Am I slipping?

I woke up at 3 am today.  Then again at 5 am. Early morning awakening. A classic sign of depression. Am I slipping?

I had to write.

I could go on about what brought this sudden change on, but I’m too exhausted to tell stories right now.  I just have the headspace for writing about my feelings.  It had to do with two uber drivers who asked me out, my being completely naive about men in America, and as my friend A put it, for whatever reason, my standards being “very very low right now”.

I still value these experiences. I have only fallen in love with people I know,  never ‘dated’ technically. Now I have. Now I know what sleeping with someone is like.  It had to happen at some point I guess. It is out of my system now. How can you say you’re actually an adult if you’ve never had a crazy  experience in love – like having your heart broken by two uber drivers in the same week?! I mean, oh my god.  What the fuck was I thinking?!!

I always thought my kindness was my greatest strength. This week I learnt it is also my greatest weakness.  Even with red flags waving in my face frantically,  I decided to give these men a chance because, as I said to a friend before embarking on this ridiculous episode, ” I don’t want to be superficial’. I had always valued intelligence, wit, humor, accomplishments and integrity in men.  I remember always thinking that I could only be attracted to someone more or at least as intelligent as me. Here, all I had to go on was their perceived integrity.  “Perceived” being the operative word. Again, what the fuck was I thinking?!!

Was I desperate? Did I just want to get over S and V for good at any cost? I guess I was, and I did. But also, I just wanted to be like…held. 2.5 years without any human physical contact in a strange fucked up country (sorry America, but I’m mad right now) can make you do crazy things you’d never do otherwise.

I think my lesson here can be best summed up by my text exchange with my bisexual friend who has come to become the perfect relationship advisor. I mean I don’t think the perspective can get any better – a guy who has dated women before, but now is into men? That is just pure gold.

Oh well.

The Last Straw

I stand in the shower, my head resting against the glass, letting the hot water fall on my neck and back, like a caress, a back rub. I did not have to stand here. I had washed off all the sadness already. But I was too scared to go out into my bedroom. I was too scared to find out he had not texted me back. I just wanted to be here, in limbo, where my heart was protected. Where no one could hurt me again. This was the last straw. I’m out.

Today

Today was a day I will not forget for a long time. It was one of those days when you really want to go into a storage room at work and cry alone but cannot afford the luxury because you just don’t have the time.

It began like any other call day. I woke up with a jolt at 4 am realizing I had completely forgotten to finish my clinic notes from yesterday – was supposed to do them after the gym last night but had a long hot shower and crashed instead – it had completely skipped my mind! Well, good thing I had my laptop near my bed from last night’s The Office binge. I stayed under the covers and finished all three notes within the next hour and a half. My mind was surprisingly fresh. I remembered all the details from the previous day – I gave Ms A her Flu shot but Mr B refused to get his Shingles vaccine. Ms C was due for her colonoscopy – but she wanted to think about it. I put in a little reminder note for when she comes in next. It was great. I finished by around 5:40 am, and then snuggled back under the covers for twenty more minutes. Then it was the hustle of the morning – a blur of eggs over easy, coffee, trying to use concealer on my bruised upper lip in vain (don’t even ask) and searching for my ID in frustration while Alexa played Honest by The Chainsmokers in the background. Ahh, my life was so hot and perfect.

