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All work and no play makes Lori’s face explode.

November 1, 2011 6 comments

For the past few weeks, I’ve been struggling. Stress from work, school, and personal life stuff became entwined and felt overwhelming. I knew I was feeling tired. I knew I wasn’t feeling like myself. But I continued to stay up until 2 AM doing work and spending most weekends doing the same. Then when the pain I had in the upper left part of my face that I had since Friday evolved to include pain in my eye, swelling, and red blotches on Monday, I actually started to worry about myself.

So I walked myself to the emergency room, which I felt slightly guilty about since seeking treatment there might be an abuse of its purpose. However, I didn’t know when I’d be able to see my primary care doctor and her office is about an hour away. Off to the ER I went. I arrived at 1:45 and was seen about three and a half hours later.  By the time the nurse saw me, I figured she and a doctor would just give me some eye drops and some Benadryl and tell me to go away and make room for people with actual emergencies.  I thought I’d be out in maybe two or three hours and that I would go to Trader Joe’s after and do my grocery shopping for the week.

Foolish girl.

That certainly was not the case. The nurse was genuinely perplexed by my condition. The resident, like the nurse, played it cool, but was also a little stumped. Then another resident came over to me and said, “I heard about you! I just wanted to come by and take a look.” Awesome.  As I was not in an actual patient room, but on a transport bed in the hallway, it was very easy for him or anyone else to take a look at me. Next, the attending paid me a visit with the first resident who examined me. He informed that he suspected it was Herpes Zoster (aka Shingles) and that he wanted to examine my eye to make sure the infection hadn’t spread to my eye. If it had, they would have to keep me and start treatment immediately so I would not lose my eye. I did my best to receive this information calmly even though my mind was racing with thoughts, one of which was, “Can I still do judo if I lose sight in one eye? Oh, wait. Yes, I can. There are lots of visually impaired players.” Priorities, priorities.

After examining me further, the attending said it did not appear that the infection had spread to my eye. However, they wanted to run my labs, give me a CT scan, and have an ophthalmologist examine me to confirm the diagnosis. To complete these steps, I mostly had to just wait around. It was weird being in the hall. I did feel a little better after a nurse gave me some apple juice and graham crackers. That in itself was a little strange for me since last year, I interned in the trauma unit at hospital, which is similar to the ER. We had those same juice cups and graham crackers on hand for patients. There I sat, a tired yet grateful recipient of a snack fit for a kindergartner.

I didn’t see the opthamoligist until after 9:00. He was very nice, but a little flustered since he wasn’t expecting to treat a patient in the hallway. It made setting up his equipment, which he brought in his backpack, a little difficult. Near the end of his exam he asked, “How long have you been here?” When I told him since quarter of two, he shook his head. “I just heard about you a half hour ago.” When he confirmed that it was Shingles and that my eye seemed clear of infection, he passed me back to the ER team, and around 10:45 I walked back to my apartment.

As I walked back alone, I thought maybe this is part of my problem. Maybe this is part of why I got here today. Sure, I most likely got Herpes Zoster because I take a medication that is an immune suppressant, and the weather has been manic lately, I take public transportation everywhere, I work in part with kids, and I’ve felt a hyper amount of stress lately. I thought about walking to the ER alone, staying there for nine hours alone, and then walking home alone. Why didn’t I call one of my friends and ask them to stay with me for a little bit? Maybe I wouldn’t feel so much stress if I didn’t try to do everything by myself all the time. I have been working in the last week to be more straightforward with the people I’m close with to let them know what I’m dealing with right now. Of course, they’ve been extremely supportive and helpful. If I keep remembering to do this, I hope I can prevent future face explosions.

Categories: Help, Learning, Life

Sensei Says…

September 12, 2011 1 comment

“A part of self-defense is taking control of your life and assuming responsibility for yourself.”

Our Sensei Emeritus was at practice this evening and pulled me aside to speak with me conceptually about my practice. This one little statement rang eerily relevant for me right now for several reasons. Sensei is very good at that kind of thing. In my attempts  to honor my commitment to both my practices, judo and social work, I often make things unnecessarily difficult, thinking that trying to cram as much work in as possible will lead to improvement and success. On one hand, this frequently becomes true; on the other, I too often burn myself out. Every time I realize than I’m a mere mortal, it’s incredibly disappointing.

In my life, taking the hard route is easy. Taking the easy route is hard. However, strategically taking the easy route here and there will permit me the strength to excel when I head down the hard path. Essentially, I have to become happy with the happy medium.

As the school year kicks off and my internship begins, my sensei’s thoughts also make think of my clients. I work with the “underserved”, who sometimes struggle with feelings of victimization and low self-worth. When compounded w ith socio-economic barriers, they sometimes feel as though it’s either terrifying or impossible to change their lives. While my job is to help people realize they have the strength to help themselves, I may catch clients when they’re not quite ready for such daunting work.

