Monday, June 9, 2014

Rock Bottom

Rock Bottom.
That was what I was thinking while I sat in the occupational health office getting my mandatory physical exam for my new job. Weight, blood pressure, pulse, all 10-15 points higher than my healthy baseline. Color me shocked? Not really. I can feel it. That is what 15 hour work days for months does to you. I am no CJ from the West Wing.

But now work life is more reasonable. And I am working with a coach to get my ass in gear for a PR and I am doing hot yoga and swimming and, and, and.

It struck me today, as I was walking on Parnassus, past the statue of Hippocrates and across from the Death Star. My very worst health was in residency. At the end of residency to be exact, when every fiber of my being was beaten into a pulp and my soul was barely intact. Or was it in medical school?

As a pregnant first year, I once walked across campus carrying a see through hefty sized bag of condoms to give a talk on birth control. It hit me that I looked a lot like Santa, only a girl, a doctor-to-be, expecting, and how very ironic to be carrying a bag of condoms in my condition. I wish now I had one of those video cameras people wear on their heads when doing extreme sports, just to capture the looks I got from passers-by. At the time, I was mostly just irritable, and probably did not see the humor. My ankles were swollen and I had a test to study for. And who the heck gets pregnant in medical school anyway?

Or was it in high school, when I felt out of place and bored to the point of despair? I used to leave class to practice piano, with mostly a shrug of "OK, whatever" from my teachers. I tested out of this and that and finally decided to just skip the rest of it and head to music school. I still have nightmares that someone comes to my door, pointing out I cannot be a licensed physician without my high school diploma. They then hand me my old PE uniform and send me out for laps. Or worse: golfing. Once in high school a classmate hit me square in the head with a wooden club (accidentally) (at least I think so). I awoke, on the ground, with my fat, toupeed gym teacher bending over me. From then on, he called me "Hard Head Heidmann". It is possible this injury explains a lot of my short fallings in life. It was not amusing.

Or was it in junior high, when I used to walk to the orthodontist from my downtown brick school, which was well in the aroma-sphere of the local brewery, to get my weekly torture, tightening of the wires? My orthodontist was mean in a way that would not fly in today's litigious, helicopter-parenting society. He was an asshole, actually. Once I bit him on purpose. He asked me at one visit what we did in school that day, and I reported happily about the English Muffin pizzas we had made in home economics class. His reply, and I swear he had a cigarette hanging out the side of his mouth while he drawled this, was "I wouldn't feed that to my dog." That might've been the day I bit him

Or was it during puberty, when my body rebelled and went from wiry thin kid to slightly curvy, menstruating and gawky (braces-wearing) teenager? I hated myself as a teenager. I wanted to be Alberto Salazar, or Grete Waitz, or any of a number of my cuter friends who somehow went through puberty without the freaks and geeks detour. To my credit: never drank, did not do drugs, and ran and ran and ran with the discovery that running was my bliss and my ticket to health.

Which brings me back to this: rock bottom. I am finally not working 15 hours per day. I am sleeping, I am eating well, and my 10-15 point elevation of weight, blood pressure and pulse is starting to drop. But my foot hurts. Plantar fasciitis, probably. A first for me, or at least the first foot pain in a long while. In the grand scheme of tragic events, this ranks low. But I do find myself wondering what God is thinking. Running for me: my meditation, my mental health, my passion (well, other than Beethoven anyway), my mental health, my drug of choice, my mental health, my lifelong, as long as I can remember, THING. I am not and never will be elite, but running is my non-animate soulmate.

My Dad had a heart transplant. My Mom had breast cancer, twice. My kids are strong and they rise up against the BS of adolescence with grace and humor. My husband writes magical books and has raised our children and has been there, all out, for our family from day one. My dear friend had a baby and traveled across the country. My patients face death with astounding grace. My colleagues continue to fight the good fight in a system that promotes insanity. My dogs offer unconditional adoration. Beethoven and Bach beckon.

Rock bottom?

A little foot pain never killed anyone.

That I know of.


  1. What color should I use for a great big smile?

  2. Our greatest efforts can deplete us, bring pain, and hopelessness. I am just behind you, my friend, taking notes and plotting my course from within the system that promotes insanity. My head is aching, my sleep is disturbed, and my family is patiently waiting for a wholesome path that restores me. Thanks for making this move of self-preservation. My nature has always been restless and searching. The irony is that I somehow find myself within the interstices of the machine. I am seeking light and healing within the most recalcitrant and entrenched system driven by incentives that transform human sufferring into dollars. I find the nicest people inside struggling to make sense of their human vulnerability and to serve others in pain. I am hoping to discover a way to leave the madness and to bring some of my fellow humans with me, before I am cooked by my own frustration and righteousness. Every now and again, please buy me a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, or a shot of tequila and remind me that there is an out-there out there.