What If? (The Exam Musings of A Panic Psychiatry MO)

What If?

What if it doesn’t work out,
What if all my dreams shattered,
buried under layers of shroud,
What if I come home battered,
or become  lost in the crowd,
Nothing to show for my effort,
But bruised, bleeding pride.



Ah…but someone wise had once
Whispered to me with love,
"I’d rather with danger prance,
Roughshod ridden, punched and shoved, 
Than with cowardice partnered in a dance,
Still with nothing much glorious to prove."



So, with those words of thought,
I bit my lips in a monologue,
“What if I fall... but what if I fly?" 
“I want to live...but what if I die?”
Will I take the chance? 
Or wonder for decades hence?



“My love, would you merely wait to exist,
in the life of no risks and 'what if?'
Or  would you prefer to thrive, to live,
With "oh well, next hurdle please,"


Thus, courage becomes my reprieve
Be gone, oh, the fear of 'what if'
Give me a lifetime of ‘oh well’
Because the chance of heaven after hell
Lies in facing the question of 'why not'
Because at last, all shall die and rot
The life of this world easily beguiled
One day as you say goodbye, do it in style.

-Afiza Azmee-

And so it went that I paid RM3000 examination fees to Royal College of Psychiatrist a few weeks ago.

After all that musings, angst, self-doubts and poems…I thought to myself, I have to take this step. Part with my money and risk failure. *sobs sobs*

If you know anything about my personality type, INTP, you would know that we hate failure. And that’s why we obsess about stuff. It’s not healthy. Nowadays I have controlled that tendency to a manageable level. That’s the perks of being a Psych MO; we manage our own anxieties and fears ourselves and pray it doesn’t seem obvious to others. Hahah.

Rudyard Kipling had once written the beautifully insightful poem entitled ‘If’. It has become a coming-of-age poem that every school student memorises at one time or another. I love that poem to bits. It is a poem about having a sturdy moral compass; how to conduct oneself in life. So when I wanted to write about my fear of failure, I naturally chose the theme of similar colour. Adding ‘What’ to the ‘If’.

I wrote this poem ‘What If’ because this is my weakness. ‘What If’ is my automatic negative thoughts in any new life direction that I contemplate taking. What If is always in my mind. I would never take the next step if I cannot  make sure that I have a pretty good chance of an excellent ‘What If’ in store for me.

You see, the thing is, I am very satisfied with my life. I see no reason to change things the way they are. I love my work, I love going back to my house relaxing, reading fiction, writing poems/stories, playing with cats. I mean, why would I want to change things the way they are? Why should I purposefully make my life difficult? I don’t have to be a specialist to be happy. I am just as happy now. Hahah. In fact, there is a high chance that the process of becoming a specialist (the wasted money if I fail, the rigorous studying, the withholding of pleasurable activities for exams) would burn me out and make me less happy. Right?

But sometimes, you can’t be more than you potentially should by remaining satisfied. That’s  the self-actualisation part of Abraham’s Maslow motivational theory. (Damn, the theory is accurate! When I was a HO, I thought I would be satisfied just being an MO…I mean, I don’t have expensive needs. My salary is more than enough for a modest lifestyle and an occasional luxury. I really don’t need a lot to be happy, you know. But Maslow had anticipated that people would never be satisfied for long. At the top of the hierarchy of needs is the concept of self-actualisation…the need to be the best of what you potentially can be. How to self-actualise if you cannot do what you want as a doctor because you have to follow what your specialist says regardless of whether or not you agree or disagree with him/her? When that happens too many times,  you will feel like “damn it, I wanna be a specialist and then I can make my own decisions.” Self-actualisation is empowering, and that’s why it’s in the top hierarchy of needs!)  

So, I have no choice. I have to take this exam…take this first step to becoming a specialist. Even if I am risking hard-earned money and battered pride in the process. (Failure is quite a high possibility. Not many of my acquaintances had passed this exam, previously. And they are quite smart,  themselves. I am really quite apprehensive about this. Which is why I wrote this poem. For a psychiatry MO, I am really not that good at talking about my own feelings unless I disguise it in a literary piece of poems or short stories. I am like Taylor Swift, in that sense. Hahha)

While writing the above poem, I talked to myself like a psychotic patient in the midst of a severe hallucination: “Let’s live the life of ‘oh well, I tried’… than the life of ‘what if'”

P/S: Still, my heart aches a bit when I see the balance in my bank account.  Oh, well. 

