Category Archives: Personal

Changes to be Made

A question was posed to me, “Name one thing you wish you could go back and change during your education.” One thing, out of all those years of medical school. The hours spent studying alone, hunched over a three-volume set of neurosurgical textbooks. The stress of each day during my first surgical rotation and the anxiety that came with prerounding. As an introvert (INTJ), I was torn between my need to assert my dominance over the rest of my cohort and the paralyzing social anxiety I have dealt with my entire life. It was this common occurrence that I settled on as the one thing I would change. My social anxiety. The social awkwardness and antisocial behavior that has been both helpful and harmful, but ultimately reared its ugly head during my years at university.

Throughout medical school, I was an exemplary student. I rarely missed class (save for the complete mental breakdown that occurred during my second year), turned in perfect work and spent the majority of my free time studying. Since I had so recently graduated high school, I didn’t realize that I should be using some of my free time at university to socialize and instead spent it travelling down the proverbial rabbit hole that is medical education. 

The further I tunneled, the less time I spent in the “outside world.” My friends saw me less and made frequent comments regarding my absence. As my time was limited, I started distancing myself from those around me and only saw my friends once a month. When I did spend time being social, it felt so awkward and I was filled with anxiety. I started to withdraw, spending the vast majority of my time doing solitary activities. My mornings were spent running solo, followed by studying, then class. When my classes were over, I immediately started studying again. This went on for the entirety of medical school, save for the odd trip to see family or time spent in ballet.

I began to notice changes in my behavior around year three. During a group project in medical microbiology, I suddenly became aware of how uncomfortable I was around the rest of my group. Looking around, I saw how happy the majority of my peers were while conversing with each other and yet I was miserable. I excused myself from the group (I had already finished my part of the project) and went for a long walk. The walk allowed me to collect my thoughts and return to the group where I hurriedly helped them finish their work and left.

That evening, while I was alone in my room studying, I realized that I might just do my best work alone. Having other people around was distracting and I never quite felt myself around other people. In a weird way, I felt like my body was doing what it thought was best for me, protecting me in a way.

To this day I feel awkward around other people. Though I have ultimately gotten better about how I deal with those I interact with, I still prefer to be alone. For the longest time I tried to change, to become something I’m not. I put myself out there, forcibly building relationships that were doomed from the beginning. Now that I’m older I realize that all the energy I spent trying to change myself would have been better spend focusing on making myself happy. I no longer force myself to be social if I’m not feeling up to it and I make sure that I’m comfortable in situations before I commit to anything.

It’s hard for me to admit things like this publicly. Letting anyone, even random strangers know a weakness makes me feel terribly vulnerable. Try as I might, I don’t think I will ever be truly comfortable letting others into my life and that is something I need to work on. Going forward  my hope for myself is that I can learn to let down my guard and allow a few people to get to really know me. One of these days I suppose. Until then I just have to continue to throw myself into my work and keep myself busy in other ways.

Question(s): How do you deal with social anxiety?

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A Long Standing Love Affair

It really began when I was young. I loved to run. I ran like a wild child in the fields near our home in Poland. When we were in the city I dashed up and down the busy streets of Łódź, much to the chagrin of my terrified mother. Even when I was in the house, I would run from room to as my mother would yell, “Zachowywać się jak panienka!” It seemed like I was a born runner and it was a trait I continued to hone as I grew up.

After I moved to the States, I began to actively run. Not only for my physical health, but my mental health as well. My run was the one time during the day that I was able to collect my thoughts, plan the rest of my day and be a little more introspective. As my feet hit the pavement, a jolt of excitement would course through me. On certain days, I felt like I could run forever. When I knew my run was coming to an end, I actually felt a little tinge of sadness. I enjoyed the ache, the adrenaline and the mental acuity so much, it made it difficult stop running. As soon as I finished, I felt refreshed and alive.

It wasn’t until high school that I really became obsessed with running. My freshman year, I joined the track and cross-country teams. I formed an immediate bond with my cross-country coach, since he was the only other person I had ever met who loved running as much as I did. As soon as class was over, I was the first one in the locker room. Long after we had packed up our equipment, I was still hanging around discussing my run with our coach. Cross country running was heaven for me. Every day, I looked forward to practice. The courses kept me in phenomenal shape and my self-confidence, which had been sorely lacking due to my recent move from Europe, grew in leaps and bounds. Being on the team allowed me to make friends who shared similar interests and I began to date one of my fellow teammates, which gained me even more access to the different groups in high school.

