A Detour to My Heart with Lorna Muthamia-Ochido

Today, I put to the universe some thoughts I have grappled with, not significantly, but enough to cause a yearning to put them on paper.

Writing is an outlet for me. A much needed clutch for my sanity. I’ve found that I write better than I speak. I am the person who thinks of come backs long after the opportunity that called for them has passed.

I cannot fight on the spot. My mouth just becomes dry and my tongue, dyspraxic.

I digress.

Not sure how to put what I want to say delicately, but I shall try…

Lorna Muthamia-Ochido, a speech therapist shares the lows of being in a career that involves a lot of emotions

The work I do as a speech therapist involves a lot of emotion. Emotion on the part of families and emotion on my part because I instinctively put myself in the shoes of my clients.

If you are here and perhaps don’t know what a speech therapist does. Please visit this blog post to understand our work.

For as long as I can remember, I have always felt more. A bit too much I would say. I have always secretly admired people who can detach themselves from emotional situations almost by a flutter of eyelids.

One minute, they are washed with whatever emotion that situation triggers in them, but the next minute, almost by the flutter of their eye lids, they are able to remove themselves emotionally from it and stop themselves from being consumed by the situation.

I wish I could say I have that super power because, truth be said, I simply find myself going deeper than I should and really, than is healthy. I am that person who cries when watching movies, hearing people’s stories, sharing mine, watching someone win the London marathon!

 My tears betray me.

The work of a speech therapist involves a lot of emotions on both the therapist and families served

I like knowing people’s situations, I genuinely like helping people out, sharing what I know and what I have.

Yes, this quality has its advantages- like I know people connect with me easily. I am believable, I think I am relatable and I appear harmless at least mostly (he..he).

Some may interpret this relatabilty and sensitivity as naivety or weakness, but oh! I’m strong too and savvy and perceptive.

I think the same thing that makes me feel freely and immerse myself in someone else’s experience is the same thing that protects me or gives me an intuition about situations or people whose intentions will not serve me.

I think this bit about my nature has made me attract mostly quality people in my life. I mostly meet genuine people and trustworthy staff.

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People who are not aligned with my best interests never last in my life. I have experienced that time and time again and I feel immensely grateful for this fact.

But, it is never easy to experience betrayal, disappointment, a broken-heart, be the subject of unfounded judgement, slander, malice, jealousy…

It hurts each time.

I’ve found that I am judged a lot. And wrongly for that matter. 
Somehow, being a speech therapist, I feel a misconception that I need to be all things to all people. I try, but I also know that’s a recipe for disaster.  A recipe for a lack of authenticity.
 When families come to me for speech therapy, I am usually fixated on alleviating their pain so I take on that pain and somewhere along the way, they expect that my life should revolve around them; their needs and somehow that, mine don’t matter.
 I always return to how grateful I feel that I am blessed beyond words. I try to put myself in the shoes of that parent who is expecting that I sacrifice everything for them, that I constantly shrink myself and my needs for theirs because I understand or empathise with their situation.
 But this parent and I are not that different.
 Their wishes for their child are my wishes for my children. I wish for my children to be healthy and successful. For me to make this happen for them. To make time to spend with them so that I don’t miss precious moments…

To apply zeal to the work I do. To serve with unrelenting resolve. To share with humanity the gifts I have in my heart for the betterment of those who require them now and those to come in the future.

To be remunerated adequately for the work I do without the discrimination that somehow what I do ought to be given out without an expectation of pay because those I serve are in greater need than myself.

It should not be shameful for persons working in positions that offer services to persons who are ‘less able’ to demand to be paid for services rendered.

And yes, it is equally not right for any of these persons to take advantage of their positions and extort money from those they serve or be unethical in their pricing.

You see what a speech therapist does is the same as what an accountant, a lawyer, a hawker, you name it… does! You never expect that your accountant subsidises their fees because you registered a loss, right?

To be a speech therapist means to be in a profession that demands a lot of empathy and I have my own curse/blessing that I also happen to feel a lot, but that should not be reason to imagine I am different from the next professional. That somehow your needs supersede my needs.

I have found myself apologising to people who insult me because I feel that I should show grace in that moment.

I can feel without going through exactly what you’re going through.

