Residential Space A creative outlet during residency, turned ongoing virtual soap box

Generic Post  1

Posted on August 24th, 2006. About Ramblings.

No, not “generic” in the sense that I’m going to complain further about Express Scripts and the outrage that overtook me when they refused to fill the prescription for the drug actually written on the script. Rather, this is just a generic post to explain that I am still alive, albeit barely.

I have endured a rough two months. I’m not undergoing chemotherapy for a terminal illness, and I’m not locked away in a foreign prison for a crime I did not commit, but I still think the past two months have tested my faith in my surroundings. I have worked as the neurology resident on one of the two Harborview Medical Center neurology teams since the start of July, and, including my most difficult of days during my intern year, I have never felt this exhausted. I hardly ever sleep for more than fifteen minutes at a time while on call (which is every fourth night), and on non-call days I arrive at the hospital at 7AM and never leave before about 6PM. After two months of eleven hour days with a 30-hour shift thrown in every fourth day/night, I nearly reached a breaking point two weeks ago. Life had quickly lost all of its luster, and all I could think about while I was awake was how I wanted to go to sleep so that my life would disappear.

I’m not sure what happened this week – perhaps I’ve come to terms with my fate as a resident, or I have recognized that, while I have to tolerate this for at least the rest of this year, there is still a temporary quality to this experience. I am also blessed with having found my soulmate, who has supported me greatly over the past two months. I’ve realized that feeling constantly depressed about my situation only makes him sad too, and I don’t want that.

I have also realized that there are times when I love being a physician. It’s a privilege. Today a patient’s elderly wife thanked me for spending ten minutes with her and hugged me, and this made me happy. I am constantly part of a life-saving team of doctors and nurses. Our patients have been unfortunate to endure severe strokes, and in addition to saving lives, we preserve quality of life, which I find just as important, if not moreso. That is truly wonderful. I just look forward to the day when I can do this by working less than a gazillion hours a week.

I have found time, however, to do some creative writing, and I think it has been a successful way of coping. Evan, my friend Beth, and I recently hosted a party, which also helped me spirits. I enjoyed serving shrimp and grits, chocolate parfait, and mixed drinks galore to my friends, colleagues, and neighbors in between call nights.

This is another source of my disappointment. When I was eight years old, I wrote my first “novel,” a collection of about one hundred sheets of loose leaf notebook paper, collected in a plastic binder, recounting the story of a mother and her thirteen children, who all had American names, and who somehow sailed on a cruseship-sized boat that they rented from Austria to South Carolina (I later developed an appreciation for geography). When I tired of writing the story, all of my characters caught “brain fever” and passed away. Today, as a neurology resident physician, I still don’t know what I meant by “brain fever,” but that’s what they had.

I always imagined that I would be one of those prodigies who published her first novel during college, and the New York Times review would rave about such a young person achieving phenomenol success as an accomplished author by an early age. Yet, as I am turning 28 in October, I recognize that, should I publish a novel tomorrow, it would not seem so remarkable anymore. Evan told me recently that if I really wanted to be a writer, then I would find time to write. And he’s correct. I cannot publish what I have not written.

I do want to be a great physician. And a writer. And an entrepreneur. And a restauranteur. Or a caterer. I want to learn Russian through taking classes and traveling abroad. I want to regain the skills I once possessed as a pianist during my high school days. I would love to teach biology at a local high school for a year. I hope to organize a 5k through the Central District of Seattle one of these years. Perhaps the frustration in life comes from wanting to do so much in what seems like a brief amount of time. Life, while long, just seems to slip by so quickly.

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