When I graduated from high school, I was too involved with my studies to take part in university athletics. Though it made me sad to see that chapter of my life come to a close, I realized that I could continue to run when I had downtime. Mornings were the best time for me to run and I would record my notes to listen to while I dodged downtown traffic. No matter the weather, my schedule or my physical status, I would try to fit a run into my day. After each run, while I was coming down from my “runners high,” I would feel so sexy! Even if I looked at myself in a mirror and saw that I was visibly flushed, sweaty and my hair was in shambles. It never ceased to amaze me how wonderful each run made me feel.

Though I have gotten older (not THAT much older mind you), I still try to run everyday. I keep track of my runs via Map My Run and aim for 50 miles a week. If I am not able to meet my 50 mile goal, I try to run further the following week to make up for it. I have a few favourite runs, particularly my 7.50 mile Strand run, which takes me along the beach. I run that route quite often and try to get others to go along so they can see how much fun it is. I don’t have very many running partners though!
One of the things I love about being able to track my runs is the statistical aspect of it. Breaking down my performance into pretty, logical numbers makes my heart skip a beat. To show you what I mean, here is a sexy breakdown of 2012 so far…

Image

So far this year I have run 1,923.4 miles. Which means that, if I was an enterprising lass, I could have run from Los Angeles, CA to Kansas City, MO to see family. If the weather in California held up, I could even enjoy the gorgeous scenery of my current state and run the length of the coast and back.

Based on the 244 hrs, 19 min and 52 secs I have now run, I could have flown around the world almost 5.5 times (if I didn’t have to refuel and based on the 550 mph avg of a commercial jet). I could have also completed a little over 80 transsphenoidal procedures for pituitary adenomas, barring complications.

The number of calories I have burned, would allow me to eat 53 plates of the #1 Worst Food in America or 276 servings of Haagen Dazs Creme Brulee Ice Cream (my favourite).

I wish I would have always tracked my runs. I can only imagine the amount of time I have spent running up to this point. I haven’t always averaged 50 miles per week, so I don’t have a consistent number to base anything on. This coming year, I plan to up my weekly goal to 60 or even try to make my monthly goal higher.

Question: What about my fellow runners, do you have any stories to tell? How far do you average a week? month? year?

Singlism

Throughout medical school, I felt that I had to work harder than my male counterparts. I was constantly trying to prove myself in a field dominated by men and that often meant sacrificing my personal life to stay ahead. It was difficult and I always felt like an outsider, constantly trying to earn the respect of the cool kids. In the end, my struggling only served to sweeten my #2 class rank and my graduating with honors. I felt that I had earned my place among the men and overcome the hurdle of sexism.

After I graduated, I once again dealt with discrimination. Though this time it wasn’t just because of my gender. My clinicals came and went without much incident, as I could tell the physicians I shadowed felt I was more an annoyance than anything else. The first time I really felt a tinge of discrimination was during my internship, when I was constantly called “girl” or “young’in.” I tried to brush the comments and nicknames off, but after earning the right to work alongside these physicians I wanted to demand respect. I didn’t, though. I just took the abuse and kept my head down.

Then came my residency. On a daily basis, I was subjected to verbal abuse at the hands of my attending, who held no respect for me. I was the lowest of the low to him, a young resident and a woman. This was by far the worst discrimination I had ever encountered. I was miserable throughout most of my residency (which, as a neurosurgical resident, was a long time) and it took its toll on me. I became more withdrawn, abrasive and I was constantly stressed out. The day my neurosurgical residency ended was one of the happiest days of my life. I assumed that the discrimination was over. I had made it so far. Medical school, clinicals, internship, residency. Now I would have the respect of my colleagues, or so I thought.

So he’s a dentist, but you get the picture.

A few weeks ago I scheduled some time off. I like to try to take a few days off each month to reorganize myself and try to focus on a few projects. The time was initially approved, consults were moved around and I was looking at plane tickets. Today, I just happened to look at my schedule for the weekend of the 25th and noticed that I was scheduled to work all the days I had requested off. I was fairly upset, but assumed it was just an error in scheduling. I went to talk to the woman in charge of setting appointments and creating our basic schedules.

The conversation that we had, blew me away…

Me: “I noticed that I was scheduled for days I originally had off. I have the documentation that shows I won’t be here.”

