Thursday, April 19, 2018

Open or closed? How do you deal with emotions?

My whole life is organized into boxes. (ie, my blog name). I like to compartmentalize, keep work and home life separate, keep public me and private me separate, emotional me and getting-through-the-day me separate. Usually, this works. I can be the happy, relaxed, fun loving mom I want to be to my kids, efficient and professional at work, and contemplative when I'm by myself on a run or on my own. But recently,  I have not been able to figure out who I want to be or who I am when I'm with my husband. The problem, I think, is that I want to be all of me for the one I love and built a life with, but I'm having a hard time putting it all together in a cohesive, not unpredictable, way.

A lot of what we as physicians see daily gives us perspective, and makes us confront our own mortality. It's heavy stuff, if you let yourself think about too much. So I try to leave work at work, keep the danger stories or cool saves to share with my family, and  compartmentalize. With the kids, it is easy. But it is sometimes hard to explain to my partner the intensity of what I do and see daily. I want to share, but sometimes I can't begin to explain or unpack my feelings. I have never been an emotionally open person and keeping things inside and putting on a happy face is how I have been able to overcome a number of difficult periods in my life. It has worked for me before, but now it is creating an emotional void between me and my partner that I don't want to get any deeper. As I write this, I realize more that the problem is that since I can't try to explain, I don't. I simply shut it down. And then, eventually, pandora's box opens and all spills out.

For those of you with non physician partners or partners whose days look very different than yours, how do you balance? Any resources that you have read, or used, to help me feel more comfortable expressing myself and verbalizing my thoughts?


  1. I am pretty good at identifying my emotions and talking about how I feel coherently. My husband is not. Therapy has helped. A LOT. Highly recommend.

  2. I’m an open book when it comes to my husband. I feel that I can share enough with him without breaking privacy laws when I’ve had a tough day. Therapy is a good thing as mentioned above.

  3. Have you told him exactly what you told us? There are a lot of traits that serve us well during school and training and then come back to bite us afterwards. I can hear the yearning for connection. My husband had very little access to his emotions so I've lived with that void in my marriage and it was really painful. Therapy also helped him tremendously. While you're waiting for that, maybe journaling could help you do some processing so you're more aware of your feelings and can articulate them.

    1. The concept of therapy is super intimidating -talking about real feelings and emotions out loud, with a person, is probably the scariest thing in the world for me. But writing this down and the concept of journaling was therapeutic in it's own way. I am definitely going to try to do it more. Thank you all for the support!

    2. It's terrifying. The thing about therapy, though, is that it's the only relationship in my life that's purely about me. I don't have to take care of the other person at all, and I don't have to censor myself. It's incredibly freeing. I'm sure you provide that support to your patients and when you're ready, you deserve it for yourself.

  4. I have a non-medical partner which I find works well for me. We live in boxes too - we don't really share a lot of work stories unless one of us has had a particularly trying day or inspirational story to share. The person who really helps me cope though is my best friend from medical school who I am lucky to still live in the same city as. We met at least once every other week in medical school and often went on walks just to vent. Our school would always try to force reflection on us by forcing us into groups of people we didn't know well and tried to get us to share intimate stories - but I never felt comfortable sharing those things with people I was just acquainted with. We still try and meet once a month, and we often talk about our frustrations with how the system has failed our patients, the mistakes we've made with patients, and confusing cases. If you ever need to talk to someone that "gets it" regarding being involved with medicine, let us know - I know I would be happy to hear you out in whatever format you need :)


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