Posts tagged with “Cape Town”

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:

English.

English.

English.

English.

English.

English.

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.