound which, like all music – indeed, like all pleasure – I had been numbly unresponsive to for months, pierced my heart like a dagger, and in a flood of swift recollection I thought of all the joys the house had known: the children who had rushed through its rooms, the festivals, the love and work, the honestly earned slumber, the voices and the nimble commotion, the perennial tribe of cats and dogs and birds … all this I realised was more than I could ever abandon, even as what had set out so deliberately to do was more than I could inflict on those memories and upon those, so close to me, with whom the memories were bound. And just as powerfully I realised I could not commit this desecration on myself. I drew upon some last gleam of sanity … “

Eloquent and straightforward. Enjoy.



May 13, 2008

Expressive smiley eyes are a family trait and there’s a likeness amongst us. So they say.

She had smiley eyes … the prettiest girl in the class who loved to dance. Inside, her story was very different and I only ever caught a glimpse of her reality. But that was then. A lifetime ago.

She’s in hospital. Organ failure they say.

I stop at the nurses’ station asking where to find her. From a distance I don’t recognise her but she smiles as I enter the room and her eyes give her away. She’s pleased I’ve come.

It’s easy to reminisce and before long we’re remembering the silly things: our shared jealousy because her brother always got Nana’s treacle toffees; her highland dancing days until the kilt didn’t fit anymore and there was no money for a new one; the big radiogram; her obsession with The Bay City Rollers and tartan things; Saturday night skating when I was allowed; our fashion disasters and bad hair cuts yet she still looked good! At that moment we were able to find a place where she could forget the bad things, the hurt and the pain.

I recognise in her now the vulnerability and fragility of her life and try to understand the reasons for the choices she’s made along the way.

She holds my hand and tells me she thinks she will die.

The funeral is on Tuesday they say.

Today was Tuesday. She was 47.


discussing broccoli

March 14, 2008

“I’m not really that interested in broccoli” says Jack, age 5. 


Gershwin’s Summertime

March 12, 2008

I’ve had the house to myself these last two days and actually managed to be fairly productive during that time. Research is going well for my latest essay and I’ve managed to write quite a bit. Not only that but THE HOUSE IS TIDY!!!!!

By eight o’clock last night I was ready to sit with my feet up. What I really wanted was a chilled glass of Chardonnay, what I got was a glass of Irn Bru and a packet of crisps!  I should’ve been more organised.

Anyway! What I’m trying to get round to is that I ended up watching Michael Parkinson’s last show (again) when he put together his best interviews since the 70s. Some are smart, some funny, some beautiful, some gifted beyond measure and some oozing so much charisma that you’re left speechless.

Here’s Larry Adler and Itzhak Perlman performing Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’. It’s perfection.



Tales of Passion

February 28, 2008

Novelist Isabel Allende talks about writing, women, passion, feminism. She tells the stories of powerful women she has known, some larger-than-life (listen for a beauty tip from Sophia Loren), and some simply living with grace, dignity and ingenuity in a world that, in too many ways, still treats women unjustly.

Listen and be inspired!


to be human

February 28, 2008

‘Perspectives on the Human Experience through the Arts’ is my chosen options module this semester and it’s a challenging one. This module is based on the belief that for health professionals to learn what it is to be human they need compassion and appreciation of the uniqueness of individuals. Studying the arts and humanities helps us do just that and though it may sound like the easy option in an otherwise heavy academic year or ‘time out’ to some, it isn’t. Seriously.

By exploring a range of materials, including individual pieces of work created by survivors, we are encouraged to enter into their world and by doing so recognise the things that make us human: vulnerability, individuality, personality, imagination, passion, spirit, breath …

We explore the many different experiences found in childhood through adolescence to old age and end of life issues and discuss the difficulties people face and the reasons why they do what they do in a world that has become too harsh for them to bear.

Reality shocks and not for the first time my awareness is heightened. Most of the material isn’t an easy read and with or without the compassionate heart, one cannot help but be affected.

This poem is from The Memory Bird (1996) Edited by Caroline Malone, Linda Farthing and Lorraine Marce. Published by Virago.

As I watch blood ooze from my vein
Slowly the droplets anaesthetise my brain
The screaming in my head gently subsides
Calmed and sedated, almost mesmerised.

I am losing the struggle to survive
I have to bleed to know I’m alive
The tramlines of war scar my skin
The only sign of battle within.

My life drips on to the barren floor
Tears flow in rivulets under the door
Numbness spreads right through my core
Where is my energy to fight for more?

But these are not for death but life
Do not be alarmed at the way I strive
Marks on my body are a small price to pay
For freedom from Hell and a new dawning each day.


tittle tattle

February 24, 2008

A can’t wait to tell B she was told by C that he overheard D making comment and discussing her late arrival in class (how disruptive and rude it was etc etc etc).  Things at the moment are somewhat strained between A and D therefore this news doesn’t bode well for future interaction.  Now B knows this story couldn’t possibly be true because (1) C was sitting on the far side of the room and would need to be able to hear the grass grow to hear their conversations and (2) B was sitting next to D at the time and would have heard her if she’d made such a comment.  B explains this to A who refuses to accept the explanation, choosing instead to believe C’s story because she couldn’t see him ‘making up such a thing, I mean why?’ (why indeed?).  B also can’t believe that she’s listening to this tittle tattle! 

Knowing the tension between these two people and seeing the efforts of the mischief maker (C) for what they are, B is in a bit of a pickle because she is friendly with both A and D.  Should she:

(a)  Allow A to continue to think the worst of D?

(b) Allow C to enjoy the fallout, menace that he is?

(c) Keep D in the dark … ignorance is bliss?

