Posts tagged with “blogging”

Dr Word Nerd: Writing as Healing?

Monday, 9 November, 2009

drsThe newest addition to the Meerkat Guest Blog Series is from Dr S, author of the Mad Medicine blog. Dr S is a young doctor performing the last few months of three years of compulsory state hospital service in Cape Town, South Africa.  Her stories should inspire fiction, yet all are real experiences from the trauma and casualty units situated in the ganglands of the city she adores.

There are shocking stories told with sarcasm, and sad stories related sentimentally. Some stories are simply hilarious, and some are just really gross.  All of them provide “fly on the wall”-type insight into the ludicrous lives of health care workers, and highlight the plight of the sick and poor accessing state hospitals in South Africa.

“Mad Medicine” indeed.

In this post, Dr S shares her insights into the therapeutic and cathartic role that communication (particularly writing) plays in her every day life. You can read more of Dr S’s thoughts and stories on her blog, Mad Medicine: A Doctor’s Dose of Mayhem.

Dr. Word Nerd

Expression is a form of therapy. Expression is a form of communication, and communicating facilitates understanding. Thus, we express ourselves to attempt self-knoweldge and to allow insight into ourselves by others.

Some dance. Some sing. I like words.I have always been a word nerd. At school, I used to breathe a sigh of relief when the English period rolled around. It was a breath of fresh air in a stuffy timetable, and thus a glorious, stimulating respite from the austeres of Maths and Science. My top seven list of favourite final matric (Grade 12) subjects went like this:







Speech and Drama.

And yet, despite my love of words and all things expressive, I ended up becoming a medical doctor in the field of health sciences. Go figure. And for six years of medical school, the only literature I was exposed to included such stimulating gems as:

  • Neurology and Neorology Illustrated.
  • Electrocardiograms made Easy
  • Chemical Pathology for Clinical Medicine.

All contained particularly important information regarding the diagnosis and treatment of patients.Yet, none provided the same thrills I experienced when studying the literary masters.

After qualifying as a doctor in 2006, I then embarked on three years of compulsory state service in South Africa. These three years have not only served to hone my medical knowlege and clinical skills, but have also taught me that my body can stay awake and function for 30 hours straight.

They have taught me that my emotions can tolerate being on the front lines of our failing war against poverty and disease and unneccesary death. I have learnt to just put my head down and get on with the business of trying to save lives, despite a severe lack of facilities, because trying to highlight the deficiencies and attempting to better the situation only brings one up against the hard wall of bureaucracy and inefficient management. I have learnt to focus on doing the best for the individual patient under my care at that particular time and taking comfort in knowing that I have made a difference in at least one person’s life. There are times, usually during a particularly difficult shift overwhelmed with violent trauma and patients who only present to the hospital at the end stages of their disease processes, when it is easy to sink in to despair.

I used to go home and cry about the shocking stories of stabbed children, abused wives, or horrific malnutrition. The regailing of those stories to my sheltered friends and family was always met with horror and disbelief that this was actually happening in our beautiful city. Being thankfully sheltered far away from the Cape Flats ganglands they simply had no idea. Which is one of the reasons I started my blog. I wanted to inform those more fortunate among us of the plight of our poverty stricken patients. I wanted to expose to those not in the know, exactly what state our government health service is in.

My husband, being an IT genius and the world’s first cyborg, was the one who suggested that I capture my stories through blogging. I have always loved to write, yet was always unsure how to develop this love. In effect, my husband simply provided me with the permission to do it, which is sometimes all one needs to begin a creative process. Like Nike says, sometimes one must “Just do it”.

What blogging has done for me is provide a sort of creative catharsis. Rather than wallow in misery, licking my emotional wounds after a trying shift, I force myself to write about my experiences. And I’ve found that by the time I’ve deposited that final fullstop, my anguish has disappeared.

And in this time of recession, it’s much cheaper than a therapist, no? This expressive process has also effected change in my attitude. Now, whenever something bizarre/terrible/hilarious/ridiculous happens at work, it immediately gets logged as a great story for my blog, rather than a reason to be upset.

This is the phenomenal healing power of expression and communication.

What Gives You Energy?

Saturday, 15 August, 2009

balanced rocksI’ve really noticed this summer just how overwhelmingly busy a time of year it is. Being from a place where it is summer about 8 months of the year and the rest is really mild compared to a lot of other place,  you never feel like you have a limited time to get out and enjoy it. After such an unseasonal winter in Vancouver, too, I think people are even more eager to get out and maximise on the sunshine! Sometimes, though, it can feel like you barely have a minute to yourself because you are rushing off on holiday or are fitting in a dozen different things in between work and often you end up feeling less relaxed and more stressed, despite your aim being the opposite.

Something that is really important is being self aware enough to identify your patterns of behaviour. Recently, after two great long weekends away and being super busy with teaching and writing projects, I started feeling rather overwhelmed and stressed. I’ve hit these patches before but this time I was quickly able to look at it and say “what is missing?” and I knew right away that I was feeling down because I had slipped out of my exercise routine. What is so helpful about knowing your own patterns is that you can easily identify what is wrong, and therefore you can easily remedy the situation. After a visit to the gym this morning, I feel more energised and focused, and am inspired to get back on track. It got me thinking, though, about energy and happiness, and what things we can do in our lives to make sure we are energised and living the life we want.


Being busy is great, but sometimes people use “busyness” as a way to avoid having to be alone, or having to really work out what makes them feel happy and fulfilled. They feel that if they are constantly occupied, then their life is rich, but sometimes they are busy just for the sake of it and they get depressed and end up feeling lonely amidst the crowd. Like anything, it becomes an act of balance.

 I know that when I am engaged in activities that I really enjoy and that I have chosen to do (not out of obligation but out of desire), I feel so energised and content. It may be reading, gardening, taking a walk, or sitting in a coffee shop scribbling down my thoughts, but it is my date with me, and it feels good. However, sitting in front of the TV for hours, or the computer for hours may keep me “busy”, but sometimes it ends up feeling empty and unfulfilling. With so many of us doing jobs that bind us to the computer these days, something that is so important is remembering to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Trying new things is also a great way to challenge yourself, expand your circle of friends and push your limits, but again, if you are doing this for the sake of it, or because you feel pressured by someone or that it projects the “right” image of who you want to be perceived as, then you are not being authentic and at the end of it, you feel drained and depressed.


Something that always energises me is spending time with people. However, I learned a long time ago that there can be people in your life that actually end up draining you rather than energising you, and it is not worth hanging on to these friends for “old time’s sake” if you feel depleted after spending time with them. The same can be said with clients. Some clients are not worth keeping. Yes, you may want the business or need the money, but when you weigh up time and energy spent on the client, is their pay cheque really worth it? You could spend that energy pursuing new clients that you can work easily and synergistically with, rather than keeping an existing, draining client happy. We often are scared to let go of what we know, but sometimes as scary as something, or someone, new can be, the rewards can be greater.

Many people, usually women, undervalue themselves and bend over backwards for others, and forget to look after themselves. Heather White of 2020 Communications and GhostCEO uses a great analogy – that of the oxygen masks on an aeroplane. What do they tell you to do when the cabin loses pressure and the masks drop? You put your OWN mask on first, and then help children, the elderly etc. Why? Because if you don’t look after yourself first, you will be unable to help others. A valuable lesson.

Focus on what brings you energy in your life – the types of people, the places, the activities. Think about what makes you feel balanced, or what makes you feel off centre and think about how you can remedy the situation.

Sometimes it can be as simple as calling up a friend, going for a walk on the beach or writing a long overdue blog post.