I think this fear still holds true for many of us who are not considered “underserved”. Being honest with yourself and recognizing that change does not come magically, admitting you need help and following through feels too scary. So we stay cemented in place, incapable of moving forward.

It threw me off-guard tonight to realize how much insight my sensei has. It was hard to hear his words because he was throwing some serious truth about myself at me. But it’s just what I needed. It’s time to stop letting my fear of failure and mediocrity drive my actions. Such fear negates the reasons I am drawn to social work and judo to begin with. It’s important to embrace the process, including the set-backs. If I focus on the imaginary finish line and skip over the course itself, my feet will remain stuck in place. I thank my sensei for giving me the sledge hammer I need to break up the cement.

 

This was real life.

August 8, 2011 1 comment

As I’ve mentioned several times, I am currently pursuing a Master’s in Social Work. Specifically, I am focusing on clinical social work so that I can become a counselor. I have several areas of interest, including immigrants and preventative health care accessibility, families coping with substance abuse issues, and women coping with recent and past traumas.

In a previous post, I talked about the kind of responses I get when people ask me what I do. Well, over the weekend, I got response to my answer that totally threw me for a loop. I was out on Saturday night and talking with a girl a few years younger than I am. The conversation went a little something like this:

Girl: Oh, so you’re in school work social work? What do you want to do with that?

Me: Well, I want to be a counselor, and mainly I want to work with young women coping with trauma and are trying to get their life back on track.

Girl: Oh, like me!

This has never happened to me before. I didn’t know what to say at first. She went on to tell me a little about her past and the social program she went through so that she could go back to school and become a little more stable. We went on to talk  about the fact that we don’t all start out on an even playing field and how you have to work a little harder when you’ve never had good role models.

During the conversation, I felt a little uncomfortable. I am totally used to clients spilling their guts to me. I am comfortable with my friends spilling their guts to me. In fact, I have even had many strangers on SEPTA spill their guts to me, and I could roll with it. But at first, this girl didn’t seem that different from me. She was also sort of a friend of a friend, so I just really was not expecting her to reveal that she was one of the “underserved” that social workers devote their lives to. So I was super paranoid about being condescending or patronizing, or any of the other things you don’t want to be when a human being opens up to you. I started second guessing myself again when she was telling me about her career aspirations and I immediately began giving her ideas for resources to look into. I mean, really. Did I need to start counseling this girl in our free time on Saturday night? Is that OK?  I did really care about what this girl was saying, so in a way, I couldn’t help myself in trying to encourage to take her success farther. But I don’t even have a degree yet, let alone a license, so who am I to start throwing out a game plan to this girl?

In all my time working in social services, I never felt more aware of the difference in privilege than during this random conversation with this girl. I thought I had learned how deal with that gap already, and here I am, realizing once again that I still have so far to go.

There’s no “I” in judo.

I think a lot of times, practicing judo feels like a truly individual battle. In the context of a match, it’s just me out there against my opponent.  The time I spend training on and off the mat, I’m driving myself to stay focused and engaged so I can learn a little more and get a tiny bit better. I don’t experience great technique epiphanies at every practice, and sometimes I feel like I’m even moving backwards. Occasionally, I have serious things going on with school/work/home that I can’t quite push out of my head. Just listening  and watching 45 seconds of instruction seems like an impossible task because I’m so distracted. Other nights, I’m simply tired. Such times make for grim, frustrating practices. These are also the practices when I need to remind myself that I’m not the only person on the mat facing my own little battles and that it’s easy to take my training partners down with me.

During practice, I might work with the same training partner all night or be paired up with several different people. If my energy level is low or I’m preoccupied with non-judo stuff, I make for a sucky partner. Especially if my partner is also worn out or distracted. It’s our job to rally and get it together so we can help keep each other motivated to work hard. When you and your partner are both giving the night everything you have, you can really feed off of each other’s energy. You can feel it click when you grip up–an electric marriage of ferocity and camaraderie. And that’s when practice becomes really fun.

Those moments with the people you train with–the moments where you can feel you and your partners pushing to keep your practice strong and focused–are part of the reason you fall in love with judo in the first place. Now I think it’s my responsibility to honor that momentum by pushing myself at every practice so my clubmates and I will keep wanting to step on the mat, even when we feel we’re at our worst.

Categories: Challenges, Help, Judo

Hero worship: Unabashed.

June 15, 2011 3 comments

Moving near campus has made me exponentially happier, mostly because it makes my life more convenient and I finally get to live alone in my own little cave. Beyond that, however, I discovered a bonus today while walking to the El. I ran into one of my faaaaaaaaaaaaaaavorite professors ever in the whole wide world. Actually, he stopped me (gasp!) to say hi and ask how my summer was going. After some friendly chit chat, we said goodbye and I practically skipped the rest of the way to the train.

