How did you know that? Who told you that?

There have been a few hot topics in the social media that I am personally interested in and have been following for the past few weeks.

  1. Polio virus made a comeback after 27 years of eradication in Malaysia. (heartbreaking, really)
  2. A famous da’i who had previously rejected 18 proposals from other women finally could not resist the aura of the 19th woman and got married to her, who also happened to be a fake doctor, before divorcing his pregnant first wife. (#DramaSangat)
  3. The (old) news regarding the change in the landscape of HIV transmission in Malaysia received a lot of emotionally-charged comments on the social media.

Do let me know if you have any opinion to share on these topics. I have personally shared my opinion on these in my Facebook and I don’t feel like repeating myself in my blog.

***

The Conversational Impasse

The Atheist: Why are Muslims against LGBT? They are very nice people. It’s just  that they have different sexual orientation. They don’t harm other people. As long as they don’t harm others, let them do whatever they want.

The Believer: Who told you that? Who told you that “it is okay to do whatever you want as long as you don’t harm others?”

The Atheist: Memang macam tu pun. Why should we curb other people’s freedom to do what they want when they don’t harm others? I don’t believe in your religion, so I am not going to follow what your religion says about LGBT being haram and all.

The Believer:  I repeat, who told you that “it is okay to do whatever you want as long as you don’t harm others?” I assume, you believe there is no objective truth… no absolute right or wrong in this world?

The Atheist: Stealing is wrong. It harms others; taking the rights of other people is wrong. Murder is wrong…. It takes life away from others. But in things that don’t harm others…. Why should we bother to push our religious beliefs onto other people?

The Believer: How did you KNOW that “it is okay to do whatever you want as long as you don’t harm others?” Was it something you read? Was it an opinion of an author you had read? Which philosopher told you that? Or is it just your opinion?

The Atheist: What are you getting at?

The Believer: There is NO OBJECTIVE TRUTH to your statement that it is okay for us to do anything as long as we don’t harm others. In fact, you are pushing YOUR OPINION, YOUR IDEOLOGY, YOUR WORLDVIEW on me. I don’t believe that we can do everything that don’t harm others. I believe that in certain things there are clear-cut rightness and wrongness. Yes, I call them good deeds and sinful deeds… but that’s just words and semantics. You have your own internal bias that clashes with mine. You believe that people can do anything that don’t harm others. I don’t believe that.

The Atheist: But I don’t believe in your religion. So don’t push your religious values on me.

The Believer: And I don’t believe in your opinion. Why are you pushing it on me?

The Atheist: I am not pushing my opinion on you. I am saying, be free to do anything that don’t harm others.

The Believer: And I am saying, that there are certain things that we should NOT do even if it doesn’t harm people. Not all sinful things harm others… but I don’t believe it is okay to do it. Because things that you do that don’t harm others may actually harm yourself. Religion is not meant to just protect others around you but also to protect yourself. Things that you do that don’t harm others but harm yourself is still wrong. You want to indulge in alternative sexual lifestyle… go ahead. But if you ask for my opinion, I am not going to lie and pretend that I don’t think it is wrong. Am I not free to state my opinion? How does my opinion harm you? Why am I not free to state my religious belief as long as, ehem, it doesn’t harm others?

The Atheist: But your religious opinion harm others!

The Believer: Says you! I think, your opinion harms others too. Impressionable Muslims/Christians/Jewish kids, for example. It confuses their minds. They will start doing dangerous things that harm themselves…maybe take drugs/indulge in extramarital sex leading to teenage pregnancy for example… because they don’t believe they are harming anyone by doing it. They are just harming themselves and destroying their own future…. but to you, that is okay? It’s funny! You think your opinion doesn’t harm others… but you think MY opinion based on my religious values harms others?

The Atheist: Your opinion causes others to discriminate LGBT people. You call them deviants, deny them their rights to marriage, destroy their political careers and their reputation. Is that okay?

The Believer: Your opinion causes others to discriminate religious people. You call them backwards, orthodox, kampung, and distort other people’s impression of their intellect by labelling them religious bigots. Is that okay?

The Atheist: It seems like we are at an impasse. You don’t believe in freedom.

The Believer: You are wrong! I believe in the freedom to do what is right. I don’t believe in the freedom to do what is wrong… to lie, to cheat or to distort truth! I believe there are things that are right and things that are wrong… and at the same time, there are things that we are free to do because they are neither right nor wrong and God simply left it to our own preferences and discretion. In Islam, we call it halal, haram and harus. If two adult siblings engaged in sex consensually, it is STILL wrong even if they don’t harm others. If a parent and his/her adult child choose to have sex with each other even when they don’t harm others, it is STILL wrong! And when it comes to homosexuality, my opinion is that it is wrong and I am not going to change my opinion. I don’t go around shouting my opinion to others unnecessarily… but if anyone specifically asked me for my view on homosexuality, I am not going to lie and pretend that I think it is okay just to please them. As a Muslim, I CANNOT say it is okay… and forcing me to say things I couldn’t say as a Muslim does not reconcile with your concept of freedom of speech, does it? My worldview will always clash with yours but it doesn’t mean I am pushing my worldview on you…. because then, I can also say that you too are pushing your worldview on me. See? Truth is not objective because none of us can agree on one similar worldview. In this world, where no one can agree on what is the truth… what is right becomes debatable to the public.

The Atheist: Yes, we cannot agree on what is the truth. I will continue to say what I say. And you religious zealots will continue to say what you say.

The Believer: And each of us will continue to propagate what we believe as right. Each of us will try to gain followers for our cause, influence public opinion, lobby our MPs to change laws in the parliament! In this world, the truth is acknowledged by the law because everyone in that particular place will have to follow the law. And the law in Malaysia says that homosexuality is wrong, period. In fact homosexuality was wrong even in the West not so many decades ago! Because in this world…  we can never agree on what is the truth. We can’t even agree if there is a God. And even among those who agree that God exist… they couldn’t agree on which is the right religion… and among those who can agree which one is the right religion, they could not agree on which mazhab/sect within that religion is the correct one. But if you change the law, you can change the truth as it is perceived in  this world.

The Atheist: I guess, the word ‘truth’ becomes a study in grey. Nuanced. Uncertain.

The Believer : That’s why various groups from different ideologies will continue to push their opinions on others… will continue to try to influence public opinion and public policy. People go to war to champion their ideologies until now! In this world… what is the truth is best determined by policies and laws. If your country approves LGBT and creates pro-LGBT policy… that is the truth of what is accepted in your country. But in Muslim-majority countries, we have a different truth. Likewise, I cannot go to the Western countries demanding my idea of the truth to be upheld there until I can change the law there. Just like you cannot demand your idea of the truth to be upheld in Muslim-majority countries until you can change the law here. Our truths are reflected by the law. You change the law, you change the truth. That is kind of sad for the truth but that is how it is. In the West, LGBT is winning and the laws are gradually changing in their favour. Isn’t it funny how what used to be wrong is now right? Isn’t it sad how subjective truth can be in the hands of human beings who are always at the mercy of their conflict of interests? Over time, I wonder if consensual incest can be made right too as long as they, ehem, “don’t harm others”.

That Atheist: So we are engaged in an ideological war? Where truth is subjective and whoever can influence the public opinion more and whoever can cause the law to change in their favour will win?

The Believer: Exactly! It’s been like that since time immemorial. Didn’t you notice? May the best propagator win! To you is your belief. To me is mine. And we will see which one of us can influence the society more. And which one of us can cause the law to swing in our favour.

***

“Doing the right things start with knowing the right things.” In what way does responsible action depend on sound critical thinking?

That was my Theory of Knowledge essay question that I had to answer as an IB student back in 2005. I got an A in that essay, Alhamdulillah. And since then, I do believe that Pendidikan Islam must be taught this way. Ask the students to write an essay, UTILIZING and APPLYING their knowledge.

I have spoken about this before, how very unsatisfied I was when ustazah and ustaz gave me half-baked answers and an incomplete picture of a story. “What do you mean Al-Quran is a miracle? What do you mean gaya Bahasa Al-Quran tak ada siapa boleh tanding? Ada judge ke yang come up with who is the winner? Ada pertandingan gaya bahasa ke zaman Nabi dulu? Give me examples of the Quranic verses that are so miraculous that the Arab poets were stunned speechless? Who were the poets involved? I am thirsty for details! Give me some details!” Don’t simply give me simple one liners in answering things like this! Because my default mode would be to question and question and question… until I am satisfied. And I am glad I did that… because now that I have found the answer, I am a confident Muslim and I know that Islam is the truth. But there are SO MANY people… even dah adults…. who STILL had no idea how to answer basic questions of creed like this! Tapi ada hati nak jadi ustazah/ustaz ajar impressionable kids and the gullible public! We have people with questionable intellect and dubious honour being a loud self-proclaimed spokesperson for our religion (And they are products of reality TV competition with titles like  Da’i and  Pencetus Ummah. Gosh!)  #18/19Aura anyone?

Why can’t we have more Malay Muslims like Dr. MAZA or Dr. Rozaimi to make up the majority of our religious leaders? Why do I have to turn to International speakers or revert Muslims in order to gain more knowledge about Islam? Why do we make reality TV personalities famous when they usually smear the beauty of our religion? There will be no market for mindless poor-quality entertainment if the majority of Muslims in this country are serious-minded and demand more thought-provoking TV programs.

As Muslims, we should really work on our critical thinking. We should really hone our ability for clarity of thoughts. We should practice how to vocalize our point of view so that truth would resonate from every single syllable of our words. Because as we all probably realize now… truth can be buried under false propaganda when the said false propaganda has the ability to gain more public favour. So it is our responsibility to be a competent propagator. Because at the the end of the day, the best propagator wins. Remember?

kebatilan terancang

***

This is the fact that most men are ethnocentric. They believe there is only one true morality and it is their own. It makes it difficult for people to know what is right and what is wrong.

But if you CARE enough….if you REALLY want to know the truth, you would have found it. Eventually.

6 or 9

Take the picture above as an example. People love to reference this situational picture to show others of how every perspective, every point of view can be right or wrong depending on which angle you see things. As though there is no absolute truth in anything in this world.

Well, I beg to differ.

In real life situation, depending on criteria and the weightage of the criteria, you can always come up with what decision is more right to be done.  For example, there are ways we can know whether the number should be 9 or 6. I would resolve the situation by hearing the arguments on each side of the party…. why he says it is 6, and why the other party says it is 9.  Perhaps, a few metres down the road, there was another number carved on the road as 7… and therefore it makes sense that this one should be 6. Find out la! Jangan malas! Hear all arguments…. Hear everything. If things are still blurry, I would find out who wrote that number 6/9 and I would search for that person, call him up and ask him myself, “What did you mean to write, actually? 6 or 9? Why did you write that number in the first place? Was there a purpose to the writing of the number?”

The thing is, when something is important enough to me, I want to know everything there is to know about the answer to that particular question! I want to be convinced.  I am not easily satisfied by people’s laziness in answering “Bergantung kepada situasi. Bergantung kepada factor-faktor tertentu.” Aduh! You should elaborate and tell me “Bergantung kepada situasi yang macam mana? Faktor yang macam mana? In what way would things change if the situation or the factors change?” Don’t give me half-assed answers that satisfies no one. At least have the honesty to admit that you don’t know and you too would love to explore further. Admit your ignorance and vow to find out the truth and clarify the matter.

There are ALWAYS ways we can find out the truth! Either you want to go through that effort or not… is up to you. So in trivial things like the picture above (6 or 9), I might not go to the trouble of finding the person who wrote the number because it just wasn’t important enough to me. Effort should be proportionate to the significance of the expected outcome. Our time in this world is limited. Choose where we put our effort accordingly.

But in finding out about whether or not you are following the right way of life, in finding out whether or not your worldview is right (your religion/ your life philosophy/ your political ideology) I believe you have to go ALL OUT and search for the truth until you find it! It is worth finding. If you can invest so many years of your life to become a doctor, why can’t you spend some time just reading on philosophy, World Religions, comparative religions, watching philosophical and religious lectures on You Tube. This is only a very small effort on our part. It amazes me that people can be satisfied when things don’t click! It amazes me that people are not bothered by contradictory facts that don’t connect. It amazes me that people can live with cognitive dissonance and continue to believe things that they doubt deep inside. And they can brush off their worries and concerns that they might be wrong… just because they have been brought up with an unconscious internal bias.

Examine your mind properly… how did you come up with that opinion? Is there an objective truth to it? Or does it ‘seem’ to be the truth because it is the law of the country or the sentiments of the majority of the people in your circle?

I hope my readers will do one thing in their life whenever they are confronted with a new information, a new thought, a novel ideology. Always question and verify that information! Ask them… how did you know that information? How did you come up with that opinion? Do you have a reference? Do you have a book I can read on that topic myself? Is there another possible explanation? (Even in learning worldly matters like psychiatry… I am like that. For example, don’t be offended if I question some stuff in Psychoanalysis. To question is to learn. Be worried if your students don’t question everything you said. How interested are they in learning what you have taught them if they don’t have ANY question and ANY doubt at all?)

Al-Hasan al-Basri said: “The believer reserves judgment until the matter is proven.”

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Book Of The Month

Dear readers,

I have decided to end all my future blog posts with books that I had read in the previous month. I have been reading 2-4 books per month since I started working as a doctor (previously when I was a student, I was able to read 2 books per week. Those were the good old days when I still had the energy and the luxury of time to indulge in my hobby). But I rarely shared with my readers about my thoughts of the books I had read. I think this should change. Reading is a large and important part of my life and by sharing my thoughts on books that I read, I hope to inspire you guys to read them as well. It would be a shame not to tell you guys about books that you might possibly enjoy reading too.

So from now on I would end all my blog post with the section of Book of The Month. And if you are not fond of reading, you can simply skip this section in my future blog post.

 

 

So in November, I had read Animal Farm by George Orwell and The Silence of The Lambs by Thomas Harris. You guys are probably familiar with the film version of The Silence of The Lambs, featuring Hannibal Lecter as the genius psychopathic psychiatrist. So, I don’t think I should say anything more about the book. It was not a bad book, but it wasn’t exactly awesome.

But I am more impressed with Animal Farm.

I recommend Animal Farm to all my readers because it is a very thought-provoking satire on politics and society. The plot is a thinly-disguised political criticism of Russia’s Bolshevik revolution. To those who don’t know about The Russian Revolution, Vladimir Lenin was the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution who had chased away Tsar Nicholas II, the last Russian Emperor. Vladimir Lenin then passed away and Joseph Stalin took over the leadership of the Revolution. Joseph Stalin had used a lot of unscrupulous methods and various propaganda to eventually betray the ideals of the deceased Vladimir Lenin in The Russian Revolution.

It taught me that people tend to distort truth (in the novel: the truth is dubbed as ‘commandments’) with the passing of the time in order to justify the conflict of interests of the society leaders. Animal Farm is only a thin novella… but it is one of the greatest books in history and arguably Orwell’s finest work. So, if you are interested, do check it out.

