Topic Tuesday: Therapy

I have shared many times before that I went to therapy while in undergrad and it was a life altering experience.  Honestly I wish I had received some type of therapy right after graduating from undergrad, while in law school, after law school, before we got married, and I wish that I was receiving some right now.  Therapy is not a bandaid or a sole solution to any problem, but a process that helps you categorize and properly place experiences in a comfortable place in your mind.  Many times we overemphasize a situation in our life that may hold little value or minimize a situation that needs to be held in a different light.  Therapy helps you step outside of your silo and see how each experience has played a role in your life without judgment and external pressure.

I am so open about my experience because I truly believe therapy saved my life.  My anger sent me on a destructive path and caused me to mistake realness with being hurtful and mean.  Much of my anger was displaced and targeted people who had characteristics of the person who hurt me the most.  My coping strategies were ineffective and unhealthy.  I found myself in a cyclical process that I wanted to escape from, but I did not know how to reach the exit.

During my assessment for clinical services the director interviewed me and asked me one question, “Tell me about your parents.”  I immediately began to sob and cry.  I could not formulate my thoughts or my words.  She looked at me, looked down at the paper and agreed that I needed services.  I walked out of the building in disbelief.  This woman broke me down in less than 5 seconds.  I was fragile and broken.  I needed more help than simply believing that everything would get better.  My sanity required more than someone to listen to me, but someone to help me.

I have always been very open and honest so I told all of my friends that I was in therapy and they were happy for me.  Over time they started to see the changes in me and that encouraged me to continue with the process even when I felt that I no longer needed help.  I knew that being in that building held a stigma, but my future could not be derailed because of the fear of being judged.  I do not know where I would be if I never took the final step to seek help.  I do not even want to think of where I could have ended up.

I want everyone to know that there is someone qualified to listen and help you organize your thoughts and emotions.  Life is hard and will never be without bumps.  We have to accept that life will come and we need effective coping methods to properly deal with those overwhelming things.  Although I had two amazing experiences while at Howard, I had a not so great one when my husband and I went to sort through our issues.  Despite her failings, I know that there are some amazing therapist out there who will help us refocus our perspective.  Do not let one experience define your future in obtaining the things that you need.

We need more than coaching, we need therapy.  Take a moment and find time.  Get a referral and follow through with an appointment.  Get the help you need. Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms. #BeExcellent

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Finding Specialized Care for Your Family Member

After many years of dealing with a rare muscle degenerative disease, my grandfather finally accepted my advice and sought a second opinion from an expert.  He did not trust the doctors in Connecticut and heard about a provider at Hopkins that specialized in his condition.  After a few phone calls, delivery of his medical records to the new doctor, and the solidification of traveling details, my grandfather received an appointment at Hopkins that would change his life.

Even though many people are related to or know a health care professional, they casually solicit advice, but never discuss the details of how to seek specialized care. When you or someone in your family is diagnosed with a disease, you have the right to seek a second opinion. Many times people accept what their physician says without questioning their opinion. A second opinion does not undermine the physicians knowledge or experience but an acceptable way to back up their findings. Your physician or insurance company can refer you to a qualified practitioner that will cross reference their own findings against the original finding a.

If you are interested in going to a specific institution, you can contact the institution directly and discuss your needs. Many times the operators are able to connect you with the right departments and the medical assistants can help you find the right practitioner for you. Many of the larger institutions have experience in rare disease processes or cases that other institutions may never see. You want to be treated by people who understand your diagnosis and are prepared to treat you holistically.

My grandfather’s specialist knew immediately what was going on with my grandfather and provided him with a prescription that slowed down his disease, braces to help him walk, and physical therapy. The ability for my grandfather to remain independent for a few more years gave him hope and helped with the frustration of losing his muscle strength. This experience renewed his faith in medicine and pushed him to do all that he could to stay healthy.

Many insurance companies have hot lines that allow you to call in and get guidance on choosing providers, specialist, or understanding your treatment options. There are support groups for patients and families who have been diagnosed with a life changing ailment. Additionally, there are specific organizations that provide resources and information for many common and rare conditions.

Reach out and know that you are not alone. Your health care experience should be empowering and not debilitating. If you have questions, write them down and ask them at the end of your doctors visit. Stay abreast on the new things that are going on with you or your family’s diagnosis. Help is not out of reach and you can make it through this.

Get a second opinion. Ask questions. Feel empowered. Be you. Do you. Tell your own story. On your own terms.

Law School. Check. Bar. Check. Job…

Everyone has their life planned out in their head to work out perfectly at every stage of their life.  Once we finish high school we plan to get into the college of our choice without having to worry about how to fund our education.  After we finish college we plan to land the perfect job that pays great and makes all of those late nights, exams and stressful moments worth it.  We plan to grow at our jobs or obtain all of the skills we need to get a better job and build our career.  After enjoying our early 20s we decide we want more and go back for an advanced degree to open even more doors.  After obtaining our post-graduate degree, we plan to walk into our dream job, make a difference and save the world.  Many of these plans work out but we are never prepared for the bumps along the road.

