Why do I write these articles?
By Dr Brighton Chireka
It is always good to reflect on whatever you may be doing. I have also reflected on all the comments that I receive publicly and privately. I have been asked by several people about my writing. Some have even feared for my life and some have even suggested that I should stop it. Some have been annoyed by what I write, while some look forward to my writing and use my platform as a forum to interact. I hope this article will generate more debate, which will continue to shape my writing. I know that there is wisdom in the crowd and I make it a point that I read each and every comment that is made on my articles.
I think the main reason I write is it helps my mindset. There are several issues about life that bother me, make me have sleepless nights, make me lose my appetite or even make me feel tired, helpless and despondent. These thoughts,if not dealt with, will bring resentment, frustration and disappointment. This will then determine my actions, which will lead to habits that will shape my character. I do not want to be a grumpy old person.
Writing about our experiences, feelings and thoughts help us to step back and examine our lives, identify the issues and events that have shaped and impacted on us, and understand what we are doing and why. When we share these writings with a large audience we personally benefit a lot and the audience also benefit as some will relate to the writings.
From writing comes the brainstorming and ideas are shared in a natural environment which research does not allow. In research responders are guided and have to answer certain questions in a certain way but on the social media people can digress and go off topic without any restrictions. This allows for several issues to be identified and future topics to be generated from the discussions that will have taken place.
We all know that a problem shared is a problem solved. There are benefits in helping others and also in sharing your problems with others. Sometimes I wake up not feeling well and then I log on to the social media and get motivated by someone’s post; about not giving up.
Why do I write ?
There is a research that I would like to share with you and it has shaped my thinking and guided my writings. Dr James W Pennebaker in his research in 1986 ( this was before social media took off) found that when people wrote about their most difficult experiences, they experienced improvements in their physical health. From his study, Pennebaker concluded that keeping secrets tends to be linked to health problems and that disclosing painful and emotional feelings often resulted in feelings of relief.
Effect of writing on Social Health
Writing brings positive changes in people’s social lives because after people write about their troubling events , devote less “thinking time ” to processing them further. This allows them to be good listeners and friends and this can improve their memories. Act of writing does encourage people to talk openly with others about their most hidden secrets. This can create more honest and confidential relationship as shown in one study that looked at relationships among college students. It found that couples who wrote about their relationships were more likely to still be together several months later.
Having said that I am forced here to caution readers of this platform on the negative effects of social media. Social media has many advantages but they also come at a price. We all know that people like myself have fallen from grace to shame, relationships and livelihoods ruined, some people have even become suicidal and even ended their lives. My message here is that if we use the social media well, we will reap many benefits from it so I make no apologies for focussing only on the positive side.
Effects of writing on Physical Health
Research has shown that writing promotes sleep, reduces recovery times for some illnesses and enhances immune function. It has also been shown that it can reduce stress and blood pressure. May l also warn writers on the hazards of sitting too long on computers without exercising. One need to take regular breaks and also take regular exercises as well as eating healthy to make sure that the benefits I have cited are not cancelled out by the bad habits that are associated with writing. There is now a “STAND UP ” app on Apple Store that one can download for free and will remind you to stand up at a designated time. You can choose to be reminded every 45mins for example.
Effects of writing on Emotional and Psychological Health
According to the UK mental health foundation, 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health process in the course of a year. The process of writing can help people to make sense of their lives and to explore and understand their feelings and emotions. Writing helps us to accept the reality of the past, whilst setting goals for adjusting our future life path in positive ways. The very act of moving a pen across paper or fingers on a keyboard can also be meditative and calming. A key advantage of writing on the social media is that we do it in our own time and at our own pace. If you are not feeling up to leaving the house or interacting with other people, writing can be an ideal way to help yourself begin to feel better.
The benefits of writing cut across physical, social, emotional and psychological well-being. Recent research has provided scientific evidence that when people transform their feelings and thoughts into language, their physical and mental health improves. I like this, as I find it to be true for me. However, some people have taken strong exception to the fact that my writings dwell on the health system in Zimbabwe. I have been told that it is “unethical ” to highlight the shortcomings in our health system. I wonder why it is also not unethical to subject patients to not-so-good practices in the same system. There is one thing that is definite here; we will all die one day. It’s either you die because the health system has failed you or you die because you have chosen to speak out about the shortcomings in the health system. Having accepted that the outcome is the same, I have decided to die speaking out and, in so doing, I may help preserve one or two lives and let them finish their work on this earth. If I can achieve that then my writing has managed to do something. I have lost a father and brother, not to mention several friends, due to the shortcomings of our health system.
I cannot bring back my loved ones that I lost but I can use that tragedy to inform the present health system and in shaping the present system we can influence the future. How wonderful and powerful will it be if we all join hands together to change our health system. This is not about individual doctors or Dr Chireka, it’s about our health system. Dr Chireka has his failures, shortcomings, bad habits which he needs to work on and him speaking out does not make him a better doctor. It just helps to bring some sensitive issues to the table for discussion and hopeful help in changing our health system.It’s not about individuals but it’s about the system. Those who know me , know that I have been writing for several years. My message to those joining in, is to take sometime to read some of my articles so that you have a better understanding of my writing.
This platform is not a name and shame forum. I am guided by medical ethics and also believe in fairness and justice, which demands the presumption that everyone is innocent until proved guilty. No names of individuals will be mentioned unless they hold public office. I mention the practice and look at its shortcomings, and let the public chip in with their contributions. This platform’s main focus is to raise health awareness. It is thus inevitable that we cannot ignore health policies and systems which are affecting the health of the population. I cannot sugarcoat criticism of the system. I also welcome those that are critical of my writing. I also learn from the discussion that take place here. Remember “igore redzidzo tichadzidza zvakawanda” (it’s a year for education and we will learn a lot)
My writing prompts me to pause and evaluate my life and our society. It makes me identify and label my thoughts, emotions and desires ( TED) and structure them in a particular way. This invariably leads me to reach a deeper understanding about my situation. I find that I talk more, connect with others differently and I become better at taking advantage of the social support around me . This equips me to be able to resolve issues and make positive changes for the future. I feel I can confidently say that I am much wiser than I was before I started to write on this platform. Thank you for all the thought provoking contributions that you make all the time. At times I feel the pain of the criticism. But, at the same time, I welcome and value it as it is shaping me into a better person. I do not claim to know it all, but I claim to be that person who is bold enough to write about it here and face the public reaction.
The “take away home message ” after reading this article is that writing may be a useful addition to other approaches used in treating our mental health problems such as stress, anxiety or depression. However, I must stress that although it may be a useful addition to other approaches, I am not suggesting that writing should replace other treatments for mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression. I urge you to see your doctor and discuss any health issues you may have after reading this article. My writing must call people to action ! I would love to hear from you so please leave me a comment, suggestion or question.
This article was compiled by Dr Brighton Chireka who is a GP in Folkestone Kent UK. You can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org or read more of his work on DR CHIREKA’S BLOG
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Dr Chireka has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.