Month: September 2020

For Some Ills, There Is No Pill

Fatigue comes in many forms. Physical fatigue. Compassion fatigue. Emotional fatigue.

I should know about physical fatigue, the kind I experience when I realize that I can’t jog for more than three minutes without taking a break. Then I remember that I am overdue for my iron infusions. Way overdue. I blame my poor self-care on my recent move–in the midst of a pandemic–and how the circumstances were not exactly conducive to getting under the care of new physicians, despite being a physician myself.

Bedtime Ritual

I had planned to take care of my dad at the end of his life.

In 2009, Dad retired at seventy-five because of Parkinson’s disease. Over the next couple of years, he lived in his own home. My younger brother Mark, who lived nearby, faced the first difficult milestones brought on by Dad’s declining health. Mark was the one to tell Dad that he could no longer drive. And after Dad moved out, Mark took on the monumental project of cleaning a half-century of detritus from the house Dad left behind.

Finding a Common Chord

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” — Maya Angelou

Before starting my dive into medicine, almost four years ago, I was an avid violinist, pianist, disc golfer and novice chef. Each of these activities felt comfortable and familiar–like “home.” But when I began medical school, I somewhat wistfully set them aside to focus on becoming a doctor.

Moonshine

I wake when the sky begins to darken. As the sun buries itself beneath the horizon, the hospital beckons.

Nights bring a kind of calm. I find that wakefulness, while others sleep, grants me something sacred—time, untouched.

Unforgettable

I was young when I met Larry. Well, not that young: I was thirty-one. My medical training–thirteen years in all–was finally over, and I was working as an instructor in the child-neurology clinic at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and caring for kids with epilepsy.

My patient Larry was seventeen. A stocky, dark-haired, nonathletic boy with borderline intellectual disability, he suffered from depression, and my notes mentioned his “pugnacious personality.”

Ennui

“There’s no hurry. Take your time,” the wife said patiently.

“Time, that’s all I have since I’ve retired,” the physician-husband said. “What do you have?”

“I’ve finally figured it out,” she replied. “What I’ve been feeling since the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s ennui.” She hadn’t used that word in many decades, probably since college French, nor even thought of it. “It just came to me,” she marveled.

I’m. So. Tired.

Tired doesn’t even begin to describe it, actually. Exhaustion. Weariness. A deep, gut-wrenching physical ache that fogs my brain and fills my body with despair. I can feel the ache arise somewhere in the vicinity of my stomach, worm its way past my heart, and drive deep into my forehead. I close my eyes and imagine the bliss of sleep.

I’m so tired.

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