Monday, June 28, 2010

Letting go

While I was walking home from a "lunch date" with my daughter yesterday, I inexplicably started to get pissed off about the fact that I never had a baby shower. I don’t know what set me off. There are a lot of babies in my neighborhood, so maybe that was it.

As a pregnant person, I was just starting out a new residency thousands of miles from my family and where I went to med school and college. I didn’t have many (any) friends nearby, at least not female friends. There were only a couple of other female residents in my program. I have no sisters. So really, I didn’t expect to have a shower. No problem. I got some presents independent of a shower.

Then a year later, another female resident (let’s call her Tina) in my class got pregnant. One of the (female) attendings at my residency, one who had actually been my attending when I was about five months pregnant, said to another female resident, "We should plan Tina a baby shower."

The other resident told me about this and I flew into an absolute rage. I was SO angry that this attending would show such blatant favoritism. Also, it was embarrassing for me. Moreover, Tina had tons of friends and family in the area and surely had her own shower planned. I said I was going to boycott any attending-planned shower, I was that angry. But the shower never ended up taking place, possibly because someone clued the attending in to the fact that I was angry, or possibly because most of the residents didn’t like Tina very much. (I liked Tina, but I was still furious about the shower.)

Anyway, after getting extremely worked up over this and planning out a whole MiM entry in my head, I thought to myself, "Why am I still angry about this? It happened YEARS ago!"

I’m still angry about other things too:

I’m still angry at the senior resident who verbally abused me during my first ward month as an intern (For examples, read some of my cruel resident stories). I’m still angry at the co-intern who gave me shit about taking a night off when I had a threatened miscarriage. I’m still angry at this gunner med student who stole my first delivery on OB/GYN. I’m still angry at the attending who was so slow on the weekend that I was rounding for 14 hours in a row on a Saturday. I’m still angry about... too much.

This week, my medical training comes to an end. Four years of med school, a year of internship, three years of residency, and a year of fellowship. Obviously, I’m never going to forget all the miserable moments, but maybe I can try to stop being so angry about them. Maybe I can finally let go of that anger. Maybe I can focus on the good memories, of which there are also many.

Dear medical training: You suck sometimes, but I forgive you.

Besides, I’m sure I’ll find all new stuff to get pissed off about next year.


  1. I was talking with my friend Derek last week. He's got my old job as chief resident. He commented to me that he can now, after one week as chief, see why I completely lost it last year because of all the stupid crap you have to put up with. The ChiefCrap(tm) is slightly different from that of ResidentCrap(tm) because it has a more administrative flavor. He was recounting stories of all the stuff he had to do one day and all I could do was chuckle.

    Towards the end, stuff that would have sent me over the edge in September rolled off my back with an "eh, whatever". I was sick of the bull and had become numb to it. I kind of miss that feeling, that sensation of getting fired up over something you can fix.

    My last day as chief was almost two weeks ago. I start my first Big Girl job as an attending this coming Thursday. I told one of my soon-to-be-coworkers (I'm working in the same place where I did my residency) that I'm trading one set of bullsh*t for another.

    I'm glad for it.

    You have a right to be angry over the stuff that happened. I have plenty of things I'm angry about in residency. But they're gone, and you can't change them. All you can do is is recognize the things in your new life that may make you upset and prevent them.

  2. "Unforgiveness is like eating a spoonful of poison every day and hoping the other person dies"

    This anger is hurting only you.

    Spending time fanatizing about what should of happened or what you should've said is only going to reinforce these feeling.

  3. Thanks for sharing! Yes, the emotions that can well up long after the original event has passed are very powerful. You can take the experiences you had and work hard to be sure that people in your circle (colleagues, students, residents, etc) are treated better by you than you were often treated by others! Breaking the cycle is a great way to change things one person at at time! Congratulations on the close of your training and best wishes as you start this next phase in your career!

  4. Please continue to vent here at MiM... your posts make me laugh and cry at the same time.

  5. I'm doing my best to let go. I also notice my mother does the same thing, which worries me that it's either genetic or so ingrained that I might not be able to break the habit.

  6. I've actually started realizing this same thing in myself. There have been so many bad experiences over the year that I'm still angry about. And knowing that I only have more to go through makes me even angrier sometimes. I recognize that I need to get over, but sometimes I feel so emotionally damaged by my training, that I'm not sure how to.

  7. I am totally with you. I have a work reputation for being cheerful through the worst but I realized that holding it in at work made me erupt at home and my poor husband is often the target. Not that he doesn't deserve it sometimes but I have taken out some of my professional frustrations on him. I did realize it and have channeled it back into constructive requests/discussions at work. We will see how it goes. I just cannot be angry and have a healthy marriage or be a healthy parent or even be healthy myself. Get riled up and do something about it. If you can't fix it, let it go.

  8. F,

    I'm still angry about my dorm parents who forgot my 15th birthday my freshman year of high school. I had attributed it to me being a day student, until they gave me flowers apologizing. Then I realized that they had forgotten, and I was completely crushed. I'm not sure I'll ever be totally over that.

