Note #67: Freedom by diagnosis

Also: should you trust a too-clean reputation?

What’s up?

I’ve gone a month with no essays.

I suppose it was bound to happen sometime. But when it happened, it just happened. I felt bad about it, and I still do, but also I miss this, and I miss you. How’ve you been?

Me, I’ve been in a bit of a weird place: I’m feeling good and not as melancholy as I sometimes can be (despite, by the way, failing my exams). Somehow, though, I’m struggling to write—and to read, for that matter. I think the reading might be part of it: reading is a big part for me of what stimulates my thinking. But I think another aspect of it might be not being with a community of fellow writers for a while now. I had got to a point of writing regularly without that and done okay, but I think I need such a community again.

Maybe writing is like faith, after all: it starts to feel thinner when you’re isolated and still trying to keep it up (like Bilbo in The Lord of the Rings said about feeling like butter spread over too much bread).

Is there anything like that for you?

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Diagnoses and freedom (not an essay)

A diagnosis can be disempowering.

But it can also be liberating.

It depends how you engage with it.

This is something I think a lot about, obviously: it comes with being a medical doctor. But being a psychiatrist means also that this diagnoses I’m giving often require some explanation. Schizophrenia is perhaps the commonest diagnosis among the patients I work with (a psychiatric intensive care unit), and nearly no one who gets it the first time really understands it, because thanks to Hollywood people think it means split personalities. (Spoiler: it doesn’t mean that at all.)

And yet, as serious as it is to have to tell someone they have schizophrenia (or any other health condition), I find again and again that for many people it can be deeply liberating to finally be able to name the problem they’ve been struggling with. And more importantly, to be able to no longer feel alone: because a problem having a name means they’re not the first, or the only.

In that way, even the most serious diagnoses can be freeing.

Working too hard (quote)

Brandon Sanderson is currently one of my favourite fantasy authors, and some of his lines are just amazing. I love this one where he has one of his characters describe his suspicion of people with too clean a reputation. What do you think?

Hand, food and mouth (proverb)

This week’s proverb is about the importance of activity.

If your hand is not stuck in either the plate or your mouth, you will eventually be full.

If you don’t give up on what you’re working at, something will have to—well, give.

Here’s to not leaving our hands stuck. Thanks to everyone who reached out.

Talk soon,

Doc Ayomide

PS. The Being Human website and the weekly Notes on Being Human are both completely free, but if you’d like to buy me a coffee—or more!—you can use the button below.

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Note #66: To move freely, you need a fixed point

Moving, trusting, dreading, falling

What’s up?

I got a new iPad for under £40.

Here’s how it happened. I’ve had a crack on my iPad screen for nearly a year but held back from taking it to the Apple reseller store in town because I didn’t want to be without it for the time they’d take to fix it—I use it every day! But my Apple Care was almost up, so I bit the bullet and sent it in. Turns out, they not only had it ready by the next day, but apparently their policy with screen issues is to just replace. And because of Apple Care+ they charged me the excess fee for it.

That said it only took me 10 months, all because I didn’t want to be without it. It reminded me of how I don’t like change in some areas. Remember I said I moved over the weekend? Well, that’s still stressing me out. The new place is nice, but it’s also, well, new. That means having to build new muscle memory for where everything is—but of course you’re still deciding where everything is.

It sometimes surprises people when they realise I can be a bit samey, because they think of me as sort of spontaneous. But I think that’s precisely why I like routines. When the basic things are fixed you’re free to think be flexible with all sorts of other things. Uncertainty with the basics on the other hand means having to focus energy on those, and that can get draining fast.

I think, you really do need a fixed point to move freely.

What do you fix so that you can fly elsewhere?

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Psych and paed (essay)

This week, I wrote about the similarity between psychiatry and paediatrics. It’s a short essay about something I find interesting.

It’s a question I like to pose to medical students and junior doctors.

Sometimes I’ll point out that they obviously both start with a “p” but I’m looking for a deeper similarity. Can you think what it is? On a few occasions I’ve had a student catch it: they’re the two specialties where patients are very likely to have been brought to hospital without their having chosen to, and sometimes even against their will.

In psychiatry and paediatrics we really have to earn the patient’s trust.

You can read the rest of the essay here: What do psychiatrists and paediatrics have in common?

This week’s essay

Specialists (quote)

I read this quote from CS Lewis a while ago and I have often found myself coming back to it in my mind. Domain knowledge is a powerful thing—within its domain. Do any examples of this come to mind for you?