1984

 

I also recommend you guys to read 1984, also by George Orwell. But if you are new to political satire, you might have more tolerance and patience to read Animal Farm first before you move on to read 1984. (In my case, I read 1984 first… and became interested with George Orwell afterwards. And only recently did I have the opportunity to read Animal Farm.)

If you guys have any book recommendation for me, do let me know. I always appreciate people recommending me a good book to read. After all, I was told that “seeing someone reading a book that you love is like seeing a book recommending a person,” I think that this is quite accurate. I can make an educated guess of what sort of person you are just by knowing what is your favourite book.

book recommend

 

Until next time, my dear readers. Much love and may Allah bless all of us with knowledge of the truth. And may Allah give us the strength to be steadfast in practicing the truth and speaking the truth that we had painstakingly found. Amin.

The Hong Kong (Mis)Adventure

Assalamualaikum my dear readers,

Alhamdulillah, after passing my CASC exam, I had received a lot of inquiries for tips on how  to pass the CASC exam. And the answer is….

…..I really don’t know. Haha. Really!

Because there were certainly a lot more candidates who were much better than me but did not make it anyway. I have several practice buddies for CASC exam, locally in Alor Setar as well as in other places and let me tell you, sometimes who ended up passing and who didn’t make it surprised me too. Some who I personally know are so good, did not make it. Some who I feel are okay (not excellent, not bad, but average) made it.

This is a real puzzle for me when it comes to CASC. (In paper A and paper B … it is different. If you study, if you know what you know… and if you answer the questions based on what you have studied… chances are you will make it. The outcome largely depends on YOU yourself, and of course, also by the will of Allah).  We have had some candidates who were very good… some of them were so motivated that they took BOTH the master pathway and the parallel MRCPsych pathway. Some of those who made it in the master pathway with no record of failure during their master exams had to sit for CASC 3-4 times before they finally passed. So please don’t think that the MRCPsych exam is easier than the master exam. It isn’t. Likewise, I also don’t think the master exam is easier than the MRCPsych exam. They have different criteria and system in grading their candidates and regardless of which pathway you choose, you must find ways to beat the system in order to pass. It’s like playing two games with different rules. You cannot expect to win in one game by using the strategy employed in another different game. Get it? Even though I made it with CASC, but who knows whether I would pass if I took the master exam instead.  So, kudos to those who took BOTH exams… you guys are really awesome!

You see, I am the sort of person who has a very internal locus of control (and this is not necessarily good, either). I believe that, Insya Allah, your success in life depends on you MOSTLY… with some minor external factors minimally influencing the outcome. But I must admit that when it comes to CASC… my locus of control really shifted. Big time!*LOL*. Because I could not explain how come some outstanding and experienced candidates from other countries who are already a consultant in their own countries could not make it in CASC. It really puzzled me.

And I put it down to rezeki and fate. At the end of the day, it really is!

Just pray HARD for a miracle…. for things to go smoothly for you during the exam. Just pray HARD for a miracle… for you to be struck by an epiphany of wisdom while performing your task in the CASC station. Just pray HARD for a miracle… for the examiner to suddenly perceive you as outstanding, nice, likeable yadda yadda yadda.

My Chinese friend Dr. C was my study and travel buddy for this Hong Kong CASC, and had been a witness to my 5 prayers per day routine while travelling. Like me, she had an attack of post-exam anxiety after we went out of the exam hall (because the exam was a bloodbath of trickeries and ambiguities in how they set the task in each station, I tell you!). So she started to say “I think I will go to Temple while waiting for my CASC result”. *LOL*. And another friend of mine teased her by saying “Oh, only now you remember God, is it?” *LOL* (Muslims pray as an act of worship, 5 times a day. We do not necessarily pray for something specific while worshipping. Even if we had perceived ourselves as sufficient in everything, we would still pray 5 times a day for the purpose of worship. God is to be worshipped…. not only when you need something from Him but especially when you don’t. It shows sincerity when you worship Him anyway even when you are already satisfied with whatever He has given you. But yes, even Muslims would pray much harder and more frequently during exams. I am guilty of that too…Haha. May Allah forgive us for whatever conflict of interests is going on in our mind while worshipping Him. And may Allah guide us to worship Him with better sincerity in the future. Well, just to clear that up.)

This shows how very MUCH the candidates’ locus of control would shift when it comes to CASC. Those who don’t pray would suddenly feel like they should visit the temple, LOL. And those who don’t believe in any deity would suddenly invoke the name of God they don’t really believe in.

And me? I just pray even harder.

25 candidates were successful at the MRCPsych CASC Examination in Hong Kong held in October 2019. A total of 46 candidates sat the examination. So, the overall Pass Rate is 54.3%

All in all, I had passed 14 stations out of 16 stations. The passing mark was set at 63.7%. And Alhamdulillah, I obtained 70.8% in the exam. That is the miracle I was praying so hard for and I am so grateful that Allah had granted it for me. Allah has been Most Beneficient and Most Merciful towards me for granting me this happiness. And trust me, dear CASC candidates out there… just do your best and pray hard! Ask your parents and loved ones to pray for you too. Pray for each other. And Insya Allah, you will make it. (And just some tips… it is better to do your CASC in the UK straightaway. Invest a bit more money and just get it done once.)

Screenshot 2019-11-22 07.17.19
Alhamdulillah… it is official!
Screenshot 2019-11-22 07.18.09
The morning CASC stations results
Screenshot 2019-11-22 07.18.24
The PM CASC station results

 

But let me tell you, my dear readers, there were a lot of misadventures that I had to go through before Allah gifted me with this happiness. As my sisters would know, I had created a hashtag #RanjauSepanjangJalan to describe my Hong Kong CASC Journey. Haha (So, if you think you are going through a hard time now, the harshest of storm precedes the appearance of the clearest sky. Have faith… your turn for happiness will come, my fellow comrades. It is just a matter of time. Believe it… and PRAY HARD!)

Want to know why #RanjauSepanjangJalan was chosen as my hashtag in describing my CASC journey in Hong Kong? Hahaha. It is a quite funny story, but it is not at all informative or illuminating in any way. So you guys can skip reading the contents below and do something more productive with your time (seriously… be more productive). I am just writing them as a personal record for myself, and if it benefits you, well and good. And if it doesn’t, well, you have been warned.

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#RanjauSepanjangJalan: The Novel

My dear readers, are you familiar with Shahnon Ahmad’s literary work entitled Ranjang Sepanjang Jalan? Shahnon Ahmad was a Sasterawan Negara, as you guys probably know. (He was also famous as the writer of SHIT, around the era of Malaysian political turmoil in 1998.) When I was doing my IB studies, I had to do a literary analysis of Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan as part of my IB syllabus.

It was the most boring (but thought provoking) ordeal I had  to do as an IB student. Sorry Mr. Shahnon Ahmad…. I didn’t really enjoy reading your book at that time. I have always been an optimistic person and this book did not celebrate my values of ‘hard work begets success’. So, I positively hated it! I am the ‘happy-ending’ kind of person. I personally feel, it is not an ending unless it is a happy ending (sure you can die in real life… but you still have the hereafter to look forward to where great things can happen and you get to enter paradise. Yes bad things like divorce can happen…. but it is not yet an ending. You can go on with your life and attain more success with or without your spouse! Nothing bad in your life is an ending! You decide, with  the help of Allah, to make the most out of  your life). In my books, good MUST prevail. It MUST! And I am quite rigid and autistic about it, LOL. Hard work must be rewarded! Struggle must end with success. Those are my values and I would NOT read any fiction that does NOT celebrate my values.

Unless it is an academic reading. And so, I had to do it. *LOL*

SYNOPSIS (my version)

Till the end of the book, the family of Lahuma and Jeha with their seven kids were filled with one trial after another. They were a family of paddy planters during the 1960s, which was around the time when the Malaysian government encouraged farmers to make use of modern farming techniques. But Lahuma and his family were persistent in using the traditional method of farming even though they hardly made ends meet. Lahuma passed away in the middle of the book from busung (can you believe it? Busung is like ascites, right? I could not remember Shahnon Ahmad describing the cause of the busung), leaving Jeha as the sole breadwinner to the seven kids. Jeha had some sort of mental disorder  (not properly described and thus, I could not come up with a diagnosis. Most likely, Schizophrenia) due to the stress of the trials that she had to go through after Lahuma passed away. There was one time when Jeha was traumatized by an encounter she had with a SNAKE ‘ular tedung selar’ at the paddy field (the snake is the decisive factor of why I choose my hashtag, LOL).  Jeha was even committed to Tanjung Rambutan at one point. It was so depressing and there was no happy ending!

Have I said that I hated it? So, I am saying it again. I hated it! Hahah

But Alhamdulillah, my version of #RanjauSepanjangJalan had a happy ending. Haha.

***

#RanjauSepanjangJalan: My MRCPsych Casc Hong Kong Story

Let me enumerate all my ordeals in a chronological order (because INTJs LOVE logical order):

Ranjau No 1: The Hong Kong riot

My two friends and I had already planned to take our CASC exam in Hong Kong in October even though we knew that there would also be one CASC exam in  the UK in September. The reason was financial in nature. I could not afford to go to the UK for my exam with the savings that I had at that time.

So I decided to do my CASC exam in Hong Kong. Even though I knew that there was a political turmoil going on in Hong Kong at that time (between the Hong Kong freedom fighters and the Hong Kong government who is subservient to the China mainland leadership; and it is still ongoing until now), I was hoping that the political upheaval would settle down by the time I would be going for the exam (yup, sometimes I am too unrealistically optimistic and it can be a bad thing. Haha).

Sadly, I was mistaken.

So some had advised me to cancel my plans to go to Hong Kong. But I had already paid for everything! So, I just decided to trust fate and go for it. In my mind, I was like “I can die anywhere. No one can escape death, right? You can die while you are in bed because your time on earth is up! So just go and hope for the best.” 

Some had suggested that I should just ask my parents for money to go to the UK. But I have never been the sort to do that. I was not brought up freely asking parents for money for non-necessities (and exam is not a necessity! I grew up during an economic downturn in 1997/1998 and I knew the value of money. I didn’t simply ask my parents for money as a child and I won’t do it as an adult). I used my own savings for all my exams… and if my parents wanted to sponsor anything, they freely offered it to me without me ever asking. I am an adult and I do not want to rely on their money. I made it a point to only spend on what I could afford myself (because I tak suka berhutang… even for credit cards)… but if they want to give me some money as a show of support for me, I will take it. But I don’t want to need it. It is a matter of pride and principle for me that even without their money, I could still take the exam with whatever I could afford myself. If I couldn’t afford something myself, I should simply adjust my needs and wishes according to priority.

I knew I could afford Hong Kong. And I knew I could not afford UK. It was a pretty straightforward decision, in my mind. My parents did offer to sponsor my flight ticket and hotel rooms … but by that time I had already paid for everything. Their money came as an extra I could replenish my bank account with. (Thank you, Mamita. You are awesome!)

So decisions had been made… and every day, my two study buddies and myself followed the news in Hong Kong, hoping things would settle down. But the situation persists until now.

Below is the picture of the Hong Kong police on standby in the MRT, preparing to deal with the riots. So yup, the Hong Kong riot was my first #Ranjau.

My Macbook screen cracked 

Just one month before my exam, my Macbook screen was somehow cracked and I could no longer use my Macbook to study. Unfortunately, all my notes and CASC videos were in my Macbook.

It was so stressful.

I checked the Swift store for the price of repairing or replacing the Macbook screen. I was heartbroken to find out that the cost was RM2100. That is almost the cost of a new Macbook.

At that time, I had just spent a large amount of money paying for my CASC exam, my flight tickets, and my hotel room and I had put aside some money for my expenses in Hong Kong. I could not justify spending more money that I didn’t have to repair my Macbook. There was an option of using my credit card… but like I said, I don’t like to do it. I am uncomfortable with unnecessary debts. I felt like perhaps, I could still study even without my laptop.

So I downloaded all the CASC videos into my mobile device (google drive app) and I just printed out my SPMM notes so that I could study without my laptop. The most amazing thing happened, my dear readers. I could focus better without my laptop to distract me. With my laptop, I tend to use more You Tube/ Netflix and social media. My brain no longer associated the usage of laptop for pure studying. Instead one can argue that laptop is now used more for entertainment than studying per se. Haha.

So without my laptop, I got more things done, Alhamdulillah. Sometimes Allah’s help comes in the form of calamity and we are without wisdom to know the reason behind what has happened. So trust Allah and do your best. Plan with what you have. It will never be ideal. If you can afford it, go ahead and buy a good laptop to help you study. But if you can’t, make the best of what you have. No one can say for sure that you would not succeed just because you lack certain material comforts. Just do your best with what you already have and pray that it would be enough. Remember that when things are difficult, it is not an ending unless it is a happy ending, ok?

URTI at the start of my study leave

You know, I am very bad at being sick. I would be so lethargic and would only stay in bed during weekends. When I go to work while having URTI, my friends can actually notice that I seem lethargic, irritable and less animated than usual. Even though it is just URTI! (other people handle URTI with much better poise and grace, I must admit. Well, not me. But I would still go to work because I could not justify getting MCs for URTI. However, at work, my suffering shows on my face. LOL).

You see, I am allergic to Paracetamol and NSAIDs. I don’t take any meds when I am sick or in pain. I could take Tramal, I suppose… but Tramal makes me dizzy and groggy.

But the good thing is, Alhamdulillah, I rarely got sick. But when I do, it hits me harder because I could not take anything for it.

Of all the time to get sick, I got sick just when I was starting my study leave. And it lasted a few days during which time I was quite unproductive with my study. That was a few days of my study leave wasted, my dear readers.

So many stressful ranjau, huh?

Interrupted study time during study leave

Those who knew me knew that I am a social hermit during exam times. I simply can stay in my house for an extended period of time without meeting anyone when I am studying. And I have no problems doing that because I am an introvert. I feel okay doing things alone and being alone. In fact, I am at my best when I am in peace, away from outside noise and disturbance. My hobbies are mostly solitary; reading, writing, blogging… even hiking, I can do it alone!

But CASC is not the sort of exam that you can study alone, I am sure fellow candidates know that. And this is a struggle for me. For the CASC practice during my study leave, I had to take a shower, dress up and wear tudung and all… and then go out and drove to the clinic to our study room to practice with my study buddies… those activities took precious time AWAY from my studying and memorizing tasks! While I was doing Paper A and Paper B, I could cover a lot of topics because I didn’t have to take a shower until I was about to perform my Zohor prayer….I could study continuously without pause from the time I woke up until around Zohor time. There was no need for me to get out of my house at all because I didn’t get involved in any study group for Paper A and Paper B. And to me, I studied better that way. I don’t like interruptions in my task once I have gained the right momentum and have zoned out into the task. But with CASC prep, just when I was getting into the task, suddenly I had to stop my studying and prepare to go out for study group meeting. There were many frequent pauses instead of continuous studying. I don’t like that kind of pauses and disturbances.

