These last couple of months I’ve allowed myself to become more vulnerable and more self-aware. I’ve tried to be as real as possible, as transparent as possible, so that the images I paint are the same images I can look back on to remember these experiences. I want to share the truth.
The truth is, yesterday I sat in the commons waiting for an elective, reading medical short stories, and watching the sun set over the medical center. It was a surreal moment for me-the last time I watched the sun set I was on the ninth floor of my college dorm, staring out at the Houston skyline, imagining myself in the mecca of medicine. Sitting in the commons, I was at peace with who I was and how I got here and all of the people, places, things, that contributed to my being. I felt a happiness that can only be felt experiencing the moment you find yourself in.
I spent the next three hours in a small focus group discussing grief, death, loss, disappointment, all the subjects normally avoided because it hits a core we wish not to address. Through this group I realized how open I became, in general, how I voluntarily shared information with strangers that I was never able to admit to myself. I acknowledged my wounds and bruises. I cried. I cried a lot, for myself, for the stories I was hearing from those around me. The premise was that, in order to be a healer, you have to reach into a part of yourself that you often cage up and allow yourself to be exposed, to understand, to not judge. It was to allow yourself to create a connection, to reach within and find a common thread that combines all of us: the thoughts we keep hidden because they hurt. It’s the concept of the Wounded Healer. It was cathartic. In a sense all of this, all of these pictures, these stories, these reflections, now this blog, are cathartic.
I wrote something during my college days that I have been reflecting on a lot lately. It was in response to the discussions we were having in my medical humanities courses over the prevalent problems of burnout and clinical detachment among physicians. It was a promise for the future: I want to be the doctor who asks, who learns, who loves, who heals, who cures, who cares, who follows up, who will recognize you in a hallway and stop to smile and say Hi. I want to be the doctor who is in tune with her humanity, who retains the romanticism so often deserted throughout medical training, who changes lives for more than a single moment, whose life is changed by many moments. I want to be the doctor who witnesses beauty in loss, in grief, in resilience, in hope, in miracles, in simply being human. It’s a lot to be, but I pray.
Now I have fully immersed myself in this journey, I see the difficulty. There are so many barriers that need to be navigated between a physician and their patient-outdated laws, rules, regulations, uninformed politicians, heart wrenching ethical dilemmas, profit driven health insurance companies. It requires a lot of work, a lot of frustrations, a lot of advocating, a lot of holding composure when everything around you is going wrong. But if there is anything I have learned these past few years, it is that if something is worth fighting for then fight. And whatever you do, don’t lose yourself in the process.
To future me, don’t be cold. Your heart was never meant to be cold. When it’s 3 am and you’re studying, when it’s 5 am and you just finished a night shift, when you’re in a room disagreeing with a patient, when you’re in a room consoling family, when you have to let a patient go, never forget this day.
You too have wounds.