Falling (proverb)

Where do you look when you fall? That’s what this week’s Yoruba wisdom is about:

The child who falls looks ahead, but the elder who falls looks back.

Basically the child is focused on moving on, but the elder understands that if they don’t learn from the fall, they’re likely to fall again. I see this with people all the time: once we get over something unpleasant we want to just forget about it and “move on”. But the past you don’t process and learn from doesn’t leave you alone. It’s unpleasant to look at our mistakes, but then most treatment isn’t exactly pleasant, right?

When you fall, take a moment to look back. It might hurt, but it’ll be worth it.

Talk soon,

Doc Ayomide

PS. The Being Human website and the weekly Notes on Being Human are both completely free, but if you’d like to buy me a coffee—or more!—you can use the button below.

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#Note 65: Smart people ≠ great teachers

Squid, struggle, small town, stories

What’s up?

This week had all the things!

I had my second of three professional psychiatry exams (a bit more nervous about this than the first), joined small group at a new church (which was really good!) and am in the middle of moving (which is always super stressful). Also had at least one emotionally heavy day this week. But overall, it’s been a good week!

I’ve seen Squid Game too—and loved it. It’s my kind of show: using low-key horror vibes to explore the dark side of what it means to be human. And it doesn’t pull any punches on both fronts. Any wonder I was super into it? You start the show thinking it’s going to be about who survives, but that’s not what it’s about at all. It’s about who get to hold on to their humanity in the face of overwhelming odds. (I think it’s also an indictment on reality TV, though.)

(And yes, I realise I’m spoiling it mildly but if you haven’t seen it by now, you probably need a bit more of a push to check it out. That said, it does get quite graphic, and I realise we all stomach that differently.)

Here’s a couple tweets I shared after seeing it that sum up my thoughts:

Errata: in a previous email, talking about the #EndSARS protests against police brutality in Nigeria, I’d said the government had shot unarmed youth protesters on 10 October 2020. The actual date was 20 October, and I’m mortified by the mistake!

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Teaching love (essay)

In this week’s essay I reflect on teaching and teachers. I haven’t had a lot that made a big difference, but the few who were had outsized impact on me. For me that was a French teacher in junior secondary, a math teacher in senior and my home tutor, who I’ve talked about in another essay. What teachers were like that for you?

I love teaching.

That moment when the student’s eyes light up as the ideas fall into place? I live for it. Or when they are glowing with the new realisation of what is now within their grasp? Sign me up. It’s what I first fell in love with when I first discovered my love for it while teaching my brother maths when he was about to enter uni. And it’s what has kept me finding ways to teach everywhere I’ve gone and in every job I’ve done, from medical students and junior doctors to volunteer mentorship with young people. It’s why I love being a Write of Passage mentor.

I love it all because it’s by teaching that we learn to be human.

You can read the rest of the essay here: Those who struggle teach best

This week’s essay

I sometimes make fun of how small a town Ipswich is compared to the larger cities I’ve lived and felt at home in: Lagos, Edinburgh, London. But there’s something quaint about small towns, and Ipswich isn’t even that small, really. It’s has its charms though. I thought this night photo captured some of that charm.

What do you like best about where you live?

History (proverb)

The child born after historical events, is at least old enough for the stories.

We can only experience so much, but we can learn as much as we want. If we want.

Talk soon,

Doc Ayomide

PS. The Being Human website and the weekly Notes on Being Human are both completely free, but if you’d like to buy me a coffee—or more!—you can use the button below.

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Note #64: Following paths, chasing destinations

Police, people, profit, pepper

What’s up?

Nigeria’s independence was yesterday, y’all. (Speaking of y’all, it’s one of the banes of English that it has the same word for second person singular and plural—unlike, say, French, or my native Yoruba and many other languages. Y’all—or youse, like they say in Scotland—deserves to be formalised.)

Anyway, it was maybe the drabbest Independence Day we’ve had—and even for us, that’s saying something. It’s worse because just a year ago, on October 10, we saw one of the worst moments of this century, when the government opened fire on young Nigerians who were protesting police brutality. Then we had a Twitter ban, a crashing currency and increasing signals of government insensitivity. And things were already bad before all that. And yet we continue to hope, against every real reason to.

This is why I often say Nigeria doesn’t deserve Nigerians.

Meanwhile, in more police brutality, a Met police officer got life (which is rare in the UK) for killing a woman and it’s come out that before then been known for behaviours questionable enough to have merited at least an investigation. And of course it’s hard to shake the feeling that if the woman hadn’t been white, this case wouldn’t have got the kind of attention it has.

