by David Blesdoe, DVM
Outside my office window, past the photographs on my windowsill, stands a creosote bush; old and scraggly. It is not especially stately, made up as it is of multiple trunks 2-3” in diameter and covered with small pale green leaves that provide life giving photosynthesis while minimizing loss of precious moisture. Creosote bushes generally remain small,
but the specimen outside my office is one of the largest I’ve ever seen at around 12’ tall.
It’s stood in this same spot for decades, maybe a century or more; older than statehood for its native Arizona. The creosote bush is a slow growing and long-lived plant native to the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. It can withstand the harshness of the climate’s intense heat and parched soils. They bloom in the spring with tiny yellow flowers, a favorite of pollinating bees and other insects.
The creosote bush also has a cool trick. When the leaves are wet they release a fragrance that
can only be described as deliciously fresh. It gives the desert its smell after a rain, a gift to those
fortunate enough to experience it. To me this smell is up there with coffee in the morning as
something that makes me want to inhale deeply and believe that there is good in the world.
I was ruminating this morning, coffee in hand, freshly brewed in my office, about the creosote
bush. Seems we can learn a lot from it.
1. Dig deep. The creosote’s roots keep it firmly anchored in the rocky soil where neither
wind nor flood can move it.
2. Bloom where you’re planted. The bush didn’t choose to grow there and I am glad
workmen decided to leave it when they built my office building, where it remains,
blooming every spring.
3. Smell good. Plants are not mute. They speak with their fragrance and the creosote bush
speaks poetry after every rain.
4. Be who you are. The creosote is adapted for its environment and is the best it can be
where it is.
These lessons should speak to us as we seek mental wellness in our daily living. Do we have
strong roots? Maybe those roots are found in faith or family. Whatever they are, we need to be
anchored against the storms that inevitably come. Do we have the confidence to use our gifts and bloom and do we use those gifts to inspire others, becoming a warm, inviting fragrance to
In short, the creosote bush tells us to be who we are – the best we can be. I can’t be anyone but
myself and no one can be me. Let me therefore be the best me I can be. Maye I’m kind of
scraggly at times and don’t have six pack abs, but may I make up for it with words and deeds
that inspire others and may my voice bring a freshness as the desert after a rain.
There is a new resource in Northern Ireland for members of the Veterinary community called Vet Support NI. It is a peer to peer resource that connects vets and staff members with trained people from similar backgrounds that can help them navigate a crisis. We're excited to see this addition to the Veterinary mental health community! To learn more you can read either this article or visit the website directly. Thanks so much to Dr. Jen Brandt- the new Director of Wellness and Diversity Initiatives at the AVMA for the link!
by Melanie Metz Goble, DVM
I am sharing a post modified from my personal blog originally posted in 2013. We are now 16 years out from the fateful day that changed many lives in 2001.
What have you done to make this world a better place? How have you spread peace and love? How have you saved a life? Every day, we have a choice to get up or stay in bed, to smile or grimace, to love or to hate.
I offer to you to what I learned on that day.
(image obtained from: https://taqplayer.info/supinator-muscle-origin-and-insertion)
* * * * * * * * * *
Today is September 11, 2017. It is amazing how different and yet how similar the world is compared to 16 years ago. Where were you and what were you doing 16 years ago today? I was sitting in the anatomy lab at the University of Wisconsin – Madison School of Veterinary Medicine dissecting the supinator muscle. I will never forget that muscle and what it does. The supinator allows the front leg (or arm) to rotate the paw (or hand) toward the other paw (or hand). I remember my professor telling us, “The supinator allows the hand to rotate as if you are holding a bowl of soup.” When I think of this position, I think of giving and sharing. It was a contrast of thoughts within my mind – hostility and aggression versus gifts and renewal.
