The Creation Health Breakthrough: 8 Essentials to Revolutionize Your Health Physically, Mentally, and Spiritually
By Monica Reed, M.D., Donna K. Wallace, MTS
I couldn't sleep. I tossed, turned, and repositioned myself in bed trying to find the spot that would bring unconsciousness. That's what I wanted. Not just sleep. I wanted to be unconscious. I was tired of the fight. I was tired of refiguring and juggling to make things work. I was frustrated and maybe even depressed. No comfort in my bed? No surprise. There was no comfort in my life.
I'd finished med school ten years prior and had established a successful obgyn practice. I loved my patients and my staff and they loved and respected me. Even while I was still in medical training I knew I wanted to teach. So I felt fortunate to be the associate director of the Family Practice Residency Program at Florida Hospital. It was a sacrifice, though. Teaching residents was often no different from being a resident. That meant regular twenty-four-hour workdays and equal stretches of time when I was away from home. On nights when it was crazy busy and my head never touched the pillow, I wondered if I should be doing something less with my time, but I enjoyed teaching, so I stuck with it. Opportunities continued to open up. I established a new practice at Florida Hospital's destination facility, Celebration Health, and was named medical director of the Women's Health Program. I'd also accepted the medical news reporter position for the ABC television affiliate in Orlando. How cool! Life was filled with good things; it all felt so appropriate and so right.
So why wasn't I happy?
There was too much time away from home. I missed my little one. The hours I spent away from my little girl were more than I wanted or intended. We had a wonderful nanny, and my husband, Stan, capably picked up the slack. But for how long? I wondered. The slack pile grew greater almost daily. Was his frustration growing too?
Deeper than that, I missed me. I didn't have time for me anymore. I tried to juggle my schedule to have more time with Megan, more time with Stan, and more time to save the female world from gynecological terror. It wasn't working. I was being squeezed out of my own life.
As I lay in bed that night, all that responsibility and guilt sat on my chest like an elephant. Then it came to me: Maybe this is not a schedule problem, maybe this is a "me "problem.
Is Being Tough the Answer?
My mind immediately Hashed back to my residency days. I loved delivering babies, but on one particular day, instead of bringing in a life, I'd actually lost one. Despite my best efforts, this mother had delivered five months early and the baby didn't survive. Feeling terrible, I sought my attending physician to unload. As I sat there second-guessing myself, he said to me, "Monica, I appreciate that you feel bad. But these kinds of things happen from time to time. It's the way life is. You need to learn to accept it and toughen up."
Toughen up. It sounded sensible. I'd accepted it as the solution then and perhaps it was the answer now. All right then, maybe I'm just not tough enough. Maybe I just need to buck up.
A few days later I discovered that nothing could have been further from the truth. After a morning packed with surgery and an afternoon of back-to-back patients, I finally made it home. I was exhausted, but I took satisfaction in knowing that today, unlike other days this week, I'd made it through the door in enough time for Nanny to make it home during daylight. Ushering her out the door with a quick hug and a "thanks, see you tomorrow," I breathed a sigh of relief. With my little one fed, changed, and content I could relax for a few moments. Dropping my briefcase, I gathered Megan in my arms, and the two of us plopped down in a rocking chair.
She snuggled comfortably against me and we slowly rocked back and forth. I don't know how long we rocked, but the rare moment of solitude was a thing of beauty that relaxed and refreshed us both. In that treasured quiet time together, I began reflecting on my life again. The phone rang, breaking my revelry. I recognized my aunt's voice calling to check in. After chatting a while, I asked her the question plaguing my own mind. "Auntie," I said. "Are you happy with your life?"
She answered without hesitation. "Oh yes, I'm very happy with my life. In fact, I love my life."
My steady rocking came to a halt. Her emphatic answer stunned me. She specifically said she loved her life. Was that actually possible-to love your life? I knew I could deal with life; hang in there with it, yes. But love it? In that moment, I realized total fulfillment existed, but I didn't have it. Was it because I wasn't good enough to get my life into balance?
I was working hard and doing good, but I didn't feel good. In fact, health-wise, I felt terrible. I was overworked, overstressed, and couldn't sleep. But I couldn't figure out how to improve things. My life was a paradox-I was healing others, yet I was a mess. From the outside looking in, every aspect of my life seemed like the gold standard. I had a solid marriage, a healthy child, a great job ... and yet I was on the verge of having a health breakdown. Something had to change, but I wasn't sure exactly what.
Neglecting to Take My Own Advice
You might think my profession would offer me some definite health advantages. No such luck. Medical school was a time to obsess on the structure and function of the human body, not the needs of the body, mind, and spirit. It was a time to learn the biochemistry of nutrition but not the practice of healthy eating. My personal application of anything that came close to health was constantly overshadowed by lectures from dawn to dusk followed by hours of studying from dusk till almost dawn. Healthy eating? A good night's sleep? Balance? Not quite. I figured I could save that for later, when I got my life back.
Almost imperceptibly, the abuse of my body and spirit became routine. Residency training was filled with hundred-hour workweeks, interrupted rest, half the day passing without going to the bathroom (we used to joke about needing to attach catheters to our legs), gobbles of food between deliveries, and little social contact outside of the hospital. When I left residency training and entered private practice the hours improved somewhat, but they were still long. We only lived a mile away from the hospital, but there were times when I was so tired that I'd ask Stan to come pick me up so I wouldn't have to drive home. Okay, maybe that was a little extreme, but I needed that extra TLC!