You should know this! First aid for seizures

At a support hearing the other day, I represented a client who couldn’t work because she had seizures. We talked about the situation for half an hour or so, her journey to be certified unable to work or drive or do many things because of the seizures, which tended to come on under stress.

Then she had one. Right there. Just melted down off her chair onto the floor in a heap, twitching and banging her forehead on the floor.

Four adults in the room with her, me included, and we all stared for several seconds, stunned.  I’d had first aid training in college, some 25 years ago, and couldn’t remember anything, faced with the crisis.  Something about swallowing a tongue.  But then I thought I remembered they’d decided that was a bad idea.

The soon to be ex-husband was a jackass, starting with the cracks about how he always thought she was faking it, etc. He totally failed to help any of us. backing out the door and watching, with a huge smirk on his face. I came close to smacking him upside the head.

I finally turned her on her side, holding her steady so she didn’t hurt herself, and someone from the office brought a pillow from the break room so she didn’t hurt her head. She kept seizing, and the staff called 911. Within five minutes an experienced team was there and took her off to the hospital. But I didn’t forget that helpless feeling–and I didn’t like it.

SO. In the event you see someone experience a seizure, here’s what you should do, from the Foundation for Better Health Care:

  1. Roll the person on his or her side to prevent choking on any fluids or vomit.
  2. Cushion the person’s head.
  3. Loosen any tight clothing around the neck.
  4. Keep the person’s airway open. If necessary, grip the person’s jaw gently and tilt his or her head back.
  5. Do NOT restrict the person from moving unless he or she is in danger.
  6. Do NOT put anything into the person’s mouth, not even medicine or liquid. These can cause choking or damage to the person’s jaw, tongue, or teeth. Contrary to widespread belief, people cannot swallow their tongues during a seizure or any other time.
  7. Remove any sharp or solid objects that the person might hit during the seizure.
  8. Note how long the seizure lasts and what symptoms occurred so you can tell a doctor or emergency personnel if necessary.
  9. Stay with the person until the seizure ends.

Call 911 if:

  • The person is pregnant or has diabetes.
  • The seizure happened in water.
  • The seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
  • The person does not begin breathing again and return to consciousness after the seizure stops.
  • Another seizure starts before the person regains consciousness.
  • The person injures himself or herself during the seizure.
  • This is a first seizure or you think it might be. If in doubt, check to see if the person has a medical identification card or jewelry stating that they have epilepsy or a seizure disorder.

After the seizure ends, the person will probably be groggy and tired. He or she also may have a headache and be confused or embarrassed. Be patient with the person and try to help him or her find a place to rest if he or she is tired or doesn’t feel well. If necessary, offer to call a taxi, a friend, or a relative to help the person get home safely.

Now you know. Hopefully, you won’t have to confront this situation. But there’s nothing that feels as bad as seeing someone in the throes of this and being helpless.

Tis the Gift to Be Simple

One of the trends in my life lately has been to divest myself of as much “stuff” as I can, to try to de-clutter and clear the air both literally and figuratively. I’ve subscribed to Real Simple magazine, which has many good ideas (as long as you don’t buy more stuff to sort and store the stuff you already have). I’m keeping a firm hold on what I buy new, and I’m giving to my grown children various items of an heirloom nature, to let them enjoy it now and me enjoy the space the giveaway creates.

Another tool I’ve discovered is the book The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…In Business and In Life, by Leo Babauta (Hyperion Books, 2009). For those of you who don’t know Babauta, he’s the author of the blog Zen Habits, which is one of the top-rated blogs in the world, and also one of my favorite writing blogs, Write to Done.

Babauta says he developed this system to help in his struggle to accomplish personal goals, like quitting smoking. Once he realized he could break the process down into small, steps that were easier to accomplish, he not only gave up cigarettes, he began exercising and running, now competing in marathons; he eliminated his debts and began to save money, he gave up meat and began eating healthier, and finally gave up the day job that kept him from time with his family to develop a work schedule that met his needs and also his desires.

