I call my blog The Grieving Doctor Mom but I haven’t spent much time talking about the doctor side of my life.
The life of a doctor. More specifically – a pediatrician. First off – if you need quiet at your workplace – then you don’t become a pediatrician.
Sometimes my office is a chaotic scream factory. We give a lot of shots.
Even if the visit has no shots planned some patients just don’t want to be there. (pretty much all 15 and 18 month olds)
Doctor= The master to compartmentalize
To compartmentalize: separate something into parts and not allow those parts to mix together
Doctors are AWESOME at this. And we have to be. It starts in medical school and is especially used during residency. To succeed you cannot mix emotion with your work. You must be mentally sharp, not clouded by your feelings. A mild example: I talk to a mom of a teenager with a diagnosis of depression and anxiety, inpatient psychiatric care, school failure and drug use, recommend care and state a plan, give mom reassurance that her child will be ok, comfort mom as she cries and says it is all so hard (in 15 min ) then regroup and enter the next room to a rowdy 2 year old wellness exam with a tired mom with three crazy healthy siblings bored from waiting for you.
I have survived so far with this skill. During residency no one cared if you had problems at home. Well, your colleagues cared but the work still had to get done, so you had to leave it at home.
Four years of med school and three years of residency where you left your problems at home and did your work. My art of compartmentalizing is automatic now. 22 years of practice, every day. Remember my house of grief? It does not connect with my work life. And I really don’t want to. I am focused on other people’s problems. Their world. Their concerns. I am the problem solver. The conduit to healing and guide to finding the answers.
So I have many hours of my week where I am focused on my life as a doctor. I am proud I can still practice pediatrics. I can focus and do my life’s work. I still want to help people. Even more now.
My compassion has increased by my loss.
The hard part is my time away from my work. I have to put my work worries and thoughts aside and be the grieving mom. Not doctor. The transition can sometimes be easy and other times it slams me in the face.
My grief is like a garden. I have to visit it in brief but frequent trips, weeding the garden as it calls for every few days. If I spend too much time away the garden is taken over by overgrowth, weeds, bugs and what not. I then spend my time lamenting that I have this garden. It can overwhelm me to care for it and put it back to the condition I want and can tolerate.
Finally – when Nolan died I did not keep secret the cause of his death. But now I wonder if the parents and older patients of my practice, the ones that know about my loss, if they think differently of me.
I wonder if they think I failed him.
I know we did all we could for Nolan. He took his life. He made his choice. We helped him connect with psychiatric help and a therapist he really could talk to. (which is amazing for a 19-year-old shy depressed anxious young man to do) I don’t know what happened in his last days or hours of life to make him end his pain.
But I was his mom and a doctor. Why couldn’t I save him?
I don’t worry if people think I could have stopped Nolan from taking his life. They don’t know the details.
But I do hope they see the doctor that is standing before them now is very grateful to still do her life’s work and serve God’s children in compassionate care.