Thursday, November 24, 2016

Gathering my People

This has been a really, really rough week.


I didn't expect it at all.  I finished call at 8 am Monday morning; I had lots of uncommitted time in the evenings to relax with my couch and my cats; and there didn't seem to be anything unusually stressful in my calendar.  It was supposed to be a good week.

And then we had a department meeting.

There are changes happening at my university, and while logically I expect that the changes will all be fine (if not actually good), they do create a lot of uncertainty.  And as an anxious person, uncertainty is not my friend.  I've spent the whole week calculating how long I can survive off the money in my bank account, wondering what I could do if I was no longer a physician, and being tortured by my sensitive GI system*.  It's been miserable.

While lying awake on the couch in the wee hours of this morning, wishing that my cats would consent to me squeezing them like a security blanket, I realized that I needed to do something differently.  I can't live with this level of anxiety for the ten years or more until I've squirreled away enough money to retire.  This isn't working.

Thankfully, today was a paperwork day, so I had lots of time to figure things out.  And what I figured out was that I need a support system.  People who have been through what I'm going through who can offer me some advice.  Unfortunately, in Medicine this is a really, really hard thing to find.  We are supposed to all be perfect and to not need anything from anyone, so finding someone with whom we can discuss our challenges and vulnerabilities isn't easy. 

Coincidentally, just last week I had run into an attending who, years ago, had given a talk to my residency program about the challenges she had faced as a resident and young attending.  When I realized this morning that I need more people, my brain went "Ah-ha!".  That was who I needed.  Except...she is an attending that I don't know personally.  And I run into her about once every 3-6 months. 

So, going against every instinct of mine to be shy and quiet and never ask for anything, I emailed her to see if she would meet me for coffee.

And she said yes.

And then I emailed another attending.  Who also said yes. 

Suddenly, after a week of feeling alone and scared, I don't feel so much of either.

*For the record, none of this is rationally necessary.  Everything is going to be fine, one way or another.  This is just anxiety.


  1. I find reaching out for help to be really difficult. Somehow I thought that might disappear when I became an attending and was comfortably among peers; you've entirely dashed that hope for me! I'm glad to hear that you didn't just let yourself struggle in the dark place, and I hope that your more-experienced peers can offer you some hope and consolation.

    Also, I so feel you on the tortured GI system. Man oh man, as soon as I'm feeling even just slightly stressed, my gut lets me know exactly what's up.

  2. Hi,
    I just recently found your blog by another blogger (physician on fire) recommendation and am glad I did. I am new to the blogging world (just started my own last week, , and am excited to follow along your journey and share my own.

    1. Welcome to the blogging world! I'm excited to discover another queer frugal physician who is blogging! I look forward to reading your posts.

  3. It's SO hard to overcome that "shy, quiet, never ask for anything" thing - that's awesome that you got in touch with someone who's been there.

  4. Well, I don't know what's wrong with you... after all *I* am perfect. (sarcasm)

    That's so awesome that you reached out and received support. Keep us posted about how the meetings go!

  5. I'm also very anxious and just the thought of reaching out like that to someone I don't know is enough to cause all sorts of discomfort. I'm not sure I'd even be able to do that. So good on you for reaching out!

    Like sluckett, I keep looking to the next phase of training and thinking "I'll have it figured out when I get there" and people keep telling me that's not actually true. This was a good reminder to really build those connections.

  6. Time's goes on and you need to catch the moment to live. Work isn't everything but it takes a lot of time. When you work, when you sleep, even when you write an application, it's going. So all you need is catch a moment and do the best. Not crying..