Walking into the ICU sign-out room at 6:55 am with my usual ‘hey guys’ I plopped myself down, a little giddy.  This had been my favorite rotation in my entire residency. I find myself actually looking forward to the uncertainity of my days in the ICU. Soon, the night team walked in, a little too solemn for having just finished their shift. Before we could ask, J said, ” I have bad news… Bed 12 passed away last night”. I was briefly disoriented. For a moment I wondered if he was talking about someone else. Wait, what?! Bed 12, who had just last evening laughed and joked with me? Bed 12, with the amazing girlfriend of 20 years I had bonded with – ‘I’m gonna marry him now, she had said..I had cold feet the last time he asked me..but now I know for sure..I have to marry him the minute he gets discharged’. I had been delighted at their story – they had met in Kindergarten and reconnected many years later (yes, like V and I). I remember thinking she was so lucky – he had coded twice in the cath lab, and had been succesfully resuscitated, and had improved so much in two days that he was  sitting up in a chair and joking around, eager to go home. Only he never got to. And she never got to marry him. He possibly had another clot in his LAD, they said. I couldn’t believe how fucked up this was. I sat through sign-out trying to focus, but my mind was already numb.

Well, I couldn’t afford to stay that way much longer – it was barely 8 am and my pager was going off incessantly.  The ER attending was calling ICU consults with a vengeance. I wasn’t rattled though. I shrugged and got to work. I downgraded the less sick patients to a regular floor/Telemetry, and worked in earnest stabilizing the others. As I went through my day I marveled at how much my efficiency and confidence in my clinical decisions had improved over the last three years. I could almost do this in my sleep now.

Around 1 pm, I had finally almost caught up. The anion gap had closed and sugars were under control for the young newly diagnosed Diabetic patient with Ketoacidosis. The 91 year old with COPD exacerbation was now off BIPAP, saturating well on nasal cannula at 5 L. Labs were cooking for my post op patient in Room 13. He had had a hernia surgery, with small bowel resection, developed a post op anastomotic leak, had that repaired, and then developed a retroperitoneal bleed , with wound dehiscence, and was taken to the OR again today. I had started him on some sedation and pain management as my attending had advised. He was hemodynamically stable. Maybe I have a minute to finally start working on my consult notes, I thought, ignoring my pangs of hunger. I had barely sat down when my pager went off again. CODE BLUE IN 32 SOUTH, the overhead announcement repeated. I ran, 32 South was the ICU. I burst in through the doors when R directed me to the back of the unit. ‘It’s 13′, he said. Fuck.

We coded him for 20 minutes, and then finally got a pulse. Barely. He had become hypotensive and acidotic once he got on the unit while I was down in the ED, and my attending had been working on keeping him afloat, putting him on three pressors and pushing bicarb. His systolic blood pressure was still in the 70s. He was bound to code again. We called the family, asking them to come in as soon as they can. They wished for us to try all we can until they got there. We obliged. He coded again. We resuscitated him again. He held on until the family got there. My intern had his first go at the difficult conversation. Would they want us to continue to try and resuscitate him, when that may just prolong his suffering? I did not expect them to know the answer. And they did not. We decided to give them time. Meanwhile, we called the Chaplain for them so he could get his last rites.

But time is elusive. It slips by before you know it. CODE BLUE IN 32 SOUTH was called again. We ran over, to find 13’s lovely nurse N waving her arms indicating NO. They did NOT want us to pound his chest anymore. He was DNR now – Do Not Resuscitate. We let him go.

N was hugging everyone in the family tight. Tears were rolling down all of their faces. I blinked back mine. He was a good man, the wife said. We got them a bereavement tray  – I truly do not know what that entails – some food and other things to provide comfort, I was told. I hope it helped.”I have to get the fuck out of here’, the son said in anguish before walking out of the room where his father lay cold. I called my intern over. ‘Have you ever done a death exam before? Come, let’s do it together’  I told her the steps. He was not responding to verbal or tactile stimuli. His pupils were dilated and fixed.  We each listened to his heart and lungs and checked his pulses. We flashed a light in his eyes. We checked his reflexes. Time of death: 16:30.

