Dr. Doormat

In my few years as a resident physician, I’ve denied myself sleep and food for my patients, neglected myself and my loved ones.

I aborted my pregnancies to be fully present for my patients and not hampered by fatigue beyond words, nausea with endless vomiting, or dangerous depression interfering with my daily 12 to 24 hour shifts. I ended my pregnancies to not miss work for prenatal appointments, labor, or delivering my baby to someone who had time to take care of them.

Many patients repaid me with a ‘thank you’, however some repaid me with lies and manipulation, threatening suicide if I didn’t prescribe them controlled substances for inappropriate reasons like ‘it’s the holidays’ or ‘I only ask this one favor’.

My patients have shaken fists at me, shouted and sworn at me, told me it would be my fault if their electricity went out because they didn’t pay the bill and it was my job to write a letter of medical necessity and fax it to the electric company ASAP, despite no explanation for the delinquent bill other than their slovenliness. They addressed me by my first name only, insulted me directly and indirectly. I write in the past tense in hopes that this will end, but it is ongoing.

I received a malpractice lawsuit from a patient I never met but on whose chart I placed an essential order while my colleague delivered news of intrauterine demise at bedside, as I hoped to be helpful during a time of need.

I’ve heard it said that no good deed goes unpunished.

Some patients feigned crises or falls in protest of not getting exactly what they wanted when they wanted it, regardless of what their physician knew was in their best interest; knowledge garnered through long years of hard knock training.

Despite all the sacrifice and ongoing mistreatment, I care for my patients deeply. We are a sort of surrogate family for each other, and as dysfunctional and volatile as my nuclear family. My patients are the people I call when I should be having lunch or dinner, when I might otherwise have had an opportunity to contact friends or family, when I could have nursed my baby if I had had the courage to prioritize my pregnancy over the expectations of my patients, colleagues and bosses.

I’m a good team player to everyone but myself.

I have learned to realize when my emotions are mucking up my mental waters, learned to work around the ways that patients interfere with their own care by not showing up for appointments, not answering their phone, and talking so much blaming their doctors for their poor health that they are incapable of hearing information that may allow them to heal.

I’ve heart it said that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

Some days I consider trying to set a gentle boundary when my patient shouts ‘WHAT THE FUCK!?’ at me repeatedly and takes personal jabs at me, as they recreate the dynamic of my childhood where I learned to stay calm and quiet amidst the storm because my life depended on it. My stunted ego whimpers under their blows.

My body still believes that my safety depends on a lack of reactivity.

How hard to unlearn my sole understanding of how I can survive in the world. How difficult to rebuild the foundation on which I stand.

I’m still too scared to act in any way but a doormat.

I focus my energy not on teaching these adult children how to be respectful, but on being their physician. I share my diagnosis, give an explanation of their ailment with pathophysiology, and form a plan for their healing.

I too am healing, though it is not yet outwardly visible.

I am both strong and weak. Strong in my ability to tolerate other people’s bullshit. Weak in my ability to speak up for myself. I am afraid to make matters worse, to fan the fire and get burned with even more shouting, swearing, insults and potential violence.

In vain, I try to avoid getting chewed out, which despite my best efforts still occurs too frequently. I long to somehow eliminate toxic people from my life.

They trample on me, leave their muddy stains across my face, but I stay in place.

I have endured worse.

I hope it is true, about blessed are the meek. It is thankless sharing the Earth with ingrates.

Meditation Bell

I’ve never known the sound of silence

I’ve had tinnitus- ringing in the ears- for as long as I can remember

It is constant, bilateral, high-pitched, and deafeningly loud

I noticed it as a child while playing in the snow and thought it was the sound of a million snowflakes landing

When I was a bit older I thought it was the sound of a million fairies screaming.

Was it the meningitis (inflammation of the lining of my central nervous system) during childhood that set my brain aflame, or the heavy drugs used to treat it?

Did I dislodge the canaliths- crystals in my inner ear- when I spun around to the point of inducing vertigo?