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A Rose By Any Other Name… (2)

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So many of my acquaintances had shared the facebook status above and it appears in my newsfeed, boiling my blood anew. Below is my own comment, in response to this status.

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I am frustrated and disappointed. That so many of my friends cannot see eye to eye on this.

Some of my close friends and my family members do see the way I do. But unlike me,  they are the silent ones.They have their own opinion, but they don’t feel the need to comment and spread the truth.

I have mentioned before, that people care about different things in life and it is okay. Not everyone has to behave like I do, or else the society would always be in a state of arguments and debate. Hahaha.

Some must be the diplomats in the society, preserving harmony by ignoring their own opinion and ‘appear’ to be sweet and nice. They sacrifice the need for their version of truth to be heard, preferring to maintain the status quo of harmony and tranquility. That is actually admirable in its own way.

Some must be the feelers in the society, who makes caring about other people’s feelings as their main priority, making ‘saying the truth’ as something secondary. That’s okay (I guess, hahah. But will I choose people like this as a close friend, as my companion? Of course not. We don’t have similar wavelengths. You go along and do your thing. And I will continue to do my thing. Adios! All the best!)

But society also needs someone who is predominantly a straight talker. And that’s me. That’s Wardina. That’s Dr. MAZA. And people like us will always be thought as someone who “dia asyik ingat dia sorang betul.” Like we are arrogant… but that’s not it. We place truth and sincerity as our main priority and feeling is secondary. That’s all! We will take care of your feelings as long as it does not compromise the truth!

Blame it on my INTP trait. INTPs gift the world with radical honesty. And people are not always comfortable with that.

So I posted my facebook status above, knowing that many of my friends online do not see eye to eye with me. Because I need people to open their eyes and understand the essence of our religion. How beautiful it is. How logical, how intelligent, how intellectually appealing it is….and that’s why it is beautiful. If Islam is represented this way, there would be many non-Muslims in Malaysia who will be attracted to Islam.

Isn’t it ironic? In a Western country in which they have no pro-Islam policies, amidst all the negative propaganda, people still convert to Islam almost every week. But in our own country, where resources are being distributed for Islamic propaganda, the apostasy (murtad) rate is worrying. Some don’t even bother to declare themselves as an apostate but simply stop practicing. The beauty of Islam cannot shine through layers of bureaucratic dirts we have piled upon our religion!

I learned to appreciate Islam in Australia. Not in Malaysia! That is the irony.

That irony is most hurtful. And so writing about this becomes my catharsis.

So, here it is, A Rose By Any Other Name (2). You may agree or you may disagree, but know that this is me, being a straight talker, gifting you with my radical honesty. You might not like the gift, but I insist that you should have it. This is me being sweet. If I don’t care about you, I wouldn’t have bothered to explain myself. But I do. Care about you.

So, yeah…who says I can’t be sweet?  *wink, wink*

A Rose By Any Other Name…

I couldn’t bear it.

Intelligent Malays are in hiding. Meanwhile, those intelligent Malays who came out of the closet are being treated like they are weirdos. But if the majority are stupid people, then the intelligent minority would be perceived as weird by the stupid majority. That’s a no brainer. Poor Wardina, Ustaz MAZA….they are always being looked at as different in Malaysia because they are the ones who actually dare to come out of the closet! Nowadays, proclaiming your intelligence by going against JAKIM take courage! Because you would be instantly perceived as anti-religion instead of anti-stupidity that has no basis in Islam.

I tried to stop myself. I tried (very hard) not to write about this because I have written about this so many times, I have lost count. But I couldn’t stop myself. These are issues that fire up my soul. I am passionate about truth. About justice. About fairness. About social equality. About things having to follow universal ethics.

What is wrong with religious authority in Malaysia? Why are they SO STUPID!!  (There! I have said it! Damn it!)  And this is where people would start saying I am arrogant. (And I am not!)