Scheduler: “Another surgeon with family issues asked for the same time off. So he is prioritized ahead of you.”

Me: “I don’t understand. When did he ask off? Those days were originally fine.”

Scheduler: “He asked off yesterday, but he is taking time off for family…”

Me: “Why does taking time off for family make his time more valuable than mine?”

Scheduler: “You’re single, you don’t have family to worry about and so he is prioritized above you. When you aren’t married or don’t have children, you are kind of at the bottom of the totem pole.”

At this point, I didn’t know what to say. I just turned around, walked back to my office and slammed the door. I felt like this was some sort of new discrimination. At what point did my being single become something to be discriminated against? In the U.S., family systems have seen such incredibly vast changes that I was appalled her thinking was still so backward. If I was married with children, my needs would be “prioritized” over the needs of my single colleagues. This isn’t fair, nor is it right. Only 51 percent of Americans are married and even though that means I am in the minority, it doesn’t mean that my time is any less valuable than the married couple next door. I looked up a few articles on “Singlism,” and while some of the issues are just down right silly, a few are well-presented observations about singles discrimination.

They look thrilled to be in the majority!

 

Is this sort of discriminatory behavior something most people ignore, or do the majority of people not even realize this goes on? I feel like I have worked hard for what I have. Taking time off is a way for me to enjoy what I have earned, meet new people and strengthen my relationships. How am I suppose to move to the majority, if I never have time to actually have a real relationship?

 

I’m really not sure where to go from here. I have put in a second request for the same time off and I drafted an email to possibly be sent at a later date. Even though I don’t feel like I have any ground to stand on at work, I am obviously taken aback by the level of thinking that is going on at such a progressive facility.

Questions: Have you ever been discriminated against because you are single? How did you handle it?

 

 

It’s Halfway-ish!

It’s halfway through the year and you want to check on how I’ve done with my 2012 goals?!

Oh, ok. Yea, we can do that…

I mean, I have been very busy, extremely busy even.

Am I stalling? Me? What makes you think that

I’m right on track to completing my goals! I really am. I promise.

I’ve been strengthening my personal relationships. I talk to my mother at least once a day and I have emailed my father a few times since the beginning of the year. As far as my relationship with my friends, I still struggle with that. I’ve always been loner and medical school did nothing to improve upon that. I prefer my alone time and I think that my quirkiness can sometimes overwhelm others.

As far as writing more letters, emails and thank you notes I have done that! I write letters to my babcia once a week, purchased lots of awesome thank you notes from Papersource and I have even tried to send emails to family members on a fairly regular basis. I need to do better though. I would be happy to send more emails, but my friends just text me. So it’s their fault!

Plans to take a real vacation with someone haven’t panned out yet. It’s only half way though the year though! I have been to Tahoe, NYC, Toronto and Missouri. Sadly they were mostly business trips, though a few were to see family.

My novel has been shelved. I have yet to find the time to write, nor have I felt particularly inspired. So that goal is…not happening.

I’ll just say it, I have yet to learn to sew. Moving along.

The reading goal I set for myself is working out nicely. So far this year I have read:

The Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davy
By Light Alone by Adam Roberts
Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan
Behind the Beautiful Forever by Katherine Boo
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
India Becoming by Akash Kapur
Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil
The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer

With a little over half the year behind me, I am on the right track to hit 20 books by the end of the year.

When it comes to making a blog post 2-3 times a week, I have fallen way behind. This year as been incredibly busy and there have been a lot of stressful situations. I haven’t really felt inspired to blog, but I will try to do better.

One of the goals I decided to carry over from 2011 was to take more cooking courses. I have signed up for a few through the South Bay School of Cooking, and plan to attend a Thai class, Chinese Dim Sum course and Spanish class which centers around making paella.

Running fifty (50) miles a week has been an easy goal for me to keep and I think I will up my distance to 60 in 2013. I still want to squeeze in at least one (1) marathon by the end of the year!

As far as completing a detox plan, I have done a small one over the course of two weeks. I would like to try to complete a longer one during the winter, possibly in between Thanksgiving and the new year.

Rolling Double’s

Every weekend I try to figure out what I’m going to do with my free time. Normally I end up in a comfortable chair, sipping a glass of tea and reading a book. So exciting I know. Every once in a great while, I may go out. This is rare, as I tend to prefer to stay at home. I may be a tad antisocial, but who isn’t?