So in a lot of ways, CASC was a challenge for me because there was a huge deviation in my study patterns.

Also, around this time, my parents went for umrah and left our cats outside their home in the cage. They had hired someone to come every day to feed the cats so that I wouldn’t have to go out of my house and drive to their house just to feed the cats. Unfortunately, due to frequent storms in Alor Setar (and thus causing electrical power outage), the automatic gate in their house got stuck a few times during my study leave, and I had to go settle the matter so that the lady my mother hired to feed the cats could enter the house and feed the cats. But when you think about it, I might as well feed the cats myself since I had to go out anyway to let the lady in. Adeh! Really… this was also an interruption for me.

These are the kind of  things that don’t bother most people. I know that. But it bothered me because I was not used to studying with this kind of frequent interruptions. I am the sort of person who plans my activities and I always have things to do. Unforeseen interruptions are mostly unwelcome to me. (Even when I am free, I have fictions to read. So I don’t actually have free time because whenever I have free time, my default mode would be to automatically pick up a book. That’s how I rest. Or I will sleep. Sleeping is also an activity…the purpose of which is to gain good rest for your next activity. So really… what free time do I have? None! So be honoured if I spend my time with you. If your plan is sudden but I accommodate you anyway, it must mean that you are important enough to me to the point that I am willing to alter my plans for you… otherwise, I wouldn’t have done it! LOL. I am the sort of person who is not comfortable with people saying “Let’s see how it turns out”, to explore what happens next. Adoi! I am more comfortable with “Let’s plan how this is going to happen” Hahha.)

But deep inside my heart, I wonder if this is probably Allah’s way of teaching me to be more flexible, to be more comfortable with sudden interruptions and to be less bothered by unforeseen circumstances. I mean, I have to grow as a person. And flexibility is my area of deficit and weakness. And maybe this is something I need to grow to be good at. (Well, that was what I told myself as I was dealing with those interruptions. It was actually a form of self-consolation LOL) All these while, my family and friends accommodated my needs for certain orders and I have no reason to change and be more flexible. To me… being on time is good. Having a plan is good. Why should I change? Convince me that your method of “no plan, no specific time, and let’s see” is better than my method. LOL.

So I have never had to be flexible. Because people adjust to me (and in their opinion, they were compromising. To me, they were not compromising… they were just doing the right thing. They were not following me per se; they were just following the right way and the efficient way of doing things. If they could come up with a more efficient and timely way of doing things, I would follow them too. Nowadays, I can be flexible with change of plans. But I am still very particular about time! I don’t think I will ever change in that!)

So it takes these kind of unforeseen interruptions to make me be more flexible. I could not blame anyone for electrical outage following a storm… so I simply had to adjust, right? Storms are natural occurrences. They happen through nobody’s fault. There is no specific time for storms to happen too. Haha! And if I am going to learn to be more flexible, I can only learn when something like this happens! Things that are beyond my control and NOT caused by someone’s lack of punctuality or someone’s lack of efficiency. Otherwise, I would never change. And Allah knows that. So He taught me how to be flexible in this way.

Well, as it turns out, I was going to need the lesson when I arrived in Hong Kong.

Luggage Lost In Hong Kong Airport

Okay, in general, I don’t trust Air Asia airlines. I have always been loyal to MAS. But my Chinese travel buddies (who were also my tour guide in navigating the Hong Kong MRT from the airport to our hotel at BlueJay Residences) preferred to book the Air Asia flight because it was cheaper. So I followed their plan (because I needed them since I could not speak Mandarin or Kantonese) and we booked the Air Asia flight from KLIA2 to Hong Kong.

But because I didn’t trust Air Asia, I decided to place all my exam stuff (the exam documents, some of my exam notes, my exam outfit, my exam shoes and some miniature toiletries) into my hand luggage so that if my checked-in baggage somehow got lost, I would still have the most important stuff with me.

See? It’s not so bad being a rigid planner, right? Part of being a rigid planner is anticipating bad things that might happen and make contingency plans for it.

Because my dear readers…yes, my baggage did not arrive with me in Hong Kong. Adeh! Even though I had most of my important stuff with me, but I also STILL needed some of the stuff in my baggage. I didn’t have any other change of clothes other than my exam clothes. My contact-lens solution was also inside my checked-in baggage. The books that  I had planned to read in the next two days before the exam were also in the baggage (even though I did have the more important notes with me in my hand luggage. Still, it was a bother!)  I also had my Brahim’s pre-cooked food inside my baggage… so, my source of halal sustenance for the next 5 days was lost to me. I remember thinking, “I am going to have to shop for bread… and hopefully they have IndoMie here. Takkan nak makan roti sampai 5 hari!”

And to make matters worse, I had only very limited funds with me because I did not expect to have to pay for anything other than taxi fares. And Hong Kong is an expensive city.  In a lot of ways, I was really unprepared to deal with a lost baggage.

Below is a video of me walking around town searching for cheap clothes, only half an hour after I had reached the hotel. I was tired after the journey from Malaysia to Hong Kong…. I had wanted to rest and then get some study done at night. But instead, I spent most of the afternoon walking around town to replenish some of my supplies and then I slept that night without studying because I was so exhausted.

Thinking back, sleeping without studying when the exam was so near was a HUGE change of plans, for me. It was something I would never have done in the past. But I guess, I was finally able to be flexible about the whole thing. *A proud moment for me. LOL* Or maybe, I was just too tired to stick to my plan and thus to make myself feel better, I simply chalked it up to me being flexible. Haha.

 

Luckily, later at midnight, I received an email from Hong Kong airport service that they had been successful in tracing my baggage and I could pick it up the next morning. Dr. C was so nice when she offered to go back with me to the airport to pick up the luggage with me.  She was worried that I would get lost if I went out by myself. Again, we had actually planned to study the next morning…. but we had to pick up my baggage at the airport instead. Again… I dealt with the change of plans with as much poise and grace as I could. LOL. Throughout the journey to and from the airport, Dr. C and I practiced our CASC stations on the train. For someone who hate practicing or studying in a noisy environment, I have to say that I did quite well adjusting to it. *Proud Of Myself*

It’s good to know that at the end of the day…. I could still go back to my survival principle of “You have to do what you have to do. If you have to adapt, then you have to adapt and do it!” Alhamdulillah, Thank You Allah for letting me adjust to the whole drama of lost baggage with manageable level of stress. I don’t think I could have handled it well if I hadn’t had the practice during my study leave, courtesy of the storms. LOL.

Below is the video of me using a hair dryer to dry my clothes after washing it…because I really did not have any more change of clothes.

 

The whole experience taught me that indeed, I could live with less. We can always make do and we can find ways to deal with having less. In that short time when I was without most of my stuff, I realized that I could still survive with whatever I had in my hand luggage. I just had to be frugal enough in my spending, and only spend on cheap food for the next few days (I did find bread and IndoMie for dinner) and I just had to be diligent enough to wash my clothes frequently and use  the hairdryer. There was one point when I came to the conclusion that, “Yup, even if the airport service never found my luggage, I will adjust to this just fine. I just had  to put in more effort, that’s all. But I can do this.” (I was surprised that I could think this way. Previously, it would take much longer for me to snap out of any disappointment and to feel okay about an undesirable situation, given my ruminating tendencies. Haha)

Not one hour after reaching that conclusion, I received an e-mail from the airport service that they had been successful in tracing my luggage. Alhamdulillah. Perhaps – I’d like to believe – that Allah wanted to teach me a lesson about dealing with delays and interrupted plans in a calm manner. Perhaps He wanted me to learn how to make the best out of botched plans and still be okay about it. And having learned the lesson by coming to the conclusion that adjusting is not that hard, He returned my stuff back for me as a reward.

Alhamdulillah.

And here comes the snake to complete my #RanjauSepanjangJalan

On the day I arrived in Hong Kong, my brother-in-law went to my parents’ house to feed the cats because again, the automatic gate did not function and thus, the lady my mother hired to feed the cats could not enter the house. Before going to Hong Kong, I had passed over the job of dealing with the gate and feeding the cat to my brother-in-law (Alida’s husband).

While dealing with my luggage being lost at the airport, suddenly I received a Whatsapp message from my younger sister, Alida, telling me that her husband had found a snake on top of the cats’ cage. Oh my God.. I had just arrived in Hong Kong with a lost luggage, and now there was a snake posing a danger to the well-being of my beloved cats!

Could the day go any worse? I wondered to myself with a heavy chest.

Luckily, the snake did not yet had the opportunity to bite my two cats. Kuja and Ku-Ni removed themselves from their customary position at the top of the cage and stayed at the lower level of the cage. I have another cat named Ku-Shan but she was in another cage and was not in any immediate danger like Kuja and Ku-Ni were.

When I saw the picture of the snake lying on top of my cats’ cage, I felt my stomach drop. The snake was not exactly as big as a python but it was not small either! And I didn’t know what type of snake it was and whether or not it was a dangerous kind.

IMG-20191016-WA0010-1.jpg

I just told Alida to call abang Bomba because I really didn’t think it was safe for my borther-in-law to deal with the snake himself. At that time I was thinking…. wow… my CASC journey this time was filled with such tribulations from the very beginning, culminating in the appearance of a snake threatening my beloved cats. I had double whammy of worries to deal with simultaneously… lost baggage in a foreign country, limited amount of money to deal with the difficulties and the fear for the safety of my beloved cats. What else could go wrong? Hopefully, my exam will be something that goes right, I remember wishing. Please God, let this be the last #Ranjau, I had prayed hard. (But no, my dear readers.  It turned out that the tough exam was my last #Ranjau. Haha! Adeh.)

While telling my sisters in our siblings Whatsapp Group about my bad day, I joked with them that what I had been going through for the past few weeks reminded me of the novel Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan by Shahnon Ahmad. “In fact, there was even a plot involving a snake in that story,” I told them. They all concurred wholeheartedly.

And it was thus that the hashtag #RanjauSepanjangJalan was born in describing my CASC trials and tribulations.

 

***

After the exam, my friends and I were left dazed by the level of difficulties that we had encountered in the exam. We felt like some Asian actors in the CASC stations were not helpful and were withholding information despite us having asked plenty of open ended questions. We wondered whether their level of English was not sufficient to be able to provide us with a good answer when we asked for it during the exam. We noticed that the Caucasian actors were more helpful and forthcoming in giving information when we asked an open ended question. (Some of the candidates, including myself, had written a complaint about it to the college. We felt like the college should know about this so that it won’t happen again in the future. I will, Insya Allah, write about this in my next post. So stay tuned, yeah?).

We were quite worried about how our results would be. But what is done is done. It was time to hope for the best.

IMG-20191020-WA0004.jpg
Our worried face, after the exam

Right after the exam, we went sight-seeing at Aberdeen… not like there was anything much to see. It was just a fishing village, really. So, we simply went for a short boat ride, had our dinner and then went back to the hotel.

 

 

The next day, I went to Ocean Park which is a popular theme park in Hong Kong to reward myself after the crazy exam and to have a reason to shout on top of my lungs while riding the roller coaster. We wanted to go to Disneyland initially, but then we found out that there was probably going to be a riot there. So we had to cancel the plan. It was so sad because really, I have never been to Disneyland before. And I was so looking forward to it.

But again… I was getting better with change of plans these days. Hahah. So we improvised on the plan and went to the Ocean Park instead, which was also an enjoyable outing, Alhamdulillah.

 

I enjoyed the 20 minutes cable car ride.

 

I also enjoyed watching various species of sharks in the shark aquarium. I had never seen a shark before… so I told myself that this outing was also educational. Haha.

 

This one below was an insane ride. They turned us over 360 degrees up the sky. It was crazy fun! Greater thrill than the roller coaster! (By this time, you will probably know that I am a thrill junkie. Hahha. Which is quite weird considering that I am an introvert. But when I do decide to have fun, I REALLY do it! I just feel like, if I am not going to pass this exam, at least, I have had some fun out of my Hong Kong trip. LOL. Otherwise, it would truly be wasted money.)

 

I am glad that after all the misadventures and the #RanjauSepanjangJalan I had had, Allah gave me the happy ending that Shahnon Ahmad did not create for Lahuma and Jeha. Haha.

And for that, Your slave is forever grateful, Ya Rabb.

And to those who did not make it in CASC this time, Allah will give you your own happy ending one fine day. You will do well, next time. Keep practicing and pray hard for the best outcome. Do not give up. It is just a matter of time and you too will make it in the end, Insya Allah.

There will be times when you feel like nothing will go right and everything is always going wrong in your life. Hang on… pause for a minute. Exam is not everything, at the end of the day. It is great when you pass any exam. But not passing it is not the end of the world. There are OTHER aspects of your life that are equally important. And Allah certainly had taught me about that when I failed my first CASC attempt just a few months prior. So I do know what I am talking about. Some lessons must be learned the hard way… and it will make you a much better person, Insya Allah.

I do receive a lot of personal messages through Facebook asking me about MRCPsych and CASC. There were some personal messages from Master students too (not just in Psychiatry but in other fields as well). Some asked me practical questions about the exam which I always tried to reply when I had  time… but I did not always have the ability to reply to everyone. And I am sorry about that.

Some contacted me to ventilate about their difficulties and trials while pursuing their post-graduate studies and I myself could not help much because I did not know some of them who had contacted me through Facebook. I could not tailor my advice accordingly when I don’t know you. In psychiatry, there is no place for generic advice when dealing with contextual problems. And I regret that I really could not help much. Please seek professional help if you feel like you need support to go through your difficulties in life. I could not help you through Facebook, as much as I wanted to.

But know that whatever difficulties you had in your life, it will pass. You will learn a great life lessons out of it! It serves a purpose. Nothing that Allah does is random. Believe it!

So to those who are feeling hopeless while facing their difficulties, I created this post for you. I might not be able to respond to all of you personally, but I hope you can get some hope and motivation out of what I had written. I wish you would know that I had had my difficulties too and in the end, I made it by the grace of Allah.

I repeat, it is not an ending unless it is a happy ending. So, bersangka baiklah with your Lord. And you will get what you expect from your Lord. I am not saying these things out of my own mind… but this is Allah’s words in hadis Qudsi.

Aku mengikut sangkaan hambaKu kepada Ku, Aku bersamanya (memberi rahmat dan membelanya) apabila dia mengingati Ku. Jika mereka megingati Ku dalam dirinya nescaya Aku menyebutnya dalam diri Ku. Apabila mereka menyebut nama Ku dalam kumpulan nescaya Aku menyebutnya dalam kumpulan yang lebih baik daripada mereka. Jika mereka menghampiri Ku sejengkal, Aku mendekati mereka sehasta. Jika mereka menghampiri Ku sehasta Aku mendekati mereka sedepa dan apabila mereka datang kepada KU dalam keadaan berjalan, Aku datang kepada mereka berlari’

(Hadith Bukhairi & Muslim)

Until next time, my dear readers. Much love and may Allah bless all of us.

