Personal / Psychiatry

Open Doors

Up until a few years ago when I graduated from residency, life appeared to have a linear, predictable path: obtain high school diploma, finish undergraduate degree, get accepted into medical school, graduate from residency, secure a well-paid job as a psychiatrist.

Yet, throughout the entire process, I encountered several challenging experiences trying to adjust to each new phase.  When I moved away from home for college, I was so excited to live with four girlfriends and finally feel independent enough to lead an exciting college life.  However, I can vividly recall the day my parents helped me move and when they left, I cried.  For several days, all I wanted to do was isolate in my room.  Eventually, I became more comfortable with my living situation and newfound independence, but my initial desire was to flee back home as often as possible.

For medical school, I was fortunate to get accepted into a school within 30 minutes from my hometown, so I was familiar with the area and lived with family that first year while adjusting to the grueling academic demands.  It was so nice to come home to a hearty meal prepared by my grandmother or aunt after a full day of lectures, anatomy lab, and studying.

However, when I moved away to Oregon for residency (a state I never even visited let alone knew anybody who lived there), I felt extremely lonely and isolated.  At some point, my program director suggested that I see a psychiatrist because I wasn’t performing very well on tests.  I felt like a failure.  Yet, finally realizing that I needed help was when I started to evaluate myself in order to create change. It’s the time that blogging became an outlet for social support and connection that I felt was missing at that point in time. It was the period of my life when I became more self-aware, made long-lasting friendships, discovered my leadership ability, and became chief resident. Such a pivotal point in my life motivated me to evaluate myself and discover my resiliency based on how I overcame my struggles.

When I rotated at the student psychological center at the local university, I saw several patients who struggled with transitioning to college life.  I completely identified with them.  I currently have several patients going through major changes (divorce, moving away for school, starting a new job, recently losing their job, getting married, expecting their first child, etc).  I emphatically listen and validate their experiences — going through life change WILL challenge your usual ways of coping (ie, one may cope by isolating, keeping thoughts to themselves, working out at the gym more, confiding in a friend, etc).  And sometimes, depending on the stressor, the usual copings skills may not be enough to overcome the challenge.

And here lies the dilemma — Even the most linear path in life has its challenges.  Do you face the challenge head on, or do you recognize your limitations and choose a different path, or do you justify ways to avoid the situation altogether?

Photo by Marlon Santos

11 thoughts on “Open Doors

  1. Now those are some great questions! And it is simply impossible to predict or prepare for all the possible things that can happen when we step into uncharted territory in life..I think both A and B are valid responses…C (avoid all together) sounds safe, but I’m betting it has it’s own unintended consequences. (ie depression, shame, feelings of purposelessness, etc. The Human heart is designed to grow and be challenged…sure it is possible to overdo it. A little stress is healthy..too much stress will cause the circuit breaker in your soul to trip. I can very much relate to this post! I too use blogging for some of the same reasons..thanks for blogging!~ DM

    • this post is reflective of how i’m feeling this moment. i think the best decision would involve one that doesn’t lead to regret, because then that would to all sorts of things like you mentioned (depression, guilt, etc). may live in avoidance due to fear of the unknown, which is unfortunate. Glad u could relate to my free associations! 🙂

  2. I like this question, and I believe it is a matter of truly knowing yourself and being OK with walking towards a situation/opportunity that may be better for you. I’d say face the challenge WITH a support system, and if it becomes to much to handle, explore a different opportunity. There is no shame in trying.

    • Hi Chrissie! yes, there definitely is no shame in trying and seeing how things go. i think people go into new situations with so much hope and excitement and don’t acknowledge the potential challenges they can face, which is why i always tell my patients to allow themselves 3-6 mos to potentially feel a whole mixture of confusing emotions when they face a new challenge or situation. having a support system is definitely ideal esp since feelings of isolation will exacerbate depression, anxiety etc. 🙂

  3. I believe this is the first time I’ve read about your leadership abilities and becoming chief resident. It seems positive that you bring this side of yourself up now. There was a little delay in my comment because I was so taken with your picture. 🙂

    • Yes, i’ve always held and have been drawn to leadership positions since high school (i think it’s part of my life purpose esp being the eldest/1st grandchild in a family of >30 grandchildren), but never fully exerted my leadership abilities because i was too shy or scared until my chief resident position. therapy has definitely helped bring out that side of me 🙂 And thanks for the comment about my pic! my cousin is a great photog

  4. Finally found the time to check out your blog…absolutely love it! Adding you to my reading list and I look forward to reading more of your posts 🙂

  5. As usual I loved your post and your hair color/style is spectacular in the picture – I have a friend who’s a gifted hair stylist & owns her own environmentally certified green salon in the Santa Cruz Mountains. She’s so talented & and she can achieve a similar look when she does my hair and it always makes me happy to see it. Anyway, to answer your question, I’m more of an avoider,which I’m not proud of whatsoever…. but I’m working on it! Baby steps!!!

    • hey dyane! i can be an avoider to some degree as well. for some reason i was surprised to hear that you’re an avoider, but i’m glad you’re taking steps to work on it! thanks for the hair comment — i have an amazing colorist. next time u get your hair done, would love to see pics!! 🙂

  6. Just like the old times, you never fail to impress me with extra valuable contents. That is really the reason I cannot pull myself out of here. Perfect!

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