The Power of Less uses many of the techniques he’s discussed in Zen Habits to help people de-stress, cut back, pare down and enjoy life more. He provides advice that is right-on for most people I know today, who are doing too much with not enough, particularly in this era of economic downturn.

A fact of modern life is that we are all pressed to be multi-taskers, handling work and home pressures at the speed of dataflow. Hundreds of emails may cross our desk each day, and with massive layoffs hitting the country, not only will you be asked to do your own work, but likely your former co-workers’ as well. At home, we have to deal with the children, who are being groomed for their own nervous breakdowns by their schedules of practice, sports, friends and other activities, that you have to fit in around your own must-dos while you’re returning phone calls as you’re driving them to the field.

Babauta says, however, that multi-tasking is not to way to success. It is “less efficient, due to the need to switch gears for each new task and then switch back again…more complicated, leaving you more prone to stress and errors, and … crazy-making.”

Instead, he says, there are two basic steps to making your life actually livable: 1) Identify the essential. 2) Eliminate the rest.

They key to making this system work is to simplify your approach, he says, using a Zen motif. Live in the present. Do what you’re doing now to the fullest. Don’t divert your attention to a dozen things at once—you won’t do any of them justice AND you’ll be stressed to the max. Choose what’s most important and complete it first, then move on to the next task. Put those that can be on the back burner on the back burner for another day. Each day, you’ll be focused on what you have accomplished instead of all you haven’t finished.

The book goes step by step through the process of making those two points above apply to your life. Babauta shows you why you should set limits: “A life without limits is taking a cup of red dye and pouring it into the ocean.” Then he tells you how. Once you have taken out the extraneous, then you can focus on what’s really important to you, and handle your choices in small steps, completing tasks one at a time so that you really achieve success.

The Power of Less isn’t just another self-help book to clutter your time and mind. It’s a real guide, backed up by ongoing support through the forum at the Zen Habits website so that you can work, cheered on by others, as you set and achieve your goals.

Babauta is so convinced that his program works, he says, that if you approach your boss with this new success scheme in hand, and explain that you will get your work done, but you may be going about it differently than he’s used to, and your boss doesn’t like it, then share the book with him. If that doesn’t work, share the website. If that doesn’t appease him, Babauta says, “(G)ive him my email address. I’ll talk to him.”

You can buy The Power of Less at amazon.com and other major booksellers. There’s a link for the book at Zen Habits, along with a lot of other good content. (Babauta has blatantly waived his copyrights to much of his material in an interesting move explained here.) Start simplifying today for a healthier and happier tomorrow.

Approaching equilibrium

You know, every once in awhile you just hit a real bump in the road.

So many of us “manage,” we do the best we can every day as spouses, as parents, to try to keep our fingers in the old dyck for as long as possible. But sooner or later, the water just gets too high, and your carefully-balanced house of cards is in danger of being washed away. When that happens, it’s time to stop and re-assess priorities before you lose touch with your life altogether.

Priorities in this house are: 1) safety and well-being of each person; 2) roof over head; 3) food on table. These are the same priorities I often share with my clients who are panicking about what to do. These three things you MUST have–the rest can come when they will.

No question here that everyone is safe. They have a home, a bed, their clothing, a wide selection of toys. (Grownups too.) The clothing is not always new. We buy, I’d guess, two-thirds of our clothes from Ebay, consignment and thrift shops for two reasons: the first, because they cost less, and second, because it conserves world resources. This is why we also donate our gently-used items back to the thrift shops as well. This may horrify some of my colleagues, whose children prefer to shop at Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister. Well, get over it.

We don’t drive new cars, though we each have a vehicle, because we work in different cities. Our house is over 100 years old and isn’t in a spiffy new subdivision. We may have eight computers in the house; all but one are recycled and repaired from someone else’s use. The adults can’t afford health insurance (the best quote we got was $800/month). We don’t vacation in the islands. For an attorney and a teacher, actually, the scope of our lifestyle is pretty narrow. The only real “luxuries” we enjoy, to rate ourselves against the news stories these days, is the privilege of dining out a couple of nights a week. That’s more to deal with the exhaustion of work and child care than the joy of something fabulous.

