Posted on 2 Comments

What I learned from my recent appendectomy

Happy Saturday my friends! I hope you had an amazing week thus far and your weekend is even greater! My weekend? Let’s just say it has had a unique start. I underwent an appendectomy!

I was chuckling during this pre-operation selfie. I told the surgical team, “thanks for protecting my beautiful head full of hair.” (I’m nearly bald for those who didn’t know.)

No matter how big or small, I always try to find a lesson in each of life’s circumstances. So what could I have possibly learned from an appendectomy? Well, the first thing I learned is that seeing a medical professional early on can make a huge difference. This was the first time in my life that I did not attempt to “tough it out.” The medical professionals were able to fix the issue in the early stages (before the infection in my appendix worsened and rupturing became a threat). But there was a larger life lesson.

The life lesson: We must quickly address life’s hurts and pains.

Let’s backtrack for a second: I woke up this past Thursday feeling normal. I went through my morning routine and showed up at the gym at 6 am for my one hour Yoga session. Such a relaxing start to the day ☺️. As the morning progressed, I began to feel a small pain/discomfort in my stomach. I initially thought it was nothing more than gas (sorry if that is TMI 😬), but I wasn’t so sure anymore by the time I arrived at work. It was getting worse throughout the day, but I was reluctant to express this feeling to my peers. After all, they probably already assumed it was COVID, so I did not want to cause alarm. There was no hiding it, because I am always jovial; striving to be the one to bring brightness to the room. Contrarily, I was quiet, withdrawn, and exhausted. One of my colleagues even said, “Are you ok?…You look like you are really hurting.”

Luckily, I was responsible for picking my son up from school that day, so I had an excuse to leave early. When I made it home, I laid on the couch and slept. I tossed. I turned. I tried lying upside down. I took Tums… Anything to relieve what I thought was simply “trapped gas.” That evening, I told my wife the words that let her know I was actually in pain, “I am going to the doctor in the morning to see what is wrong.” She knows I HATE hospitals, so she knew it must have been serious.

I arrived at the hospital Friday morning, still playing the tough guy role. I imagined they would hand me something to quickly relieve the pressure in my stomach and allow me to go home. At this point, I just wanted to “rule out appendicitis.” I mean seriously, my phone was on 40%, and I left my charger in my vehicle; I just knew this visit would be short! I was wrong.

After reviewing the Computed tomography (CT) scan, the surgical team came into the room to confirm I had appendicitis (a condition in which the appendix becomes inflamed and filled with pus, causing pain. Source: Mayo Clinic). Thankfully, I sought help early enough to avoid a rupture. The surgical team presented me with two options:

1. Take antibiotics to “hopefully” reduce the inflammation.

2. Remove the appendix to eliminate the chance of reinfection.

I chose the latter, and the rest is history.

Why did I share that entire story?

I was able to identify several parallels between my life and my recent experience.

1. Pain is an indication of something more serious. Sometimes we become so accustomed to emotional hurt and pain that we ignore it. We consider ourselves “lone wolves.” We “tough it out” because we do not want to look weak. We mask our pain. We pretend we are ok. We attempt to become numb to the pain. We ignore it in hopes that it will go away. The downside is it does not go away; it just intensifies. Then, we find ourselves attempting to treat the symptoms with things that may cause the pain to temporarily subside only to find that the pain only increases–requiring more temporary treatment measures. We focus more on covering/treating the pain than identifying the root cause.

2. Though they can see straight through our ruse, we attempt to hide our pain from others. I knew I needed to bounce back after the first time my colleague asked, “are you ok?” So I ran to the store and grabbed tums and ginger ale. After about 30 minutes I said, “I feel much better after my Tums, ginger ale, and [lightly salted] veggie chips!” I said it in such a way that I even started to believe it. I told an occasional joke or two to throw him off. Meanwhile, the pain was worsening, and he wasn’t fooled. How often do we do this? Instead of admitting we are in pain and seeking help (or allowing others to help), we attempt to hide it. “I’ll be ok.” “I was built for this!” “Pain is weakness leaving the body, right?” Those are just a few of my go-to quotes. What are yours? Regardless, no one is falling for it anyway, so why not just get the help we need?

Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.