ER paged again. My second COPD patient who had his blood CO2 level so high it was unmeasurable, was having second thoughts about his code status. He wanted a tube now. The Catholic in me secretly rejoiced – it has been a constant struggle for me to be the one who has these conversations with patients – I wanted them all to want to live! ‘Protect life from conception till death – my Catholic medical school had taught me. This whole DNR business was new for me. I explained his options to him again. I am always careful to start these conversations reiterating that this is something I am required to ask every patient in the hospital – asking them their code status does not imply that they are going to die the next minute. But in this case it could go either way. He was alert and awake at that CO2 level. COPD patients sometimes live at these higher levels of CO2. I truly could not predict his prognosis in the next 24 hours. But naturally, that is what the family wanted to know. What do you think his chances are? I tried to explain the facts while trying to not make the decision for them. The daughter tried to get her father with mild dementia understand the question again. She began to repeat my explanation to him, and then broke down unable to continue. I got her a tissue and rubbed her back pathetically.

The rest of the day was a blur of similar emotions. I know I did good today. I actually played doctor. I helped some people through their worst nightmares. I was efficient, effective. I got the job done. “You guys were terrific today’, the ICU ACLS coordinator said to my intern and I. ‘Thanks’, I smiled feebly.

It is 8:30 pm. I opened the door to my apartment, switched the lights on, took my coat off. Then I crumbled to the floor, sobbing.

 

Rules

Like anything else, dating is a skill. While there was a time when I would have scoffed at any rules in love, apparently there are some.  Now that I’ve got my feet wet by actually going on a couple of dates, I’m beginning to realize, and be amused by this. I guess my naivete comes from an utter lack of experience.  I’ve never technically gone on a date before this. I have only fallen desperately in love. With S, that was one of the things I really loved about the early parts of our relationship – there were never any ‘games’. We were both intelligent, attractive people secure enough in ourselves to not have to play hard to get.  It was so easy and natural. I like you. I like you too. Simple.

My trainer J who has also become a close friend was telling me this the other day. She said, you should be with a guy you can text ten times a day if you want to without any qualms. I was like,  I know!!  I miss that! Both S and V were that kind of guys. She was also like “You are queen. You have all these options. You pick. Not them.” I was blown away.  Woah. The kind of badass confidence that statement inspired was long overdue. And I’m still riding that wave.

I cannot deny that what has also helped me achieve that is becoming somewhat hot again (Hot and dangerous, per J:D). When all the sexy dresses in your closet that weren’t fitting in your fat period fit you beautifully again, you’re like, yassss, bitches! Tina Fey once said, every woman needs to have a fat period in her life.  I couldn’t agree more.  Its humbling.  Its life experience.  It also makes you more understanding of the next girl struggling with her health. As a doctor, this has really helped me guide my patients. I can recommend things with conviction because I know they’ve worked for me.

The same goes for mental health issues.  My interns marvel at my knack for dealing with people suffering from depression and anxiety.  I laugh it off, saying it must be something about my face that makes them open up. What they don’t know is how close to home those issues are for me. To every single mother,  abused girlfriend,  and IV drug user that I come across, I want to say, I know how it feels! I was there! I know how it is to feel stuck,  helpless, hopeless! But I hold back.  Instead I hold their hand, tell them there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Tell them there’s hope. I hold back because for all the advances we’ve made, there’s still stigma associated with mental health issues, even among healthcare providers.  Every day I see my co-residents bemoaning their suicidal patient.  Its unfortunate,  but is nobody’s fault. Its just one of those things that society has yet to catch up with. As a medical student, I remember sitting in for the psychiatry clinics silently judging most patients who were seeking help. Come on, get over it! Its not that bad as you make it out to be, I would say in my head.  Now I know they just can’t help it.  And they need all the help they can get.  So while my career choice is  Infectious Diseases, which I absolutely love,  I am hoping to find an avenue for helping out patients with mental health issues. Maybe there’s a volunteer opportunity somewhere. I should do some research. I have so much to give on this front.

