In 2011, my life was a wreck and I felt like I was one of those pennies spiraling down a giant plastic funnel. Working as a PA was a dream come true, but after a few years of practice it stopped feeling like a healing profession and began to feel like a factory. I felt hopeless and I didn’t feel like I was actually helping patients, much less helping them heal. I felt bored, anxious, stuck, insecure and sick all the time. My co-workers felt the same. I was surrounded by a heavy feeling at work and home. I drank and indulged to cope with life. I moved from practice to practice and looked for ways outside of medicine to make money. I felt the same hopelessness everywhere. Endless 10-12 minute visits with patients, no real time to listen and troubleshoot a plan for their health, writing prescription drugs like I was a rock star signing autographs. I proposed changes to my supervisors with the promise that I would do everything myself, all they would have to say is “GO!” Nothing ever stuck or changed. So because it was all I knew, what I was trained to do, I stayed on the hamster wheel.
I was doing the same with relationships of all types. I would bounce from person to person wanting so bad for them to save me from myself, to make me happy and whole again. Then I hit rock bottom. The dark night of the soul is a real thing. And it’s super scary. You feel like someone took a giant spoon to your chest and scooped out your insides. You can’t breathe. You can’t feel. You can’t fake a smile or eat or think. But somehow with the grace of God and the universe I was able to crawl out.
As I chased the light, at an incredibly slow pace, I began to make tiny changes. The little shifts took me almost three years to start feeling better, more optimistic, excited about the day and about life. I focused my attention on my intention, to be a healer, to partner with my patients and in my relationships, and to make my own rules based on the right way. Then my brain cells started adopting the good thoughts and eventually that became my pattern. I began my first gratitude journal, which created a big shift. I thought constantly about everything I had instead of focusing on what I thought was lacking. I began a yoga as medicine training and even bigger shifts started taking place.
Then I read that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so I began to surround myself with the ‘dreamers and doers, the believers and thinkers’, which forced me out of my comfort zone of medical professionals and into a new world of independents, start-ups, creatives and entrepreneurs. I serendipitously applied to a TedX conference where the theme was FearLess and was granted admission. There I found my tribe. I learned from them that without a vision, nothing exists and that thoughts become reality. I began to write down my goals, my dreams, how I wanted to practice medicine and my vision for my life. Every time I went to work, I took my written dream practice and made it my reality and it worked. Patients loved it. I was happier and healthier and hopeful again. But more importantly, my patients craved this type of care and they were happier and healthier because of it.
I honestly never thought I would want to leave clinical practice and perhaps I won’t for a while, but until I find a space where I can actually listen to a persons story from the inside out, from the early years to the present day, to evaluate the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of their health, my work will in the current system will be limited. My wonderful profession allows for this and I thank my lucky stars every single day that I have this flexibility.
I remember taking one of my grand plans to my two supervisors in 2012. I sat in their office, computer on lap, business plans plotted out for easy understanding. At the end of my presentation, I told them my ultimate dream. One of them turned to me and said “That’s a cute dream Erica, but this is the real world and you will never make a living with holistic health or food as medicine in underserved communities, just keep doing what you’re really good at, patients love your care” then sent me on my way. So for them and their plans for my life, I will be forever grateful. Seriously, there is nothing stronger than someone saying you can’t do something. As Walter Bagehot said; “The great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.”
I see my penny analogy happening throughout the healthcare world. Whenever I do step into a clinic, it breaks my heart to witness and know that there is a different and better way. This is the gift I want to share with the world. My gift to those who have dedicated their lives to underserved communities and went into medicine for the service, not the prestige or the title or the money. Anyone can transform their life and their practice as long as their intention is there.
I wasn’t the chosen one. I am not a golden child. I simply have a dream, a drive that won’t be slowed and an obligation to my patients whose timid whispers need a louder voice. Will you join me?
“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” Arundhati Roy
Photo from sumetho at freedigitaldownloads.com