Last night, I couldn’t fall asleep until 3 a.m. for some reason. Thus, it was super difficult to get out of bed this morning in time to shadow Dr. Nwynn, the OBGYN doctor I’ve been shadowing for the past year and a half. I remember hearing the 7:45 a.m. alarm and just telling myself, “No way am I getting up.” If it weren’t for my mom, who urged me to get out of bed, I probably would have stayed under the comfort of my warm covers and missed out on what was to be an an amazing opportunity.
I just want to hone in on that moment, though, when I couldn’t muster the willpower to kick off the covers and start my day. THIS is the kind of slipping discipline I’ve been talking about. In the past, I’d always jump out of bed each morning with enthusiasm, ready to make the most of the coming day. Lately, my fight has disappeared. I’ve been struggling pretty hard with motivation… It’s just day after day of low spirits. It could be the depression creeping back in, as it usually does during the holiday season. I don’t know. Not only did I not want to get out of bed this morning, I was playing a lot of negative scripts over and over in my head. Things like, “Wow Belicia, if your emotions are so unstable, there’s just no way you can be a doctor one day.” Or, “Why can’t you just get your ass out of bed? Is it that hard? Where’s your self-discipline?”
It’s true that I need help. I don’t know if I’m just biologically predisposed to depression and anxiety. Neither of my brothers suffer from mental health illness, nor do my parents. However, I’ve long accepted my battle with mental health problems, so the question I ask myself is not “Why me?”, but rather, “Why?” What is the root of my depressive thoughts and how do I break the cycle to ultimately live a happier, healthier and more productive life? A hundred dollar question, indeed, to be pondered in future therapy sessions.
So back to my day. After I finally got out of bed and ate breakfast, my mom drove me to the hospital, where I shadowed Dr. Nwynn in outpatient surgery from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. I’ve been in the OR a few times now and know the staff pretty well. There’s the scrub nurse, John, who stands by Dr. Nwynn during the surgery, providing suction to clear excessive bleeding so the surgeon has a clear visual field. John is also in charge of handing scalpels, clamps, gauze, sutures and other surgical tools to Dr. Nwynn throughout the procedure.
The first procedure I watched was an enterocele repair, a procedure that stops a prolapsed small intestine from bulging into the vagina. Because I was late after the morning’s events, I had to step in to the OR while Dr. Nwynn was in the middle of the procedure. However, Dr. Nwynn and the rest of the OR staff were very welcoming nonetheless.
The second procedure was a mid-urethral sling, which corrects urinary incontinence (when a woman has trouble controlling her bladder). As the OR staff was prepping the patient for surgery (positioning her on the OR table, trimming the pubic hair, injecting her with anesthesia), the unexpected happened– the power went out! While the power outage itself lasted only a few seconds, the entire hospital thereafter was running on a back-up generator. The protocol was, only surgeons performing emergency operations could proceed on back-up power. Non-emergent cases, such as the mid-urethral sling procedure, had to wait until further notice was given. So basically, the patient remained in the OR, while the OR team waited for the green light to proceed. According to Dr. Nwynn, this kind of thing rarely happens. What a day for me to shadow!
One of my favorite people to talk to whenever I shadow is Chopra, the anesthesiologist. He’s a 74-year-old Indian man and immensely knowledgeable. Ever since I’ve started shadowing, he’s the only one who seems to be convincing me out of medicine! Although, that’s not exactly a true statement. Really, he implores me to “think outside the box” and not just go for medicine because it feels safe and familiar. He urges me to explore other fields and really look within to see if medicine is my passion. If I find that medicine is my calling, then by all means, go for it. But he also urges me to stick with my writing and dancing, even if I decide to become a doctor. In that way, I’ll expand my mind in multiple dimensions, instead of staying tunnel-visioned with medicine. Chopra tells young people to never live in fear. Don’t let fear of failure, fear of poverty or fear of death hinder you from doing what your heart speaks. According to Chopra, one should never live for material wealth. The person with the most amount of money on Earth could live a most impoverished life, if his mind, spirit and relationships are devoid of nurturing. Seriously, this man is incredible. In a later post, I will share with you guys the beads of knowledge he has graciously imparted to me.
