My love and bargain relationship with a Chemical

This is a small story of my love to a chemical. A few years back I had developed an amazing love for general anesthetic. It may have different scientific names but for me it was my sleep drug which I used to bargain my memories with.

I have lived a good 33 years of my life in a country which is one of the most populated. Though crowded and busy, it is one of the countries which is reasonably advanced in medical sciences, at least towards urban areas. The sad part however is that, once a common man turns a patient, he may be at mercy of many. He will have to let go of his wallet for sure. He may also have to let go of his dignity; for only almighty knows which procedures he will have to undergo, what circumstances he may be in and how many callous people he will end up encountering during the treatment period. In general, the medical fraternity there lacks empathy. This I am saying not a hearsay or notion but as an experience because I am a victim of compassion-less treatment. I may not represent everyone, this may be generalization, I agree but I had to write about it someday. Sadly enough, when empathy is removed from the ‘patient’ and ‘medic’ relationship, what remains is a ‘body’ and ‘mechanic’. You cannot expect a mechanic to be compassionate towards the broken car he is fixing. On the contrary, I suppose that’s not the right comparison, mechanics do have love their machines.

I was reading up an article called “Maintaining patients’ dignity during clinical care: a qualitative interview study.” It says, “Dignity is a core concept in nursing care and maintaining patients’ dignity is critical to their recovery. In Western countries, measures to maintain dignity in patients’ care include maintaining privacy of the body, providing spatial privacy, giving sufficient time, treating patients as a whole person and allowing patients to have autonomy. However, this is an under-studied topic in Asian countries.” More than any part, I agree with the last one. Yes, it is a rather under-studied and under-practiced topic in Asian countries. The reason again is obvious, there are ‘many’ to be taken care of… and the carers are not taken care of either.

A few years of my life I have lived as non- regular ‘patient’. Being a woman added on to the misery. I am educated and had more than average understanding of science, yet there are episodes I can recollect vividly which made me feel as an experimental guinea pig on a medical practitioners’ desk. I can imagine what would be happening to those who have no voice at all. My experience tells me that lack of compassion runs mostly at lower levels. Doctors are often fine and treat their patients as ‘another human being’ who is in charge of his body and immediate environment. I am assuming many factors influence the behavior of the other medics. Whatever, the case may be, every episode of ill treatment during a procedure remains as a sore memory in somebody’s mind. It can reach levels of paranoia, when one no longer wants to go for any medical procedures and disgusts hospitals but what can one do when there is no other option.

As I was saying, sometimes you know that there is no other option. You have to undergo a procedure you are not sure of and you don’t know how the medics are going to be in the unfortunate ward you will be shifted in. After undergoing a couple of procedures I felt that the trauma a few left behind was terrible. For days, I would feel bad and recollect all the faces I saw in the room. I would tell myself that for them I was just another patient, I wouldn’t be recognized if they see me outside. Then once, during one of the procedures for the first time I was given general anesthesia. General anesthesia is a treatment with certain medicines that puts you into a deep sleep so you do not feel pain during surgery or any procedure performed on you. When you receive these medicines, one is not aware of what is happening around. I used to remember falling asleep and waking up. The rest never occurred. It gave me a sense of false assurance. Since then, every time I heard of procedure, my first question to the doctor would be, “Will you make me sleep?” A ‘yes’ to that questions was so comforting. Though, I knew the ill effects of general anesthesia, I was alright to bargain. I fell in love with that full syringe of anesthetic. I would choose a drug against my memory but again, it was not as per my whims and fancies.

There were more episodes, a few traumatic. I wanted them to end. Thankfully for me, I could I finally make a choice and exit. Now it’s past, but however the fact that I am writing about it itself tells me that it haunts but that drug, I will love it always.

The lesser felt Gain

I wonder if this is the truth of life… I have noticed that the feeling of loss is more ‘felt’ than the feeling of gain. As in, whenever we gain something in life, may it be a new job, or excellent grades, a new house or even a new relationship, it doesn’t alarm us. Gains usually sink in. It just sinks into us and we take it as a part of our lives, something which was meant to be. One never really feels it the way it needs to be felt. Some don’t want to, they fear celebrating gain may make them loose it to soon or bring in a bad omen. People just don’t feel gain with all the happiness and joy that it commands; they think they deserved it, always.