(d) Leave well alone, it’ll sort itself out?

To those of you who have made it this far in the story I apologise for its long-windedness BUT I’m fed up with tittle tattle!  A, B, C and D are all mature students for goodness sake who ought to know better!   

Being a listener is supposed to be a good thing, isn’t it?  Is it?  I have this friend who can, at times, be a great listener but has also developed the ability to ‘switch off’ over the years.  Wish I could sometimes, I really do!  Or I could just shout, jump up and down, throw a tantrum and tell them I’m not speaking to them EVER again!!!  Probably wouldn’t even notice!  



February 20, 2008

This is my study day. This means that I’m usually slaving over books all day and using the time wisely. Seriously, would I lie?

Today I seem to have got myself involved in other tasks: having a long lie (ok not strictly a task but quite necessary after being woken up at 4.55am by Dad asking what time it was!?); doing dishes and tidying up (my default position during times of procrastination or being in a bad mood); running David to university when he could have easily got the bus; visit to Dad’s to see how he is, do some cleaning and re-organising of drawers in a perfectionist like fashion which of course he so badly needed (in my head, not his) and now I’m expecting another phone call in the middle of the night asking where his socks and vests!

Finally I’m at my desk. I’ve visited moodle, got the necessary tutorial and questions for tomorrow’s stats lecture and I’m raring to go. Well actually I’ve been raring to go for the last hour and a half and all I’ve done is:

Completed Dr Phil’s personality test on Facebook which tells me that ‘others see me as fresh, lively, charming, amusing, practical and always interesting; someone who’s constantly in the centre of attention, but sufficiently well-balanced not to let it go to their head (of course!). They also see me as kind, considerate, and understanding; someone who will always cheer them up and help them out’. I’m not sure how true this is but since I answered all the questions honestly, it’s either (a) the truth (b) possiblly kinda the truth based on it’s lack of indepth questionning (c) not the truth. Think I’ll go with (a) because that actually makes me sound quite likeable!

Compared my ‘things you look for in a friend’ questionnaire with Sharon on Facebook and it seems we are 68% alike (why oh why are these quizzes on Facebook so compulsive!?)

Read Sharon’s message and replied accordingly (no time like the present)

Checked email and realised Lesley had written so I had to write back (obviously!)

Set up new files for semester 4 because I have so much paperwork to file already

Downloaded information from lecturers and filed accordingly in aforementioned new files

Now I’m writing this and the stats homework for tomorrow has yet to be tackled. I’ve also got some reading to do for Law and Healthcare and prep for Perspectives on the Human Experience through the Arts, both of which I rather like actually.

I guess I’m procrastinating.

putting off intentionally and habitually; putting off or delaying or defering an action to a later time; dilatoriness: slowness as a consequence of not getting around to it; the deferment or avoidance of an action or task to a later time and is often linked to perfectionism

Personally I think it’s because I’d simply much rather do something else!


who’d have thought

February 12, 2008

Yesterday I began semester 4 after a three week break and I’m a little worried. I don’t feel particularly full of energy and vitality nor indeed do I feel bursting with enthusiasm, ready to tackle whatever is thrown at me next. What I feel is a quiet calm and optimism about the whole thing and while I’m thinking this is probably a much more realistic (and me) approach to be going on with, it’s still a little worrying and unnerving.

I could analyse this response to death but won’t. Suffice to say that it’s probably built on a rather successful semester 3 which I enjoyed immensely, both academically and in practice, and I find myself looking forward at last.

Optimism, belief and hope are back and they are truly welcome, believe me.

There have been times during the last eighteen months when I’ve doubted myself and my intentions especially when faced with the complexities, vulnerability and fragility of life.

Feeling ill-equipped I cared for patients who were not far from death. Sitting with them in the stillness and witnessing first hand the fear some experienced while others found peace and acceptance. Life and death questions are profound and I was very lucky to have a compassionate mentor who demonstrated what it is to care. I’ll never forget the example she set in ensuring that no-one was left to die alone.

In contrast, I laughed uncontrollably with 86 year old Lizzie (not her real name) till my face hurt as she reminisced about her Scottish country dancing days and, putting the walking frame aside, she was only too happy to demonstrate her skills to an unsuspecting audience. I’m sure, no matter where she is, that she’s entertaining those around her with random outbursts of song and dance and good humour. She was a joy even when she wasn’t having a good day.

Practice placements have not been without their difficulties and I’ve had to face many fears: challenging behaviour and feeling frightened and apprehensive because I wasn’t in control; my first time showering someone unable to move or communicate other than through sight; taking blood; suicide intervention training and hoping I may never need to use it; trying desperately to show someone I cared when the tears they shed seemed way too much for me; building relationships; questioning the integrity and professionalism of others; realising the powerlessness experienced by patients with mental illness; not believing I was up to the task; exploring those deeply held values and beliefs that make me who I am when they seemed at odds with things around me.

With eighteen months to go I’m not sure if I’ll make a good mental health nurse or not for there’s much to be done. But I’m learning.

Like you, I appreciate feeling valued and being able to make a worthwhile contribution to the world around me. It’s our right, isn’t it? I read somewhere recently that this involves two main ingredients, hope and opportunity but that hope is unsustainable without opportunity. Some of us don’t have a problem being hopeful nor do we have difficulty in identifying opportunities as they arise. Unfortunately there are those who suffer because they see neither.

Being granted permission to be part of someone’s journey, helping them discover the possibilities that can lead to recovery is undoubtedly hard work but what an amazing and rewarding thing to do.

Don’t think anyone has to convince me further. I’m in the right place. For now.