So that post took quite the detour. See? It’s not about boys anymore.  But that’s all for now.  I gotta go.  I have a date:)

S

Dear guys on Bumble…

  1. Please don’t post shirtless mirror selfies.
  2. In fact, please don’t post mirror selfies at all.  When we don’t have much to go on other than your profile in the initial stages, mirror selfies basically tell us two things: i) You are likely too much into your looks. ii) You probably don’t have any friends who would take a picture of you.
  3. Same goes for gym selfies. We appreciate when you take care of your body. Not so much when that’s all you do/think about.
  4.  Ghost all you want if you are not into us. We do it all the time too. But please don’t lead us on for a week before doing that. That’s just a dick move. In most cases, you should be able to figure out if you find a person attractive in under ten texts.
  5. If you are proud of your nature-given height for some reason by all means put that on your profile. Just know that it is a potential turn off for a quality woman who may not be on the taller side.  Your loss.
  6. Posting a picture with an attractive blonde does not make you come across as in demand and more attractive. For us, that’s basically a red flag.
  7. We definitely don’t mind splitting the check or even paying for the whole dinner. Just know that deep down we appreciate chivalry and are judging you for not even offering to pay. Do the damn check dance, for heaven’s sake.
  8. Please respect our time and effort and take it offline as soon as possible. Nobody wants a textlationship.
  9. Go ahead and sext if the girl initiates it. Just keep it classy.
  10. Bumble takes the effort of the initial hello away from you. That is fine. We know how nerve wracking it can be to approach a girl. But please do your part in guiding the conversation/ asking us out after our initial hello. Making us do all the work just makes you seem lazy/dull. Your move, fucker.
  11. Please mind your grammar and write like an adult. Your is not the same as you’re.
  12. Humor and intelligence can take you a long way.  So can warmth, honesty and decisiveness.
  13. Make sure the interactions are not mostly one sided. A great relationship is one where the back and forth is balanced.
  14. Write SOMETHING on your profile. Give us at least Education and Employment. Pretty will only take you so far.
  15. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable once in a while. Sometimes that is more attractive than the cool aloof persona you present to the world.

Most of all, know that we are glad you exist. Excellent cuddles at frequent intervals are what makes us thrive after all:)

Thanksgiving

I know I haven’t written in a while. No, I haven’t given up on yet another blog. I just wanted to make sure I had something quality to say every time I wrote. Something that wouldn’t make an older me cringe a few years down the line. Also, I use this as a platform to work things out in my head and I have been fortunate enough to not have any pressing concerns in the past couple of weeks.

Yes, it has been an unusual period of bliss-ed out contentment for me. One that I am very thankful for. I figured it would be appropriate to take a few minutes out of a day off that happened to fall on the eve of Thanksgiving Day to log my gratitude.

A lot of things have factored into this joy. I am doing well at work. I love my patients. I have found enjoyment in studying Medicine again. I am excited about my future. I have learnt to appreciate my family for how absolutely wonderful they are, and not take them for granted. I may have finally found my clan in Chicago – a group of smart, funny, decent Malayalees around my age who I met at a Meetup event, almost all of them having lived in Bangalore at some point in their lives! – can you sense my excitement? Now it may all fizzle out but I am OK with that possibility. I have learnt not to have lofty expectations of people. I have spent lot of time in the past dwelling on being disappointed by friends. Now I realize that is probably because I hold them to very high standards.  Most importantly, for the first time in my life, I am not looking for love. I really really like myself and seem to not mind not having constant validation of my worthiness.