Many of these things were possible pre-recession and actually happened for a lot of people who are only a few years my senior.  Those of us entering into the market post 2008 experienced many unplanned bumps that derailed many of these well-intentioned plans.  Throughout undergrad, I was able to obtain jobs fairly quickly and build up my resume.  I  landed my dream job out of college.  I left that job and immediately started another job in DC.  I went back to law school thinking that we had passed over the roughest part of the downturn and we have, but the market will never be back to the pre-recession glory of jobs and opportunities galore.

I left my job as a bedside nurse so that I would have more autonomy over decisions that were being made in healthcare and for my patients.  I loved my job but I did not like the politics.  Politics in healthcare harm patients and undermine the mission and values of the healthcare industry.  I left my job because I wanted to be happy and I decided that my next job would be something that I loved, doing what I love and building up to my forever job.

This mindset kept me from applying to just any job, taking just any salary or just doing something to get a check.  I made great money coming out of undergrad, so I know that I cannot make any less than that, but additionally I know my value.  The issue is getting others to see my value and getting the position that will allow me to use my skills while growing as a health care advocate.  I just want to be happy and to grow within an organization.  It sounds simple but I know that it is so much more complex.

Everything does not work out as planned but that does not mean that we made any missteps or should have done anything differently.  We have to believe in the good times and bad times that our steps are ordered and the desires of our heart will lead us to the right place.  I am not here to just build my resume but to actually achieve my goals of changing the world and improving the healthcare industry.  This time is just a test of my patience and to see if I will stick to my guns or fold under pressure.  I know the right opportunity is coming and when it does, I will be glad that I waited.

Throughout life we can plan with the best intentions but bumps will come, foreseeable and unforeseeable.  Through these moments we have to hang on tightly and stay focused on our end goal.  Having a support system in place is vital and helps to maintain your sanity, stay encouraged and stay the course.  After you have checked off all of your goals and one remains, know that the last check is coming in due time.

Focused. Check. Patient. Check. Grateful. Check.  Job…soon to be checked. Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Job Seeker (Entry level risk management, healthcare policy, healthcare advocacy, healthcare law): www.linkedin.com/pub/irnise-fennell-williams-jd-rn/52/304/b60/

Health Care Providers Must Ask the Difficult Questions

There is a common thread that is running through many of the conversations about mental illness and domestic violence; the failure of health care providers to properly assess and ask the important but difficult questions.  I have asked questions about a patient’s mental illness in a routine questionnaire, but I was never trained on how to start the conversation without that form or how to be prepared for those who said yes.  I asked the question with the assumption that the person would say that they did not have any mental health issues or suicidal thoughts.  If a person would have responded differently, I am not sure what my response would have been.

After seeing this video (posted below) this morning, I was disappointed in myself.  Personally and professionally.  One of the survivors discussed how she went to the hospital because she had a black eye and no one took the time to ask her how she got that black eye.  She said that if anyone would have asked her, she might have opened up and received the help she needed to escape from her abuser.  Her words struck me right in my own heart.  It reminded me of all of the times that I had suspicions or could have asked more in-depth questions, but failed to go that extra mile and discuss those things with my patient.  I have failed professionally at the bedside but that does not mean we cannot change this conversation.  Healthcare professionals have to continuously remind ourselves that we are providers of holistic care, not just symptomatic care.

A patient may come to you with symptoms of high blood pressure and obesity, and the only questions that may arise are those that focus on their eating and exercise habits. We never stop to explore any underlying mental issues or emotional problems that may trigger overeating, depression or stress.  All of these factors could lead directly to these disease processes and their resolution could in turn fix the overarching issue.

Many times we enter into a patient-provider relationship with preconceived notions that block our natural interactions with our patients.  We do not pick up on the subtleties because we are focused on our agenda.  Quality health care is effective care.  We can only be effective if we are asking the right questions.  We can only ask the right questions if we are listening to the actual responses that are being given.  We have to open our ears and eyes to see more than the primary issue but all other issues that could possibly be connected.

We have to ask the difficult questions about child abuse, sexual abuse, rape, drug abuse, mental health, suicide ideations, depression and domestic violence, to list a few. It may be hard, uncomfortable or may be offensive to some but that one person who needed to hear those words will thank you.  We may be the only outlet or opportunity that they have to get them the help that they need.

Healthcare providers are angels on earth. Our work is never done.  We have to continue learning and expanding our skills through traditional and nontraditional means.

Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

http://shine.forharriet.com/2014/08/nbcs-tamron-hall-shares-heartbreaking.html