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This came out in the International magazine, TIME! How is this not embarrassing! It looks as though Muslims are so anal retentive (or so stupid) that we can get easily confused  when we call our sausages as hot dogs! This came out in TIME, BBC , Channel News Asia and God knows how many others!

I don’t think I am arrogant towards the poor, the needy or even towards my subordinates (HOs, nurses, clerks). I am usually perceived (perception is not necessarily the truth) as arrogant by authorities (teachers, seniors, some MOs and specialists when I was a HO). I don’t need to turn up my nose towards those below me because they are not the ones who would impose their authorities and their opinions on me. To THEM, I have no reason to be arrogant to because I am not subject to their unreasonable whims and desires!

It is with the authorities that I usually have problems with (and this runs in the family; from my father, to myself and my sisters. We are all very stubborn people when we believe we are right. We are stubborn even with each other. Hahah. It is one of the reasons my father quitted the government and went into business.)

Whenever I have problems with the authorities,  it is always either because I think they have faulty opinions, inefficient way of doing things or simply wrong in what they say and how they conduct themselves! And they are the ones who would have problems with me. I almost never have any problems with my subordinates… it is the authorities I really cannot stand! It must be in my genetic make up or something. Hahah.

***

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Shakespeare had famously written ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ in his Romeo and Juliet play. It means, outward appearance and outward persona do not matter. We should prize substance over form.

Shakespeare is brilliant. (Some had even speculated  that his real name was Sheikh Zubair, possibly a Muslim. But that is a speculation and a debate for another day. But taking my lesson from the great man, I say “Shakespeare by any other name would still be as brilliant.” Haha)

A hot dog by any other name would not be any more halal than it already is. If the process of making the hot dog is halal, then the hot dog is halal. If it is made from haram meat and through a non-halal process, then calling it as a sausage instead of a hot dog would not make it less haram or more halal.

Learn from Shakespeare!  Substance over form! Character over persona! This is very simple!! Such a simple concept that if I were to teach it to primary school kids, they would get it! You would think someone in JAKIM would be more intelligent than primary school kids, won’t you?

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This is the reason I love Dr. MAZA. Intelligent, sharp, on point!

I think brilliant students should be sent to learn the religion. We shouldn’t let only less brilliant students take up religious studies. Not all brilliant people should take medicine, engineering and accountancy. We need brilliant people in the religion as well! (But the fact is, most of my naughty primary school friends were sent to Sekolah Agama Secondary School by their parents in the hope that they would turn out well. And all the good-mannered brilliant kids continue their studies in Asma/SBP/MRSM during my time. And the trend continues. The straight As students get to be doctors, engineers, architects. The straight Bs, some Cs students can only further their studies in social sciences…. including the religious line. Some drug addicts were sent to Sekolah Pondok…. in the hope that they will be religious. So why are we so surprised if they end up becoming ustaz who spewed up nonsensical stuff like this? Well! I am not saying that all of Sekolah Agama students are not brilliant. But when they ARE brilliant, they continue their studies in medicine or law or engineering… instead of Syariah, Pengajian Sunnah etc etc) 

Dr. MAZA was a best student in his schooling days! And it is reflected in how he comes up with his opinion in most issues. He was educated in Jordan… but also studied in Oxford afterwards. He pursued his religious studies to the level of doctorate! His mind is broadened by knowledge and travel! He is the religious figure who rational, logical Muslims would gravitate to because his explanation makes sense and is appealing to our fitrah that NEED things to make sense, to be fair, to be just. Ustaz Harizal was also a best student and he is also brilliant. But they both are the minorities among Malaysian Religious Authorities, unfortunately.

I also, personally like Wardina. She had addressed this issue in one of her facebook statuses. I can feel the wave of frustration engulfing every cell of her body, coming from every syllable of her writings. Because  I feel the same way. I am tired of feeling frustrated! Exhausted! If I am still in Australia right now (where Wardina currently resides), I wouldn’t know how to show my face in the lecture hall. This is embarassing….our tiny minds made us a laughingstock overseas.

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And then we lament the fact that Muslims are not respected! Well, look at ourselves! If I, a proud Muslim, can’t respect JAKIM who claims to represent the interest of Muslims in this country, then what makes you think that non-Muslims would ever respect us?

Our own so-called religious representative is laughable, for God’s sake!

