Learn CPR

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, also known as CPR. We’ve all heard of it. Some of may know how to do it, or at least have a vague idea of how it works. But how many of us keep our certification up and feel confident in knowing what to do? How many of us have never learned, thinking we’d never be in a position to do it? Learning CPR doesn’t take much. The American Red Cross offers classes all over the place for a low cost. I know of volunteer fire departments that offer it monthly. Your certification lasts two years, and the recertification class is shorter than the initial course. I have been certified in CPR since I was 14, and I have been an EMT-Basic since I was 16. Even I have never had to do CPR, but I don’t doubt for a second that this simple set of skills can save a life and the importance of being prepared to do CPR and keeping up with your certification.

The American Red Cross has suggestions for those who are untrained, trained and ready to go, and trained but rusty on performing CPR. I would suggest taking the full class. A few hours of your afternoon could add years to someone’s life. It literally can be the difference between life and death. CPR can keep oxygenated blood flowing to the brain and other organs when the heart stops, when a lack of blood flow can cause brain damage and death within minutes. Today, there are apps like PulsePoint that notifies you, who has indicated they are trained in CPR and willing to assist in an emergency, when someone in your vicinity needs CPR and also identifies the nearest AED. It aims to increase response and medical intervention before first responders arrive on scene; those minutes can be vital to the victim’s chance of recovery. The app is also free.

Why am I telling people to learn CPR? Because one year and a day ago, a good family friend of mine suffered a heart attack. He is alive and healthy today because of CPR – performed by his sons, no less. Everything worked the way it was supposed to. He is the president of my fire department, and on this particular Monday he was setting up for a meeting at the fire station when he began not to feel well. He went to another part of the station, where my younger brother was, and asked him to call 911 because he thought he was having a heart attack. Then he called his oldest son and told him the same. After my brother called 911, he grabbed our medical “first in” bag and AED to prepare for EMS to arrive. The older son called his brother, and luckily the two live only about five minutes away. I’m not sure how soon he collapsed after this versus when his sons and EMS arrived, but his sons were there to begin performing CPR. His heart stopped, and he was shocked four times via the AED. By the time they left in the ambulance, he was awake. He was transported to the hospital where he had stents inserted.

His recovery has been miraculous. He was out of the hospital by Thursday or Friday. The doctors told him how lucky he was. And today, in some ways, it’s like nothing but a memory but in other ways, sometimes I still can’t believe it all actually happened. Without a doubt, the quick application of CPR saved his life. Everything worked the way it was supposed to. It is honestly amazing, and only God knows why everything worked out. I’m definitely not going to question the end result. His sons are first responders, but this could have easily happened to anyone at home who has kids that learned to do CPR at school. On the flip side, in this case, he could have easily been at the fire station alone and we could have had an entirely different outcome. Just a couple years prior, we lost a member who lived alone and had a heart attack at home. He was only in his forties. 

I remember how sick and helpless I felt after I texted my brother to ask what was going on up at the station (I have an app that notifies me when we get a call, and for a medical call of this severity, we get dispatched) and received just the name and knew what the possibilities were. CPR isn’t always successful, but I sure as hell would want to be able to do whatever I could to help someone who needed it rather than be on the side, helpless. It’s like I said before. When it works, it is the difference between someone’s life and death. The amount of compressions and breaths may have changed over the years, but the general concept of CPR has not. It’s a skill set that will last you a lifetime. According to the American Heart Association, you are most likely to perform CPR on someone you know; someone you love. Please, go learn CPR.

Here are some facts about CPR (Thanks, American Heart Association):

 

  • Almost 90% of individuals who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest will die. If CPR is performed, especially within the first few minutes of a cardiac arrest, the rate of survival can double or triple.
  • 70% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen at home.
  • Only approximately 46% of people who have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest receive immediate help before EMS arrives.
  • Chest compressions should occur at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute; the beat of “Stayin’ Alive” is perfect for this.

 

CPR works. I have a friend still here because of it. Learn CPR.

“How to Get Sh!t Done” Review

I just finished reading How to Get Shit Done by Erin Falconer, and it was a phenomenal book. Erin Falconer is the editor in chief and co-owner of Pick the Brain, a popular and trust self-improvement community on the Internet. Lately, I’ve been really into these types of books. With getting through what I hope is the worst of my depression, I have been trying to really do some self-discovery and improve myself for the better. My sorority’s motto is “Esse quam videri” which means “To be, rather than to seem to be,” and that is what I am aiming for.

Erin bases the book off of her own experiences. She grew up in Canada and went to the best schools there. Her parents expected her to go to law school and be a successful lawyer. Instead, she decided to forgo law school and head to Los Angeles and aim to be a successful writer instead. Eventually, she became super successful and was able to take advantage of the up and coming digital age. But it wasn’t exactly a linear success or without a bunch of bumps in the road, to the point that she felt like giving up. But she kept at it. Honestly, I don’t know if I would’ve had her resolve and determination to stick with. It definitely paid off for Erin.