So the bills get paid, not much else, while both adults work out of the home, me about 5 hours a day, the Cabana Boy an average of 10 hours a day, Monday through Friday. (Even at that, my pay scale dictates I bring home about twice what he does.) He drives 70 miles a day to work–hello gas pump! Weekends are usually a blur, trying to catch up on all we didn’t get done through the week.

Now this is probably no different than many other two-career families in this “more, faster, now” society. But here’s the bump: we’re losing each other. The adults have almost no time together because of work hours and kid commitments, and resentments build over time when one or the other of us feels like we’re being neglected or put-upon– although we know the other is trying so hard just to keep up that we suck it down and try not to complain.

So what do we do? Someone has to be available to make sure all the therapy and appointments are made, prescriptions are refilled, kids everywhere they need to be. We can’t both work full-time, unless we had a nanny who lived in. Our needs are minimal; maybe we should both work part-time. It would put a pinch on, but we could deal with it. With summer coming on, there will be a lot of garden work to be done, again to save money and promote health, and kids out of school. Can we both keep up this schedule and still make it?

Where is the point at which life balances–enough time, enough love, enough resources? What can you give up and still survive? Who takes care of the ones who care for everyone else? Where do you get answers to these kind of questions?

I never thought I’d be quoting Martha Stewart, but this is apropos: “When I got married and had a child and went to work, my day was all day, all night. You lose your sense of balance. That was in the late ’60s, ’70s, women went to work, they went crazy. They thought the workplace was much more exciting than the home. They thought the family could wait. And you know what? The family can’t wait.”

So we’ll be talking about those priorities. We’ll see you on the other side.

What they say is true: parents, too are casualties of their child’s autism.

How many ends does that candle have??

“It’s better to burn out than it is to rust.”

These words, attributed to Neil Young, embody my usual philosophy. There isn’t much time– fill as many minutes as you can with usefulness. I’ve driven several family members mad with my need to be constantly “doing.” Personally, I don’t see this as a flaw. It’s why I’m a lawyer, a parent, a quilter, a writer, a musician, an artist….The list goes on. Several of those titles are full-time occupations in and of themselves, but I cheerfully try to shove them all into 24-hour periods with sleep–sometimes–as a bonus.

Which brings us to the issue of burn-out.

Every few years, I have to confront the feeling that I just can’t stand X any more, X being varied subjects, depending on the day. Over the last seven years, it’s often been trying to learn about and deal with the needs of our special kids. We have no family within five states, so we’re it. Fortunately, we’re a couple that pull together when dealing with this issue instead of falling apart like so many others do. I may finally have a handle on them, though, thanks to an excellent BSC (yes, you, Heather!) who showed us how working with our instincts was REALLY the right way.

Now the emphasis of frustration has changed to the work. The more time I spend writing, which gives me a wonderful creative boost and rush, the more I realize I’ve lost that same quality in my law practice. Most days I dread even stepping in the office door or answering the phone.

Many of my colleagues would point out family law is a difficult specialty, one steeped in personal involvement with people living in hell. They aren’t at their best–who could expect them to be? They are demanding and afraid and needy, very needy. My stationery reads ‘Counselor at Law,’ instead of attorney, mostly because I often do double duty. The big successes are far between. It’s not like real estate law, where someone wants to sell their house, someone wants to buy it and everyone leaves the transaction happy. In family law, more often, everyone loses and occasionally there are some trimmings left for the kids.

After 21 years of it…it’s starting to get old. I wonder how much more I have to give, at least in this form.

I’m certainly not alone. Burnout is a way of life in America, all of us pressured to do more and more, faster and faster, with less satisfaction than ever before. Stress is a national disease, as shown by the rising sales of prescription medication and self-medication. Can you afford to let either catch up with you?

Try this test for burnout: http://www.mindtools.com/stress/Brn/BurnoutSelfTest.htm

If you see you could use some help, here’s a site with some suggestions to help catch burn-out before it hurts you: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/burnout_signs_symptoms.htm

There are many more. Check them out. Take care of yourself. You deserve it.