And when a professor herself cannot see the truth, even I give up! Below are the words of a Professor Madya! I give up! (well, not really. The fact that I am still ranting about this means that I am not giving up! Hahaha)

Puan Wardina Safiyyah seharusnya memahami JAKIM sebagai badan yang diamanahkan untuk menguruskan pensijilan halal makanan mempunyai peraturan dan “standard operating procedure” yang telah lama ada. Sudah banyak syarikat makanan yang “comply” dengan peraturan JAKIM tanpa kita sedari eg A&W Coney Chicken yang berasal dari Coney Dog. Tidak boleh lah mereka bersifat “inconsistent” dalam peraturan mereka. Tambahan pula budaya Malaysia berbilang kaum, sudah tentu kita terdedah kepada banyak jenis makanan dari kaum lain yang mungkin ada nama resepi mereka berasal dari bahan yang dilarang oleh agama.Tidak wajar juga kita sebagai pengguna mula mempertikaikan peraturan institusi agama di negara kita hanya kerana “malu” pada publisiti media asing, yang jarang benar memihak kepada kita, dan membuat tajuk yang menyimpang dari isu asal. Kebenaran agama itu tidak terletak kepada “endorsement” pihak media asing. Sebagai seorang Muslim, seorang rakyat Malaysia kitalah yang wajar menerangkan pada pihak lain tentang peraturan di negara kita dengan sebaik-baiknya.

As a psychiatry MO, when I read her words, I already know one thing : She doesn’t get past the stage of Conventional Morality. Lawrence Kohlberg was right. Only 10-15% of people ever get to the stage of Post-Conventional morality. Not even a professor is guaranteed to ever have the sort of mind to be able to reach this stage.

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Her words  such as “Tidak bolehlah mereka bersifat inconsistent dalam peraturan mereka” (what if the peraturan is wrong, in the first place?). Words like “Tidak wajar juga kita sebagai pengguna mula mempertikaikan peraturan institusi agama di negara kita” (what if the institution did not create a good rule and a good SOP in the first place? Your SOP is NOT Allah’s words. They are not sacred and they are changeable! But of course, someone who never gets to the stage of Post-Conventional Morality will never understand that!)

And then she TOTALLY missed the point by implying that the only reason Wardina is opposed to Jakim’s latest buffoonery is because she is embarrassed by the International coverage of our stupidity!  Madam, we are not embarrassed to defend Islam against feminists who frowned upon our hijab. We are not embarrassed to defend out religion against extreme right-wing politicians who accuse Islam as the religion for terrorists. We are not embarrassed to defend Islam in issues like polygamy, inheritance, syariah and jurisprudence. During  Islamic Awareness Week in Australia, I stood up inside our booth to talk to Australians about Islam… and it was proudly done. I did not need nor want the approval of the West. And I believe, so did Wardina.

The reason we are embarrassed is NOT because  we want to kiss the ass of the Western media! No! We are embarrassed because Jakim who claimed to represent Islam in this country is wrong and foolish in their statements and conduct, which have no basis in Islam! It reflects badly on Islam! That’s why we are embarrassed!

You totally missed  the point! You assumed (wrongly!) about what Wardina meant by being embarrassed (as though Wardina was embarrassed about Islamic values; when in actual fact, you failed to discriminate between Jakim’s foolish SOP and actual Islamic practice. Wardina is embarrassed about JAKIM. Not about Islam! Takkan tu pun tak faham!), and then you dare to ‘advise’ (macam baik) that ‘kebenaran agama itu tidak terletak kepada ‘endorsement’ pihak media asing. Sebagai seorang Muslim, seorang rakyat Malaysia, kitalah yang wajar menerangkan pada pihak lain tentang peraturan di negara kita dengan sebaik-baiknya’  (ayat umum yang benar, diaplikasikan pada konteks yang salah. And by doing that, you can make make yourself sound like you are right. It’s a cheap trick that all competent debaters are familiar with!)

Seriously, this is not only a failure in the attainment of Post-Conventional Morality, but also a failure in basic comprehension. Khalas!

So if a professor cannot grasp this simple concept, what hopes do we have in our general public?  Seriously!