Now this may seem to be contradictory to that statement but I recently went to a Dabble class on “How to attract with allure and approachability”. Yes you are allowed to laugh at me now. It was something I had signed up for before this whole I don’t-need-a-boy emancipation came about. I decided to go anyway, and boy, am I glad I did! It was a small intimate gathering of of five single women sharing their stories of love over wine at the host’s apartment. All the while our wonderful coach gave us eye-opening tips on things that must be holding us back in love. It was as delightful as it sounded. What I liked best was how honest everyone was with their vulnerabilities. It was interesting how even though we all might have our individual hurdles, the common theme was self- doubt. It was yet another instance where it was evident that we as women, tend to put ourselves down so much in our heads, that we might be really really far from our truths. I came out realizing a lot of my mindsets that must have been holding me back for years in situations that I could have taken to my advantage. Oh and guess what? We enjoyed each others company so much that we ended up exchanging numbers and making plans to catch up again this Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong. I am terrified that this will all come crashing down come December 6th on Fellowship Match Day. I like to think this time around I have enough maturity and wisdom to approach this period of uncertainty with balance and grace. I hope I can manage to keep my sense of hope and purpose in case things turn out unfavorably for me. I really struggled the last time during Residency Match two and a half years ago. In hindsight, things really did work out for the best. But I was young and naive and used to winning all the time at the time. I have learnt to forgive myself and others for my perceived failures. The fact that I said “perceived” in itself is a revelation to me of a change in mindset. I now have a mindset of acceptance and pride in myself and all that I have achieved. And I am finally happy to just live in the moment, doing the best I can each day, not agonizing about what people think of me, or what the future may look like for me. I am paying my bills on time. I have a 401k. Going to the gym daily has become a habit. I am reading, listening to podcasts, watching the news, making conversations with strangers, going out of my comfort zone. I am also making time to hang out by myself in my living room that I so lovingly decorated two years ago but never used much as a result of being too high-strung all the time to just relax on my couch. Thank you, Whoever is making all this happen. Please make it so that I am this happy come what may for the rest of my life. And please help me keep my feet on the ground while I am at it.

The club

Past few days have been really good.  I am glad to report that I did not falter. I did not spend any time thinking about S. Or V. Or anyone else. I think a lot of it had to do with this fancy new gym/club I joined.  Self-care is the way to go when you are trying to move on from a relationship. Self-care and putting yourself in close proximity to good looking white boys for a few hours each evening;). 

I kid. While it’s nice and reaffirming to have a cute boy smile at me at the gym every now and then, I actually am not looking.  For the first time in my whole life, it’s not about having love in my life. I am happy. And I really like myself. I enjoy my own company. Also, I am completely focused on the task at hand. I finally have managed to entice myself back into taking care of my body.

I think as women we are unfortunately  conditioned by society to base our happiness on our looks. As a result, the fact that I put on 40 pounds in one year post my breakup really played into my unhappiness. It was easy to turn to food for comfort. Suddenly having developed severe shin splints did not help either. Nor did the antidepressants. Running was always my way to get back into shape when I fell off the wagon a little. But now I couldn’t do that anymore. Besides, I found my gym incredibly dull. It was the local suburban YMCA, more catered to families and the elderly. Nothing made me want to go. I had given up on yoga. Tried noom coach. But the vicious cycle continued. To be honest, and vain, I felt like an attractive woman trapped in someone else’s body.

Then early this week I finally had some time in front of me without any planned travel, and I was ready to get out of the rut. A friend had told me about this gym a while back, situated at this hip neighbourhood a few miles from mine.  The distance had put me off initially. Then three days ago I casually Googled them, and Google Mapped them, and was blown away.  It was everything I was looking for.  And there was a bus right at my doorstep. It would take me less than 3 dollars and 15 minutes to get there!  On a whim, I signed up.  I was ready to make a change.  

And man, was I in for a surprise. I don’t know if it is my naivete, but the place was fancy as fuck! The kind that made you actuallyy want to go to the gym. Ok just to give you an idea here is a list of amenities. 

1. Open 24 hours on weekdays

2. Group classes included in membership. Hello again yoga, pilates, zumba and spinning.  It is nice to see you all again.  

