Short post: atheism, kids, diwali and my nursing studies

I'm kinda joking with that 'short' part, but considering almost all the big life issues are jammed into the post title, and some of them are somewhat contradictory it will be short. You will be pleased to know I don't have anything to say about politics today.

Have I mentioned before about how I sort of consider myself an atheist Hindu (atheist first, Hindu second)? It came about when the wise Punditji who performed our wedding ceremony telling me, when I mentioned I was an atheist, that the Hindus 'have room' for that but the Christians probably didn't. It's only relevant because I am still trying to work out how to talk about religion with my kids. There is nothing better able to to joyfully force one to consider one's own position on difficult issues than trying to explain where you stand to some bright and inquisitive school kids. In this case I was explaining to Asher why we celebrate Diwali ( AKA Deepavali and other spellings and pronunciations. translating Sanskrit into the various Indian languages and then into words that can be spoken in English is tricky). We bought some lottery tickets to give to Sanjay and his dad as Diwali gifts and a lovely candle for Sanjay's mother.

It also seemed to be a good time to talk about the bigger meanings of the festival, so I reminded him of the two stories I know about Diwali, both familiar to him from 'Amma tell me about Diwali' by B. Mathur. One of the stories sees the goddess coming into the home of a poor woman, working late even on a festival day, and granting her wealth. The other story, the main story, is from the Ramayana and describes people lighting lamps to welcome their banished King and Queen home after fourteen years in exile (er, that was... brief. It's a massive, intense, tragic, brilliant epic!). I was trying to think through appropriate ways to talk about the meaning of these stories as I was talking to Asher and I came to the idea that they are both about shining a light on the path of right - either in terms of personal hard work or using the ancient city of Ayodhya as a metaphor for self and the lights help to lead us to 'right action' - whatever right action looks like to us.

Which brings me, neatly, back to my nursing course. People keep asking me how my course is going; everyone from the crossing supervisor at the kids' school through to my family and my therapist mentions it and for sure sometimes it's just politeness but often people want to really know about the course and how I'm feeling about it, and wondering if I'm going to enjoy clinical nursing. I generally answer with a flippant comment about being busy, stressed or the fact that I've just finished first your again (!) and sometimes I go to say 'I should have done it years ago' but the reality is slightly more difficult to talk about. I feel like whether I enjoy it or not is almost irrelevant. I am fulfilling my dharma. I am on my path. The course is tough, tougher than my first degree and although I don't have the memory I did then I am wiser. I still agonize over my assignments. But whatever stress and drama it causes me, I am where I'm meant to be. I don't think I should have done nursing straight out of school - my dad was very well known in the field and in my 20s I wouldn't have been able to answer the 'but why didn't you study medicine' without shame. I didn't get the marks and also I wanted to distance myself from my family, not follow them into the healthcare field. So now, in my forties, with ten years of tech career, then ten years of mum-ing I am into my next phase - nursing. Maybe for ten years. And because I spent some time thinking about Diwali, and talking to my kids about the idea of a life path and dharma, next time someone asks me how my degree is going I can reply that I am on my path, without feeling awkward or being flippant or dismissive.



So many times people ask me if I shouldn't 'have a rest' from my medication. These are often the same people who suggest people with depression should just remember how good they have it compared with people in Syria/current the international hotspot, or suggest that we harden up (We are the toughest people you will ever meet. We do battle with our own minds). The short answer is 'no' but it's slightly more complicated than that.

Imagine I was an asthmatic (I'm not).  Would anyone suggest I needed a rest from my preventer medication? Even if I wasn't getting symptoms or having asthma attacks no one would question the decision to be on medication, made in conjunction with the relevant health professionals. In fact, if I felt all better and started talking about stopping my preventer medication someone would remind me that without it I sometimes get really sick.

Have you ever thought an asthmatic should just toughen up and keep breathing? Have you thought they should just appreciate the oxygen they can get and stop worrying about what they can't have? Have you avoided talking about difficult subjects because you didn't want them upset, thinking it might trigger an attack? If an asthmatic needs to take some time off work or study while they get their symptoms under control how do you view it? What about if they decide they need to use a variety of approaches (medical and lifestyle) to deal with their illness? I have several friends who won't come to BBQs or bonfires on the cooler months because they say they can't breathe. I don't judge them negatively for that.

My illness isn't that different. I use meds, lifestyle and talk therapy to deal with it. When I have a major depressive episode I try to catch it as early as possible and put some things in place to help me manage while things are difficult. I try to remember, when I feel good, that my meds are preventative because when things are good it's easy to forget how bad things can get (what's that saying about forgetting pain?).

All that being said, there are many different ways to manage mental illness, and more and more research is being done on gut-brain interactions, and I am not going to criticize anyone who chooses to deal with their illness in other ways - as long as it is working for them and their loved ones!