Things I Learned While In Hospital

Trying to work out the names and roles of the many people who may briefly interact with you during your stay is like trying to master the full cast list of “War and Peace”.


27450950284_bb638e39fa_zDon’t get me wrong, I have many, many reasons to be grateful to the NHS.  It has saved my life on at least two occasions.  I wouldn’t be here writing this today if it wasn’t for the skill and care of paramedics, nurses, doctors, and surgeons.  However, having just spent 19 days in four hospital beds on four wards in two hospitals, I have had plenty of time to reflect as I gazed at the ceilings.  My random observations are listed below.

  • Spiders that crawl up the walls beside your bed in hospital appear at least twice as big as the spiders that crawl up your bedroom walls at home.  And there is also a clear correlation between your inability to move and the size of the spider.
  • The “call bells” are always there when you don’t need them, and always out of reach (usually on the floor) when you are in your greatest need.
  • The American military obviously first came up with the idea of using constant invasive sound and/or sleep deprivation as a means of torturing prisoners after a visit to a British Hospital where the use of quieter electronic notification means had not yet been considered.

Continue reading “Things I Learned While In Hospital”

Coffee Shops Are More Weird Than You Think

Now when paying enough to keep a small third world nation in military hardware for a year just for a cup of coffee, you still, in some shops, have to beg to go to the toilet.

426799067_55027d4244_zBeing in a coffee shop is like taking part in one of those Japanese game shows where they torture people for fun. They sell you liquid to drink, and then make going to the loo as hard as possible.

The whole experience is designed to extract as much humiliation as possible. Every little drop. Every last little squeeze of the coffee beans.

Wasn’t it bad enough at school when you had to put your hand up and ask permission and tell the whole class that you wanted to empty your bladder and avoid the long walk home in wet underwear? Wasn’t that bad enough?

Now you would think that as adults you wouldn’t have to do that anymore.”I’m a grown-up now. I can urinate anytime and anywhere – within reason – provided it doesn’t frighten the horses.” Continue reading “Coffee Shops Are More Weird Than You Think”

Three Effective Tools To Cut Anxiety

Excessive anxiety is a misuse of imagination. Using truth to challenge the lies we tell ourselves can help us bring excessive anxiety down to levels that we will almost certainly cope with.

FullSizeRenderThere’s a lot of anxiety about and it gets everywhere. The executive who is anxious about going to the management meeting and speaking, or the traffic accident victim afraid to drive or cross the road, or the parent afraid to go to the school gates and face teachers or fellow parents.

Of course, in many cases it is a normal response and doesn’t become excessive. It might be strange if we didn’t feel slightly worried about delivering a public speech to an audience of hundreds, or when moving house or job, or when crossing a road following a road accident. Anxiety only becomes dysfunctional for us when it becomes too frequent, too prolonged, too disproportionately intense for the situation.

An Honorable History

The good news is that anxiety serves a purpose, and in evolutionary terms, has an honourable history. When we sense a threat to us in any way we are hard-wired to fight, flee, or freeze. The amygdala in our brain delivers this primitive core function with conviction, and without it the human race would never have evolved, or wouldn’t have survived for long if it did.
However, as humans, we are no longer completely ruled by instinctive responses. We have the pre-frontal cortex to use reason, assess the risk, and overrule our instincts when necessary.

Excessive anxiety is caused by us listening to our instinctive alarm system and not putting it into context. There are three things to do to help us get a true perspective on the alarming messages.  Continue reading “Three Effective Tools To Cut Anxiety”

Meeting Needle Phobia

Understand that the fear is genuine. Patients don’t wake up and say: “I know what I’ll do today. I’ll pretend to have a fear just to be awkward.” The look of terror isn’t good acting. In many cases, there may be sound reasons behind the fear relating to previous traumas.

“…the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

Advice for all medical staff when confronted with a patient who has a needle phobia. (Written by a psychotherapist who has a deep-seated needle phobia.)510750075_eeee488cd6_z

  • Smile and look sympathetic. Don’t look annoyed or judgemental. Having a face that says, “You stupid fool! Why are you being so awkward and complicating my day!” doesn’t put the patient at ease or keep the retreating veins near the surface. Go on, show a bit of compassion for someone in genuine fear.
  • Understand that the fear is genuine. Patients don’t wake up and say: “I know what I’ll do today. I’ll pretend to have a fear just to be awkward.” The look of terror isn’t good acting. In many cases, there may be sound reasons behind the fear relating to previous traumas.
  • Make sure you don’t make things even worse. In some cases the phobia has been made stronger by numerous unhappy repeated experiences. Work to make sure that this occasion challenges the awful experience rather than reinforces it.  Continue reading “Meeting Needle Phobia”

Are Your Kisses Grey?

“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”
― Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy

On the Death of Summer

Day was a bright one,
A summer, a rain –
Your kiss was a grey one,
A dying, a pain:

And earth was unending,
A round one, a ball –
But love had its ending,
The finite – the gall

Of a life-time,
A season, a year,
Like the dawn of a day-time,
The dew, and the fear

Of a noon-tide,
The parchness, the sun:
And the end of a morning,
New season begun

With a day full of boding,
A sadness, a sense
Of deep yearning
To fly through the fence,

To run back to spring-time,
The past, the old-new,
And offer this day-time,
Your kiss and you –

To mature into summer,
The love, the rich wine,
To free raging stallions
From stables of time,

Where leaves rot to nothing,
Through copper, through browns,
And heap up the doorways,
– The tombstones , the mounds –

So none can escape,
Decaying, the dust.
And autumn is charging,
So eager to thrust

Your warmth into winter,
A cold wind, a bite.
Bright day is ending –
Black horses at night

Crash into locked doors
And die.

Jesus Didn’t Work For Me

I became more and more uneasy with the template for humanity that I had inherited from my Christian faith. If I was honest with myself, I knew how difficult (and superficial) change really was, and that neat Christian solutions to change often only tackled the surface, leaving deeper issues untouched. It no longer seemed good enough to exhort people (and myself) to stop doing things because they were “wrong”.

426799067_55027d4244_zI used to be an evangelical Christian. On July 2nd, 1966, I got ’saved’. I literally came out – I got up out of my seat in front of family and friends at a Billy Graham rally at the age of 13, and decided to follow Jesus. That faith and commitment lasted for a long time, at least until 2000. I was a lay preacher, a pastoral counsellor, a church leader, and a Christian author. I was in hook, line, and sinker. However, over the past fifteen years I have slowly abandoned that faith.

Of course, I know that if my Christian friends were reading this they would say that I am trying too hard. That the fact that I am having to write about it just proves how insecure I am in my new atheism. I would argue that since so many of them ask me about what has happened to me I have had to think things through, for their benefit, and to make sense of the massive change for myself. It didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen in any neat, logical order, but it has happened, and what is written below is a poor attempt at an explanation after the event.  Continue reading “Jesus Didn’t Work For Me”