    My mother also has this tendency to hold onto grudges. As she has gotten older (and also post 2nd craniotomy), an increasing percentage of her conversations descend into some sort of rant against her family /the mexicans/ her doctors. I see some of the same tendencies in myself as well. I really don't want that to happen to me!

  9. I am with you on the baby shower business. I did get thrown a shower, and about 10 women residents in my class were invited. One showed up. All the other co-residents were busy or couldn't come for some other reason. As has been mentioned on this blog before, I don't feel that women physicans are in general that close or supportive of each other. Not like nurses. I went to my friend A's baby shower. She is an L&D nurse. A good proportion of the women she works with showed up to the shower and had a good time. She also got boxes of hand me down maternity and baby clothes and I did not.

  10. Sorry to say women physicians do not support each other in general. Still true even though now there's lots more of them. But you can't stay angry forever--too much heartburn. I found that medical training was a lot like childbirth--you forget the pain after a while.

  11. Keep cartooning, Fizzy! Such a great creative outlet for all this anger.

    Let it go with each cartoon - I agree with above sentiments that if you can't change it, move on. Life's too short to hold on to all that anger.

    Congratulations that you are done! I could fill your ears with a little of the anger I developed in my first two years out of training, but I've promised myself I'm not going there, right now. You are going to LOVE being done with training - it's awesome. Control of your life, your work, your cases - life is going to finally be sweet and who knows? You just might get the baby itch again in a couple of years. Or maybe not. It doesn't matter which way you go.

    I developed a new appreciation for my attendings when I got out of training and gained some distance and objectivity. Got to develop friendships that were formerly wrought with mentor/mentee angst. I am on the eve of my three year anniversary of being done, and training feels like another lifetime.

  12. The anger fades at an increasing pace as you get farther from residency. I could tell tales (on seeing a bottle of breastmilk a female resident said "disgusting"). It is all too true re: the way women (un)support each other but even in nursing there is a tendency to hold one another down--one of my friends is a nurse practitioner and there is a whole body of literature. is the complexity of girl relationships, surprise!

  13. I'm certain that as an attending, I'll have a whole new set of frustrations that I can't even imagine. That's why I have to clear the mind to get ready for them.

    It's a shame that women don't support each other more. But truthfully, I've still found women to be more supportive, in general, than men. Or at least equal.

  14. I actually got palpitations reading your story b/c it reminded me of my own misery/pain during medical training. Thanks for your honesty. As someone who has now been 7 years (wow) out of my medical training, the anger and pain has subsided but I can't say I have forgotten it all. But, it's true, of course, there are the many great moments. Those moments, in time, will take precedence and as you catch up on all the things you missed out on during your training, you'll be able to see the bright spots. Congratulations on closing in on the end. Now is the time to enjoy your family and take pride in all you have accomplished.

  15. Oh, I have so much to look forward to, don't I? ;)

  16. Strangely enough, I too have bitterness issues lingering from residency surrounding a baby shower. My "friends" in residency had been planning a baby shower for several weeks, then I had to go and develop pre-term labor (on purpose, you know, in order to "get out of work") and they cancelled the shower because they "didn't want (me) to travel." However, they did not offer to move the shower to my house as I was placed on couch rest, nor did any presents (some even purchased from the registry) ever materialize. It's not the presents that I was upset about, I had plenty of "stuff." It was that I got emotionally punished for developing an unavoidable complication. I ended up on Zoloft after that lovely display. Residency sucks. Life after residency is much better. :)

  17. many many people don't have showers, some by choice, many not so. what is important is that your baby is loved and cherished and has his/her toes kissed and that there are few people willing or asking to see a picture. there are many ways to show love for both a baby and mother to be, and i wish for you that that love may be generous, all around you, and I am sorry that it sounds like that is something you were missing. But we never know what is going on in people's lives. perhaps that attg had just had a miscarriage when you were pregnant, or that her mother was ill, or her son really struggling in school - or perhaps she really was unfair. I remember being so upset when someone was bitter about coming into cover for me when I was ill, only to find out later that he and his working mom wife were having huge and severe difficulties about how much time he spent at the hospital when they had young children. It is okay that he was bitter - medicine is so hard, for all of us. I realize you don't do primary care, so that it may be a different experience for you, but the best shower of love I have ever received is, from anyone, was from a former patient who stopped by to see me whose first question was about my kids, and who wouldn't leave till I'd pulled up a picture. My oldest is now almost 6, and I last took care of her when he was two, and she still remembers when I was pregnant.

  18. Everyone tells stories about their remembered past. My grandmother's were remarkable--they were never about people who hurt her feelings, or did not respect her, or wounded her her in some way. Her life had many disappointments and a few tragedies. Yet every time a friend or relative came up in conversation, her story was always about how that person had helped her or been unusually thoughtful or grateful for something. When she died, at age 95, I thought about all these times, and summed them up in my eulogy: she never forgot a kindness.

    The things that bother us are the ones that violate our expectations. While we can't help noticing undeserved and unexpected cruelties, unexpected joys and helpfulness are the nuts to store up against the winters of our discontent.


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