Thursday, August 31, 2006


Yesterday's patient was an all-too-familiar scenario. Buried under pressure from a demanding technology job, and working for a company that constantly pushes for higher and higher productivity amid a dwindling workforce, his body had revolted. He'd had anxiety problems in the past, however, the previous few days had been exceedingly difficult. Four attacks over the weekend, one that morning, and one just then. His prescription was still at the pharmacy, waiting to be filled.

This scene was one that I have witnessed many times in my years with the ERT. Employees of this big technology company are pushed to their limits and beyond. Add constant work pressure and long hours to a mentality that is too busy to exercise, eat right or take care of oneself, and the result is a recipe for breakdown. I have experienced this myself twice in the past; once, in my third year of college, and once at my previous company in Toronto. I know what it feels like to break down from stress. It's a horrible experience that I never wish to repeat.

After being evaluated by ERT and the paramedics, yesterday's patient decided he would have his coworker drive him to the hospital. I talked to him a little as he was packing up his laptop, and found out that he had other pressures in his life that were weighing on him as well. He had a psychiatrist, but this doctor simply prescribed medication and sent him out the door.

For this man, it just wasn't enough.

"I need help," he said. "I can't do this alone."

I told him about our company's Employee Assistance Program, and how to find a good, competent counselor to talk to. After all, medicine does not teach a person to set boundaries, to say "no", or to avoid internalizing one's own human limitations as a weakness and a failure. I suggested he look for a good cognitive-behavioral therapist, that could help him break his current patterns, and could serve as a life coach and a listening ear.

I'd given this recommendation to others in the past, and was met with mostly indifference. But this man seemed much more receptive. He knew he needed help, and now, he knows how to find it. Either way, I showed him the door, and it is now his choice to walk through it.

I did nothing to treat this man medically. All I did was talk to him, comfort him, and give him a possible outlet to improve his life. I truly hope he takes that step.

Sometimes, it's not just about medicine.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Reaching Out

All my life, I've always been the caregiver. Anytime someone needed help, I was there. Friends reached out to me because they knew I would listen, empathize, and never judge. And they knew I'd give them straight but compassionate advice with whatever situation was facing them at the time. I treasure the opportunities I've had to do this. It's fulfilling and satisfying to know that I've assisted others in their times of need.

But when the tables were turned last year, and I needed some support to get me through it, I never asked for it.

I have wonderful friends, many of whom have been through divorces, moving, job changes and a host of other issues. They would have been perfectly willing to take my hand and let me cry. They would have been there for me in a snap, to talk to me, to guide me, and to be my sounding board. I needed that at the time. So why didn't I reach out ?

Truth be told, I didn't want to bother them. I didn't want to burden others with my problems. I felt anger, frustration and hurt in my situation; and yet I never expressed it. I bottled it inside, and buried my head in my own emotions. I thought only about what others might feel, and not about myself.

Yes, I didn't burden anyone with my problems. But I suffered much more than I needed to because of it.

Why couldn't I just ask for help when I needed it ? Part of it, I think, is that I've always want to appear the strong one. I don't want to seem weak around people that I myself have supported. Furthermore, I had my own guilt and embarrassment from my decision, while knowing undoubtedly that it was the right one, still resulted in angst when a few important people in my life reacted in a judgmental and condescending way.

Maybe I was afraid of being vulnerable. Maybe I was trying to protect myself from the negativity and criticism. Maybe I tried too hard, and consequently, shut out those who would have helped me.

Things have changed now. The dust has settled. Those who have criticized me in the past have finally learned that my choices were not so bad after all. Of course, I shouldn't need to have others' approval for decisions that apply to my own life and happiness. But it helps to have unwavering, non-judgmental support when it is needed.

Just today, I experienced an epiphany. I needed some solace last night, and initially didn't ask for it. I was left sad, scared and anxious, and unable to sleep. But when I picked up the phone this morning, and called Danny on his way to work, the outpouring of compassion, understanding and reassurance was what set me straight.

I am not invincible. I'm faillible and sensitive. And sometimes I need a boost from others to help me along the way.

I won't deny myself that ever again.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Yellow Tarp

Los Angeles. A city of millions, notorious for its extensive freeway network, and endless traffic jams at all hours of the day and night. The 405, which runs near the airport, is no exception, having the dubious nickname of "slow-0-5" with the locals and tourists alike.

On our way to Universal Studios from Huntington Beach on Saturday, we expected to sit in traffic for at least some time, but were completely unprepared for the chaos that greeted us on the 405. Traffic was backed up as far as the eye could see, and as we inched forward, I noticed the telltale flashing lights ahead.

There was an accident one exit north of us. We waited patiently, as cars were funneled through the two open lanes of traffic.

As we passed the scene, we couldn't help but look, and were rendered speechless by what we saw. Just beyond the multitude of cops, and the mangled frame of a downed motorcycle, was a figure. Covered by a yellow tarp.

Even the kids (14 & 8) knew what that meant. This person, lying under the yellow tarp, was not leaving in an ambulance. He was leaving with the coroner.

As we passed the horrifying, somber scene, I hung my head in sadness, not only for the human being that was under that tarp, but for his family and friends that would soon receive the devastating news.

May whatever deity they believe in have mercy on them all.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Truer Words Were Never Spoken

Monday, August 14, 2006

David Part II

My cousin Rosanna just sent me an email with something that her son David said. David, who is five years old, always seems to have cute things to say (see here for another gem).

Rosanna had shown him a picture of Danny and I, and he had asked who Danny was. When she told him that he was my boyfriend, David asked:

"Is she still my friend ?"

David, honey, you'll always be my friend. No matter what.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Love, Honor, Cherish

In today's society, it is common to have blended families, where one or both of the partners in a relationship brings a child or children into the new family unit. The wedding Danny and I went to Saturday evening was one such union, but with a special and heartwarming twist.

The groom's 9-year-old son from his previous marriage was a groomsman, smartly dressed in a pint-sized tuxedo. After the exchanging of vows and rings, this freckled, smiling young man was called to the front of the church. The bride, his new stepmother, recited a set of vows for him; promsing to love him, respect him, and guide him throughout his life as he grows from a child to a man. As a symbol, she placed a beautiful silver necklace around his neck.

There wasn't a single dry eye in the church after that.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Look at your Face

It is very, very tough to keep a straight face while speaking to a pharmacist, who has a big, huge booger hanging from his nose.

Nonetheless, I kept my composure throughout the entire conversation. And as I turned around and walked away from the counter, one of the technicians yelled "Look at your face !!"

I couldn't help but chuckle.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Definition of Torture

Sitting here, in a meeting, trying to absorb all the technical information being presented, while two stacks of boxes containing fresh, hot pizza sit beside me. Calling to me. Taunting me. Tugging at my empty, rumbling stomach with their deliciousness.

This is going to be a VERY long hour.
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