When you read the comments from the general public in facebook, there were so many supporters of the professor’s words. It boggles the mind! It scares me to know that there are so many Muslims who are so irrational and fail basic comprehension. They think they are religious but actually they are not! These supporters would write comment such as “Wardina ni asyik rasa dia betul. Pi jadi ustazah lah. Dia ni rasa dia lagi pandai dari ustaz and JAKIM” (Again! The words of someone who failed to reach post-conventional morality!)

Fortunately, I could see that there are also many supporters in the page of Dr. MAZA and Wardina. It relieves me to know that there are just as many people who are rational and intelligent among us Malaysian Muslims.

Our general public’s lack of critical thinking reflects badly on our education system, in my opinion. What do the kids learn at school that they grow up into adults who fail basic comprehension?

Dear parents, if you want your kids to be critical in dealing with issues, please talk to them about worldly matters and what’s in the news. Don’t simply entertain them layan kartun and dramas. Don’t be too frivolous. Talk about issues that matter! Ask them regarding their opinion about politics/ religion/books. Shape their minds. Enrich their internal world. Encourage them to read! Don’t delegate the task of educating their minds to teachers at school. Teachers are anal-retentive about finishing the syllabus (because the ministry put them up to it). They teach your kids WHAT to think; not HOW to think! They give your kids fish, but your kids need the fishing rod!

If you want your kids to grow into a well-mannered kid, don’t simply put them in a Maahad Tahfiz Hostel at the age of seven years old and think your job is done! Just this week, I have a case of one kid who was put in a religious hostel at the age of seven years old. Too young!  Now, he is already 10 years old. And he developed depression since the age of 8 years old but no one ever knew until now! The only reason he came into my attention was because he was abused by his father (who is also a Ketum abuser) and the case was referred to me. Isn’t it ironic? A ketum abuser who abused his own child claimed that the reason he put the kid into a religious hostel at the young age of seven was because he wanted the kid to grow up religious! With that sort of reasoning, I would expect the father to be a decent human being himself; certainly did not expect such a father to be a ketum abuser who kicked his kid and hit the kid’s head against the wall!

You would expect that a kid would not form any attachment to an abusive father. Perhaps, it was better for him to be placed in a hostel, right? At least, that’s what most people would think. But heck, kids do form attachment even to an abusive parent. They still crave love and attention from the same parent who abuse them. It may not be understandable, but that’s a fact of life and there is nothing we can do about it. And the kid has been feeling rejected since the age of seven years old (because he was placed in a hostel), and then he developed depression. Is there anything more heartbreaking, than a small child who should have no other worries in life other than learning and playing with friends, yet is dealing with depression and struggling with low self-esteem? This is just so sad. And as usual, when I feel sad, I become angry instead. I ranted to the mother about the father’s lack of fatherhood qualities and urged the mother to take the child out of the religious hostel. God, I was pushy. Usually, I can hide my pushiness with some tact of diplomacy. But that day, I couldn’t help myself. The mother is in the process of divorcing the father and I urged the mother to place the child in sekolah kebangsaan ASAP, regardless of what the father thinks. The mother agreed. And I am satisfied.

You yourself is responsible to educate your child to be religious, to be moral, to be intelligent! Do you think teachers can replace the parental attention that your child needs from you? Teachers are not gonna give your kids any special attention over the rest of other kids in the school. Teachers are not as personally invested in the well-being of your kids the way you would! When you put them in a hostel at such a young age, you miss the opportunity to shape their characters and their minds. Teachers can only do so much. It is your responsibility!

Don’t let them grow up into someone who cannot attain post-conventional morality secondary to lack of intellectual stimulation! Teachers can’t stimulate their brain to the extent that you can as a parent! Your kids can turn out to be professors, doctors, engineers, lawyers, clerks, factory workers, cleaners…whatever.

But they may never attain post-conventional morality. Because they were not stimulated enough! Even a cleaner might have an instinctive grasp of post-conventional morality than a professor. Truly!

In the world of intellectual pursuit, it would be a tragedy to have gained the title form of a professor without the substance of an intellectual!

These types don’t deserve to remain in the ivory tower of academia.

I leave you guys with a screenshot of my own Facebook status regarding this issue. I just couldn’t help myself. Haha.

Until next time.

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