A few weekends ago, while I was visiting family in Missouri, an older cousin called and asked if I would be interested in participating in a role-playing game. Now, I use to love to role-play using created characters in the DC Universe, but I hadn’t done it in a while and was feeling a little apprehensive. After some extra prodding I relented and he sent me a list of HeroClix that he had. He planned on DMing the game and I could choose whatever character from the list I wanted.

The night of the game, I packed up a bag of fresh-baked goodies and we headed for my aunts. The table was filled with character sheets, dice and HeroClix just waiting to be played with. We sat around and talked about our chosen characters for a while, ate and then got down to business.

She uses throwing “diamonds” as her main weapon.

Let me tell you, it was a blast. I had forgotten how much fun it is to role-play! Especially when you get to be an awesome superhero! Sadly we played with Marvel instead of DC HeroClix, but I held my Marvel hating tongue.

How many can you name??

I chose Diamondback as my totally amazing character. I knew relatively nothing about the character going in, so I read her bio on Comicvine. She dated Captain America for a while, so I was happy picturing Chris Evans on my arm for an evening.

She wasn’t actually KO’d

The night went well, we played for several hours and I was sad when it was over. We tried to make plans to play again while I was still in Missouri, but his wife came back from Scotland (and she’s no fun) so it wasn’t possible.

I would highly suggest trying out role-playing if you never have. I have recently been playing Magic the Gathering again and I forgot how much fun table top gaming can be!

You really don’t want to mess with these two!

Question(s): Do you role-play? How do you get others involved?

Onward and Upward

A few days ago I was discussing with a friend our futures. Would we ever get married? Be parents? Where would we be living in 10 years? It was a little disconcerting, considering my preference for planning my life in advance, that I didn’t exactly know what my future had in store for me.

I asked my much more laid-back friend, “Would you want to know exactly how your future is going to unfold?”

“Nahhh, I kind of like surprises,” was his response.

This threw me for a loop, because I would want to have a detailed itinerary emailed  to me every week. Knowing the minute details of my daily life would be something of a thrill for me. Being able to plan well in advance for situations would be a life saver! The orange juice commercials, where the consumer is sitting at the table with all of their “problems” for the day, is an obsessive compulsive planners fantasy.

I wondered if my friend was in the majority. Do most people want to keep an element of surprise in their day-to-day routine? How many people would choose to gaze into their future, if they found out the exact circumstances of their death? Perhaps that is the kicker, death. If you know when and how you’re going to die, you might live your life differently. I would assume that being privy to that sort of information might drastically change your personality and the way you interacted with people. This sort of information could be the reason that certain people would choose not to have their future unfolded before them.

As a planner, worrier and obsessive compulsive, however, I am practically frothing at the mouth for a chance to look into tea leaves and divine my future. I would ultimately hope the tea leaves showed something positive and in-line with how I anticipate my future will be. If everything goes according to plan, I would end up divining a future like:

2-3 years: married to the love of my life, work towards a 4 day work week, discussing adoption
4 years: completion of contracted work in California, quick sell of my current home, purchase a vacation home on Catalina Island, move back to NYC or Toronto,  begin renovation on the West Village building in NYC, begin the adoption process
5-6 years:  adopt a child/children (hopefully male twins), work towards a 2-3 day work week
7-8 years: complete the renovation on the West Village building, spend a year living abroad with my family, begin the transition to open my bakery (test recipes, research supply companies etc..)
9-10 years: begin consulting for hospitals 1-2 days a week, finally open my bakery, enjoy being a mother/wife/small business owner

An idyllic plan that will hopefully be put into action within the coming years!

Question(s): What about you? Would you choose to view your entire future if given the chance? Is there anything you wouldn’t want to know?

I Bought Into It…

Hunger Games mania, that is. I read the trilogy. Bought the “I Shop at the Hob” tote bag and “Team Finnick” t-shirt. I’m so trendy and lame. The excitement that has surrounded this first movie is unbearable. All day at work, my staff was talking about going to see the movie (these are adult, healthcare professionals, mind you). I bought tickets online days ago, just so I knew I would be able to see it Friday night.

Its bad, I know...

Something really amazing did come from all of the movie hype though. The pediatric oncology wing of the hospital where I work, held a Hunger Games Competition and Party. The patients were able to participate in a variety of activities and I had asked if I could make cupcakes. I made 75 mini cupcakes. Some had little chocolate dipped arrows w/ coconut fletching. Others had different symbols pertaining to the Hunger Games.