I find it difficult to talk about him without sounding like a hyper-active 10 year-old, so I will attempt brevity: Throughout my semester with him, I was continuously surprised and reassured by my professor’s honesty, humility, passion, commitment, and his dual ability to command and offer respect. I’ll stop here before any eye-rolling commences from the nice, patient people reading this.

Oh, who am I kidding? I can’t stop there. Further explanation of my professor’s uncontainable awesomeness:

After each class with him this past Spring semester, I typically felt compelled to post something my professor said or did during class that I thought was particularly inspiring on Facebook. Yes, this is silly. But I would leave his class so pumped, truly believing that I and my classmates could change the world, that I felt like all my Facebook friends might like to feel the same way.

The two things he said to us that have stuck with me the most are:

1. “You will never do more for people than what you allow people to do for you.”

2. “It is more important for you to understand than to be understood.”

Now, I don’t know if these are Walter J. Palmer originals, but I don’t really care. What I care about is that I have thought long and hard about these two off-handed statements. The first statement I’ve though about in relation to my social work practice and the relationships I’ll build with my clients. If I never learn to be open, humble, and how to accept help, I can never truly be there with my clients. I won’t be able to fully appreciate how hard they work to take the help I’m offering to make the small and big steps they need to get on the right track. I have to understand give and take.

The second comment I’ve thought about over and over again in regards to my personal relationships, especially with my family. I have said about six billion times in my life, “He/She/They just don’t understand.” Now, if I find myself thinking that, I feel ridiculously childish. When I really look at why I feel that way, I realize that he/she/they don’t understand because I haven’t let them. If I can’t listen to someone else’s perspective and respect it as a valid point of view, they sure as hell can’t consider mine. To communicate and make a connection, I have to be ready to learn about the other person first and not expect them to put effort into me that I haven’t bothered to put into them.

OK, now back to brevity:

The main reason why I love Professor Palmer is because he made me feel as excited, naive, angry, and hopeful as I did when I was a teenager and just starting to really discover what drives me, but ultimately I think he helped me become a better adult.

Asking for help.

June 6, 2011 2 comments

Less than a week ago, I moved into my own little apartment. I am brimming with excitement over this. Since I left for college, I’ve always lived with roommates and for six years, I lived  with a boyfriend.  For the past two years, I lived at home with my father. So being on my own, really being on my own feels awesome. However, after just a few days I ran into a situation where I saw that living alone might not always be as awesome as I think it is.

Late Saturday night I got really sick. I have a mild case of a chronic digestive disorder (we can save this fun topic for another time) which has been under control for awhile. Due to some carelessness on my part in terms of my diet, I found myself travelling back in time to two years ago before I was diagnosed. I was in really intense pain coupled with nausea for over 12 hours. Before I was diagnosed and had no idea what was wrong with me, I would go to the ER when this happened. This time I wasn’t sure that going to the ER, where they’d take a bunch of labs and Xrays just to tell me what I already knew, was the right thing to do. But what do I do? I knew there were probably other options, but not sleeping at all and being in such bad pain left me pretty weak and useless in terms of decision-making. So I called my dad. I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want to ask him for help because he’d just come over the day before to put in an air conditioner. Moving out is a small way to reassert my independence, and calling my dad again to ask for something else made me feel like a little kid. Not what I wanted. Also, I didn’t want him to worry or come all the way out to the city. I didn’t know if I could really ride out the pain, or if it would die down at all, so reluctantly I called my dad. He had the sensible suggestion of calling my doctor. My doctor called in a prescription for me, but warned me if I couldn’t keep the medication down, I’d have to go to the ER anyway.  For the moment, though, I was happy to avoid the hospital. Now I just had to pick up the prescription. The pharmacy is only about four blocks away, but I was pretty knocked out. I hadn’t eaten or moved more than five feet since this whole thing started. Could I make it? Should I take a cab even though it’s only four blocks? I started to get upset. Then I calmed down and realized I could call one of my friends in the neighborhood to see if they could help me, but as with calling my dad, I really didn’t want to. For some reason, I felt embarrassed to ask. I should be able to pick up my own prescription four blocks from my apartment. But I’m sick, right? So you need help when you’re sick. Then what’s the big deal? Of course, the friend that I called didn’t hesitate to say yes and she and her husband got the medication for me. A half hour after taking my prescription, I finally fell asleep and when I work up, I was no longer in pain.

Why is it so hard to ask for help? Part of the reason why we live close to our families and form communities out of our neighbors and friends is so there is always someone around to help with the little things. No matter how independent and self-reliant we may feel, there will always be times when we need another person. It’s inevitable. I just have to turn my thinking around to understanding how lucky I am that I have people in my life whom I can call in those moments when I simply can’t do it on my own.

 

Categories: Family, Friends, Help, Life