I finally paid a doc for her professional opinion, to do my due diligence in my search for silence

At great expense, she quickly sent me away without hope of a cure

I will likely live my whole life without knowing silence

Maybe this is the sound of my brain vibrating with life

Maybe this is the sound of the spirit world

Maybe this is the music of the Earth in space, the resonance of our aqueous sound-conducting planet

Maybe I am tuned in to intergalactic radio

I spend most of my life spaced out, thinking of the past and future as I clench my jaw and bite my tongue

I have come to view the ringing in my ears as my meditation bell

Welcoming me home to the present moment

Numbers

Wrapped in a bath towel cocoon

Eyelids pulled heavy as lead

I stew on the numbers in my head- 0, 20, 22,000, 120 million

I’m not one to read the news but it came to my attention-

Pres caught a virus that he could have prevented

Said he felt better than he’d felt in 20 years

that’s the steroid talking- mania is a known side effect, we call it ‘pred head’ in the field. 

How many covid tests did he take since the outbreak?

How many doctors and dollars were on his team?

What was the cost of the monoclonal antibody that he received, inaccessible to everyone else? 

How many lives didn’t have to die on my watch?

Does he fathom that nobody has the resources that he has?

I’ve cared for countless COVID patients, watched them die before my eyes,  horrified that I’d pass it on to my loved ones, yet I’ve been tested 0 times- cold fact.

22,000 dollars per year- that is how much less female primary care physicians earn compared to our male counterparts, despite spending more time with our patients and more time in the office. We are more likely to be burnt out and depressed, which is an understatement- I feel charred and scarred after only 2 years of working in the US. 

120 million- the annual bonus of a local ‘health insurance’ company CEO

Many tens of millions more go to his direct underlings as a holiday bonus. 

They do not insure our health so much as their own wealth

Each dollar squeezed out of the poor people they claim to serve as they bleed them dry.

Patients are a commodity, raw material off of which others profit 

This imbalance of power is not new

Ancient Egypt- Moses fought Pharaoh to let his people go. 

Antebellum American South- Harriett led 70 slaves to freedom.

Happy scrappy revolutions won against all odds- ask Che

I search for a way out of the broken health care system for my fellow Americans- a path to escape or confront the sociopath CEOs who let people die in the name of more money than they know what to do with- purchasing yet another luxury home at the expense of human lives.

I search for a north star to navigate through this mess. How can I reach an enemy surrounded by impenetrable bureaucracy with no help from democracy- politicians line their own pockets with blood money first. 

I lean into these earthly concerns

Feel the weight of the world on my shoulders

Feel my fighting spirit, ever hopeful

I lean back into the waterfall of grace, the spiritual plane, the place where my soul melts with pure light

The fight is not mine alone, yet I feel alone sometimes, floating in the sea of collective suffering.

I emerge from my bath towel cocoon, one person who cares about other people, who wants to speak for the speechless, who is growing into herself as a person and a physician.

I know that being underserved means being served too late- society keeps dropping the ball then spending it all once health is damaged beyond repair. 

Is there anybody who feels the same out there?

Carnival

Welcome to the carnival

I offer all manner of novelties to delight you
Are your thoughts as wild as a flying trapeze?
I’ve got pills to set your mind at ease
Does your heart feel like it has been trampled by an elephant?
You don’t need to use booze to get bent
I’ll flood your blood with chemical love and adjust the dose to fit like a glove
I’ve perfected my performance to be your ideal physician despite my perpetual exhaustion, hanger and burn out
Ignoring my own pain as I eliminate yours
Neither one of us is listening to the sacred wisdom of our bodies
I suffer long and hard so that you don’t have to feel a thing
In my side-show alley you’ll see that if you want more than an endless stream of candy refills, if you want me to be your shaman instead of your drug dealer, at any time you can feel your feelings instead of suppress them
Take a plunge from the high dive on the wild horse of your unmedicated body
Hear your healing lion’s roar
Let your self-expression soar
Allow yourself to fall into the safety net of the universe
Trust that you belong, that you are a star just as you are
Juggle fire and meet yourself with humor when gravity makes its presence known
Allow yourself to be shot from the cannon of self-doubt, trusting that you will be ok
If healing is a series of flaming hoops
The transformative way out is through
Show yourself what you can do
Dance to uplifting music every day
Cultivate strength and flexibility in body and brain
Remind yourself it is normal to feel insane
In this seemingly crazy world, only you can take the reins
Be the ringleader of your life
It ain’t me, babe
Though I have the hard-won power to prescribe the goodies you crave
To be in control of ourselves we must give up control of everything else
Welcome to the big time
The show can’t go on without you
I applaud you
My eyes are open to witness your marvels and miracles

