Ultan Molloy ponders some potential reasons to be cheerful

The last lock-in I had was a lot more pleasant than this one, truth be told. The fun had probably gone out of me at that point, with family and work responsibilities permeating my thoughts. Several years later, and in the middle of a very different lock-in, family and work responsibilities seem to have reached a new intensity. I have some friends who tell me they are bored, others say they are lonely, many have lost their jobs, and we are in a privileged position of still having the pharmacies open at the moment. The kids aren’t at school and we don’t have a child-minder, but they’re as wild and healthy as ever, only Laura is now full-time with three kids under 4. She will be canonised when this is all over. Indeed, another parent tweeted recently that after a morning with his two toddlers, he reckoned that all pre-school teachers’ wages should be increased to €1,000,000 once this is all over. I very much understand his sentiment.

Firsts

There have been a number firsts in recent weeks. Our first experience we have had of a global pandemic. We really didn’t know what was coming our way, did we? 

The first time to have colleagues out of work for their own welfare. They’re missed, although I’m content that we have done the right thing, and they are safer under the circumstances. 

The first time to be at home intensively with our small family without childcare support or school support. I’m told in my case it’s called ‘parenting’, not ‘babysitting’!

The first time some of our customers washed their hands, by all appearances. Indeed, some appear to continue to resist doing it, rather substituting that inconvenient pastime with an occasional rub of an alcohol-based hand-gel. 

The first time that I have been unable to attend the funeral of a friend to say goodbye. 

The first time I have done self-assessment tests for wellbeing and happiness, and scored miserably on both fronts, both of which need some considered follow-up and actions. Most people looking at my situation or CV would likely deem me to be ‘a success’, by all accounts. At a time when I should be joyful and celebrating all that I have to be grateful for, I feel more anxious, stressed-out and angry than I have in a long time. 

The first time I have left the family WhatsApp group in an attempt to manage my inputs, and to extricate myself from a tirade of pseudoscience and religious didacticism. We haven’t seen much of our parents, for their sake. It’s an unusual dynamic that has a sadness paired with it. 

The first time I have been unable to get seen for a medical complaint. I’ve a tendon issue in my left foot that was referred to orthopaedics, a swollen right knee, and have done something to my left elbow, having awkwardly lifted our giant baby. 

Indeed, another parent tweeted recently that after a morning with his two toddlers, he reckoned that all pre-school teachers’ wages should be increased to €1,000,000 once this is all over. I very much understand his sentiment

Just in now from digging the beginnings of a hole in our garden for a trampoline, I’ll no doubt be reminded of all three in glorious technicolour aches in the morning. A short hobble to admire this evening’s digging efforts with a coffee in hand will no doubt have me praising and assuring myself that the satisfaction gained far outweighs the aches. 

It’s the first time I’ve considered my own self-esteem and the factors affecting it in the pharmacy environment. The daily grind of being a community pharmacist isn’t my happiest of roles, and stepping back into a much greater extent again in a pharmacist’s role, I really need to manage myself for the sake of our family, our team, our customers and our business. 

The stress associated with working in retail pharmacy, as a pharmacist and employer, and having to deal with some thankless characters, certainly doesn’t feel nourishing or wholesome to me, or to many others of you, in our daily role as pharmacist. Self-care seems to be a luxury at the moment, and the motivation to build some healthy habits isn’t always forthcoming. 

The future

I learn a lot through writing these pieces for Irish Pharmacist. You are kind enough to read them, so I hope they bring you some sense of satisfaction or nourishment in some way or other. What shines through from this piece for me is the importance of expressing gratitude for all the good things we have in our lives at present. 

We are in a privileged position, in that the majority of pharmacists are still working and have a healthy income for themselves and their families. We are considered front-line workers, and that means that we can have some semblance of routine, social interaction and can get out of the house to deliver helpful and meaningful work for our communities. 

Hopefully at the end of this, community pharmacy, and community pharmacists, will be viewed more favourably as a valuable community healthcare resource, and see a favourable new contract negotiated with the Government. While ‘eaten bread is soon forgotten’, we have good reason to remain perhaps more optimistic than we may have been up to now.

Ultan Molloy
Ultan Molloy

Ultan Molloy is a business and professional performance coach, pharmacist, facilitator and development specialist. He works with other pharmacists, business owners and third parties to develop business strategies.