Remembering The Grace Of Allah

I know. I know.

I know… that it has been more than 2 months since I last wrote in this humble blog of mine. For the countless times, I had broken my promise to write consistently, at least once per month. But, my dear readers… trust me…. I have some really good reasons for not blogging once per month as I had promised.

Reason No 1: My Macbook screen was cracked and broken a few days after I posted my last blog post in August. And I took my sweet time repairing my Macbook screen because the repair cost was too expensive for me, especially since I had just spent a lot of money to pay for my CASC exam. I just couldn’t afford to repair my Macbook screen just yet. (Very good reason, no?)

Reason No 2: Exam! (Enough said. LOL)

My CASC exam was held on the 18th of October 2019 in Hong Kong. I am not exaggerating when I say it was the hardest exam of my life. At the end of the exam I felt like crying bloody tears. There were 16 CASC stations altogether and we were allocated 7 minutes to perform the task in any particular station. My problem with CASC was that I always felt like I didn’t have enough time to perform the task to my heart satisfaction. So, there would be times when I covered enough depth… but not the range that was required to pass the task. That was what happened during my first CASC attempt. My study partners were always telling me “You tak payah tanya dah yang lain-lain tu. Cukup criteria for diagnosis, move on. Tak payah tanya everything. Banyak lagi nak tanya….past psychiatric history, family history, risk assessment, coping, drug and alcohol. Kalau tanya detail sangat, yang lain-lain tak sempat. ”

Okay, but that is my problem. I whiningly told my friends “Susahlah. Aku rasa tak puas kalau aku tak tanya bagi habis semua symptoms for that diagnosis even if symptoms yang aku dah dapat tu dah cukup untuk diagnose. Tapi mungkin dia ada more symptoms yang aku tak cover lagi, right?” I would still feel like I might have missed something. That was the OCPD part of me that was ugh!! really troublesome for me. I just didn’t have enough time to cover the task for each station to my heart satisfaction.

There was a time when I had to give myself a serious pep talk. “Afiza, this is not about your heart satisfaction. This is about the examiner’s satisfaction! Please get this into your head! Just because you have covered the depth that is required to make the diagnosis, you still wouldn’t pass if you didn’t cover the range of the marking scheme. Range and depth! Not depth alone! 7 minutes is all you have and you cannot be too detailed on just one thing. Prioritize! Come on!”

CASC is so different compared to Part A and Part B. In Part A and Part B, I could still indulge my OCPD-ness to a certain extent. For example, for each question in Part A and Part B… even if I already knew that the answer was E, in my head I would still go through my own method of reasoning regarding why A, B, C and D were not correct. I just had to check and double check each answer even when the correct answer was quite obvious already in the first glance. I did all that because… yup, I have some OCPD traits that just could not be ignored at times. LOL.

But CASC was a whole new ball game. I had to learn to think quickly and to not ruminate. I had to learn to cover just enough in depth and then quickly move on so that I could cover the breadth/range of the task. It took hard, intensive practice for me to overcome and suppress my obsessive tendency but Alhamdulillah… as the exam date was geting near, I was able to overcome the urge to dwell on one thing in too great a depth. But ah… it was hard. I am the ruminating type. When something doesn’t make sense or when a story just doesn’t have enough details to it, well… it bothered me. (Which kind of explains why even as a child, I had a lot of questions about anything that was taught to me especially in learning the religion. The same obsessive ruminating trait that was so bad in exam, was the same trait that allowed me to discover the beauty of having real faith and real conviction in my religion. Because I questioned stuff, I now understand Islam better and it was the best thing that could ever happen to me especially when I was in my early 20s. So yeah… I don’t always regret having this OCPD trait. But I must admit it can be troublesome in certain situations… such as in exams. LOL).

***

There was one time when I was so frustrated while studying for CASC that I felt like giving up. Seriously… CASC is the worst exam for many of us. The financial burden was huge! Some people had to borrow their parents’ money to take CASC exam one more time because they had already run out of all their savings courtesy of previous payments of past CASC attempts.

Some of the candidates were already consultants or specialists in their own countries… but they took this MRCPSYCH & CASC so that they could work in the UK. They were so much more senior than us…. what chance do we have in competing with these people?

There were also times when I felt angry at myself for not passing CASC the first time. Doctors are always hard on themselves when they don’t pass exams, you know. Because the experience of failure is so rare and far in between. Most doctors are top students their whole lives. When they got into medical school, then they realized that there were so many other people who were just as good and clever as them, if not better. Then they would feel overwhelmed by the competition. And if they actually fail, they would feel like the stupidest person on earth. Even though failing your professional exam is quite common, it is still a bitter experience for any doctor to have to undergo.

Alhamdulillah, Allah created me with an ability to self-motivate. I am a very optimistic person, in general. And for that, I thank my parents very much. My father always encouraged repeated efforts in order to gain success. The concept of putting in an effort was very prominent in my upbringing. “Kena usaha! Sampai dapat!”. And until now, I internalize that concept. And it is a very motivating concept. Because my dear readers, Allah sees your effort. And I believe it wholeheartedly and behave accordingly. I don’t believe that my effort guarantees anything. I just believe that effort is required to qualify for God’s help. And I need His help in everything that I do. And therefore I have to make myself qualified for His help. So I put in my effort, hoping it would be enough.

And it is true that it is in the remembrance of Allah that the heart finds rest. It is really difficult to feel bitter about not passing an exam when I know that Allah has blessed me in every other aspect of my life so mercifully… that it would be very stupidly ungrateful of me to indulge in endless self-pity. I was afraid that Allah would punish me for being an ungrateful slave. Very difficult to pity myself after that. LOL.

One of the ways I calm myself is by reading and writing, which is something that I am sure you guys already know about me. I love reading stories and seerah. I also love composing poems of religious themes because I think they are motivating, uplifting, always relevant…. well, Islamic poems are evergreen, no? Because Islam will always be relevant in our daily lives as Muslims.

So I wrote a poem to remind me to be a grateful slave of Allah. To always be mindful that I also have another test to pass. The test of patience and fortitude and the test of NOT despairing of Allah’s mercy. And the outcome of this test would only be revealed in the hereafter which makes it far more important to me than passing CASC would ever be in this world. It doesn’t even begin!! to compare!

So I moulded my thinking accordingly and asked Allah to forgive me. I wrote the poem below around 3 weeks before my CASC exam in order to gather my thoughts properly. It was the most therapeutic thing I had done in a long time. The title of my poem is Remember.

REMEMBER

Once upon a time,
I stretched my arms faithfully upward
Supplicating in silent soulful solitude
Hoping You would deign to look downward
And grant Your slave in prayer stood
All the wishes and dreams of her heart
to fly to heavens, a brand new start.

But the hand of fate was full of pain
Dreams of mine went down the drain
I wondered why my prayers were in vain
When You have the power to grant my gain.

Did I not to You faithfully worship?
That You had so forsaken me
Have I not for You a love so deep?
That You entirely shunned me
Have You withdrawn from me Your favour?
To bleed my heart all over.

But immediately I felt a twinge of shame
What You must think of me, I’d take the blame
As I imagined the response You exclaim
To this ungrateful slave that I became.

Remember Ya Ibadi,
When you prayed to me with outstretched hand
For things you thought I wouldn’t grant
Instead I bestowed you a better one
Gratefulness for Me you displayed scant.

Remember Ya Ibadi,
Sins You committed I’d overlooked
Without you begging My pardon
Still your soul-cleansing I undertook
All that you lost I then returned.

Remember Ya Ibadi,
All the promises to Me that you broke
Hoping it would be of little concern
Still your heart purification I undertook
Your will and resolve I then hardened.

Remember Ya Ibadi,
Good things happened you didn’t ask how
Glorious miracles you asked to allow
They happened without your bargaining vow
How could you forget all my blessings now?

Remember Ya Ibadi,
Did you suppose things happened in coincidence?
Did you not see the purpose in all happenstance?
Should everything go your way in every instance?
What do you suppose your reason of existence?

I remember now, Ya Ilahi,
And fervently I promise to do better
Pardon this slave, in need of Your favour
Forgive my sins past, present and future
Have mercy on my soul now till the hereafter
Only to You I place my worries, my fear
I accept Your decrees, doubts burst asunder
Whatever transpires, to My Lord I surrender.

-Afiza Azmee-
29/09/2019
6.00 pm

***

Dear readers,

Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, has bestowed upon me his blessing once again.

Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah. A wave of happiness and gratitude filled my heart so overwhelmingly that my eyes teared up as I informed my parents the happy news. That I have passed my CASC exam.

I imagine that once upon a time when Allah had created the story of my life in the Luh Mahfuz, He had probably written “Today, Afiza will be filled with happiness for passing her CASC exam.”

Alhamdulillah, Ya Rabb.

 

 

 

 

Playing Verbal Fluency Game With My Nephew (And I Lost)

Salam Ramadhan guys,

I hope it is not too late for me to wish everyone a blessed and productive Ramadhan. Just hang on for a moment while I wipe away and clear out all these dust and cobwebs in my website. 😛 Been awhile since I last clean up around here. Adeh!

Gosh…. it’s been quite some time since I last update my blog. I have been super busy with studying. I always promise myself that I will write in my blog AT LEAST once a month. Just because writing is therapeutic for me. And because I want to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease by exercising my mind in a mental gymnasium of creative written expression. Haha. But obviously, I have failed to write anything in the month of April. So here I am… planning to make it up by promising myself to write 2 entries in the month of May. Hopefully, I won’t break this promise too. (Gosh, I need to step up!)

My exam is next week, peeps!  I have come to the stage of tawakkal already. I have accepted that I will never be able to cover everything and I am gonna forget stuff. I am just human, after all. I accept that we can only try our best and the rest is in Allah’s hands. I will try not to be so neurotic towards the end of my exam preparation, ehem! Just ‘enjoy’ the exam , right? (Yeah, right. Haha. I am not THAT positive, yet. I can NEVER enjoy exams, darn it! ) 

Please pray for me, folks. I need all the prayers and good wishes I can get. And the best part of this is, we are in the blessed month of Ramadhan…so hopefully, all of our prayers will be granted by Allah. I remember how I took my final high school exam (SPM, of course) in the month of Ramadhan too. And Alhamdulillah, me and most of my friends got straight As for it. So, I hope I can repeat the same feat for my final specialist CASC exam in this Ramadhan too. (But I have come to know that the passing rate for CASC exam is only 50%. So, there is only 1 in 2 chance that I can make it. Oh, is there a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel? LOL.)

Well, we have to do what we have to do, don’t we?

But whatever the outcome is, I will accept it, move on and act accordingly. I can always take it another time if I can’t make it this time. That takes the pressure off my shoulder somewhat. (But, ah… if only money grow out of trees, I will be one heck of an avid gardener. LOL. This exam cost me almost RM11,000 in exam fees and preparation course. And that is excluding my flight ticket and accommodation. *sigh*)

Such is life, folks. Not everything is a bed of roses. Even roses have thorns. We take risks, face the consequence, move on and persevere. Well, life is like that. Like riding a bicycle, people say. You can’t keep your balance if you don’t keep moving (well, unless it is an exercise bike… which is stationary anyway. In which case, the purpose of moving is to lose weight rather than to keep your balance. Which reminds me, that I haven’t exercised for awhile now. *sigh*)

And that is why, ready or not, I must take this exam. Keep on moving. Maintain my balance.

 

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While revising my academic materials, I was reminded of how I had played ‘verbal fluency’ game with my nephew one year ago. (To those who don’t know, verbal fluency is one of the cognitive test administered for frontal lobe assessment in the clinic). I laughed in the middle of studying this part of cognitive exam because I remember how I had lost to my 6 year old nephew in this verbal fluency game.

Guys, ageing is real! I lost to my 6 year old nephew that day, you know! God, the horror of it! Of course, to Eshan, I had said, “I only pretend to lose to make you happy,”

Of course, he didn’t believe me. Haha .

So please play this game with your family members as a form of mental exercise to prevent Alzheimer’s, ok! This is one of my favourite games to play with my nephews and nieces (because I am too afraid to play Scrabble or Chess with them… the shame will be too great if they defeat me in those too. Haha. Eshan and Aayra are making me feel my age so acutely. Seriously, guys… not even kidding.)

 

 

In that video, all of us were wearing purple for the wedding of my younger sister. We were all exhausted after entertaining all the guests and the kids were bored, so we decided to play this game while waiting for our Asar prayer. Yup, we left our parents in the ceremony hall to entertain the guests themselves. *walk of shame* #IKNowIamBad 

My parents were pseudo-cool about it…. they didn’t mind me and my siblings’ disappearance act a’la Houdini in the middle of a wedding. LOL. They are so used to it and have become habituated to their children’s lack of social skills. We always avoid socializing more than the absolute necessary amount. Haha. (But they did say, “Nanti korang juga tak kenal saudara-mara. Asyik tak mau sembang dengan orang.” Hahha. But then… I blame my father’s genetic. He is even worse than me when it comes to small talk. My mom is the only one who is good at it in our family.)  I didn’t even know most of the guests anyway. And making small talk with people I don’t know is one of the things that I dread. Not that I have social phobia or anything like that… hahah. I just don’t like crowds and noise too much.

And verbal fluency game is more fun anyway! LOL.

 

Notice how I went blank a couple of times and Eshan just couldn’t wait to count to ten as fast as possible so that he could win. Hahah. He is more competitive than my Kak Long ever was.

In the second video, even Aayra (my 5 year old niece) was helping me. Oh, the shame. (What was wrong with my frontal lobe, guys?!)

I swear, after exam is over, I am going to time myself for 1 minute and practice coming up with as much words as possible so that I can beat them in the next battle. Practice makes perfect, right? Raya is coming soon and they are gonna ‘balik kampung’ to my parents’ house…. so we can have the next battle during Raya. We will call it Aidilfitri Verbal Fluency Contest, si? #AndJustWaitEshan #MakNgahWillMakeAComeback #MakNgahWillDefeatYou 

For the record, I know what bison and walrus are (I know how they look like in the kids dictionary hahha), I just don’t know what they are called in Malay (excuses, excuses LOL) But ah… I have such a smart nephew and niece. I have to step up my game and be careful not to lose to them in the future. Adeh!

One day, I am gonna organize a verbal fluency test in Malay….. Eshan and Aayra will not defeat me in that one. Because my Malay is better than theirs (I hope!)

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I leave you guys with a reminder (especially for myself) to enjoy this Ramadhan and make the best of this month with prayers and excellent good deeds (exams not withstanding). May Allah strengthen our faith and make us among the righteous in the hereafter. Amin.

Until next time. Much love and May Allah bless all of us.

Values For A Balanced And Well-Ordered Life

When I was an IB student in KMB, part of the World Literature component that we had to study was the novel The Great Gastby, authored by an American novelist, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Though at that time as a teenager I was not that enamoured with this magnum opus of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the FIRST TWO SENTENCES of this novel had stayed with me until now.