I did make these the night before....

You can see in the pictures that some of the icing was beginning to melt. When I brought them to the event room at work, they told me they wouldn’t fit in the refrigerator. So I had to leave the majority of my 75 cupcakes sitting out . I wasn’t pleased.

Regardless of the state of the icing, the kids loved them.

The icing is orange cream (homemade, which is probably why it melted) and I piped it over dark chocolate mini cupcakes. The “sprinkles” are actually flavoured sugars that I learned how to make! The red is pomegranate, the orange is orange, and the yellow is just yellow sugar.

The kids seemed to have a blast. The majority of the cupcakes were gone halfway through the program. The ceiling had been decorated with silver parachutes that each held a take home bag of candy. They had signs that said “Mellark Bakery,” “The Hob,” and my favourite saying in the book.

I donated some Hersey’s kisses, that I adorned with the same Hunger Games decorations as the cupcakes. The kids ate those up! They loved the little details, which really made the party fun.

I loved these. Though I hated making them.

We also had water bottles that were wrapped in Hunger Games labels. The kids loved them so much, they said they were going to take them home and reuse them for the movie premiere later on.

Oh so chic.

The party was a big hit and I definitely got my Hunger Games appetite sated. Seeing all of the kids enjoying themselves so much was a really wonderful experience!

I am planning on seeing the movie Friday night. My cousin is going with me since she thought that being pregnant meant she couldn’t stay up until midnight for the premiere. Le sigh… The one time that I want to do something fun and it gets squashed!

Question(s): Did you read the series? Are you going to see the movie? Were you caught up in all the hype?

BRB. It’s only three letters…

Pet peeve: a minor annoyance that an individual identifies as particularly annoying to him or her, to a greater degree than others may find it.

Whilst having a conversation with a friend on Google chat the other day (we were discussing the abortion law recently passed in Virginia), I was confronted by my number one pet peeve: leaving in the middle of a conversation without telling the other person you have gone.

Now, this really only affects electronic communications as having someone walk away from you during a conversation is another problem altogether. When you are conversing with a friend over chat or having a conversation via text, I find it extremely rude to up and leave. A simple “brb” or “hold on” or even “I’m leaving,” will suffice. Letting the person on the other side of the conversation know that you no longer wish to continue the conversation is a courtesy that is somehow lost when you aren’t looking them in the eye.

Why didn't they just type "BRB"?????

The entire situation led to a discussion (with the same friend) regarding our pet peeves. I told him that he had just committed the one action that annoys me the most and then he asked what the rest of my “peeves” were.

So I told him.

1. Leaving in the middle of a conversation without telling the other person you have gone.

A quick message telling the person you are talking to, that you are leaving is all that is required. This will allow the person you are leaving to stop typing/texting, so that way they don’t type a well thought-out, lengthy response which is subsequently lost to the Internet
nether-void.

2. When a driver ahead of me refuses to turn right on a red light (it is legal in California).

No one is coming. No one is in front of you. You have a line of cars behind you. We aren’t in NYC. You aren’t breaking any laws by just turning right. More so than people who drive slow, straddle the median or use their turn signal miles in advance of their turn, I hate people who refuse to turn right on a red light.

3. Holding the door open for someone, who is far enough away that they feel the need to run so you don’t have to keep holding the door open for them.

I don’t understand why some people do this. It’s not that much of an inconvenience to open a door. I very much dislike the fact that I feel obligated to speed up my pace, because the person 50 feet in front of me wants to be chivalrous. It has gotten to the point that I no longer quicken my pace to meet the person holding the door. If they feel the need to open the door for me when I’m so far away I assume they don’t mind holding it open while I walk to the door.

4. Patients who miss their appointments, don’t call the day of the appointment, then call days later to reschedule.

This is a very physician centric peeve. When an appointment is made months in advance (and the majority of mine are), I assume that you free up your schedule and won’t schedule something that would conflict with the appointment. It always amazes me, however, when someone doesn’t show up for their appointment. Even after a call from my assistant, which is normally ignored, people still miss their appointment. Several days, or even weeks later, the patient will call and ask if they can reschedule for “later in the day” or “in a few hours.” While I understand that things come up, calling my office to let me know that the appointment is cancelled is common courtesy.

