Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The World's Dumbest Parents

We were all excited because work finally started on replacing our old bathroom (installed in the 1950's and leaking, plus butt-ugly). Sure, it was going to be a pain in the neck to have to bathe in the kitchen sink for a couple weeks, but kind of fun too -- like camping! But with air conditioning and TV!

It wasn't until I got home from work Monday that I realized that we are the World's Dumbest Parents. Monday the old bathroom was completely gutted. The carpenter, a very tidy guy, had carefully hung plastic in doorways and had bagged and removed all of the debris. But we have an old house, a drafty house, and now a house with -- a fine layer of dust covering everything. Furniture, floors, rugs, cats, baby toys ... a layer of dust that most certainly contains lead from the many layers of paint accrued over the years.

I wouldn't be so hard on us, except that we're physicians, for god's sake, and I well know that the most common way for upper SES kids to get lead poisoning is through house renovation.

So now we're holing up in a hotel. We have to keep going back and forth to the house to get clothes and feed the cats. HellBoy thinks we've gone insane -- usually we're trying to convince him to get down and play instead of treefrogging on us all day, and now we won't let him out of our arms.

But. We're not in Louisiana or Mississippi. We're in a nice hotel. I am very, very grateful.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Something I'm Really Happy About (Or Is It Just the Meds?)

Tertia's post about antidepressants really made my day. In part:
One of the best things I ever did was go on AD's. It took about two weeks to kick in, but I felt like the old me. Not spaced out, still saddened by what was happening to me, but that black oily monster? That monster shrunk to the size of my fist.

I have long wished that I could be more open about my own AD use. I've told most of my friends & family, but I almost never tell my colleagues, students, residents, or patients, even while I'm trying to encourage them to try ADs. Partly this is because I'm a little worried I might be a bad advertisement, since I can seem rather serious and antisocial before I get to know someone. Partly it's because I've heard other physicians talking about patients on ADs in a disparaging way (definitely NOT most physicians, but a few). And partly because I don't want to be seen as, I don't know, crazy and weak. But I also think everyone should be more open about it, because otherwise the stigma will never go away.

TrophyHusband takes them too, and he's very open about it. But he's never been depressed, just anxious, which I think is more socially acceptable. He went to a psychologist who deemed him completely free of any DSM-IV diagnosis, but he wanted to try them anyway, and now he says he will never go off. What he says they do for him is to shrink the worrying part of his brain down to a manageable size, so that he can focus on the rest of life. I noticed a difference in him right away. First, he had to learn how to use a nail clipper. True story. He had bitten his nails down to bloody nubs since childhood, and suddenly, without him even being aware of it, the habit vanished. Second, shopping with him became much easier. Soon after he started ADs, we went to pick out new glasses for him. Based on previous experience with this, I blocked off all of a Saturday morning for it and put four hours' worth of quarters in the meter. Then he walked into the (very trendy) eyeglass store and said, "Show me your most interesting pair of glasses." The exquisitely tattooed and pierced clerk slapped a pair on the counter. TrophyHusband eyed them for a moment, and said, "Show me your second most interesting pair of glasses." Tried them on, said, "I'll take them!" and we were out of there in twenty minutes and used the remaining 3 hours 40 minutes on shopping for me.

But it's kind of cute to take meds to cure oneself of nailbiting and shopping indecision. (It also helps men with endurance, which he doesn't mind one bit.) It's less cute to take them to prevent crippling black oily depression. Or maybe I'm being too sensitive, and need to grow some courage.

Is there a pill for that?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Hospital Taliban

I got an email today from an administrator at the hospital where the residents I oversee spend most of their time. An excerpt:
Today [one of the residents] looked like she was in her pajamas. She had on scrub pants rolled down from the waist so that her belly/midriff was exposed about 2" where her t-shirt did not reach to her pants. Would you please speak to her about it? Does she really want her bare skin exposed to the patients?

I'm not really in favor of residents coming to work dressed like Christina Aguilera, but I'm irritated that someone is roaming the hospital halls like the Taliban, measuring the amount of uncovered female flesh. And I don't think I'll use the line, "Do you really want your bare skin exposed to the patients?" Since, after all, we're trying to dispel the cootie theory of disease among our students and residents.

Friday, August 19, 2005


Lately I've been feeling pretty burned out, and I'm not sure why. I have a job I love, a miracle baby I adore, the best husband ever, good health, and a good shrink who has me on good antidepressants. The baby weight is gone, the cats are doing well -- the neurotic one pees where he shouldn't only on very rare occasions -- and, let's see ... we're finally going to have our long-awaited bathroom remodeling!

So what's eating at me?

The death of one of the doctors in our group is probably affecting me more than I admit. I hardly knew her, though I've been filling in at her office for the last few months. However, her death hit close to home in some ways. She was only a few years older than I am. Her patients were her life (I almost said her job was her life, but that's not true; while she worked like a madwoman, she did socialize -- but mainly with people who were also her patients). I feel like I almost ended up the way she did, since for a while I didn't expect to ever marry. Her death makes me feel very grateful for what I have, and yet it's still sobering.

I also feel right now as if everything I'm doing is for someone else. I teach and counsel med students and residents. I see and counsel patients. I'm supposed to be working on a study, but I'm not the principal investigator, and I'm not actually terrifically interested in it. When I get home, the baby is on me like a large tree frog. When I do something just for myself—buy new shoes, look at other people's blogs, read junky magazines—I feel guilty. I even feel guilty for feeling burned out when I should be feeling grateful. The weird thing is, before I gave birth, I almost never felt guilty—afterward I joked to my husband that I never knew guilt was a hormone.

Putting down the list of things I do just for me was a bit eye-opening: I realize I could hardly even think of what I do just for myself these days. I can hardly think of what I WANT to do for myself anymore.

And paradoxically I find myself feeling sad that I very likely will not be able to have another biological child. My first was IVF in my late 30's, neither an easy pregnancy nor an easy baby, and I just couldn't even imagine trying immediately for another. So now time has gone by, and it's probably too late for another bio kid. I've always been open to the idea of adoption, and the possibility comforts me, but then I start thinking, what am I, crazy? I already find life overwhelming! Why would I want another child? Just for insurance?

Anyway I've been thinking that having my own blog would be something just for me. (Especially since as a new blog, it won't be read by anyone else!) Feeling a little better already.