As information came out about what was happening in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, my head was spinning. I was forced to face some of my deepest fears and anxieties. One might ask why as I was thousands of miles away from the destruction on the east coast. I was “safe” in Wisconsin. The planes crashing and the towers falling, shook me to the core. For years, I had struggled with depression and anxiety – specifically anxiety that if someone was even 5 minutes late, then they either hated me and were not going to show up or that they were bleeding to death on the side of the road and I was thinking horrible thoughts about them hating me. The thing about depression and anxiety is that there is rarely rational thought within the mind at the time. I was suddenly imagining that I was the person in the building or the plane that could not get to their family. I was the person that was left wondering, wishing that their loved one would come home, yet never would.
We were given the option of going home, to leave class and do whatever we needed to do. I couldn’t leave, but I couldn’t stay. I decided to walk around the building and a friend offered me a cell phone to call my friends on the east coast to make sure they were alright. While I was walking, I heard the radio announcing the fall of the second tower. I went back into the lab, shared the news, and sat down with my partners. I sat back down to focus on something that I could control, to focus on the supinator – the muscle of giving and sharing.
As our world now struggles with natural disasters, wars, and threats of war, domestic and international threats, of continued unrest in places all over the world, I hope and pray that leaders of all nations learn the lesson of the supinator. To turn away from violence and instead focus on healing, giving, and sharing. To share ideas, thoughts, and feelings. To give food and aid to the people that are down trodden. Every major religion that I have studied shares the same basic tenants – to take care of the poor and the sick. I know that religion sparks many wars and acts of evil, but that is not the intent of any of those religions. I am saddened when the will of man destroys what is beautiful in this world. Please, leaders and followers of our world, stand up and respect each other. Sit down to a bowl of soup, a cup of tea, and learn to love each other, not in spite of, but because of our differences. Your supinator allows you to turn your hand into a hand shake, not into a fist. Let us learn from our supinator.
by Monique Koll DVM
Do you know what mindfulness is? It is “the psychological process of bringing one's attention to the internal experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training.”
It has been proven to be a valuable practice for improving the cognitive symptoms of depression, such as distorted thinking and distractibility. It helps individuals recognize these more subtle symptoms, realize that thoughts are not facts and refocus their attention to the present.
Meditation is a way to practice mindfulness, which can be difficult when you’re distressed, as it is hard to break that one-way train of thought. I find that guided meditations are a great entry point in a way to start practicing mindfulness, and Tara Brach was recommended to me by a double-Mastered practicing mental health specialist. Here is a link to her website and some of her meditations.
by Monique Koll DVM
Hi, I’m Dr. Monique Koll, a USA licensed and accredited veterinarian since 2005. I’ve been in small animal day practice for years and now do full time emergency medicine. I also spent 5.5 years in nonhuman primate research, which ended when a C7 incomplete spinal cord injury paralyzed me when I was hit by an unlicensed/uninsured driver. All that, on top of being a single mother, in an incredibly abusive relationship and high student debt, and I’ve been through suicidal thoughts and financial struggles and all of the above. I’m lucky; I’m only partially paralyzed and can practice again, I had good support and now am in the healthiest relationship of my life and my son has actually benefited from what we’ve been through and is emotionally mature and well grounded.
My injury, and subsequent determination to still race half marathons and triathlons, has earned me a spot on the Today Show, as well as a couple of times in the Huffington Post, and several television, news and blog interviews on a local, national and international scale. Being from New Orleans, I am the epitome of outspoken and non-judgmental. This inevitably led to me becoming involved in “active transportation” and worked with my local and state governments to help change rules to benefit society. I’ve written several articles and have given several speeches to this end, and while city planning and transportation is still a hobby of mine, veterinary medicine is my first love and I want to use my spare time and resources to support our profession. I am dedicated to do what I can to help our mental, emotional and financial health, and the best way I can help at this time is to contribute to NOMV’s blog. Overall we will come through this a stronger and even better loved and respected profession than before, and I want to be part of that. If you have any questions or concerns, any general or specific topic you’d like more information about; if you see a media piece you think may be helpful or even have something you’d personally like to contribute, please let me know via Facebook or email@example.com.