5. Waiters/servers that hover over your table while you’re eating.

On my first trip to any new restaurant, one of the first things I look for is a great waitstaff. One of the things I always look for is a servers timing. I hate it when a server checks on me every few minutes. I get that they need to turn tables in order to make more money, but I want to be able to enjoy my meal with my friends.

When I was younger I hated playing Manhunt with people who had outside dogs. I don’t know that it could be considered a “pet peeve,” but it was the absolute worst to find the best hiding place and then to have their dog bark at you until you were found. I would often put their dog inside, but even then it would run around the house barking at us as we ran around in their backyard.

People’s pet peeves have always been interesting to me. Some of them can be so specific and strange that I wonder how often they are actually encountered. A friend of mine hated summer because he despised flip-flops. He hated the sound flip-flops made and would actively avoid places where people may be wearing flip-flops. As his friends, we found his hilarious and would annoy him by wearing flip-flops while he was around. In retrospect, it was mean and I wouldn’t do it now!

I am curious about other pet peeves people have though…

Question(s):What are some of your pet peeves? What are some of the weirdest pet peeves you have encountered?

Just Checking

I have lived with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for as long as I can remember. It started when I was younger, my mother noticed that I needed to touch everything. This included the leather boots of a friend of hers who came over to visit. As soon as the woman sat down, I immediately laid down next to her and “petted” the boots à la Gollum. Thankfully I was young and the woman was a good friend, so it seemed less creepy.

The need to touch everything continued and my mother started to worry that something was very wrong. She found me straightening the fringe on our oriental rugs, separating out colours compulsively and checking on random things obsessively. I became increasingly obsessed with our dogs getting out, so much so that I would check the locks on the doors in the middle of the night. I scared my mother to death walking around the house at all hours. Whenever she would catch me out of bed and ask me what I was doing up at such an hour, I would respond with, “Just checking.” Just checking the locks. Just checking the dogs. Just checking that the lights were off. Just checking that everything was where it was supposed to be.

Around the age of six, my mother had finally had enough. She dragged me to a therapist who wouldn’t allow me to touch anything or rearrange his desk. It was torture. He made me sit still for the entire two-hour session and would even tie my hands together so I couldn’t fidget with things. When my mother found out he practiced this way, she immediately found another therapist. I started to learn ways to control my compulsions. Playing with rubber bands, strings and even reading books. When I didn’t show enough progress, however, the second therapist put me on medication. It zombied me out completely and my mother had them take me off medication shortly after.

It was around this time that I left for Vienna and without any sort of therapy, my compulsions began to get worse. I would spend hours perfecting my ballet technique, to the detriment of my growing body. Even at such a young age, I began obsessing over my weight. I would weigh up to four times day, often sneaking into the weighing room in-between practices. I would go long periods without eating very much and was constantly in the clinic due to dehydration. Ballet gave my OCD an outlet. I could control every aspect of dance and it was an obsessive compulsive’s nirvana.

Everything here is perfect. You can control your surroundings.

When I left Vienna, my mother noticed how bad I had become right way. She put me back in therapy three days a week, but did not allow me to take any medications. Slowly I got better and eventually I was only attending 1-2 sessions a month. The last therapist I had in Poland was my favourite. She was kind, knowledgeable and would let me rearrange her desk. She realized that if she could teach me how to quiet my disorder and focus, I could motivate myself to excel at any task set before me. She pinpointed my worst obsessive compulsive meltdowns to periods of intense stress and she then tried to teach me different techniques to mediate stress. Leaving her behind when I moved to the States was difficult and I found it harder to control my disorder.

Throughout my years in school, I tried to hide my tics and compulsive behaviors from my peers. I was terrified that one of them would out me after seeing a tic or ask me questions about why I was constantly fidgeting with something. Thankfully I was never confronted about my disorder directly, though it did garner me some strange looks from lab partners. I managed to excel in high school, even though I had to deal with my obsessive compulsive behaviors. It did bother me when my friends would tease about having OCD. They would fix a spot on a poster and say something like, “Oh my G-d, I totally have OCD” or “She is so OCD about…” I never liked how OCD was treated so non-nonchalantly.

Not OCD

Throughout university, I began to extensively research how to deal with obsessive compulsive disorder and its subsequent tics. I spoke with my professors and physicians about treatments, attended weekend lecture series and spent a good chunk of my time learning to control my compulsions. By the end of medical school, I was well-versed in areas of OCD treatment and was able to deal with it.