At 12:30 p.m., my brother Austin (grudgingly) picked me up from the hospital– much appreciated, bro! I then went out to lunch with my mom. Great girls’ bonding time!
Once I got home, the food coma set in, and I really wanted to take a nap. Instead, I watched a Netflix Christmas movie, an episode of “Fuller House” and part of a documentary on Auschwitz concentration camp. Yup– lots of mindless passing of time.
At around 6:00 p.m., the whole family– mom, dad, Austin, grandma and I– piled in the white van to pick up my brother Chris from the airport. Chris is currently studying piano performance and computer science at the University of Michigan, and his school’s winter break just began. On the way to the SFO, my low spirits seeped in again, probably due to a day of physical inactivity. Life tip: it is super important to exercise every day, ESPECIALLY when you have a propensity towards depression. It’s also important to keep doing things that make you happy– for me, it’s dancing and writing– even when you don’t feel like doing anything at all. Obviously I have not followed my own words of advice, but I will try better tomorrow to put these words into action.
When I saw Chris standing outside the Delta terminal, my low spirits immediately disappeared! We hadn’t seen Chris in nearly four months, since he started school in early September. He donned a new hairstyle, with the hair on the sides of his head trimmed short and the front grown out long. If you ask me, the new haircut makes him resemble Lang Lang, the famous concert pianist! Moreover, Chris visibly lost weight, as he disciplined himself on a healthy diet and made a habit of running.
The car banter on the way to the Chinese restaurant flowed hurriedly and eagerly, as we all had a lot of catching up with our brother to do after four months of separation! Growing up as a triplet, the three of us were pretty much inseparable. We attended the same schools K through 12, had overlapping friend groups, shared the same teachers and sometimes, found ourselves in the exact same classes. While Austin and I ended up at the same university, Chris decided to attend a school 5,000 miles away. During the academic quarter, I didn’t have much time to really miss him. The reality of his absence actually sunk in when Austin and I arrived back home for winter break 10 days ago. The house, usually filled with classical piano, felt eerily empty without Chris’s playing. Without college life to occupy every cell of my brain, I finally realized how much I missed Chris these past four months. And as much as I love Austin, life just isn’t the same without Chris in the picture.
We arrived at a Chinese restaurant in Millbrae, but because the wait time was too long, we decided on another Chinese restaurant called “The Kitchen”. To celebrate Chris’s long-awaited return, we ordered a myriad of dishes, including:
- Peking Duck
- Sweet and sour pork with red and green peppers and pineapple
- Fried rice
- Steamed fish
- Spicy chicken over broccoli
- Pork stomach and wasabi chicken
- Red bean soup
I definitely splurged on that meal, but I have long since given up on my many futile attempts to lose weight. Quite frankly, I have learned to accept my body type for what it is. For a long time, I wanted to go back to my former “stick figure” I had as a gymnast, but I’ve realized that to go back to that body was unrealistic and unhealthy. While I can’t say I’m 100% happy with the way I look now (cough cough “freshman fifteen”), I do see that I’m taking steps towards greater self-acceptance.
Upon arriving home, I brushed my teeth, and now, I am writing this blog post! After I finish, I will take a shower and finish Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. If I have time, I’d like to finish the documentary about Auschwitz.
Well, I think now is a good time to check out. Thanks for following me on today’s journey, and stay tuned for what’s to come tomorrow! Also, I’ve decided to conclude each post with a “3 Gratitudes” section, highlighting three things I am grateful for in my life. Studies have shown that gratitude and happiness are positively correlated, and that incorporating the “3 Gratitudes” exercise to your daily routine is one way to create long-lasting happiness.
3 Gratitudes 12/19/16
- my brother Chris
- the opportunity to gain clinical exposure through shadowing
- delicious food!!