I am excited to work for and with all of you.
by Carrie Jurney DVM DACVIM (Neuro)
I'm in the middle of training for a local suicide crisis hotline. More on that later. They are teaching us about listening. Last night, the instructor had us do an exercise that I really liked. How would your interactions change if you gave up on "being right"?
Being right feels so good. It's righteous- it's even right there in that word.
But does that feel lead us anywhere helpful? The answer I'm coming to is no.
It's not that I have to be wrong. It's not even that I won't express my point of view. It just changes the goal of the conversation.
It's easy to see where that fits in to my non-work life. Like, arguing with my husband- there is rarely a correct party. If we instead focus on the underlying feelings, and not on winning the argument- we actually get somewhere.
But can it fit in to my work life? I think it can. I think, as I teach a new class of interns, I see how much I've relaxed and I want to do it more. I'm not trying to win an argument with my clients anymore. I'm listening. I'm hearing what their concerns are. I'm making a suggestion, a recommendation if you will- they don't have to take it. It might not actually be right for them. It might be medically right, and still not right for them. The point is I let go of that part. That doesn't have to change my suggestion, but it does change how I present it and how I process it when its rejected. It takes the anger, and the righteousness, out of it.
So my friends, How would your conversations with your clients, your staff, everyone change if you gave up on being right?
by Carrie Jurney DVM DACVIM (Neuro)
Recently, there has been quite a bit of chat in my life about the pros and cons of venting. There was an interesting article on VIN, and then a few discussions here.
I will admit that I am a venter and have done so recently on the board. I have a monumentally bad temper. This is not something I am proud of. Through many boring exercises I have learned to control it. Ever count to 100 when you are seeing-red mad? Yeah... not as easy as it sounds, but effective for me.
My husband regularly puts his life at risk when he sees me stop mid "discussion" to ask "What number are you on?" to which I reply "Lower than the one that will save your life, so watch it."
This back and forth actually works for us for a few reasons:
1) It acknowledges that whatever we are talking about is hard.
2) It acknowledges that I am human, and am working to control my emotions.
3) It's funny (usually, to me at least) and it reminds me that despite my current visions of removing his trachea, I love him and this will pass.
So, at this point you may be asking- Carrie- why in the world are you telling us about your marriage?! Holy over-share batman. I am telling you this because I see venting as a similar exercise.
I love my clients on the whole. Most of them are really excellent people. I have pretty solid boundaries and try really hard to be good about self care. But, when one gets under my skin... wow. That's hard. And in the moment I can count in my head and not strangle them, but I find I will carry that home with me. And then there is no where to put it. I can't resolve this conflict with my problem client, so I have to internally resolve it.
So, when its particularly bad- I bring it to NOMV. I almost always feel better after.
But here's the thing- we have to be careful that we treat these moments for what they are. We cannot let this become a narrative. This is not our fight song. And we should model our behavior after my husband, who loves me, who when my temper is bad looks at me and says "Whoa babe, you are super angry- and yeah this moment is shitty- but its only that, a moment. And we'll get through it and things will be okay again."
I disagree with the people who say we shouldn't talk about this stuff. As an admin of this site though, I do see where it can turn toxic. And sometimes when you are in a bad place, it's hard to hear about others bad experiences as it can turn in to validation of your bad place. You hate your client today, and so does NOMVer X, so clearly all clients are bad, right? Nope. That's the stuff that the VIN article is discussing. That we cannot let a vent, or even a collection of vents, become our reality.
We need to recognize these moments for what they are. This is a moment where a colleague we care for needs to be propped up. They need help releasing this demon. They need reminders that this moment is just a moment, and there are positive moments ahead. They need a sympathetic ear and also a reminder that it's not all bad. Maybe they need to hear how you deal with similar things, so they can find a positive way to handle it when it happens next time. And yeah- sometimes they do need validation that this moment is in fact really shitty and not fair.