3. My wonderful, kickass personal trainer,  J. Weights? Woah. Comfort zone nowhere in sight at this point. 

4. Eucalyptus infused towels for your face after working out (wtf!)

5. Clean bath towels

6. Clean gym towels

7. Showers

8. Lockers

9. TV with cable on each cardio equipment! I don’t even have CNN at my place!  

10. Climbing wall

11. Volleyball leagues

12. Dietician 

13. Spa 

14. Pool

15. Hot tub

16. Fancy exercise bikes with simulation videos

17. Healthy food bar, with smoothies and shit

18. Incentives for working out

19. 30 day guarantee 

20. Aforementioned cuties.

Best thing I’ve spent my money on recently. 

A rant

This is nice. I find myself looking forward to writing daily. Like I can’t wait to tell the internet how my day went. Which is also kinda sad as clearly I am compensating. Well, who cares? Survival.

The thing I realized about getting over somebody is that one needs to build a life that does not contain that person. I think my breakup affected me so much because that relationship was the only thing I knew.  We went to the same classes, spent every meal together, studied together, basically spent every waking moment together. We had the same set of friends, had similar dreams and ambitions and similar values. And it was all fun. I have had so much fun in my twenties with S that I must have been seriously blessed. He made me laugh. There was that constant back and forth, the fun banter. I was entertained constantly. I lost all of that. And that happened when I was in a whole new country with a whole new, stressful job, away from my friends and family. I never got to go get drunk with my friends, lamenting my breakup. I never got closure. It did not help one bit that the people I was exposed to initially during my time here were not even close to the kind of people I would have allowed in my life if I had a choice. I clung to my memories and my life back home for dear life. But now, things are different. All the bad guys are no longer in my life. I have been fortunate to have met some genuinely nice people since. People who have actually managed to make me laugh for the first time in a long time. I am yet to let anyone in, but at least I am happy when I am with them. I finally feel like I am ready. To start moving on.

My friend and mentor Dr V once told me she used to make a list of all the things she did not like about a guy when she had a breakup, and that always helped. I always hesitated to do that because as it must be obvious to you by now, I tend to justify everything S did. I always found excuses for his behavior. When he could not commit even after 7.5 years, I thought it was because we were too young to get married. I often wonder now, was it all even real? Was it all in my head? Come to think of it, he had wanted to break up with me at least three times before. He even did once. Ok. I don’t have the energy to go into all that right now. Bottom line is, I should stop being blind in love and be an adult.

Honestly, I love my life otherwise. I have nothing to complain about. Work is good. I enjoy what I do. The future holds promise. I have hobbies again. My skin looks great.

Jokes aside, I hope this feeling lasts. I hope I don’t fall back into old patterns again. It is hard though. Like this morning. I woke up confused. I was dreaming. I think whoever makes dreams is so cruel. This one was cruel, and weird. It was about how S and I had a child, and now that we were not together he got custody. In the dream I was terrified about someone else becoming my child’s mother. Wtf. I mean, where did that come from? I did not know I was ready to have a child. But apparently my subconscious thought I did. We were on a bridge. It was a boy, and he was adorable. I remember that, although his face is kind of blurry. S and I were on either side of him, holding one hand each. We were doing some kinda amicable co-parenting shit. It was a bad dream but I woke up and realized I preferred it to my reality. At least S was in my life. I could see him. He was not in a different city. We had a baby. God. I am sounding like a crazy person even to me. But you see my point about it being fucking hard to build a life without him, when even if you forget, your fucking dreams remind you of what you lost?

Fuck. I am angry and exasperated. I am tired of this, really. I think I need to tap into that part of me that gets angry at S sometimes. P says even she thinks it is time he came around. It has been two years for heaven’s sake. If he even cared an ounce about me he would have made an effort by now. He knows how much I struggled with this. He knows that by not giving us a chance he is throwing away almost a decade of both of our lives. And a lifetime of happiness. Well, I guess he does not care. So that’s that then. Its all on him from now on. I have done my part. I fucked up, but I made amends.  I am going to stop beating myself up now. I don’t think I have any more left to give this relationship. Surely I have better things to do. And better people. So help me God.