J.K. Rowling

3. I got the help I needed. I like to think of myself as a pretty tough guy, but I challenged myself to do something different this time. I decided I would get help instead of self-medicating. I am so glad I did. The surgical team informed me that my case was worse than they originally assessed via CT scan. Meaning, had I not gotten it taken care of, I risked rupturing my appendix (potentially fatal). We should normalize seeking professional help. Attempting to self-medicate our problems tend to make things worse. I learned this from previous injuries, and I am encouraging you to do the same. Do not try to do this on your own. Stop trying to hide or mask the pain and get the help you need to remove the root cause. Which moves to my last point:

4. You must address the root cause. When the surgical team presented me with options, I felt the answer was obvious. To me, Option A was: The surgical team would immediately treat the symptoms in hopes that the problem would not resurface. Option B was: The surgical team would remove the root cause which will immediately hurt more but has a greater chance of preventing future pain (reinfection). I chose the latter because that option addressed the root cause–my infected appendix. Simply reducing inflammation would have led to temporary relief. Chances are I would have returned to the hospital with the same pain in the future. So yes, I exposed myself to risks and pain associated with surgical removal, but in the long term, I do not have to worry about my appendix becoming reinfected… Because it is gone. Addressing the root of the pain was the right answer for me, and I believe it is the right answer for all of us. Healing and recovery may hurt and take time, but I will confidently endure knowing I made the best long-term decision for my health.

I know facing hurt and pain is a challenge for all of us. It can be scary and make feel vulnerable and weak. However, we must address the root cause of our pains if we want to live a healthy physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual life. Today is your day. This is your sign. Allow me to be your friend today who is pointing you towards seeking help. We can do this together. I believe in you!

Olaolu Ogunyemi: U.S. Marine Officer | Mentor | Best-selling author

Did you enjoy this post? Check out my blog for more!

Also, check out my FREE RESOURCES to help you along your personal journey!

Posted on 1 Comment

Three Day Mental Health Guide (Major Payne Edition): A Father’s Journey to Building Mentally Strong Children

Day One: A Tough Topic

Day One Guest Author- Dr. Clement Ogunyemi aka The Finance Doctor

Mental health is a tough topic of discussion in most homes and oftentimes met with negative comments. Those who deal with mental health are often shunned and ostracized.  I thought “finance” was a sensitive topic, but discussing mental health is like walking on thin ice. It is often seen as an untouchable, unspoken topic. I have personally learned from my own mental health journey, which started at an early age. I felt as though I would be viewed as crazy or looney, require a lifetime medication prescription, and/or be locked in an asylum for the rest of my life. I was always afraid to face my mental health head on and be open with my parents about how I was feeling. Growing up in the church, we were always taught that negative thoughts were the devil and we should just attempt to pray them away and hope for the best. As I got older, I often felt my mind drift to darker places than the last time. I finally learned that prayer alone just wasn’t going to cut it.

What I have learned along this journey is to be open and honest with my family and –most importantly– my children. With our world crumbling right before their eyes, who knows what could be going through those little minds?  I dealt with my mental health in adolescence alone because I was too afraid to open up to my parents and older siblings, thinking they would think something was “wrong with me.”  I do not want that for my children. When they deal with their mental health, I want them to understand that IT’S OK and PERFECTLY NORMAL.  I want them to understand that their biggest hero and cheerleader, Daddy, has and continues to go through those feelings while on his own mental health journey. I want those little boys to know that I am here to guide them through their journey and make sure that they are able to grow along the way.

I have learned to replace words like “struggling” and “coping” with words like “learning,” “growing,” and “progressing” when discussing my mental health journey. We all have our own journey, but it is imperative that we teach our children to navigate through this tough topic. How do we teach them? Let’s walk through this guide together! 

Day Two: Time to break the mold! 

“Shut up crybaby!” “Suck it up!” “Stop acting like a girl!” “You must be a wimp!” “Stop crying… real men don’t cry or show emotion!” “Toughen up!” “If you want sympathy, look in the dictionary between…” You know the rest. These sound familiar? In an attempt to teach our young people how to overcome adversity, these are some of the things we say. We should be developing what I like to call the three pillars of fortitude: physical toughness, spiritual toughness, and mental toughness; however, by constantly barraging our children with anything like the aforementioned clichés, we are inadvertently teaching our children to suppress pain/feelings while emotionally disconnecting from themselves and others. Society’s perception of masculinity and toughness has built crumbling mental toughness pillars.