And can I get really really real with you right now. This is the exact reason Nicole started this page. So we could share our experiences and learn that we aren't alone. As we've grown- we've expanded our goal. We recognize the real problems in our profession through this shared conversation and we want to help each other develop better skills to deal with them.
I think of venting as the first part of a mindfulness exercise. Mindfulness for people who do not live in the hippy capital of the world (California- where everyone talks like yoga teachers all day long) is a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings. Basically it's a check in with yourself. "Hey Carrie, why are you so pissed off?" "I'm pissed off cause this crappy thing happened today and I just had to take it" Venting for me is me letting my angry brain tell me what is wrong so I can process it.
I think of it like asking my internal four year old why she is crying. You are going to hear a whole lot of stuff... some of it valid, some of it ridiculous. And after I do it, I think about it in a less emotional way, and process it better. But as anyone who has ever cared for a toddler can tell you- listening to that stuff all the time can drive you batty.
If I had any point of critique for the page, including myself, I think we could all work together with people who are venting to help flip the narrative back to positive. Working on solutions. Helping each other form the right boundaries, develop the right mental skills, so we can love our jobs 95% of the time (nobody, in any profession, loves their job all of the time).
I get that not everybody likes or agrees with every piece of content on this page. We're a community, an ever growing one- we won't always agree. The only thing I hope everyone can agree on is that we are hear to support each other. Our main plea is that if you do not like something, if you cannot handle it in your own life for whatever reason, please keep scrolling. And if you are really worried- please tag an admin.
Thanks for listening. I hope you all have an awesome day.
by Carrie Jurney DVM DACVIM (Neuro)
Hey guys, we had to take a break from the blog to work on other projects. Those projects are still in play, so we're going to post some of our favorite content from the forum (With owner permission of course). So without further ado- here's a post I wrote that has generated some really great discussion on the board:
David and I just attended the Facebook Communities Summit. It was an amazing experience.
At the summit they asked us to set vision and goals for our groups. We've been doing that for our new 501c3, so I had already studied for that test. And I love getting an A+, #Gunner4Life 😝
But the one thing they asked that has really stuck with me is that they asked us to be audacious in one version of our goals.
They asked us this and it's been playing on loop in my head (note to self, speak to shrink about obsessive thoughts 😅):
"What would you do if you weren't afraid?"
I think it applies to so much we see here. People scared & stuck in places that they need to change.
We went on to talk about process and safety. How to get there and how to protect yourself along the way. But it all starts with that question.
So tell me NOMV Nation:
What would you do if you weren't afraid?
by David Bledsoe DVM
A recent shopping list from my phone:
A) supplies for a swimming pool
B) a good weekend
C) A & B
Good morning from NOMV World Headquarters @ NOMV Plaza where today is "Give a Fuck Friday". Right now my give a shit factor is so low, it's moved down into "I don't give a fuck" territory.
Life is like that. Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug. The beauty is it doesn't stay that way forever. For those days when I'm the bug, I usually do one or more of the following to help get me out of my funk.
1. Write. Some of my best stuff has been written when I am depressed. I'm sure one of our really smart members can tell me why. Even humor can be stronger and more edgy when I am in a bad funk.
2. Listen to music. Something loud and fast and to which I can shamelessly sing along
3. Shower and get dressed. Seems like a little thing but your mind is conditioned to certain pathways when you follow that routine.
4. Go someplace where I can drink coffee or eat and people watch, especially outdoors.
I could say exercise but I would be lying. I don't enough. That's really next on my list.
So I want to hear yours. What do you do when you're in a funk? And remember, it's not always about pulling yourself out of it. It's about not letting yourself sink lower.
I'm off to take a shower. Bluetooth speaker will be playing Bob Seger.