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. 

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

We had to analyze the novel as a student. And I just kind of wrote in my literature analysis that we shouldn’t be judgmental towards other people because we don’t know what other people have gone through in their lives to cause them to behave a certain way now. By the way, I got an A for my literature analysis of The Great Gatsby at that time. But all I wrote in my essay was some wishy-washy namby-pamby crap that I feel embarrassed to be recalling now.

Trust me, I have changed my mind. I think the longer I am in psychiatry, the more objective I become about things that I read and what I should tolerate and not tolerate. Or maybe it is just the effect of me being older and wiser.

I believe that what happened to you in your past DO affect your life now…. but only up to a point. Whether or not you let the past haunt you, it is ON YOU. It is YOUR DECISION.

If I could go back in time and do the literature analysis all over again, I would probably change  the tune of my essay and write something like this instead: “We all have different life story. OF COURSE none of us will have the same kind of advantages and disadvantages. That’s just life. It doesn’t mean you can excuse yourself when you do something bad or maladaptive. Instead of wallowing in your disadvantages in life and comparing how other people’s lives are much more advantageous than yours, you should move forward and think about how you could make your life better, isn’t it? Mr. Gatsby deserved what he got in the end! He should have moved on a long time ago and stop pining for a married woman.”

Trust me, I have no sympathy for the great Mr. Gatsby.

***

As a psychiatry MO, I am going to be honest and admit that I have favourite cases and favourite patients. I mean, that is only natural. That’s why we have subspecialty, right? Because we don’t always like all types of cases even though we DO see and manage them all to the best of our ability.

And, let’s face it. We do have favourite patients, don’t we? We don’t discriminate our patients in terms of treatment and resources but there are certain patients we like to see MORE than others. That’s just human.

So, what sort of patients do I like? Well, I like patients who help themselves because it makes it all worthwhile. Because without the patients helping themselves, there is nothing much I can do to help them that would work long term. We can psychoeducate till kingdom come, or do daily home visits, or call them every day to update on their progress, or we can repeatedly give them compliant therapy…. over and over again…. but nothing will stick long term until they accept their illness, and make THAT VITAL DECISION to take the meds and perform all the non-pharmacological measures we tell them to do. My whole investment in effort and time to make  their mental health better depends LARGELY on the fact of whether or not they themselves will do what I have told them to do! I can do my best… but it won’t work if THEY don’t do their best. We are not going to be there for them 24/7. And we shouldn’t have to. Part of the responsibility should be shouldered by the patients themselves and their family members.

So yup… I do have favourite patient’s family members too. The more cooperative the family members are, the bigger the smile that I bestow towards them as a form of greeting at the start of the conversation. LOL.

It is kind of disheartening sometimes. When the reward for our hard work (seeing the progress of our patients is a reward) depends on the patients themselves taking that leap of change…. it can be disheartening because some of them just refuse to take that leap.

So when patients (or their family members) ask me about their prognosis or if they will ever get better, I said truthfully “You will get better. Not all conditions can be cured… but they do get better. But how much better you get depends on YOU.”

And that’s the problem. And that’s also the solution.

YOU are the solution. Regardless of your background! Regardless of your advantages and disadvantages in your past! Regardless of what had happened to you in the past and the present, YOU are the solution to your own problems. Make that decision to take your medication. Make that decision to not let your past determine your future. Make that decision to put some effort in doing all those lifestyle changes! Make that decision to do your CBT homework! Make that decision to feed your thoughts with positive self-affirmations as you were taught to do in your CBT sessions. Make that decision to practice that deep breathing exercise and the relaxation techniques taught to you. Do it for you!

Because I cannot do it for you.

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What are the values you must internalize in order to move forward DESPITE your past and  your disadvantages?

Because trust me, if everyone can behave badly by citing random disappointing things that had happened in their lives as the cause of their depression/borderline personality/ antisocial personality/addiction, then everyone can get away with crimes because “oh, it is not my fault. I had a deprived and disadvantageous childhood, you know”.

“Oh, I murdered that guy because he reminded me of an ustaz in a Maahad Tahfiz who had sexually abused and sodomized me when I was younger! It’s not my fault. Don’t judge me if you don’t know my past.”

But when you are arrested by the police and subsequently sent to be evaluated in Hospital Bahagia Ulu Kinta, we will only determine whether or not you were of sound mind when you had committed that murder and whether or not you are fit to plead! Regardless of whatever bad past experiences you had, we are only going to be interested in the soundness of your mind! We are only interested to know whether you knew what you did was wrong and contrary to the law! That’s it! We might be interested in your past… but only up to a point. The court may take note that you used to have a disadvantageous childhood… but you will STILL be punished. It is only right for you to be punished. Your bad past will not suffice in the court of law to justify your crime!

Facts! Reality!

Regardless of whatever childhood adversities you have experienced, by the age of 18 you will be treated like an adult in the court of law! You would be assumed to have had the maturity of an adult and you are accountable for your own action. You cannot turn around and blame your parents when you are addicted to drugs… because your siblings who are NOT addicted to drugs ALSO have the same parents as you! The judge in court will not entertain wishy-washy, sappy sob story of an excuse like that! Even in Islam, we are accountable for our sins at the age of puberty! The reality should not be distorted to adjust to YOUR subjective experience! Instead, regardless of whatever bad experiences you have had, you must make the effort to adjust to the reality. If anyone can be excused based on ‘subjective’ experiences of childhood disadvantages, then that’s it! There should be no law and order. Everything must be grey and blurry, then!

Likewise, the reality is such that when you behave in a counter-productive manner or in a socially inappropriate manner, most people will reject you. Regardless of your past! People who are going to deal with you day in and day out are not going to care about how difficult your past was after a certain point! Their sympathy can only go so far. So the onus is on YOU to rise above your past and change your behaviour if you want to lead a fulfilling life. And we are here to help you do that. But you must be willing to put in some effort without always blaming others for every single thing that goes wrong in your life.

In Psychiatry, we also learn that there are certain risk factors that predispose someone to having depression or other mental illness. But some people do cope well with life despite having those risk factors! How come?

So my take home message is  this: Your past DO affect you… but ONLY up to a point! You are not totally helpless against your past! Because the rest of your life is determined by what you are going to do now in moving forward.

And you can turn over a new leaf by internalizing certain values in your life that I am going to enumerate below. Please take note that I am not disregarding or invalidating all your past experiences and all the injustices that had happened towards you. I am just giving you a way to move forward.

Effort

“Doktor, ingat senang ke nak usaha? Pesakit depressed memanglah tak larat nak exercise, nak buat behaviour activation semua. Bila doktor cakap kena usaha… macam stigmatizing. Ada doktor suruh pesakit kencing manis usaha supaya pancreas diorang keluarkan insulin? Tak kan…”

“No, I won’t tell type 1 diabetic patients to put in an effort to force their pancreas to produce insulin. However, I do tell them to put in an effort to take their insulin, to control  their diet, to exercise and keep a healthy lifestyle. And this is what I am telling you to do too. It is not stigmatizing. It is factual.” This was my answer to the patient (who also had some component of personality on top of her depression). Very matter-of-fact, very reality-based.

To be honest, I NEVER like the ‘mental illness stigma’ poster that compared depression with diabetes. It is so inaccurate, and we should stop saying “Jangan stigmatize pesakit depression. They cannot help their behaviour. They lack serotonin. Just like pancreas orang yang ada diabetes tak boleh keluarkan insulin, orang depressed pun tak boleh keluarkan serotonin. When you tell depressed people to put an effort, it is a stigma! You don’t tell diabetic patients to produce insulin, do you?”

Ugh! Gosh! I cringe inwardly whenever I hear misleading things like that.

I agree that we should not stigmatize mental illness! But I disagree about depressed patients not having to put in any effort in dealing with their depression! Asking people to put in some effort should not be construed as stigmatizing! In ANYTHING we do in life, effort is vital! In ANYTHING!  Stop trying to tie our hands from telling our patients to put in some effort! What do you want me to say then…. tak payah usaha langsung?

As a Muslim, Allah will not help us without us putting in our effort! To Muslims, that’s a fact! I am not going to distort reality just to align myself with the content of a bad poster. I am not going to distort facts just to appear FALSELY empathetic and sympathetic when the reality is different! If we cannot tell them to put in some effort, then how about asking them to go to occupational therapy? Doesn’t that require some effort? How about asking them to attend their CBT sessions or their psychotherapy? Doesn’t that require effort for them to do their homework?! How about asking them to practice deep breathing exercise and do some physical activities? Doesn’t that require effort?

The only condition that doesn’t require your effort is when you are in a state of coma! You don’t tell ICU patients to put in any effort, sure! But for the rest of us, the requirement for a good, healthy and balanced living is our effort. The faster you internalize this idea, the faster you will improve your life, Insya Allah.

So, please! Please stop promoting mental health awareness by comparing depression with diabetes! That’s like comparing apples and eggs. They are not even in the same category! (at least, comparing apples and oranges can fall under the category of fruits! But apples and eggs are two different categories altogether, get it?). For one thing, there is no component of the ‘mind’ in the Pancreas! There is no intertwining interpersonal conflicts and ongoing social stressors in the development of Type 1 Diabetes! So Type 1 Diabetes patients really cannot change anything much in the way they behave to help their condition. But this is not the case in depression! So, how is this a good and fair comparison? Neither the diabetic patients nor the depressed patients are treated fairly by this comparison.

And Wallahi, this comparison should cease to exist! (Adoi, penat! Too much emotion has been invested in writing about this alone, LOL. Pheww!) 

To quote Kevin MD: 

Diabetes is a disorder of insulin metabolism. Insulin is produced in the pancreas. The (depression-diabetes) analogies disregard the intimate intertwining of brain and mind. For the pancreas, there is no corresponding “mind” that exists in the realm of feelings and relationships.

I prefer to compare depression with having a fractured lower limb in terms of how effort would improve your outcome. “Katakanlah awak mengalami kemalangan jalan raya dan kepatahan kaki lalu tidak boleh berjalan.  Lalu, saya pun beri kepada awak tongkat untuk bantu awak jalan. Sudah tentu berjalan dengan tongkat dengan kaki yang patah lebih susah berbanding sebelum kaki awak patah. Tetapi tongkat itu serves its purpose untuk bantu awak bergerak walaupun memerlukan lebih banyak tenaga. Tapi jika awak masih duduk di kerusi dan tidak mahu berjalan walaupun sudah diberikan tongkat, maka tongkat itu langsung tak berguna! Bila awak duduk dan baring sahaja, ini akan membawa risiko mendapat bedsores dan secondary infection yang lebih teruk lagi. Apabila saya berikan awak tongkat dan suruh awak berusaha untuk berjalan, tak bermakna saya menidakkan kemalangan yang berlaku dan kesakitan yang awak alami kerana patah kaki. Tetapi saya bantu awak untuk move forward WALAUPUN ya, saya akui awak kemalangan dan ya, saya akui awak memang sakit dan patah kaki. But the tongkat is here, isn’t it? Are you gonna take it and walk or are you going to just sit down, not using the tongkat and instead repeatedly go back and forth questioning why the accident had happened to you? And why aku patah kaki dan orang lain tak patah kaki? Because think about it….How is that going to help you? Now… let’s get back to your depression. I am giving you your medication and I have scheduled CBT sessions for you with our clinical psychologist… will you take it? When I told you to put in some effort to do all these measures, to try to go to work… I am not denying your depression and I am not saying it is going to be easy! It is hard! Of course going to work while being depressed is ALWAYS going to be much harder than going to work without any depression… that goes without saying! However, now I have given you some medication, and you will be seeing our clinical psychologist for CBT sessions….these things are the tongkat! Yes, it is still harder to go to work compared to when you were not depressed… but now, going to work is becoming more achievable, isn’t it? Compared to when your depression was not treated at all, now even though it is STILL hard… it can be achieved right? Just like it is still painful for a man with a broken leg to walk with a crutch, but at least with the crutch, the man with a broken leg can now walk, isn’t it? Will you at least try first?”

Most patients who already have some spark of optimism inside them can relate with the ‘patah kaki’ analogy FAR BETTER than the diabetes analogy, in my experience.

Really… I am not a vague, wishy-washy person. I am always the ‘bottom line’ kind of person! I want to know the truth, the reality, the actions that I need to do and what is the possible outcome I can expect. And therefore, I don’t like to comfort people with half-truths. I do adjust my style of giving away the real truths to my patients depending on their personality and the appropriate context…. but I am not gonna give them empty words of comfort. I am not gonna tell them it is okay when it is NOT okay. I am gonna tell them, “What happened is not ideal but what are you gonna do about it? Let’s face it and deal with it! It will be hard but it can be done. I will help you… but again, it will only work if you help yourself because a lot of things require effort on your part!”

And most patients recognized the truth and they gravitate towards it! The sunnahtullah is such that deep inside, all of us want to know the truth. And when we give the truth to them, it builds trust because they know that this doctor is not lying and pretending to care about them! Sure, some of them don’t like to hear the truth and they might hate us for awhile. But the seed of doubts regarding their actions has been planted in their minds…. and eventually they will think and evaluate the matter again.

But patients who STILL persisted in playing the victim card (usually a personality component is involved here), will continue to deteriorate. And my heart sinks.

As a psychiatry doctor or a therapist, among the first thing we should do (after allowing them to ventilate and express their distress), is to get them to internalize the value of effort! We will not get anywhere if they still persist that they are victims of their past and therefore they will always be ill and flawed because their past can never be changed and therefore there is no use for them to put in any effort.

That is really such a tragic way to think about life. We must pull them out of that mindset before anything can ever change. But unfortunately, it is STILL their decision to change their mindset! At the end of the day, we can only do so much to help them. The ultimate outcome lies in their decision. 

 

Having A Growth Mindset

The opposite of having a growth mindset is having a fixed mindset. The worst thing that can happen to anyone is to have a fixed mindset. Having a fixed mindset would wreak havoc in your life because you have basically internalized learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is bad, folks! With learned helplessness, people can be driven to suicide because they believe nothing they do will ever change the situation and there is just no hope left. 

 

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Biologically, we learned about brain plasticity which is the ability of our brain to change through life with our experiences and our training! It correlates perfectly with the value of having a growth mindset.

From the psychological point of view, Piaget’s theory of cognitive development talks about how our mind and our mental schemas are always adapting and accommodating…. for the rest of our lives. So we are not always stuck in our bad childhood memories. Provided you put in some effort, you can overcome your disadvantages! 

While I do think that me hearing out your feelings and allowing you to ventilate your problems do help to de-stress you while you are facing your crisis, I am more interested to know what you are going to do about overcoming your limitations in life? That’s the BOTTOM LINE always.

With a growth mindset, you will have a positive and optimistic outlook in life because YOU JUST KNOW that whatever it is that is happening to you, you can master the steps that you need to take to overcome the challenges! You just need to grow your mind by expanding your horizon with new skills, new set of positive thoughts and new set of behaviours. When you have a growth mindset, you know you can learn and re-learn and un-learn your way into a better coping mechanism. 