And yet, in times like this, when I’m tempted to feel like everything might be meaningless after all, I remember what I wrote about in my essay on the Significant 1%: it’s true there’s very little we’re in control of, but that little matters.

Today I hope you remember your significant 1%. It matters. You matter.

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Are you destination-driven? (essay)

Or are you path-pursuing?

For this week’s prompt from the Write of Passage course I’m mentoring for, we were asked to coin a term and write an essay about that. This probably isn’t my best work, but I came up with two: destination drivers and path pursuers. (Sorry I never saw an alliteration I didn’t like!) It came out of reflecting on how I take decisions and the way I interact with people who come at them differently. You might find it interesting to think about which you are, yourself.

Some people are all about where they want to go, others are more into the way they’re taking.

I call the first kind of people destination drivers, and the second kind path pursuers. I got to thinking about this from looking at the shape of my life. People who I assume know me fairly well often think of me as this very focused person: they think I live with a clarity they wish they had. But I don’t. It just looks that way. The reality is every time I’ve had to make a big life decision I’ve struggled with being clear what I want to do or where I want to go.

And the way I’ve moved forward from my crossroads is by following the path that’s felt most compelling to me.

You can read the rest of the essay here: Destination drivers and path pursuers

This week’s essay

Catastrophic profit (quote)

Speaking of people acting terribly in leadership, here’s a quote from Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance that struck me when I read it:

Even in an apocalypse people will try to profit. When I first read that COVID hadn’t happened and it still felt a little far out.

Not anymore, tragically.

Pepper (proverb)

I close this note as I began, with an example of a significant 1%

Even a little pepper is too much for the eyes.

I realise today’s note is rather more solemn than usual, partly because that’s how I’m feeling. I considered trying to lighten it, but you know, it’s okay to be sombre sometimes. It’s part of what it means to be human, after all: we shouldn’t feel the need to be excited, or even happy, all the time. Our emotions ebb and flow and that’s okay.

Talk soon, and I hope you have a really good week,

Doc Ayomide

PS. The Being Human website and the weekly Notes on Being Human are both completely free, but if you’d like to buy me a coffee—or more!—you can use the button below.

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Note #63: “Allow yourself morning”

Drama, dogma, danger, death

What’s up?

I’ve had some website drama.

My web-hosting provider was doing an update and I hadn’t realised it until too late. My usual writing app, Ulysses, which supports publish directly to Wordpress and Medium—but yesterday it just kept returning an error message every time I hit “Publish”. Then I tried logging into Wordpress directly, which was fine but when I hit “New Post” I was back in an error screen!

I finally figured out what was going on: my provider had sent a message about upgrading their DNS backend and I’d seen that but failed to clock that it was yesterday. And here we are!

I was worried for a bit there, but although it turned out to be no big deal, it was a reminder of how much this means to me that I get to send you these emails, and that you read and reply to them. That means so very much!

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Strong versus hard (essay)

This week, I wrote about being how we handle being unable to perform at top form. It’s funny, isn’t it, how often we don’t want to admit it, and we act like we have to be “strong” which in practice often means something along the lines of refusing to accept that we need help. Sound familiar?

Then have I got an essay for you, and here’s the opening:

What do you do when you’re unable to do enough?

This question came up recently on one of my WhatsApp groups. We were talking recently about Apple Watch goals and how to handle them when you fell sick, and I shared a tweet of someone saying they would reduce their goals. Someone responded that it would feel like cheating to do that, which initially surprised me. Then I remembered it was just another example of a phenomenon I see every week at work, and very often in some of my favourite people.

Too often, we demand the most of ourselves right when we’re at our worst.

You can read the rest of the essay here: In sickness and in health

This week’s essay

Dogma and danger (quote)

Apple TV is releasing a TV adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and I’m super excited because Asimov has meant a lot to me since I first read his books in secondary school. I haven’t seen it yet (saving it for this weekend), but I’ve already heard high praise from those who have. In honour of the release, this week’s quote comes from that book.

Sick (Yoruba proverb)

If we fussed as much over the sick as we did when they died, they might have lived.

The proverb speaks to sickness, but it applies just as much to systems: when things go catastrophically wrong there’s often a lot of furore by the same people who choose to ignore the early warning signs. We’re seeing a lot of that in our world today, aren’t we?

Talk soon,

Doc Ayomide

PS. The Being Human website and the weekly Notes on Being Human are both completely free, but if you’d like to buy me a coffee—or more!—you can use the button below.

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