Even with her success, it took her awhile to figure out how to make the most of her time and make the best decisions for her. That’s really what the book is about; her “POP” system: Personality, Opportunity, and Productivity. It’s about what productivity means to you and takes the concept of women having it all – great career and then going home and being the best wife/mother possible but without drowning yourself in stress. It really distorts, in a sense, the idea of perfectionism. Your POP isn’t going to be the same as someone else’s. It has to be tailored to you in order to be the best that you can possibly be.

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It talks about how the only approval you need is your own and that sometimes you have to say no. A lot of these truths we already know – but explaining them out makes them hit home a little bit more. At the end of each chapter, Erin has questions and activities for you to fill out to help you make your POP profile. They really make you take a look inside yourself. It’s not easy or very pretty at times. But it’s this type of reflection that is necessary for growth. Some of the tasks are weekly or even monthly. They really force you to look at how you do things. I do plan on completing them more in depth, but I think I’m going to re-read the book again to reprocess everything and highlight some more applicable points.

What I really liked was how Erin was able to tie her experiences into her POP plan and her other tips. It didn’t seemed forced or out of place; it flowed really well. I think that this a great read for any 20 or 30something woman. We are all at such different stages in our lives, but we have so many of the similar stresses. The biggest one is perfection. We see the lives of others on social media (there’s an entire chapter on how social media and technology and how they impact us). It is so hard not to compare ourselves to others. So, so hard. I’m definitely guilty of this, and it has impacted my self esteem. Society paints such an exact picture of how we’re supposed to be and have everything together all the time. And really, we’re supposed to be doing what is best for us. Some people might say it’s selfish. But I disagree, and part of that comes from the book. You really can’t offer others your best if you aren’t doing what’s best for you. I think that’s important to remember. You have to be at your best to give your best.

This book really made me think a lot. I think reading it again will help drive its message home. And I think giving her system and tips a try wouldn’t hurt. It definitely helped her, and she has several measurements of her success. She has proof that it works. I don’t think it’s fair to think that anyone who reads this book is going to have the same types of success that Erin has had. But that might not be the type of success you want. Any progress is still progress. I really suggest giving this a read. If she writes anymore books, I’ll definitely pick them up and plan on checking her websites out too.

International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day. It is a day about celebrating the economic, social, political, and cultural achievements of women. I feel that this particular International Women’s Day is significant because of some of the events that took place over the past year. We saw a woman direct a female starring superhero movie, arguably the most successful D.C. comics movie in years in Wonder Woman. We saw the movement of #MeToo of women standing up against sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. I believe that 2017 was just the start of women standing up.

Some discrimination that women face just blows my mind. I have never understood why people think that women can’t do certain jobs. Don’t get me wrong. Men are ridiculed too for doing “women’s jobs.” But when a guy is ridiculed for being a “male nurse,” it’s not because they think he can’t do the job. It’s because they think he should have aimed higher and become a doctor. When a woman is ridiculed for a job, it’s often because people don’t believe she’s smart enough or strong enough. I have heard so many horror stories of harassment in the fire service, including one suicide. I am so lucky to be in the department I am, and I have never had issues because I am a girl. Gender has never mattered in my department, and I am grateful.  

I believe that a woman should be whatever she wants to be. A girl’s dreams shouldn’t have limits. If a woman wants to be an engineer, go for it. A fashion designer? Good for you. A stay at home mom? I hope she can! But we should never put down a woman for following her dreams. What works for one woman might not work for another. We are all unique and all have our own dreams. And I think that’s wonderful. One of my favorite sayings is “BeYOUtiful.” There’s nothing better than being who you are.

Throughout history, there have been women who have gone against the standards. There have been women who haven’t been dealt the easiest hand and been successful. There are many women in my life I admire – my mother, family members, teachers and professors, and sorority sisters. But today I’m going to talk about some famous women in history and present day whom I admire.

 

Queen Elizabeth I

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Queen Elizabeth ruled as the sole ruler of England from 1558-1603. She was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Her mother was beheaded when she was a baby for accusations of adultery and witchery. She spent her childhood being declared legitimate to illegitimate and back again by her slightly crazed father. Her half-sister, Queen Mary, locked her in the Tower of London for being a Protestant under a Catholicism regime. When she became queen, she stayed unmarried as to not have to give up any of her power to her husband, who would be seen as superior to her. Her armies defeated the Spanish Armada, and before the battle, in her speech she said, “I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a King of England too.” She is considered one of England’s greatest rulers and she was centuries ahead of her time. Queen Elizabeth was badass.