All of my research led me to conclude that, while not curable, obsessive compulsive disorder can be controlled. I found that through a combination of medications, psychotherapy, physical activity and stress mediation, I could control the majority of my compulsions. I began focusing my energy on specific hobbies (which would often cause me to procrastinate in other areas) until I was an expert. By learning about how to treat OCD, I (ironically) felt more in control. This caused me to focus on “curing” my disorder and ultimately I was able to overcome a lot of my tics.

So what do I have to say to those who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder? Don’t give up. You can learn to live with OCD, even though it may be hard, you can persevere. Actively seek treatment, learn what sets you off, teach yourself how to mediate stressful situations (or avoid them all together). Find support groups, look to your support system that surrounds you and learn how to live with your tics. You shouldn’t be ashamed of having OCD and you shouldn’t have to stress about hiding it.

Question(s): Do you know someone with OCD? Do you suffer from OCD?

My Puppy

On January 31st at 4:00 p.m., we had to put our family dog of 12 years, to sleep. He was diagnosed with liver cancer and his quality of life had greatly diminished. He was hardly eating, extremely uncomfortable and I could tell he was experiencing some pain. We were worried about him over the last few weeks and I had flown home to be with him. Over the course of my lifetime, we have had many pets. I have had other dogs, cats, ferrets, rats and even reptiles, yet no other pet has affected my life the way Max has. The greatest emotional attachment I have had to any of my pets, I experienced with him. He has been the greatest gift anyone has ever given to me and to know that he is gone is heartbreaking.

I have never actually been present when a pet of mine has passed away. Most of the outside cats have just vanished, the smaller animals didn’t affected me as much (though I was still sad) and my three dogs all died peacefully in their sleep. We have put other animals down due to cancer or fatal injuries, but I have never been there for those. Most of the deaths of our pets occurred during my years at university and my residency in NYC. Getting a phone call that a pet has died is always hard, but I guess it actually softened the blow because I didn’t see them. With Max, however, I was with him at the end. I owed him that, but it was so hard. Seeing the light go out of his eyes and looking at his tiny body on his favourite pillow, so silent and still, was one of the most painful images I have ever seen.

Max was a different kind of pet. He had been given to me by my boyfriend, who then became my fiancé. Even though he and I are no longer together, we shared a common interest in the dog. He would call from time to time, just to check on the puppy and see how he was doing. I loved Max to pieces and I know he did as well. When when found out Max had liver cancer, I called him right away and he was devastated. He told me that whatever the dog needed, he would be glad to help. I know that he wanted to be with Max in his last days, but he respected that we aren’t together and let him be with us. I appreciated that.

Even though Maximus was my dog, he loved my mother the most. Since I was moving around so much, my mother offered to take him and look after him. The plan was for me to take him back when I settled, but I couldn’t take him away from my mother after she was so attached. It was hard, but I relented because I knew that they could take better care of him than even I could. And they did, they spoiled him rotten. Even though this experience has left me devastated, I know that it can not even hold a candle to the pain my mother is experiencing.

I have scoured the internet, look for words to help me describe what I feel right now. I’m not going to write a poem, I’m no poet. I have photographs of him, but I’m not a photographer. I could draw him, but I’m planning on painting a canvas for my mother. She was the one who was with him the longest and she is the one who he depended on the most. So how can I bring some closure to his death?

For me, the best way is to write to him.

My Max,

It was always you who greeted me, not so patiently at the door when I came home. Tail wagging, nose pressed up against the glass leaving marks to let me know you had been ever so vigilant. Your excitement to see me, even after I had just ventured out to get the mail, was so infectious that it made me happy to see myself.  Your loyalty was unfaltering, up the stairs and down the stairs, curled up at my feet or sitting quietly by my side. You were my little, courageous protector through all those nights I was alone. You made me feel safe,  you kept me warm and you made the house feel more like a home.

The personality that you contained in your small being, was greater than most people I know. You were such a lover, so playful and the smartest dog I have ever seen. You understood so much, probably even more than we gave you credit for. With every click-clicking of your nails on the floor, I was comforted to know that you were there. You brought me joy with every bark and howl, even at 3 in the morning.

Maximus, my puppy. I hope that you know that everyone loved you. You were the most amazing gift I have ever been given. No dog will ever live up to you and I will think about you constantly. You have given me some of my best memories, which will last me a lifetime. You have brought such an amazing amount of love into my heart, which is where you will always be.

I love you Max and I will miss you.