You won’t say things like “Dah aku memang macam ni. Family aku dulu ajar aku macam ni. Memang dah tabiat aku. Memang aku tak boleh nak ubah… nak buat macam mana?”

I am not saying that it is easy to change your habits! A person with a growth mindset ALSO might be resistant to change because they are already comfortable with their own habits and personality. But when it is important for them to change and adapt (perhaps, there is something at work that they have to be in-charge of that requires a new set of behaviours and habits), they will make themselves change their habits and behaviours because they know that the only constant in life is change! And if they have to do it, then they have to do it!

So, will you continue to practice? Will you continue to study and acquire knowledge and skills for the betterment of your future? Will you be willing to put in some time and effort (goes back to effort, doesn’t it?) to do what has been taught to you during your CBT sessions so that your new skills slowly become second nature and would be automatically activated in the future with much less effort than what you have to put in now?

You will do it, when you have a growth mindset.

If you have a fixed mindset… don’t worry. This is the beauty of the concept of having a growth mindset. You can unlearn that fixed mindset NOW, and start to learn to have a growth mindset.

Having An Internal Locus Of Control

In psychiatry/psychology, locus of control is defined as the degree to which people believe that they have control over the outcome of events in their lives, as opposed to external forces beyond their control.

locus of control

If you have an internal locus of control, you believe that events that happen to you is the result of your own doing rather than the external forces outside your control. For example, when you have an internal locus of control, you would believe that you had passed your exam because you had studied hard and went to all the lectures and tutorials that were given at the uni and because you had prepared accordingly. You did not think it was the external factors beyond your control that had made you pass. You did not think that it was just luck or because other people were doing even worse than you or because the teachers like you better than your other classmates. You are less likely to conform to your surroundings when you have an internal locus of control.

If you have an external locus of control, you believe that you had no control over the events that had happened to you and there was nothing you could do to influence the turn of events. For example, you believe that you would never pass the exam because the subject was too hard and the lecturer did not like you. So there was nothing you could do to pass your exam. You believe that the result of your exam somehow depends on all other external factors except your own effort. Having an external locus of control makes you more likely to conform to expectations and environments because you want your life to progress smoothly.

In general, when it comes to motivation and drive, having an internal locus of control is much healthier than an external locus of control. 

However, having too much of anything is never good. Having a much too internal locus of control can also cause you to blame yourself and will make you feel unnecessarily responsible for something that you could never help. And that can also predispose you to depression. See the diagram below to see what I mean regarding imbalanced locus of control and why it would be bad to have too much of either.

locus

 

The key word here is balance and reality check! I have mentioned before that I like the truth! I like reality check! Those are the two words I use a lot with my patients. You are entitled to your feelings and you have a right to them because it is YOUR feelings…go ahead and have them. But at the end of the day, your feelings do not necessarily reflect the reality. And if adjustments need to be done, your feelings must be compromised to give way to the truth or the reality! You must start learning to feel the right thing! (yes it can be done!) Because your feelings, even though you have a right to them, are subjective. But the truth and the reality are the objective facts! It will make your life much easier and less turbulent if you can learn to feel the right thing. 

As Muslims, we know that things that happen to us are decreed by Allah. But because we don’t know the decrees of Allah yet (I don’t know whether I will pass my exam or not, for example) we are ORDERED by God to put in some effort to attain what we desire. So the locus of control is balanced here. You are neither too sad nor too happy about things that happen to you in this life. Because you know that whatever bad or good things that happen to you have already been decreed by God and eventually anything bad and good will simply run its course! It will pass! There will be a next challenge to conquer and then the next, and the next…. until you breathe your last air! Bad events hurt… but give it time. Put in some effort, work at it again! Continue! Persevere! Feed that internal locus of control.

And when a disappointing outcome arrives… recognize that some things are out of your own control but it does not nullify your effort at all. It’s just life!

For example, someone passing their viva is a combination of effort, studying and doa (internal locus of control) and examiner factor, your health issues during the time of exam, and the type of case  you get (external locus of control). That is the reality! Nothing in life is TOTALLY in your control. And nothing in life is TOTALLY under the control of the external forces. Perhaps, when you realize this fact, your feelings about anything will be in moderation.

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Read Up

I suggest that people take up reading as a hobby. Not because it is my hobby and I am very much in favour of that habit (haha… mungkin ada juga komponen biased sikit. Because I will always think that reading is superior to any other hobby hahah… so yup, ada biased sikit) but because it is the one good hobby that will benefit anyone regardless of gender, social status, and whatever past experiences you have had.

Even if you read commercial fiction like Harry Potter, you will feel like “Wow…. this kid could fight the evil Lord Voldemort by the virtue of his effort and perseverance. Setakat kena marah dengan consultant, that is nothing to be scared about. I will turn up to work and finish my housemanship regardless of how bad I kena marah. I can overcome this!” Hahha. Okay… that is an extreme example. After all, Harry Potter is a fictional character and most people don’t try to relate their lives with fictional characters to sooth their feelings. So, you might not think that reading Harry Potter can ever motivate a disillusioned houseman (though actually it works with a lot of ardent readers out there! It certainly works with me!)

But you can also read biography/autobiography of really inspiring people. Autobiography books are real-life events! In my last blog post, I talked about the biography of Muhammad Ali and how inspiring he was. If you are a Muslim, you can read the seerah of our Prophet and his companions (I have mentioned before that Umar Al-Khattab is my favourite superhero). Read about the history of Jerusalem and the oppression committed by Israel towards the Palestinian people who are still persevering and fighting for justice and freedom (Netanyahu is worse than Lord Voldemort, okay!). Read the biography of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela and the sort of sacrifices they had to make for the sake of freedom and social justice.

I am not saying that reading protects you from depression or neuroticism. But it broadens your horizons, knowing that people are always struggling sometime, somewhere. You get to live the lives of many people through reading, and you get to find out how all these various people cope with their own mistakes and  their own troubles (After all, the best way to learn is to learn from other people’s mistakes and troubles…. rather than making the mistakes and having the troubles yourself, right?).

If you just read (the right material), you will have a better coping mechanism. It improves your logical thinking and your abstract reasoning which will make it easier for your therapist to work with you. Some of your CBT homework require some reading too. You are more likely to do it if you already love reading.

If you don’t like reading, don’t worry. Focus on getting a growth mindset, first… and then you will know that you can adapt your brain into loving to read… and it WILL benefit you.

For Muslims, it is no coincidence that the first verse that is revealed by Allah to our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is to read! Iqra’, remember? Get some knowledge! Internalize the values that you read and use it as your guidance in making any decision! Our parents can only teach us so much… because they have only their own experiences to tell you about. Their way of doing things and their experiences may not be applicable to you. And so, we read in order to experience the lives of many people so that we can have a big arsenal of weapons to choose from whenever life strikes us hard. 

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This is the first verse of the Quran that was revealed to our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)!

***

And as a therapist, sometimes we need to set up boundaries with our patients. We have to let them experience the consequences of their own behaviour. We should not be enabling and reenforcing their bad behaviour by always giving in to their demands for attention and validation when what they are doing are obviously wrong and maladaptive.

They have to stick to their appointments and learn to deal with the consequences of being late to their  CBT/Psychodynamic session. When they throw a tantrum, we should ignore them until they are willing to behave well and until they can state exactly what sort of problems they want to discuss with us in a rational and calm manner. Behave like an adult and we will treat you like an adult.

Some patients will manipulate their counsellors or their therapists or their doctors. It is important that we recognize that behaviour and not accidentally rewarding them.

A few years ago, I myself had terminated a therapeutic relationship with one patient when he had thrown a tantrum at the nursing counter in order to see me. My late HOD, Dato’ R, happened to be at the counter at that time and managed the situation by telling him that I was covering addiction clinic and he must see other doctors. The patient should have come during his allocated appointment time but he didn’t.  He had come earlier than his scheduled appointments so many times in the past and I had told him not to do it. I told him that he had to learn to deal with his feelings by the techniques that had been taught to him. And I told him that he should go to the ED for any emergency that crops up in between appointments. I was hoping that by making myself less accessible, he would learn to deal with his distress by himself using the techniques that had been taught. But he still didn’t.  A few days later, he came to  the clinic again (again, without an appointment) and I decided to see the patient one last time to terminate the therapeutic relationship. I told the patient that what he did at the nursing counter a few days ago was unacceptable and I think he should see other doctors. I was very firm. You must follow the rules, or bear the consequences. After I terminated the therapuetic relationship, he did not see any specific doctor since then and was placed in the general pool for any doctor to see. As far as I know, there is no issue since then.

One day, I happened to bump into him at the supermarket. He was polite and did not try to detain me when I said that I need to excuse myself to finish shopping. That was a huge improvement! A few weeks later he came to the clinic, and he had requested to see the doctors in room 2 (happened to be my consultation room on that day). The clerk at the counter was firm and said “But you didn’t follow appointment. Pergi bilik 5. Lepas ni kalau nak request doctor mana, datang on time.” And he abided by that instruction without insisting to see me in Room 2. Very good behaviour that he had displayed there! So, I have made a decision that if he ever comes on time later on and requests to see me, I will grant him his wish as a reward for his much improved behaviour.

I am very particular about time and sticking to agreed rules and negotiated terms. That is one of the ways I know that the therapy is working. I have an aversion to being manipulated and controlled. I don’t like it and I won’t allow it in my therapeutic relationship with my patients. On this, I am very firm. I don’t think it is healthy to be there for your patient 24/7.

At what point is your patient going to be able to learn to think for themselves and  solve their own problems if you are always there to be depended on whenever they are in crisis? Once we have agreed on the negotiated rules and terms, we must stick to it. Early in the treatment, there might be some adjustments and hiccups along the way. But by the time the adjustment period is over and the patient is still crossing all sorts of boundaries… then a serious talk must be conducted to establish what is okay and what is not okay in this therapeutic relationship. Any more crossing of boundaries is no longer healthy for either party and perhaps we should pass the case over to our colleague.

And that’s what I did.

Maybe as I grow older and mature into the profession, I might learn differently about what to expect and what to tolerate with regards to therapeutic relationship with my patients, but being controlled and manipulated and being forced to give in to that kind of behaviour will not be something I will passively tolerate. I don’t think that will ever change about me.

On the other hand, another patient of mine who had successfully internalized the values of effort, and having a growth mindset and having an internal locus of control (unfortunately she STILL hasn’t internalized the values of reading, haha) had successfully managed all her crises in the 3 months when I was not around in the clinic (because I was doing my forensic attachment in HBUK at that time). When she saw me shortly after I returned from HBUK, she had said “Doktor tau tak dalam masa 3 bulan ni banyak sangat benda jadi kat saya. Tapi saya boleh handle sendiri, doktor. Doktor tau tak saya dah berhenti kerja yang dulu. Waktu tu saya sangat stressed dan nak sangat jumpa doktor… tapi nurse kata doktor pergi attachment. So saya pun pendam sajalah and handle sendiri. Alhamdulillah, sekarang saya dah dapat kerja baru. Dan gaji saya lagi bagus dari kerja saya yang dulu.”

I was overjoyed that she could handle things for herself. I said to her something along the lines of “Bagus! Memanglah semua masalah kena handle sendiri. Kalau saya ada pun, apa saya boleh buat? It’s your job, it’s your life… you have to make your decision and stick to it and then put in the hard work. And then, there will be another challenge… and you will handle it again just like you have handled it in the past. These things will continue for the rest of our lives.  Memang awak boleh buat pun. Congratulations! Lepas ni bolehlah bagi appointment 3 bulan sekali pula.” I teased.

“Dua bulan dulu lah, doktor!” 

I laughed. “Saya tak ada tiga bulan hari tu, awak okay jer! Pernah dengar tak, necessity is the mother of invention? Bila benda dah jadi dan kita terpaksa handle sendiri, waktu tu lah kita discover our real abilities. The situation NECESSITATES us to grow! We must start creating opportunities for you to handle crises yourself in between appointments. You can do it! In fact, you have done it when I wasn’t around!”

I cannot wait until I can give her a four monthly appointment. Hahah. Yes, she is one of my favourite patients. Because she internalized those values I had listed above, she is much better now. So, I like seeing her because I feel like all the time spent in my session with her was not in vain. Not wasted. But eventually, it is our responsibility to make sure our patients can be confident to let us go. One day, I might have to move elsewhere, work in another state. I am not going to be there for them 24/7. It is an unrealistic expectation to be placed on any doctor or any therapist! And I refuse to do it for any of my patients. It is kinder in the long run that we maintain boundaries and make them self-sufficient. It is the kindest thing you can do to anyone…. to provide them with a fishing rod instead of a limited supply of fish of uncertain duration. That kind of uncertainty will create unconscious distress in them because they will always be wondering “Can I survive without my therapist?”

So, I have told her that next time, we are going to try for a 3 monthly appointment regardless of whether or not she feels ready. She just smiled… because she knew I always do what I said I would. Or maybe it was a smile of someone who is confident enough not to worry too much any more.

Why worry when everything has been written and all you have to do is to go through it and do your best until you breathe your final breath.

I leave you guys with one of my favourite songs by Sami Yusuf. This song teaches us that when it comes to dependency, there is only ONE entity that we REALLY cannot live without… and that’s the way it should be in this life. That’s the reality. All the dramas in your life should take a pause to acknowledge this fact once and for all. And trust me, you will be happier for it.

 

The Musings of An Obsessive Book Lover

It’s been a long time since I last talked about my favourite topic ever…. ehem…. BOOKS!

I am obsessed with books. If I ever become a hoarder, trust me, I will be hoarding books. If you come to my house, you will see my 4 big bookshelves. And now, I am in need of a 5th one. (Maybe, I am already a hoarder haha).

Once you have stepped into my house, you will feel like you have entered a small-scale community library! And if you love reading, you will love spending time in my house (ok, tengah perasan rumah sendiri best hahah. But seriously, “rumahku syurgaku” is the right sentiment for me, Alhamdulillah. I can stay in my house for weeks… kalau aku tak perlu keluar kerja dan cari makanan LOL!)

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The cramped ‘situation’ in the shelf of my living room. Sampai buku-buku dah spill over onto the coffee table. Adeh!

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Bookshelves below the stairs…. tinggal satu row saja lagi ruang kosong! Stressed! Tu pun ada space sebab aku double-layer kan some of  the rows!

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This is the bookshelf on the 2nd floor. One of the doors pun dah tak boleh tutup sebab terlalu banyak buku!

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The ‘situation’ on my bedside table. These are the piles that I haven’t read. My TBR (to-be-read) pile. Really need to catch up on my reading and STOP BUYING ANY MORE BOOKS!

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The ‘situation’ at my study desk! This is the main reason I am behind on my fiction reading…  because of the academic reading I MUST do at THIS DESK!

