Not The Same

Jan 25, 2023
Hi friends, 
I wanted to talk about how hard it can be when your loved one needs medical care and you can't help them in the way you would like. 
So you experience all the feelings that come up (failure, anger, anxiety, frustration, maybe even feeling like you let people down..) 
Like with so many aspects of being physicians, it can feel alienating when this happens.  And it is not just you. Many of us go through this. 
Three sets of reasons stand out to me as far as what limits us in helping to care for a loved one: 
We don't have access to the information we need. We don’t have their records. We can't order tests. We (sometimes) cannot prescribe complex things. We live far away. We don't have connections or authority inside the medical system they are being cared for inside. It is very difficulty to help navigate them along. 
Our judgement can be skewed with our loved ones. For me, anxiety affects my ability to trust my medical  judgement.  Do I or don't I give my kid with croup the steroid? I just can't see straight with them.  We also worry how we are perceived by the healthcare establishment.  There is the stress of not wanting to act like "that" family member. Lots of self judgement shows up here. 
When it is our child needing the care there is that extra sense of protectiveness. There are already many reasons to feel inadequate as a parent and this gives our brain an opportunity to have a hayday. Plus the stakes could not be higher so our sympathetic nervous system steps in. Which makes it extra challenging to show up the way we want. 
Sometimes the people we love are resistant to our help. It can be hard for them to see as us the experts we are and not the little kid whose diaper they changed or the sister who stole their halloween candy. Or sometimes they  have their own reasons for wanting to do things their way, which in patients we accept but in our loved ones it is especially painful. 
I remember once my mother had the flu and I brought over an electrolyte drink and salty crackers and acetaminophen and counselled her on the importance of controlling her fever and staying hydrated. Soon thereafter she fainted in the mail room of her building and needed to have the paramedics called. I learned she had taken a homeopathic dose of anti-pyretic (does anyone else's mom take " A" Tylenol? 😂 and went on to disregard all of my other advice. We were lucky she decided to just go to the mail room instead of climbing a ladder to change a light bulb which is also the sort of thing she likes to do. Eeeek! 
When this happens to a patient,  it is unfortunate, of course,  but when it happens to family my brain offers me a very painful thought: They SHOULD have listened to me. It COULD have gone so much differently. They could have avoided THAT (the delay in diagnosis, the wrong treatment from the specialist, the complication..) is my fault and I failed. I don't think this consciously but I'm pretty sure  it is in there somewhere. And anger at her for not listening to me shows up as well, masking the pain of my powerlessness. So now I'm scared, powerless, angry at my poor sick mom. 
If we zoom out a level or two we can try to look at this differently. We get to offer ourselves self compassion for how hard it is to be in this role of doctor wife, daughter, mom,  sister, friend etc. . It is hard to have all this knowledge and not be able to use ALL of it to help someone we care about. It isn't our fault.  It comes with the territory. It doesn't mean anything about us. And we DO make a difference even if it can't be the same as it is with our patients.  
I’ve never heard anyone talk specifically about this. That is until I started coaching other women doctors and realized this is fairly universal.

There are lots of other things unique to being a woman doctor.  
When you learn that others go through the exact same things as you it feels much less lonely. It feels lovely actually.

If you are looking to add some loveliness to your life, crowd source wisdom, 
find the tribe you didn’t know you were missing, and learn tools to get out of overwhelm and empower you in your life then  hop on the waitlist for my next coaching group. 
Feel Better Spring 2023 Runs April 26-June 21, 2023.  CME eligible.