At the same time, loss is alarming, usually a shock, unexpected mostly. It slaps you on your face and your entire being goes resisting it. They are harsh and more painful.  What can be accounted as loss? Losing a job, not making it to an interview after three successful rounds, missing a flight, a sudden death of someone close, a break up mail…You think about it, rebel, and spin a story of how it’s all wrong and such a thing cannot happen to you. In fact, losses remain in your memory engraved much deeper than gains.

This natural human conduct stems from the eternal desire for self preservation. Self preservation somewhere has to do with a certain amount of selfishness. We like to think that a little more for me will do no harm. All that I have got and will get is what I deserve, and I do not deserve loosing anything.

Inherent selfishness you may call it; human beings seek only to satisfy their own needs, motivated solely by personal interest. In economics, this mental model even has a name, it‘s called homo economicus–that defines man as a being whose production and consumption is motivated entirely by his own material gain. This was the basis for the theory of ‘rational choice’, which affirms that ‘rational’ people will always choose what benefits them, even at the expense of others. However, what makes this choice seem natural to some cultures is not its rationality, but rather the fact that the process of acculturation and socialization from early childhood makes this their first reaction. People raised in other cultures will not necessarily have the same inclination.

Again, loss pinches you only when we lose something which we so dearly were hanging on to. No one would be shocked or alarmed loosing something they always wanted to get rid of. One will be rather happy, getting rid of it/ them naturally. That is gain in fact; gain of so called peace. Self preservation again…

Going a bit deeper… The human race boasts of cooperation and altruism. Even those in its real sense are ‘Selfish’. Ponder on that!

The disappearing

Have you watched the movie Notebook? No, it’s not the romance I have in my head right now, it’s a condition the movie depicts… loss of memory… otherwise known as ‘dementia’.

The last few weeks learning about various life conditions has been quite a realization and reaffirmation on the fact that one should live each day like the last one…We were focusing on conditions of physical and mental disabilities and the social aspects around it. It’s very easy to stand on the other side and empathize with such conditions but to live that life, only they know what they go through and some are rendered too confuse to know … The care givers often get frustrated as they ruin their social life and often want to get back to their so called normalcy, which is understandable. It’s torturing to imagine your loved one is crippled or progressive getting crippled.

What caught my attention was Dementia.  We got to see many videos on it and I couldn’t stop my tears flowing down. There was this whole feeling of how dear memories are and the thought of losing them forever is scary.Here is wiki definition for the ones who don’t have an understanding of dementia. Dementia is a broad category of brain diseases that cause long term loss of the ability to think and reason clearly that is severe enough to affect a person’s daily functioning. For the diagnosis to be present it must be a change from how the person was previously.The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease (75%). Except for a few treatable types in most cases there is no cure.

Waking up each day and trying to remember your name, your existence is terrible. The purpose of life itself is lost, it’s an unimaginable state. Imagine wandering around looking for something which you know is very pertinent. But then, you can’t remember what you are looking for…once the idea is lost, everything is lost and you have to wander around trying to figure out what it was that was so important earlier. Everything including yourself seems like disappearing.

As I said earlier, the one who is left with the affected is all the more in pain. A part of note in one of the books says caregiver must supervise over the degeneration of someone he or she loves very much and may do this for years and years with the news always getting worse. It may not get not better anytime… they must every few months learn to compensate for new shortcomings with makeshift remedies; must negotiate impossible requests and fantastic observations; must put up sometimes with deranged but at the same time very personal insults; and must somehow learn to smile through it all. Caregivers must be able to diagnose a wide variety of ordinary ailments under extraordinary circumstances. Imagine the person you love the most suddenly upset about something but completely unable to communicate the problem or even to understand it himself.

Just as death affects the people around and not the dead, dementia too does something similar.

Note: I picked up a few movies to watch to understand a little more about the condition apart from all that reading which I was doing and ended up with a list which I am glad to share. You may watch them, if interested:

  1. The Savages (2007)
  2. Aurora Borealis (2006)
  3. The Notebook (2004)
  4. A Song For Martin (2001)
  5. Away From Her (2007)
  6. Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch (2001)
  7. Firefly Dreams (2001)
  8. Age Old Friends (1989)