I recall a training I attended in which there were specialists brainstorming how to start a service in the country. There were a few parents whose children had the condition the new service would be addressing. One parent stood up to vent her frustrations about the services she has received from specialists concerned with her child’s condition and it was all sounding very valid, until…

To date, I cannot believe what came out of this lady’s mouth in her two minutes of fame and with a captivated audience of people she clearly felt she needed to share from her heart with. As I listened to her, I resonated with most of what she shared from her perspective as a parent until…until she said she wished each of us had a child with the condition her child had so that we “would know how it felt first hand”.

Whatever sense, whatever traction this lady had began to build up in the minutes before her last phrase, was all dissolved by those words, which were informed, no doubt by the emotions she was feeling.

That’s the thing with emotional outbursts, it dilutes the validity of what would have been valid contributions.

And there have been many times when I have been on the receiving end of either irate parents or even medical colleagues who have no reservation in asking that I volunteer my services at the point where I am submitting my invoice for payment.

I am not opposed to volunteering my services or to giving discounts, in fact, I do a lot of both, but what I can’t help not agreeing with, is the view that I must be charitable simply because of the nature of what I as a speech therapist do.

Who will it benefit for me to gain the world’s most charitable award, but fail to be able to pay my staff or struggle to put food on the table for my children and eventually decide this just wasn’t the line of work for me?

This rant of mine is mostly for my own relief and if anything else should be gleaned from it, it is that I am as human as the next person, with humanly needs as the next person and shouldn’t in any way be someone else’s punching bag because of what life may have dealt them because I, too have my own share of life’s events that you know nothing about.

Yours may need my hand, but mine may need someone else’s hand.

And us so-called specialists don’t wear armourguard. We feel just like the next person and hurt just like the next person. The diplomacy I may show in handling a distraught parent should not be mistaken to be my acceptance of every wrong, but merely my understanding that ethically, I am not allowed to put emotion into a situation that could preclude or prejudice an innocent person (your child) from a much needed service. 
I, more than anything, understand and take with so much seriousness my position as not just a speech therapist, but a speech therapist in a country where there is a shortage of quality services.

I could never live with myself if I allowed my emotion to get in the way of being of service to a child who is not to blame for their parents’ emotions.

My self-restraint is my strength; not my weakness.

I have been the subject of damaging slander whose purpose could only be to character-assassinate. Apparently, that’s the nature of social media, but be that as it may, I refuse to believe that decorum and honesty must be devoid when we enter social media.

Is social media this unstoppable devourer of common good? That somehow robs people of filters because the lure of temporary fame from sharing crowd-worthy ‘musings’ takes over our own senses?

When someone fabricates lies about their experience with you in ways that you know is not factual, you have to wonder what the motive was? Was it to get your attention? To ruin reputation? Was it just fun and games for them?

Whatever the reason, I believe each of us has a responsibility to responsible words.

Our words should build others or aim to correct.

When you spot someone with the courage to put themselves out there, remember they’re just like you, just perhaps with a stronger conviction than you to risk it all for whatever their cause. This person has the same aspirations as you and will very well not be perfect.

And if, like me, you have been on the receiving end to someone’s moment of fame (he..he), remember, the odds are largely in your favour and that that outburst had nothing to do with you.

And the truth is, it rarely does.

People can be mean, but it shouldn’t steal your sunshine.

Try to remember when you haven’t displayed the best of manners yourself. I know of many times some unsuspecting person has found themselves on my path of destruction because I just wasn’t having a good day and they have probably gone home feeling under appreciated or undervalued simply because I was too in my ego to isolate matters.

Does it not happen a lot when you are speaking to your cable or phone company? Where you are kept on hold for far too long or for the call to drop just as soon as it gets answered and whoa! unto the next operator who picks your call. Being snappy to the next person who answers is no different from the person who decides they will hate on someone online, but having an understanding that it usually has little to do with you is something that can offer a relief of sorts.

 Writing is a relief for me.

I hope as always to be the change I want to see. To show compassion, grace and restraint in my publications.

To seek to understand more, to judge less, to have decorum more often than not (he..he).

And to be of service.

Thank you for allowing me this vent-opportunity 😉.

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Hi, I'm your teacher

Lorna Muthamia-Ochido

I run a family-centred speech-language therapy clinic, the largest in East and Central Africa. I’ve helped 15,000+ children optimise their communication outcomes (in other words, I make children smarter ☺).

Get your child talking in no time.

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