Workaholic

I went into medicine partly due to heartbreak

The exhaustive training of medical school and residency was a welcome albeit ineffective distraction from my sorrow and loneliness
24-hour shifts are a convenient justification for not keeping in touch with loved ones
Even though the real excuse is my social anxiety and sense of inadequacy
Living within hospital walls, I suspect that I am not the only physician who became a medical doctor to try to forget unrequited love, to escape the world of human relationships
My older colleagues work far more than they need to to make ends meet, far more than any reasonable person would work in a week
Who needs friends or feelings when you have patients and science?
Our skin grows pale under fluorescent lights
Our vision becomes shortsighted as the screens stare unblinkingly
Our hearts forget how to feel carefree
Our muscles atrophy as our brains hypertrophy
Our minds become boxed in with facts, our mental filing cabinets overflow
I am a recovering workaholic working alongside workaholics who do not appear to be in recovery
Perhaps they suspect the same of me
Heads down in the trenches, none of us can know another’s heart
We can only know our own heart, if we listen
We carefully administer medications, surgeries and therapies
We measure progress in numerical metrics of lab values, calculated scores and vital signs
We arrive early and stay late
We work day and night without a break
We always have too much on our plates
We deprive ourselves of sleep, fresh air and food
We know why we have irritable moods
Practicing medicine is an unhealthy, imbalanced lifestyle and we know it
We can only ever heal ourselves
I’m ready to show it
I am finally healing my broken heart
I found that I had to begin at the start
Childhood wounds tangle and bloom
Trauma begets trauma until we change our thoughts, words and actions
Breaking old patterns even as we hold traction
I am love itself, I am the source of what I sought
My cup overflows, it was not all for naught

Take it Back

I feel the knots you’ve tied within me

Stains on my energy
Pains in my body
I observe the damage
Tension, nausea, sensation of suffocation
Insomnia, dizziness, diarrheal defecation
You made me feel powerless for too damn long
You beat me up but my spirit is strong
This shit isn’t mine
This was never mine
This is yours
Take it back
Take it all the fuck back
The trauma and the drama
The hurt and the dirt
Keep your hands and your mind out of my skirt
Don’t tell me what to do
Your mind games were never fun for me
Were they fun for you?
You can win the prize, I offer it freely to you
I won’t play anymore
Your ego will have to deal with the fact that I’m letting my sanity heal
I’m learning to put myself first
Through radical acts of self care to restore my happiness and health
Your energy is yours
Take it back

Labor Pains

Give birth to your best self, America

Painful, messy, terrifying, raw
The most beautiful transformation you’ll ever see
America, you’ve been gestating too long to stop now
Humanity is bursting from your loins, America
Born of the brutal rape of racism
Blood spills on the ground
Fertilizing the soil from which you spring forth
You cannot go back to the way you were, America
You can only keep pushing forward
I am learning to listen to my heart, America
Though the change may not be obvious to you yet
Subtle shifts below the surface move mountains, America
I change my thoughts to change my life
Though the echoes of your trauma are deafening
Though the jaws of your mental imprisonment clamp down hard around me
I no longer strive to be your wounded warrior
I am your healed child, here to show you how to heal yourself
Even though you broke my heart so early and often that you left me without a sense of self
Yet my heart kept on beating
And loving
That is how you heal
Keep on loving
Love yourself, love your life, love your fellow beings and the whole Earth as yourself
Forgive yourself and others
Be kind to all, for we are children on a difficult journey that wouldn’t be so damn difficult if we were kind to each other
Pay it forward and see what happens
Love and kindness and forgiveness is the way
America is having labor pains today
I welcome your birth America, your infinite potential
You suffered so much hate that you became a hater but it is finally time to love, America

