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Friday, September 19, 2014

Guest post: What's your plus one?

I love the honesty of Mothers in Medicine. I feel compassion for women stretched so thin between two callings. But I’ve got to ask you this: is there more to your life than motherhood and medicine?

I know, I know. For a lot of years, it’s about sleep and survival. But at some point, you’ve got to do you, right? You’re more than a stethoscope, a uterus, and a pair of lactating breasts.

Maybe I’m not saying this right. I definitely don’t mean to act smug. But I know I always wanted to write. I just didn’t want to starve to death, and I liked helping people, so…boom. Medicine. I studied my little heart out. I loved it. Until I lost the residency match, and I had to decide, am I going to keep chasing that ever-elusive subspecialty dream as hard as I can? Or can I do emergency medicine, see my husband sometimes, start a family, and pick up my pen and write again? I chose the second one. Either road would have been fine, but I’ve built a happy life with my childhood sweetheart and two kids, I’m writing, and I want to tell you not to forget yourself, that secret self that doesn’t necessarily earn money or praise or nurture others, it just is.

Medical-wise, I’ve got privileges at four different hospitals now, and one chief of emerg told me, “No. You can’t do it. You can’t work at four different hospitals. It will kill you.” He also limits his staff’s total number of shifts because he doesn’t want them to burn out. Autocratic? Sure. But he’s the only one I know who treats other physicians like human beings instead of widgets who have to see patients faster and more cheaply every day and night and night and day. We’ve been talking about how not to lose yourself, not become suicidal, not treat each other like garbage. Thinking about yourself as an individual and not just a service—I’d say that’s the first step. Plus, I thought it would be fun to talk about our secret selves.


Melissa (aka ACLS)
Emergency doctor/writer, mother of an 8 y.o. boy and 3 y.o. girl, in Canada
http://www.melissayuaninnes.com/blog

17 comments:

  1. Hey yoga star great post. Still working on secret self here. Yoga, writing, biking, hiking, jumping head first and ignorant into the business side of my group and loving and researching the hell out of it. Still taking time to be Alice in Wonderland at my job daily - porcelain gallbladder! Squamous cell carcinoma of the bladder! Living and loving the dream, but cognizant and aware of costs and constant struggle it took me to get here and keep going every day.

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    1. I should also add that it's easier when your kids are potty trained and you're out of residency and out of debt! I'm grateful too.

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  2. My secret self's no secret anymore...really. It wasn't healthy for me to keep it secret. I write and sing and lead services at synagogue and bake and travel and do crossword puzzles - and talk about all of it at work. And talk about work while I'm doing all of the other stuff. When I was younger I rarely told people what I did for a living. That wasn't healthy, either...

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    1. I agree, Jay. Much healthier to be an integrated person. Kudos. Sounds like a good life!

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  3. Music is it for me. Right now I play viola in an orchestra in our small town for our rendition of Handel's Messiah this fall. It's not the best orchestra I've ever played in but that doesn't matter. For that one hour per week I am just a violist and it is one of the most therapeutic things for me.

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    1. One of my friends is a cellist. He used to play cello when he was on call for medicine. Just set up in the hallway and go. Pretty awesome.

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  4. My secret self is a writer. Well, not SO secret - I published a creative writing piece in my specialty's journal in the past year! But I want to write a novel. Or perhaps a beautiful documentary-style picture book of women in healthcare. Maybe both. Ok definitely both. I don't know where to start, because between studying as a resident and being pregnant with a preschooler already at home - there is no room. But my secret self still longs to be a writer. There is a physician in my field who is an editor for a major journal, wrote very fun to read novels and practices her specialty. I look at people like her and long to be this one day. I have immense respect for these women who find ways to enjoy all of themselves. I love this post, because I could have written it myself. :)

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    1. Hmm. My reply got eaten. But anyway, queenie, go YOU! I love your creative dreams. Just don't knock yourself into the ground.
      If I may gently suggest...residency+pregnancy+preschooler=crazy times, but if you take photos and know that you'll put them into a book later, you're still doing your creative stuff but not killing yourself. But I'm pretty sure you'll figure out your own path.

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  5. Writing here helped me unleash my secret self. It got me writing again and then blogging on my own site and making jewelry. I reserve the motherhood and medicine topic posts for this site, but try and branch out on my own site. I'm thankful that MiM really got me thinking and writing again enough to rediscover my secret self!

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    1. Well, Cutter, I love your writing. I didn't know you had your own site, and jewelry, too. Yay, you, and yay, MiM! Soopah stars.

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  6. The dream of my life would have been broadway. I still sing and dance a lot at home and work.

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  7. I’m not a mother but your post REALLY resonated with me. I always knew I wanted to make art but I didn’t know how to make a living at it and I was good at science and taking tests so….medical school. Like you, in medical school I was fixated on getting into a hyper-competitive specialty. I had an epiphany at the end of medical school though. I asked myself if at the end of my life all I had to show for myself was this specialty would I be happy? I realized that it was more valuable to me to have time for my passion. So I matched into a much more relaxed specialty which suits my personality more and gives me time to pursue art and spend time with my SO. I had time in residency to paint, exhibit, and sell my work. Now I’m in practice and have a great studio and work as a physician part time. I try to treat my days off as another work day…but in the studio. I guess art really is my “secret self” because I don’t really talk about it at work. Similarly, at art events I don’t really feel comfortable saying that I’m a doctor. Do you feel the same way? How have you preserved space in your life for writing with 2 kids?

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    1. Thanks, K. We're kindred spirits, as Anne of Green Gables would say. I'm glad that you've managed to balance medicine and art.
      I'm out of the closet at my main hospital, where the staff is pretty supportive about buying my books, but it is hard to explain to both worlds (not a big deal if you write *about* medicine, but for years, I chose to write about vampires and space ships instead). I remember going to a screenwriting workshop, and at the end, we practiced giving a pitch. Somewhere, I mentioned that I was a doctor, and they were like, "You're a DOCTOR?"
      "Yes. On maternity leave."
      "You have a BABY?"
      "Yes. A four-month-old."
      "And you didn't say anything?"
      "Well. No one else talked about their day jobs."
      I could tell they weren't sure if they should believe me.
      As for preserving space for writing--which is a lovely way to put it--I have a stellar spouse, started using a babysitter at 8 months, and am pretty ruthless about writing 1000 words a day, if I'm not working, and 500 words a day if I am working. If I were busier, I would drop my quota. I know some people try 100 words/day * 100 days. A little bit is always better than nothing. And I get angry if I don't write or do yoga. Nobody wants that.
      Anyway, if you or anyone else wants to drop me a line, you can always contact me through my website. I know I'm late to the party and probably no one will read this, but I'm so happy to hear about MiMs and iMs throwing themselves into their creative lives!

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  8. Obviously, I have to work on the work-life balance, because I finally checked that I got all these lovely answers to my post!

    @Gizabeth, you've got a plus five going on! I love the Alice in Wonderland image.

    Gotta go to "journee franco-ontarien." I'll respond more later. Smooches!

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    1. LOL that's my problem! I don't do any of it super well cause I can't narrow it down to plus one ha ha! Oh and I forgot singing we've both talked about that:)

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