Michelle Obama

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To be the loved one of the President of the United States cannot be easy and even more difficult for the spouse of the president. Michelle Obama is no different, as the first African-American First Lady and wife of the first African-American president. But Michelle Obama is pretty cool in her own right. She grew up on the South Side of Chicago and wanted to go to Princeton like her brother. Her teachers told her that she was aiming too high. She didn’t care and got in, and then to Harvard Law. She had her own successful career. Many people want her to run for office, but she doesn’t want to. And I don’t think she should. Just because you like a person does not mean they should run the government. She has several causes she advocates for, and I think she can do much good through charity work. Mrs. Obama will continue to leave her mark on the world in her own right, all the while having her own family. To me, it seems like what you see is what you get with her. She seems very real and doesn’t really care what people think of her, which is refreshing. She has a life to live too.

Nikki Haley

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The daughter of Indian immigrants, Nikki Haley caught my attention when she gave a speech in response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. What got me is that she didn’t seem to just parrot party lines. She had a mind of her own and her own thoughts. She was the first female governor of South Carolina, and only the second Indian governor. She’s breaking barriers left and right. Currently, Mrs. Haley is the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. My guess is that Nikki Haley has had to deal with a lot of bullshit over the years; she’s a female, she’s Indian, and she’s the child of immigrants. And people suck But she’s had three terms as governor, once running unopposed. She’s got it figured out. There are rumors she may run for president in the future, and I’ll be interested in what she has to say.

Tammy Duckworth

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 Talk. About. A. Badass. She’s the second Asian American female serving in the U.S. Senate and the first member of Congress born in Thailand. Duckworth is also the first disabled woman elected to Congress. Currently, Tammy Duckworth is a U.S. Senator. She served in the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel as a helicopter pilot and lost both of her legs in the Iraq War. Duckworth was the first female double amputee from the war. As a politician, she is not afraid to speak her mind. And that includes against President Trump. I would like to believe no matter who is in the Oval Office, she is going to continue to speak her mind. Like Nikki Haley, we don’t need members who just parrot party lines. The world is much more than conservative versus liberal. Duckworth has this badass streak to herself, and she’s still able to juggle it all with her family. She has a daughter and is expecting again this year – the first sitting Senator to give birth.

Audrey Hepburn

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Audrey Hepburn is the epitome of “more than a pretty face.” Considered one of the best actresses of all time, Audrey was active during the Hollywood Golden Age. She is an acting and fashion icon (and someone who’s style I try to emulate! It’s classic and classy). Hepburn is a member of the exclusive “EGOT” club (individuals who have won an Emmy, Golden Globe, Oscar, and Tony – currently, there are only 12). Famous for her role in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” she starred in movies opposite those of the like of Cary Grant and in other films like “My Fair Lady.” In her acting retirement, she became heavily involved in humanitarian work, specifically with UNICEF. Part of her drive in doing this work was because she remembered receiving international aid as a child during the German occupation of World War II and wanted to show her gratitude. She traveled to some of the poorest, war torn part of the world to try and help and make a difference. President George H.W. Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Audrey Hepburn didn’t have to do anything after she retired from acting. Instead, she gave back to the world and did even harder work. That is the type of work ethic I aim to have.

Carrie Fisher

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Oh, Carrie. Where do I begin? I grew up admiring Carrie Fisher. First, as a child, it was as Princess Leia and just the fact she was an actress. When I was a teenager and budding writer, I admired her writing ability and loved that she script doctored some of the most famous Hollywood screenplays (her influence is all over Hollywood movies). As a young adult, I admired her because of her transparency with mental illness and advocacy for mental health awareness. Princess Leia was badass. She hijacked her own rescue. People talk about how movies only now are having female leads that don’t need to be rescued, and that’s a lie. Princess Leia (Skywalker) Organa was the first.  How many princesses grow up to be generals? Only Leia could. And you don’t have Leia without Carrie Fisher. As she once said, “I am Princess Leia and Princess Leia is me.” Carrie Fisher is even more badass. She was undeniably herself. Fisher was definitely flawed. She had issues, and unfortunately, one of those issues, drug addiction, played a role in taking her from us far too soon. But no one could ever accuse her of being fake. Fisher was honest about her flaws, her insecurities, and worries. It made her seem like anyone of us and totally relatable. And, oh was she funny. Her books made me laugh until I was crying. The world is better for her contributions. Carrie Fisher taught me it’s okay to be me – a girly girl, a firefighter, a writer, mentally ill, and so much more all in one. If people can’t handle me, that’s not my problem. Thank you, Carrie.

It Gets Better

I didn’t think I’d be writing about mental health again so soon. But listening to the secrets at PostSecret really inspired me. So many of the secrets were relatable. Some of the funny were relatable, but some of the more serious were too. It made me think that maybe my experience with mental illness would help someone else. That telling my story could lead someone else to tell theirs. The one secret that really inspired me was that of someone who tried to commit suicide and that he learned failure wasn’t always a bad thing. Why? Because it gets better.

