As I’ve expressed before, I have my ups and downs. During lockdown, I fell into a bit of a hole.. not a deep one, but a hole nonetheless. The problem is that I have a problem with doing chores. It’s something I really dislike, I would do the bare minimum when I was living alone and then I hired a cleaner when I started working. I think it’s part laziness and part mental illness. My cleaner hasn’t been able to come for obvious reasons, so I’ve been trying to do most of the housework as I wasn’t working for the last few months. But I just couldn’t. My husband would point things out, “the floors need to be vacuumed, the laundry needs to be done.” I would say yes, yes but never do it so he would end up doing it or it would take me a week to get around to a simple task. I’m very ashamed of this, I don’t know why I’m like this. Well, I do know but I don’t know why I can’t do better. Actually, that’s a lie too.
It dawned on me one day that this was life. Sleep, eat, clean, work, repeat. It just made my heart sink. I felt like, “this is all there is? Rinse and repeat?”. I wish I were a better writer, so I could describe what it felt like. A feeling of hopelessness came over me and I felt like there was no way out, I was drowning. Forever fated to be a hamster in a wheel running round and round. I didn’t want to and I didn’t say anything to my husband for a while because I didn’t want to share such fatalist thoughts with him. It was hard for me to get out of bed. All I wanted to do was play video games, eat and sleep. Basically everything and anything to distract me from the current moment (the opposite of what I talked about in Day 4‘s post!). I tried to remind myself of my faith and how I am here to worship and be a better person and a better Muslim. My faith has been really weak recently.
I told him we had to have a talk. We discussed a lot of things and went through these feelings. I couldn’t explain myself. I think it was one of the times I threw my hands up and said I don’t know why I’m like this, I don’t have any excuses. We decided to try setting a timetable and rota of chores (which I talked about briefly in a previous post). That made me feel much better. I need a new idea, a fresh perspective. So far it’s been going well and it feels manageable. I don’t feel so doomed anymore, I feel like those thoughts are far away now.
The problem with mental illness is that if you don’t have it, you can’t understand what it’s like. It’s debilitating. You want to do things, but it’s like there’s a heavy brick resting on your chest suffocating you and you can’t move. For me, if I can get out of bed and take a shower when I feel low then I’m doing ok. I know doing the laundry is easy and it will take me 10 minutes. But it just feels overwhelming sometimes. I don’t have the mental space for it. The effort it takes to do things is so much more than it would be for a normal person. All of these problems often don’t make any sense.
I’ve always lived in frustration wondering why my life feels like it’s hanging by a thread? Like I can only do the bare minimum to get by? Why is it so hard? I’ve come to accept somewhat that it is harder for me. You can’t expect someone with a broken leg to run, can you? It’s a medical condition (unfortunately an invisible one) that diminishes your ability to function. I only recently found out that a symptom of depression is memory loss. It kind of explains why I find I can’t remember anything. Sometimes even things I did a moment ago. It’s scary sometimes and confusing. I can’t trust my own memories. It just makes you different and every mental illness has its own symptoms and manifestations. There isn’t a solution, there isn’t a cure. You have to do things differently, you have to come up with tactics and mechanisms to help you get by and be functional. You have to constantly work on yourself, which is why I signed up to this 10-day challenge.
ACTION: What will you enjoy doing differently today?
I was a bit stumped on this one. I felt like things were getting stale for me as is clear from the paragraphs above! What could I do differently? I decided to try a new podcast. If you know me, you know I love podcasts. I used to listen to music all the time, but since I started listening to podcasts I listen to music a lot less. I thought it might be a copout because it’s not doing a new activity, but this is for me and I need to do what is manageable. I’ve always been a fan of true crime: one of the first podcasts I listened to was season 1 of Serial. Since then, I’ve broadened my genres. I started listening to Psychology in Seattle. It’s hosted by Dr Kirk Honda, a therapist and professor, who discusses reader questions and talks about different topics in psychology. I highly recommend it, it’s informative but not too technical. The idea for starting an advice blog came from listening to his podcasts (although of course, I cannot give any professional advice!). I had so many questions to ask him, but I thought that there would be no way he could get to my questions. And sometimes you don’t want to reach out for help because you feel like those from different backgrounds won’t understand the nuances and extra layers that come with being from your specific minority group. By the way, if you are a fan of Love is Blind or 90 Day Fiance, make sure to watch his YouTube commentary – it’s fascinating!
The new podcast I landed on was 99% Invisible. The description sounded intriguing: “99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.” I listened to the episode Freedom House Ambulance Service. I didn’t know what it would be about I just clicked on it. I tend to do that these days, I purposefully don’t read movie/TV synopses or anything. I want to go in blind.
Did you know some of the world’s first paramedics were black men? If you ask anyone, or even a paramedic these days (according to the podcast), they would not be able to tell you when or how paramedicine started. In the 60s, there wasn’t much in the way of infrastructure for emergency medicine. Hospitals weren’t even open 24 hours. The thought of treating a patient before they got to the hospital was alien! On-site medical care had been developing for some time from the World Wars and Vietnam, but it hadn’t quite made it across to civilian life.
It wasn’t clear who was responsible for getting to the scene on time and transporting patients. Was it the firemen? The police? A lot of the time, the responsibility fell on local funeral homes! In Pittsburgh’s largely black district known as “the Hill”, police were slow to respond to emergencies. Phil Hallen, a former ambulance driver, set up a civil rights organisation called the Maurice Falk Medical Fund. He immediately focused on the city’s poor emergency services; he saw the city was suffering from a public health crisis that disproportionately affected black people.
He came across a black-operated jobs training program called Freedom House which operated in the Hill. After he met Dr Peter Safar, the “father of CPR”, they decided to train people to be medical professionals who could start emergency treatment immediately on the scene, before the patient reached the hospital. They would go on to train men from Freedom House to become some of the world’s first fully-trained paramedics.
Freedom House unsurprisingly faced many challenges. Even though they had a contract with the city of Pittsburgh to provide emergency services, police would often refuse to dispatch them. They often had to resort to using police scanners so they could arrive on the scene before police. Some white patients would just refuse to have any physical contact with Freedom House workers and would flat out refuse their services. Other Freedom House paramedics were told the clean the floors, they were mistaken as hospital staff.
Despite the challenges, their reputation grew and people around the world wanted to learn and copy their system. The paramedics were invited to conferences in Europe. However, with their renown also came negative attention. People in white neighbourhoods were wondering why black neighbourhoods were receiving better medical care than theirs. Eventually, Pete Flaherty (Pittsburgh’s mayor at the time), cut Freedom House’s budget in half and he later introduced Pittsburgh’s own emergency services and did not recruit any black medics. Even until the 1990s, Pittsburgh’s emergency services consisted of almost 100% white paramedics.
I found this information fascinating and it really opened my mind. I would never have thought about how paramedicine started. It’s just something we take for granted (and apparently paramedics do too). Of course, the story is also largely forgotten because of the importance of Freedom House in this “origin story”.
I wasn’t sure if listening to a new podcast would do anything for me, but it did. It added a little of change to my day and I felt my mind expand a little. There has been a lot more focus on black stories and voices because of Black Lives Matter. It’s sad that it has taken all of this to get there. I’m a cynical person, but I am hopeful for the future. We need more diversity in every area.
Until next time,