 

As an obsessive book lover, this is my #Confession #Rants

And this confession was brought on by someone who still has not returned my book. (The stress is real, folks). And also brought on by some issues in the social media that disturb my peace of mind. 

***

#Confession

Aku kedekut! Super kedekut!

Aku kedekut untuk bagi pinjam buku kepada orang. This is the one type of kedekut that I still find it hard to change (Dulu kedekut lagi dahsyat. Makanan minuman tak nak share langsung sebab geli. Now, at least, I can share some.)

Zaman duduk asrama dulu, bila aku pinjamkan buku kepada orang, apa yang akan terjadi adalah samada buku aku hilang atau pun orang tu ambil masa yang sangat lama untuk pulangkan. Atau pun bila dipulangkan, habis lasam buku aku macam buku buruk! Padahal waktu aku pinjamkan pada dia, buku tu masih baru dan cantik. I wanted to cry!

In my mind, I will feel like “Why can’t you buy the book yourself? I bought my book myself, didn’t I?” My friends could buy an expensive perfume or Body Shop toiletries (zaman sekolah menengah, this was considered luxury item, ok!) or eat at a cafeteria everyday (instead of at the Dewan Makan) and could prioritize buying just about anything else… except their own fiction! But then, they wanted to borrow mine! 

I was so stressed. In my heart, I was like “Aku tak pernah pun nak pinjam kau punya Body Shop perfume ke or whatever it is yang kau dok beli selama ni. Barang-barang mahal kau boleh pula beli. Tapi kenapa buku kau tak boleh beli? Aku menabung lama tau nak beli buku ni! You had no idea how much I love this book… and you just wanna borrow it like that? Iys!” Haha. You guys had no idea how difficult it was for me to hide my displeasure when I had to lend my books to people when they asked (in order to be polite to them). Memang aku terpaksa mengaku, aku tak ikhlas nak bagi pinjam. 

You see, part of the pleasure in buying and reading books is in discussing them. So when I was a teenager, I usually would discuss with people about certain books I had bought and read so that they could be interested to read the books too and then we could analyze the content together! Get it? Readers just LOVE discussing books… it’s just how we are wired. We are nerds through and through  (but we have learned to disguise our nerdy-ness as we grow up LOL).But then, I learned that whenever I did that book discussion with people, somehow it would end up with me having to lend the book to them. I remember, aku sampai fobia nak cakap kat orang buku apa yang aku beli. Hahah. So, I kept my excited thoughts about books to myself after having learned people’s tendency to just wanna borrow my books instead of buying the books themselves.

Disebabkan aku ini sangat kedekut nak bagi pinjam buku kat orang, aku sangat hargai bila ada orang sudi bagi pinjam buku kat aku…. and as a show of appreciation, I will return the book within a few days (paling lama aku pinjam pun hanya seminggu, tu pun sebab cuti sekolah and tak dapat nak return stat). I would just finish reading the book as soon as possible sebab aku tak nak pemilik buku tu tertunggu-tunggu bila buku dia nak dipulangkan semula. (Whereas with my friends, they took MONTHS to finish a 400 page book. Gila slow! Kalau kau tahu kau jenis tak boleh concentrate nak habiskan buku in one seating, atau kau ni busy gila sampai tak dapat nak habiskan buku cepat-cepat… then please don’t borrow the book yet. Wait until you have more free time to read the book before you borrow it. Tak lah owner of the book rasa stress)

I think this is just adab. You don’t understand how an obsessive book lover think! They are in distress every time they are apart from their books. This is not an exaggeration… at the back of their mind, there is always that constant wondering of when the book will be safely returned.

Cannot empathize? Cuba orang minta pinjam Iphone korang? Get it, now? It is almost the same thing to us. 

To a book lover, every single book of theirs is as precious as an Iphone. Please understand. 

As I grew older and had my own money (initially from MARA scholarship and then nowadays I got my own salary), I became less stingy with my books because I could buy them so easily now without having to menabung as I used to. (When I was in school, I depended on my allowance from my parents only! And I didn’t like asking them for more money than what they had already allocated for me. So I had to save my allowance to buy books. Tu pasal aku kedekut… sebab susah payah aku berjimat nak beli buku cerita, ok! hahah) But seriously even with my current financial independence, I STILL don’t prefer to lend my books to people. When I discuss about any book with you, please don’t think that it is an invitation for you to borrow it. It is NOT. It is just me being a fellow good reader, trying to guide you on your next purchase. I am just trying to be helpful on what sort of good books are out there for you to buy and enjoy. That’s all.

****

Perhaps one the best things about me being a book lover is that, I don’t care about branded stuff. I will probably enjoy having them…. if I have them. But not having them is neither here nor there to me. I am indifferent to it.

I go for quality rather than brands. Sebab itulah sampai sekarang aku tak pernah cuba membeli Iphone (because for me, I will only use it to make a phone call, to message or whatsapp… which are the things that ANY smartphone can do.  And  I also use my phone to snap pictures…. so the only deciding factor on which phone to buy will be the camera feature. And with Huawei and Oppo in the market… Iphone becomes even less relevant to me camera-wise)  But I did purchase a Macbook… because Macbook has the most ‘value for money’. (My Macbook very rarely hangs! I don’t even have an anti-virus for my Macbook. I have been using my Macbook since 2014 and it works just as well as when I first bought it!).

So, it really weirds me out when I saw news such as below.

 

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Apparently in the UK, students are banned from wearing expensive coats to prevent the poorer kids from feeling ashamed of their inability to wear the same branded coats. I really cannot brain this.

And then I was more aghast when in Malaysia, apparently the parents are stressed out about their kids asking them to buy an expensive Smiggle item just because their friends at school have the same Smiggle item. WTH??
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I have heard about how expensive Smiggle items can be and I have read about how parents were complaining about it, before. But the issue on Smiggle resurfaced after the news on the banning of wearing expensive coat in British Schools hit the social media. Some people believe that maybe Malaysian Schools also should ban certain items from being worn/brought/used in school.
One such example of a parent who had lamented on this Smiggle issue can be read  below:
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While I can see the concern of this particular parent and indeed sympathize with his dilemma, I really find myself slightly bewildered by the whole thing. I just fail to see why we can’t simply go ahead and tell our children NO when they ask for something that we cannot afford to give?
Aku tak faham. All of us used to be a kid too. But we handled our jealousy and disappointment ourselves, didn’t we? Tak perlu pun nak kena ada peraturan “semua orang tak boleh pakai benda branded” just because aku tidak mampu pakai.
Like I said, I don’t buy branded stuff in general. Tapi waktu kanak-kanak dulu ada ja kawan-kawan pakai barang-barang branded… dan ada juga aku rasa teringin. Tapi bila kita minta kat parents and parents kata tak boleh, then we accepted it and WE LEARNED TO DEAL WITH OUR OWN EMOTION!

Kenapa pula kita nak kena suruh orang lain jangan beli benda yang kita tak mampu beli? One day these children will grow up and need to handle their emotions including jealousy and disappointment. And during school is the best way to learn that, and of course, guided by parents.

Ibu bapa yang senang dan berada boleh ajar anak-anak how to be compassionate “Even though I bought you a Smiggle bag, it doesn’t mean you can mock other kids who don’t own one. If you do that and I happen to find out about it, I will throw your Smiggle in the bin! Be kind!”

Ibu bapa yg tidak mampu pula can teach kids to be grateful “Even though I cannot afford to buy you a Smiggle bag, but I will make sure you have enough food on the dinner table, a pair of school shoes and two sets of school uniforms for you to attend school.”

Ajar sajalah anak-anak. Talk to them. Jangan nak ajar value ala-ala komunis “semua kena sama rata”.

Do not create an asinine blanket rule that does not stand reality check.

#EveryHardshipIsAnOpportunityToInstillValues
#JustTalkToYourKidsAndTeachThem
#DoNotMakeBlanketRulesThatDoNotStandRealityCheck

 

So when you go shopping for school stuff with your kids and one of them ask for a Smiggle item, you can say “Look, mommy only have RM 50 to buy 2 pencil cases; one for your sister and one for you. If mommy buy you a Smiggle, your sister would not have a pencil case for herself; that wouldn’t be so cool, right? I am sure, you being such a kind brother, would rather your sister get a pencil case of her own too rather than a Smiggle for yourself, wouldn’t you?”

See?

Engage with their minds! Ask them to evaluate…. which one is better? One Smiggle pencil case or two pencil cases that look just as nice but very much cheaper? Teach your kids not to be selfish by asking them to think about the needs of their other siblings too. And furthermore, teach them about fairness … tell them resources must be fairly divided between all the children according to needs and urgency. You talking to them and discussing issues like these with them is how they get to develop their judgment. This is the sort of conversation that you can employ to teach them the right values. Perhaps this would be one of the conversation that your kids would always remember you by.

Because the truth is when you are long gone, they will remember the values you taught them…. not the toys you bought them.

***

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Mak Ngah is so proud of you Eshan!

Alhamdulillah, today my nephew Eshan has received an award for being the first in his batch (Anugerah Terbaik Keseluruhan Darjah 1), the best in Math (Anugarah Terbaik Matematik. Not surpising as my Kak Long’s doctorate is in statistics LOL) and Headmaster Special Award (Anugerah Khas Guru Besar). All of us are so proud of him. The first member of the 3rd generation in Azmee’s family has really done us proud.

I told Eshan that I wanted to buy him a present as a reward for his excellent academic performance. So I asked him what he wanted for a present. He said, he just wanted a book. A Star-Wars book! LOL.

I laughed. I was like “Yeah, I should have known.” Genetic/Nature is one thing (my father loves reading, and so do all of my siblings and now even the grandson has followed suit) but the environment/nurture plays just as much importance in developing the habit of your children.

My Kak Long was asked by other parents regarding how she gets Eshan and Aayra to love reading. She was stumped. To her, there was no fancy technique that she had to employ to get her children to read. There is NO TECHNIQUE. Your children pick up that habit from you! Do you spend the bulk of your time reading and writing? If you don’t, then do not expect your kids to do the same thing!

In her own words, while she was commenting on the Smiggle issue on my Facebook status, she wrote “Bagi aku senang… salah mak bapa tak pandai guide. It might sound harsh but it is the truth. I mean everything starts from home. On a different issue, a friend of mine was talking about the techniques on how to improve children’s’ interest in reading. I honestly think there’s no fancy technique. Soalan aku senang ja, mak bapa dia into books ke dak? Children just imitate what the parents do. It all starts from home. So sama juga dgn Smiggles ke Kinder Bueno ke.. mak pak jadilah parents untuk anak-anak. If you can afford, you buy; if you can’t, just tell your children. It’s ok.”

YOU are the parents! Kenapa pula kamu yang nak kena susah hati bila anak-anak minta Smiggle dan kamu tak mampu bagi? YOU set the rules… not them! THEY need to know that the household has got some sort of structure! Kalau you lenient tak tentu pasal, it doesn’t provide them a sense of security or a secure base. They need to know you are consistent and reliable, even as you are saying NO to them. Just tell them you cannot afford it! Tell it as it is! Be honest! Don’t worry, the children can handle it if you start that honest pattern of parenting soon enough in their childhood. It might even teach them empathy… because they get to know and appreciate their parents’ difficulties and sacrifices. I could handle it when my parents said no whenever I wanted even more story books than what they had bought for me. I handled it by saving my own money and buying the books myself (and hence aku kedekut nak bagi pinjam aku punya buku, hahha. I never sold any of my medical books to my juniors when I no longer used them. I kept them all until now…. ehem, like a hoarder. Hahah)

I can just imagine what my father would tell me kalau aku cakap kawan-kawan aku ejek aku sebab tak ada barang-barang Smiggle. He would probably say something like this, “Kalau diorang ejek Kak Ngah, Kak Ngah cakap sajalah Kak Ngah tak perlukan Smiggle untuk dapat nombor satu dalam kelas. And prove it by getting number one in class.”

And I would  go, “Good idea, Dad. I will say it exactly like that!”

See? Every interaction, every difficulty in life… is an opportunity to instil values! In this case, he would be teaching me how to respond to hurtful taunts and stand up for myself! But you MUST talk to your kids! You must coach them how  to handle life’s situation and then let them handle it themselves.  Don’t create A DIFFERENT REALITY or ANOTHER RULE just to protect your kids’ feelings. You are not doing them any favour that way! They will never grow up.

And this is the reason that me and my siblings are not on board with Dr. Maszlee’s idea that Tahap 1 students will not have exams next year. Aayra will go to school in another year and she is so looking forward to exams. “Aayra nak dapat nombor 1 macam Eshan. So, Mak Ngah kena beli hadiah kat Aayra juga.” She is so competitive.

I didn’t have the heart to tell Aayra that she might never get the chance to get number one like Eshan next year… because there will be no exams, my dear.

Some parents said, “Weh, bagus juga tak ada exam. Anak-anak stress. Kecik-kecik darjah satu dah kena pergi tuition!”

What? Siapa suruh you hantar anak you pergi tuition? My sister never sent Eshan to any extra class or any tuition!  YOU as the parents are the ones who stress them out about exams! YOU are the one who send  them to all these classes to get them a good result. Academic jadi tak fun and exam jadi menakutkan because of you. Kalau diorang just pergi sekolah, balik sekolah and face the exam (without going to any more extra classes) they get the chance to handle the life situation of facing an exam! They get the opportunity to face the anxiety and deal with it! At the same time, they still have enough time to play and enjoy their childhood when they don’t have to attend all these unnecessary extra classes at the tender age of seven!

I am all for children enjoying stress-free childhood. But not at the expense of their education. Reduce their stress by employing wise parenting in deciding what extra classes are necessary and when! Not by abolishing exams!

Exams are good indicators of students’ understanding of the syllabus. There is a purpose for having an exam! Undeniably, the pressure is there but it is manageable. The UNMANAGEABLE pressure comes from you, the parent! You send them to tuition classes after school hours, and then YOU tell us they are stressed? And then, you salahkan exam kat sekolah pula? This is so skewed, God!

Unless your kids have ADHD / Autism / Learning Disability, there is NO NEED for them to go to other extra classes other than the ones they have at school while they are STILL in TAHAP 1. I can still understand if you send your children to tuition classes in their UPSR/PMR/SPM year, but not in other schooling years. Because they need to learn how to live a life and how to be a functioning happy human being too… not just learning the syllabus. Other than one month of intensive private tutorial for Add Maths at the end of my Form 4, my parents did not send me to any regular tuition throughout my schooling days! They believe that tuition class is not necessary if you can focus in class and do your homework properly. Kids learn resilience when they have to face the disappointment of not getting the best result in their exams and the jealousy of seeing their friends getting a better result than theirs. That disappointment and jealousy must be handled. I can only imagine how Eshan would feel in the future when he may no longer get number 1 in class or may not get an A in some subjects…. we all had faced that situation too; it was disappointing, but we handled it, guided by the response of our parents and our family.