It gets better.

It wasn’t very long ago that I didn’t believe that. I was drowning in depression. When you’re swallowed up by darkness, it’s so hard to believe there can be any path to relief. It had been so long that I didn’t expect anything else. I didn’t know how bad I was until I started to feel better. I would have never guessed that I was that bad. Sure, I didn’t have energy or want to do anything. All I wanted to, and all I did do, was sleep. Now,  I feel like some of my friends don’t even totally know me. It’s been a long time since I felt like myself. It is really the coolest feeling ever. It might seem so simple, but I really thought that I had lost myself. And now I’m back. I’m not exactly sure how I got here, but I’m back.

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I have a few inklings on what helped me, but I also know that it wasn’t one thing or another. Treatment for mental illness is so hard. I am on three different medications. Many people have very strong opinions about medicating mental illness and believe it is over medicated. It’s hard not to let those things bother you. I hate taking pills. Every day I hate it. But the medications help enough that I notice a difference. Without them, I can’t function. They keep me functioning. I might not have been doing a ton or been the most productive, but I was still getting out of bed every day. That can be huge when you’re battling mental illness. So many days went by where I didn’t want to do a damn thing, and it was a challenge to take a shower. A couple missed doses made me soon realize that those pills were making a difference in me. It might not have been a lot. But to me, that difference was the world. I couldn’t imagine that there was still more to me than that.

Feeling better was a wonderful realization. It was almost like seeing when you put a pair of glasses on. Everything was crisp and clear again. I had been in a fog so long that I didn’t even realize it anymore. What’s crazier is that I know this is just the start. I know I have things to still work on, especially my anxiety. My anxiety isn’t under control yet. As crazy (no pun intended) as it sounds, not feeling depressed and feeling normal is truly a beautiful thing. It is so wonderful to be myself again and not feel like just a shell of myself. And I can’t wait to get to know myself again. I’m noticing things are easier to deal with, and they aren’t all consuming like before. It’s definitely a start.

When I was at the PostSecret show listening to the story of the failed suicide, a quote from The Last Jedi came to mind. Master Yoda says to Luke Skywalker, “The greatest teacher, failure is.” I thought this was really interesting in context of this secret. His failure changed and saved his life. It was most likely the greatest lesson he ever learned – and even more so as he continued to live and experience life. I found it to be such a fascinating concept. And he was using his failure to teach someone else – that it does get better. It does exist.

With feeling better, there was another quote from The Last Jedi that I think of, although the context I am using it in is a little bit different. Luke Skywalker says to his twin, Leia Organa, “No one’s ever really gone.” His meaning could be multiple – her husband’s recent death or his own impending death (that neither of them would ever really leave her) or her son’s fall to the Dark Side and rise into evil, implying that Ben Solo was still within Kylo Ren. I find it applicable because I didn’t realize how much I believed that I was gone. I had no idea how much of me was being suppressed by depression until parts of me started to creep back, into the light so to speak. But it is possible to get better from mental illness. It gets better. The fog will lift, and you’ll see the world in an entirely new way. You’ll wonder why your cheeks, and you’ll realize it’s because you haven’t smiled that much in so long. Also, I’ve been so awake and had so much energy that I don’t know what to do with. That’s how I started blogging again. It’s actually an amazing thing.

Maybe you feel that I’m talking in circles. But I can’t stress enough how grateful I am that I kept fighting. That despite everything I felt, I kept going forward. All I had hoped for was something of a half-life. I honestly never imagined that I would feel this well since it felt so out of reach. I still have work to do. And I’m trying. I’ve been reading more, something the “old me” loved to do, and with that, I’ve been reading a lot of self-help types of books (including one right now called How to Get Shit Done by Erin Falconer which is amazing and every twenty-something woman should read). I’m back on a workout routine and physically aiming to get stronger. I’m looking into meditation and maybe taking yoga classes. And yes, I’m still taking medication.

This happiness may be temporary. I may be on the path to more happiness. I may end up falling down again. The difference though, is now I know that it’s not going to stay this way forever. That even within the darkness and depression, I still exist somewhere. Holding onto that, that sliver of hope, can make all the difference in the world. I had a problem with self harm. Sometimes, I can’t look away form the scars. Recently, I felt that I am well enough to move on from that too. I plan on getting the scars covered with a tattoo. I don’t need a constant reminder of my illness. Art, like flowers, will be better instead.

Change isn’t always easy. But it can be a good thing. A welcome thing, even. To me, it’s a whole new world out there. I know how hard it is to believe it. I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t experiencing it. But it gets better. It does get better.