Tag Archives: Well-being

On Writing

Writing isn’t just for writers. It isn’t just for school, either. Writing is a tool for thinking.

You don’t control your thoughts. They rise from a weird combination of past experiences and held knowledge interacting with the environment. You cannot think about what you’re going to think in advance of thinking about it. Yes, it gets confusing. Our brain is messy. And that’s even before some other idea comes crashing and displaces the previous thought.

Writing is the act of putting thoughts into paper. Once they are in paper, they can’t escape or be displaced, and what’s better, you can start shaping them and refining them. 

You can sort out a surprisingly large amount of troubles by just writing them down and working at them on the paper (or screen, but I’m particular to paper), where they can’t escape (and so can’t you).

Try it.

Photo Credit: rawpixel.com Flickr via Compfight cc

How To Find A Good Physician

Here’s something that no-one wants to talk about: physicians are regular people. We like to put doctors on a pedestal because they are in charge of our health, and we’re like to feel that our health is in the hands of the best, but the best are very few, and it’s improbable that you’ll be assigned even a good doctor on chance alone.

As is the case of most professions, physician quality follows a normal distribution. A few are very bad at their job, some are merely bad, most are average doctors, some are good doctors, and again, a few are very good at what they do. 

Bell Curve
Example of a normal distribution, AKA “Bell Curve”

By merely showing up to the hospital or clinical practice, the law of averages will assign you an average physician. You might like to think it is otherwise, that your doctor is the best, but that is just you being delusional. And average is fine in most situations. You don’t need Hugh Laurie to prescribe you a flu shot or mend a broken arm. 

But if you’re in a situation where something is wrong with you, and you’re not quite sure what it is, average doctors will either not know what’s wrong with you, or will default to the most statistically probable diagnosis. That’s not a great system for health care.

You can identify a good doctor by:

  1. Time spent on your appointment. This is especially relevant on the first appointment, or the first appointment about a new situation. Anything less than 30 minutes is not acceptable. Good physicians will regularly spend a full hour with their patients. They will make thorough examinations and ask a lot of questions.
  2. Ability to answer questions and explain things. A good doctor will tell you the why’s and the systems behind what’s happening. If a physician can’t explain why it’s important that you get a specific blood marker under control, for example, but merely states that you should, that’s a sign that he doesn’t understand what it’s for, he’s just following a cheat sheet with average values. Most doctors will tell you that you should lower your cholesterol, but they are stumped if you ask them what cholesterol does.

To Get The Right Diagnosis, Look For a Third Opinion

People are still not used to asking for a second opinion. Again, they mistakenly believe that they were assigned the best person available. As I pointed out above, this is statistically incorrect. 

Depending on the severity of your situation ( and a good way to judge it is the level of discomfort it causes) or the level of violence of the proposed treatment, you might want to get a second opinion from another doctor.

If the second doctor concurs with the first one, that’s pretty decent. You can probably go ahead with a modicum of safety.

If not, then you need a tie-breaker. Yes, you need a third doctor, a third opinion. I mean, you have little other way of making an educated guess about which of the previous two doctors knows best.

I understand this is very annoying. Doctors are expensive, and appointments are time-consuming. What about people who don’t have the money to go to a private practice?! Yeah, I don’t have a good answer to that. I’m giving you the info because I believe that it’s better to know than to not know, but I realize it’s difficult to act upon.

Good luck!

The World Breaks Everyone

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places. But those it does not break, it kills.” Wrote Hemingway.

Over the past few years, I’ve witnessed many a breaking. And I concur – many are stronger at the broken places. I’m not saying that it was a fair trade, mind. Not saying that the strengthening is equal in value to that which was lost. Assuming that would be naive. The sad reality is that the balance is rarely positive. Hemingway uses the quote in the context of a man losing his family – I don’t think anyone sane would argue there’s a coming back from that. But there’s… Something. Life can go on.

What’s interesting to me is to look at what the people who do get stronger do, versus the people who don’t.

Those who get stronger attribute it to a decision. At some point after the braking, they decide to go on with their lives, to carry – voluntarily – whatever burden their breaking saddled them with, into the future.

They didn’t decide it would not be painful, or easy, or even pleasant. That’s not a choice that’s available to us mortals. But they did decide that regardless of how hard it was, they would go forth the best they could.

Those who don’t get stronger, they attribute it to a characteristic. (Or, more often, lack thereof.) They say they aren’t strong enough, courageous enough, smart enough. They didn’t have the right genes or upbringing.

I’m no optimist. My formal education is in the sciences, and science is deterministic. Genes and place of birth combine to produce a baseline of talent, intelligence, skill. It’s possible, but incredibly hard, to move the needle.

(Incidentally, people hate to hear this. Scientists keep trying to disprove it, all the time, and to their great dismay – if they are honest scientists – they can’t. No-one is happy about this. Most people would like to think that they are infinitely malleable. But this is how things are.)

But you can always choose to use what you’ve got. That’s a decision, not a trait. A lot of people with massive talent, intelligence, strength, whatever – they get broken, and they’re done – fate has laid them low. Other, seemingly less “capable” people, they get broken, and they decide to carry on, often under great pain and strain. They are the ones who get stronger.

The world is going to break you. It breaks us all. Are you going to decide to move forward, regardless? Or are you going to let fate lay you low, and find a justification for it?