So parents, BE A PARENT! Read to your kids, discuss the moral values of the books you have read with your kids, interact with them at an intellectual level and instil values in your kids. Talk to them, reason with them. You will find out that these children of yours are smart and they can handle stuff … if you can be a parent!

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I leave all my dear readers with videos of my Eshan telling an imaginative story about Galaxy’s New Planets. He is so creative, Masha Allah. My favourite planet is the Chocolatey planet. What’s yours? 😉

#PaluSulawesi Reflection: A Spiritual Journey

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Flying for #Palu #Sulawesi. The view from the window of my flight journey towards humanity.

There are times when I sit back, to wonder and reflect on what I have done to deserve so much blessings in my life. Whenever I feel like life has become a little too mundane, a little too predictable or a little too comfortable (until I could feel my soul withering away in the midst of the same repetitive routine) God will send me a new experience to waken up my soul and rejuvenate my spirit. He didn’t let me continue being heedless and ignorant, comfortable in what little, insignificant things I have done in this life. He guided me to search for something MORE in life that would make my existence meaningful again… colourful again… hopeful again.

 

If God were to let me continue being the old me without any wonderful experience for personal and spiritual growth, I don’t know where I would be at this moment. Perhaps, I would be bored and disillusioned with life by now. But Alhamdulillah, every now and then He would send me to a #life #BootCamp to beat the disillusionment out of my soul and thrash the cynicism out of my heart.

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The Sierra Delta Team!

Relief Mission: Imaret4Sulawesi

I believe that the year 2018 is my year for volunteerism. And it so happens that 2018 was not my exam year (unlike the two previous years) and I could devote more time on social issues that I believe in. (God has perfect timing and perfect planning in the timeline he has created for the plot in my life story. Thank You, God.)

 

I volunteered to be a PACA in April/May 2018. I remember how MUCH I learned just by mingling with people of different background than me. Just by being involved in the process of election, I gained a lot of insight regarding the political arena in our country. Those are the knowledge I could not get simply by doing my favourite pastime of reading. Though it pains me to say this, I must admit that reading is not ALWAYS enough (I stupidly used to feel like I can pick up any book to learn on any subject without having to get out of my house. LOL). Reading only provides you a certain level of intellectual insight on any particular subject but it would not provide you with emotional insight, nuances, perspectives, reflections and most importantly #SpiritualGrowth and #PersonalMaturity which you can only gain by being in the field. It doesn’t even BEGIN to compare! Deductive learning (by reading) is great…. but inductive learning (experience in the field) is almost always superior!

 

When the news of earthquake and tsunami in Palu hit the media, I was devastated by the heartbreaking destruction and the numbers of life lost. My friend and I registered our names to several NGOs to volunteer to help, either as a medical/psychological team or just general aspect of volunteerism (food and basic needs distribution/cleaning crews / setting up tents). At last after 3 weeks of waiting with no response by any NGO, IMARET answered our application to volunteer as part of a medical team in which our tasks would include giving general health service as well as #PsychologicalFirstAid (PFA) to survivors. I can still recall how ecstatic me and Dr. H were to be called upon to serve in this relief mission by IMARET. Thank you, IMARET for giving us this opportunity to experience relief mission abroad. It was an experience of a lifetime that will never be forgotten, Insya Allah.

 

IMARET has slowly but surely gaining recognition for all their good humanitarian works which had first begun in December 2014. Just recently, IMARET had received the Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Awards (IMSHA) in the category of Disaster Relief NGO. The IMARET tagline of “Charity Begins with You” conveys the principle that ANYONE can contribute to humanity in whatever capacity we can. There are many categories of volunteerism including arts, social services, health services, community empowerment, public safety, environmental protection, and disaster relief. If you are not a doctor but you are passionate about the environment for example, then join the relevant NGOs like Environmental Protection Society Malaysia or Malaysian Nature Society.

 

Personally, as a doctor, I joined MERCY, Islamic Relief and IMARET as platforms for my volunteerism. But I also joined other NGOs related to writing/arts. There is always something you can contribute to the society regardless of your career or your lifestyle. You just need to find it and take the leap. (For someone who is very skeptical to join any organization unnecessarily, I am all in when it comes to organizations involving volunteerism. I am not even a member of Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), see? But when it comes to volunteerism, I would join without a second thought.)

 

Let me share with my readers a certain insight I gained a few years ago about life. Most people think that volunteers are very altruistic and noble-hearted, who do all these charity because of the nature of their good hearts. While I am sure that those are, of course, true, to a certain extent, but it doesn’t explain the whole picture. As a psychiatry MO, I believe that behavior is sustained when it is rewarded. I don’t think of myself as kind, altruistic or noble by any stretch of the imagination (hahah! Really! Those who knew me KNEW that Afiza garang… mana ada dia nak baik hati tak pasal-pasal. Soft-spoken pun tidak. Mother Theresa jauh sekali bagai langit dengan bumi. Haha). But I volunteered anyway because the act in itself is rewarding to me. I have my own selfish reason for volunteering. For example, I gained immense satisfaction, pleasure and euphoria when I witnessed the previous government was brought down and replaced by PH when I volunteered to become a PACA. I volunteered then not because I was so noble… but because I was so angry and because I had things in life I cared about and I wanted to champion those issues! Not really because I was that good, or that nice or that altruistic who would sacrifice all pleasures in life for the sake of others. I am too practical and too realistic to ever achieve the kind of nobility and altruism that are usually associated with volunteerism. Seriously, Mother Theresa, I am NOT.

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This is the truth! You gain more than you give every time you decide to do something charitable. It is like Sunnahtullah!

So why did I volunteer to go to #PaluSulawesi recently? Again, not because I was that self-sacrificing or that altruistic with no self-interest whatsoever. Volunteering is addictive, you see. I did it FOR MYSELF! I did it for the experience it would give me. I did it for the knowledge and the wisdom I could gain. I did it to know how people cope with trauma and to experience the effect of their resilience on my own soul. It cleansed me in ways I could not even properly describe and explain. It must be experienced and felt. And that’s why I encourage all my readers to volunteer for a cause that you guys truly believe in… experience that feeling and that emotion first… go inductive… and come back and tell me whether or not you can describe yourself as altruistic when you decide to volunteer again and again and again. Once you have tasted it, you would KNOW that you volunteer for YOU! For the benefit that it gives YOU! For the wisdom and insight it gives YOU! Things you can never get by staying home and doing the same old thing over and over again. So, volunteerism actually benefits YOU! That’s the reward that sustains the behaviour. Really, for your own private reasons, you actually volunteer for yourself MOSTLY… not just for others!

 

So yeah, I volunteered to Palu because I remember how it had felt while volunteering previously… and I wanted to experience the emotional fulfilment and the cleansing of the soul and the mindful reflection that would come with the experience. Those are the rewards I gain by my volunteering. See? As I said, behavior is sustained when it is rewarded. The Sunnahtullah is such that charity benefits the giver more than the receiver. And that’s the truth.

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Hanging out with teachers!

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PFA with kids!

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Kids saying goodbye to me!

The Wonderful Colours Of Diversity

In this mission, I have met a journalist and a full-time Humanitarian worker. It was great to get to know people of different career background than me. For the first time in many years, I made non-doctor friends with whom I can hit it off immediately.

 

Usually, it would be quite difficult for me to feel at ease with people who did not have any common ground with me. Because, really… what would we talk about? I am not really a people person. When I talk to someone, there must be a reason for that communication to happen. I don’t seek interaction just for the sake of interacting… it would not be enjoyable to me.

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Arrival at Jakarta Airport. First day kenal team mates.

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In Palu Airport. Last Day of mission.

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With Dr. J at Puskesmas Nokilalaki.

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With BSMI team!

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The boys having fun at kolam air panas after a hard day of work.

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How we had our dinner every day.

 

But while being on a mission when you have to share the same limited space in the car for hours to reach a very deserted area where all the unmet needs are, you get to know each other better. You get to know their habits, their life philosophy, what makes them tick…. those are points of learning you wouldn’t get by interacting with people of the same background. Nothing challenges your preconceived ideas more than when you had to hang out with someone of a different background than yours. And boy… we had numerous conversations that challenged each others’s preconceived ideas and belief system. It was heated but it was fun. We didn’t always agree with each other but we reflected on each other’s points and it opened up our minds.

I guess, in that 10 days I felt young and youthful again. We could even argue over songs and lyrics played on the radio in the car… thinking that each other’s interpretation was somehow less accurate than our own. Haha. It was silly but still it was intellectually stimulating… a conversation I haven’t had with many people since I joined medical school.

When I was in MRSM Langkawi, my friends were those who wrote poetries, composed short stories and read literatures. We talked about books all the time. We talked about social issues and politics even when we were just secondary school students. My ambition then was to be a lawyer or a writer or a journalist…. things involving social sciences rather than pure sciences. But alas, my scholarship was in medicine and nowadays I found myself surrounded by people who are mostly clinical rather than creative. I still read and write…. But I no longer have the same type of friends who share my interest and with whom I can talk about books and social or political issues that used to fire my soul when I was younger. (One of the reason I fought so hard to get into psychiatry was because this field has the closest resemblance to social sciences compared to other specialties).

I guess, for that short 10 days I felt young because I was learning and absorbing knowledge like a new baby being thrusted into the world for the first time. Just like a baby whose world shifted from that of the mother’s womb to that of the planet earth, MY world shifted from the cocoon of all that is medicine to the larger concept of what humanitarian is all about. THAT is the difference between volunteering in an NGO than in MOH… you get a taste of a different flavor. A forgotten flavor that I used to taste and now fully remember. And it was refreshing.

When you hang out with a journalist or a humanitarian worker, they told you of their experiences covering news and volunteering in war zones. The conversation was new, novel and interesting. They told you stuff that you only read from your thriller novels all these while… of international intelligence network, of humanitarian issues, of battles and conflicts that you could only see on TV.

They taught me and Dr. H the concept of having a ‘grab bag’. They said that as non-civilians, their grab bags are something that would always be with them wherever they go. They have been trained that way…to always be ready to run and leave everything behind with only their grab bag in hand. Since then, me and Dr. H created our own grab bag… a much simpler version of their own grab bags. Ours only contained our purse, phone and passports. Theirs contained money, phone or any other mode of communication, passports, laptop or any gadget required for them to complete their mission, change of clothes and survival necessities (water/ simple energizing food).

Listening to their stories, looking at their inspiring Instagram pictures of all their previous missions… I felt a certain amount of poignancy and nostalgia. Suddenly, the poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost knocked my mind. I wondered then, how my life would be if I had said no to my medicine scholarship.

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With the journalist (the one in a yellow scarf). He wrote about #PsychologicalFirstAid and submitted his article in Kosmo. Our names were mentioned in his article as part of the PFA team bringing Upin Ipin into Sulawesi. We were so excited when we read his article. Haha!

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My facebook status… telling all my facebook friends that my name was mentioned in Kosmo. hahaha. Childish, MUCH?

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This is a screenshot of the particular part of the Kosmo article where my name and the names of my teammates were mentioned. We all couldn’t stop gushing over the article 😀 and we thanked the journalist profusely LOL.

People Who Touched Your Heart

And then there were the survivors… fellow human beings who touched your heart with their beautiful resilience and amazing coping mechanism.

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At Puskesmas Nokilalaki with Ibu Muznah and my team mates.

We met survivors who had continued working at Puskesmas (Pusat Kesihatan Masyarakat) while dealing with their own loss and grief. Their welcoming smiles totally warmed my heart. It embarrassed me when they thanked me over something that I felt so small and insignificant. We were at Puskesmas seeing cases in the general clinic and never expected to be given lunch or anything. We brought our own breakfast bars for lunch. But look at what they provided for us every day we were there! Great yummy lunch that we never expected to get while on a mission! We felt like our own small effort is nothing compared to their own acceptance of our presence. It was a truly humbling experience. It is amazing how you can develop closeness quite effortlessly but deeply just because all of you have the same mission and the same goal!

 

 

In that 10 days in Palu, there were times when I surprised myself by thinking “Now, I know why relationship is important. Why networking is vital in a mission! It makes your work process so much easier!” I used to feel like “I can sacrifice relationship over my version of truth, my principles and what I believe as right. You either follow me or you don’t. But I am gonna do it and there is nothing you can do to stop me!” I am even like that with my own parents and my family… and they have learned to accept that part of me so selflessly all these years and I never thought a thing about it. I took it all for granted. To a certain extent, I STILL believe that truth and justice should always trump everything else in life. But these days, I started thinking that maybe there are ways I can have my principles/truth/justice and still maintain heartwarming relationships with people and mind their feelings a little bit. Well, I don’t know. Cognitive dissonance is hard to detangle.

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At Puskesmas Banpres with the staff!

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One last picture on our last day at Puskesmas Banpres

And the kids! They were entertained by the simplest of things. It was so easy to coax laughter out of them. Look, I am not great with kids, in general. I am not entertaining enough and I don’t know how to act all adorable and silly with kids. I mean… heck, I am a serious person most of the time. My jovial side can only be accessed by someone I am already close to and even then, I am not all that humorous, LOL. But when you are on a mission, you have no choice but to strengthen your free-traits and put aside your biogenic traits for awhile. So that’s what I did. Performing and conducting one class full of kids every day are hard work, guys! At the end of each session…. I was drained and exhausted. But it was a good kind of exhaustion! The best kind!

 

Theme Song

Towards the end of our mission, we the Sierra Delta group members (the 4th group sent by IMARET to Sulawesi) had experienced hardships and joy, tears and laughter, quarrels and reconciliation. I would say, we knew each other’s characters and annoying habits quite well at the end. Hahaha. (I know, I can be annoying. LOL. Tabik spring to them for their kind tolerance).

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Our last meal in Indonesia at Jakarta Airport.We left Palu bringing back beautifully poignant memories. 

After all our numerous daily talk and conversation about songs, one of my group members could already predict what sort of songs I would like or dislike. One day, he just told me to find this particular song on YOU TUBE that he was sure would be my type of song. I was very skeptical about it initially. But I clicked on the song anyway for the whole Sierra Delta group to listen to. And what a surprise… I was immediately in love with that song. The title of the song is Menimbang Rasa by an Indonesian singer, Oslan Hussein.  I was so amazed that he could predict my taste in songs so well! Haha.

We played that song while being on a journey to various deserted areas to conduct PFA sessions and I have come to think of that song as a theme song of our experience in Palu Sulawesi. Our group song!

Until now, I keep putting the song on repeat. Haha. This is what I call as  #CannotMoveOnSyndrome. 

Have a listen and let me know if you love the song like I do. 😉

I end my reflection of my experience in #PaluSulawesi here, my dear readers.  Until next time, I remain, your humble blogger.

P/S:

My next post would InsyaAllah be on the details of the actual mission itself. And there were a lot of details to write about but it would be too cramped to share everything in one post. So if you are interested in humanitarian mission and would like to know the mental and physical preparation required, the actual work involved and everything else, stay tuned!