🎥Watch this🎬: The Mask You Live In is a film worth watching that, “follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity… [This film] ultimately illustrates how we, as a society, can raise a healthier generation of boys and young men.” –therepresentationproject.org

Did you catch the Major Payne quote above?? That is definitely one of my favorite movies! For those that have not seen it (spoilers loading…), Major Payne is a comedy film from the ninety’s that stars Daymon Wayans acting as Major Benson Winifred Payne–a nail eating, combat tested, United States Marine (Oorah!) that was honorably discharged after being passed [twice] for promotion. He later finds a job as a JROTC instructor and faces the tall task of turning a “…gaggle of maggots into a well-disciplined cadet unit” (his words, not mine). Fast forward to the end, the newly-cohesive unit wins the Virginia Military Games! 

Now before you go purchase hand grenades to “train” your children, please understand that I am not endorsing Major Payne’s [hilarious] leadership model. He had A LOT to learn about raising/mentoring young people. The good news is after reading “The ABC’s Of Being A Positive Male Role Model,” Major Payne began to comprehend the importance of teaching young people to reconnect with their emotions. He understood that he had to “be sensitive to [their] needs” to reach their hearts. 

Tomorrow, we will discuss how we can make the same tweaks in our leadership abilities as the infamous Major Payne! Stay tuned. 

Day Three: The Major Payne Leadership Model

Fall in! 

Boot camp 101: “Fall in” is a command that means, “take your place in a military formation.” In the Marine Corps, we “fall in” at the position of “attention.” Meaning you are attentive and ready to hear what’s next. 

Since I have not located the book that triggered Major Payne’s transition from trained killer to effective mentor, I created the below ABCs Of Being a Positive Father and Role Model! Don’t worry… I’ll stop at “D.”

  • Always seek to inspire: this tip is a science and an art. 
    • The science (the what) is to be firm, be fair, teach your children how to be responsible, set the example with your own actions, and hold your children accountable. 
    • The art (the how) is to encourage, use positive reinforcement when they do well, and fill their minds with positive thoughts when they make a mistake or disappoint you. Lather your children in positive affirmations! 
  • Be patient: this is a tough one, because, like Mrs. Trunchbull from the movie Matilda said, “They’re all mistakes, children. Filthy, nasty things. Glad I never was one.” Right? WRONG! Ok so let’s start there; have a little grace. Although we were all angels growing up, children are going to be children–they are just young human beings. They will make mistakes. They will sometimes disappoint you. They will sometimes get it wrong again, and again, and again. But it is ok! Take a deep breath, and extend a little grace.
    • Note: the definition of “patient” is, “able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.” That will definitely take some practice, but you can do it!

**Check this out: My youngest daughter literally jumped (fully clothed) into a kiddie pool as I was typing this section! So, I had an immediate opportunity to practice being patient. 🙃 I grabbed her hand, calmly told her, “you’re all wet; let’s go dry off,” and walked her inside. Po-si-tive *Major Payne voice **

  • Care and Compassion
    • Care is probably the simplest of the two C’s. To care is to provide the basic necessities of life (i.e. food, shelter, water, and electricity). This is where us fathers typically thrive, and sometimes, we are too quick to let everyone know (don’t brag; it’s your job 😉). Be physically present, and provide for your children. 
    • Compassion requires you to validate and value your children’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Do not fall into the trap of saying, “it’s really not that big a deal.” Instead, allow your children to share their feelings with you, so you become empathetic enough to have a strong desire to help. Don’t try to be “Mr. Fix It,” but at least express the desire to help! For example, someone once stole a very rare unicorn from my oldest daughter in an online game that she enjoyed playing. It seemed silly at first, but I realized this really hurt her feelings. So first, I had to verbally validate her feelings and emotions. Then, I shared the moment with her until she felt better. Simple but effective! 

**BONUS “C”: Celebrate!! My youngest was potty training when I wrote this. So I took a quick break to celebrate with a silly jingle and dance I made up, “Eni went poopy in the poooottty!” *Clap *Clap (repeat). Positive reinforcement goes a long way!**

  • Do not be afraid to cry openly! I heard my wife tell my son, “don’t be afraid to cry if something really hurts.” My initial cringe at that statement shows that I am NOT perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Now, I am not saying lie on the floor and project a deep wail (although I think that would be hilarious) next time you stub your toe, or Hulk Smash through a wall to show that “Daddy angry!” I am simply encouraging you to show emotion.  Look your children in the eyes and say, “I love you.” Rejoice with them, and allow them to see your happiness. Let them see you be angry, yet tempered and respectful. And when the opportunity presents itself, embrace them and cry with them. 

That’s it! Just like that, you now have all the tools you need to be successful. Now throw on your best Major Payne voice and go lead your home to a stronger mental health. 

Fall out! 

Note for my readers: If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).