Pretty Poison

Pastel petals bloom

Through the display case we swoon

Crystalline icing swirl

Dazzling eyes of boys and girls

Powdered sugar snow

Melting in our mouths is all we know

We are blind to our impending blindness

Wrapped up in celebration and intended kindness

Bakery boxes tied up with string

Filled with treats- our favorite things

Warm flaky crust seems like a must

We willingly plunge our teeth into hidden filling

We don’t foresee that we’d better wake up soon

From our creamy dreams, spoon after spoon

Digging our graves, one gulp at a time

Swallowing pretty poison, spending our dimes

Our wallets grow thin as our bodies grow fat

Sugar causes illness, what do you think of that?

Our organs try to keep up, but our pancreas can only take so much

Diabetes sets our body on fire

In a burning house, tragedies transpire

Our vision fades, our kidneys fail

Our heart cries out, do we hear the wail?

Our arteries harden as our muscles soften

Bite by bite, we build our coffin

Our brain is addicted, our mind turns bitter

With rotting flesh, we lose toes and fingers

An ugly site and a sour smell

Only we can liberate ourselves from this hell

It isn’t pretty and it isn’t sweet

Let’s eat real food and keep our feet

Watchu Know

Watchu know about germs?

Watchu know about warfare? (nothing)
Watchu know about heading into battle
Feeling like slaughter-bound cattle
Whatchu know about washing hands
Whatchu know about yes we can
My mind sees a sparkling vibrant land
My heart holds a silent marching band
Whatchu know about foam-in, foam-out?
Whatchu know about keeping tiny terrors out?
Whatchu know about watching your mouth
Whatchu know about pushing through doubt
Whatchu know about alcoholic hand gel?
Whatchu know about alcoholics from hell?
Whatchu know about face shields and masks
Whatchu know about drowning in endless tasks
Whatchu know about blue plastic gowns?
I wear a surgical cap for a crown
Whatchu know about double-gloving?
Coming home from work too stressed to make lovin’
I am a public servant
With grace and strength I shed PPE smooth as a serpent
Slow and steady, I move when I’m ready
I never was one to throw things away
But I’ve learned you’ve got to know what to let go of
So that what you love can stay

HPV

She told me that I have HPV

Human papilloma virus: the ghost of ex-partners past came back to haunt me
I want to line up my exes: the awkward horn-bag teens, the sex clients who shortchanged and stole from me, the abusive drunks, dramatic douchebags, one-night-too-long one night stands, and interrogate them whodunnit.
I will never know, of course
I may have gotten HPV from dreadful fingering, though it was probably from unprotected intercourse
Intercourse most likely undesired, as most of the sex I’ve had was unwanted by me
It could have been worse, at least it was only HPV which I contracted after riding bareback on so many dozens of dicks- I don’t know now many men have slept with me, but any one of them could have easily given me HIV, somehow I was spared
God, you were there
Kids, don’t try this at home
I tell my cervix to hang in there, I will make it up to you, treat you right
My ex-boyfriends aimed and fired at my cervix: the bullseye of my reproductive tract
Whether I got HPV long ago or from my most recent mistake, it is in me now and I may lose a piece of me in a LEEP if I don’t overcome this virus
My LEEP will be a leap of faith that I will regrow intact and complete, heal myself and still have the power to create and give my baby a better life than mine
That is the goal in all I do, even the abortions I’ve endured were to make a better future for my children than the hell I’ve lived through
So listen little virus, I am a strong, powerful giant and I will destroy you
I’ve survived too much to be taken down by the likes of you- senseless double-strand of DNA who has consumed too many of my sisters, lost to the sands of time
You won’t take me, the war is on and it got personal
There is no way I’m going to let one of those awful men leave a lasting lesion on my body
I am the supreme iron dragon goddess warrior, and my healing potential is infinite
My abilities to love and forgive and understand are among my many strengths
Watch out, virus, watch out
Instead of spreading you to someone new, I will melt you with my amazing body, take you down with my brilliant immune system
You will no longer struggle to survive, you will unite with the Spirit which flows through all things, and you will flow right out of me in peace