Monday, June 3, 2013

No Compulsion


I never quite recovered from my period of dissociation.

Quite the contrary. It was a long time in coming. It was about time that I put myself so much into patient care and residency that I felt as if I'd lost myself. I felt that way plenty of times as a student and through much of residency kept myself just outside of that space while dancing dangerously close. Every day, I was simply grateful to be a part of these patients' lives, even if they wouldn't take my advice, maintained their distrust of doctors or suffered from the health sequelae of their own choices. It was fine, because I was honored to be a doctor.

Until I had the painful, 45 minute meeting with a family telling them their grandfather was going to die, them rapidly cycling through denial and grief. And went up to speak to them about an hour later to clarify the conversation, lying myself bare before them, as I said before, at 3am, like I've rarely done for anyone else. I stopped existing for myself in those moments. I was not Chinyere. I was a doctor, I was only their grandfather's doctor, I was the young black doctor to tell this black family what I knew, laying it down. I had no where else to be but with them. I had no other identity. I put away thoughts of my own grandparents, my own extended family, what they'd do in a similar situation, if I'd have say, as the only physician in the family.

And it was hard to get myself back from that. It's hard to do something like that, over and over, because it's part of the job, we do it over and over, and feel invisible. No one else is there to really see you.

But it was a long time in coming not just because I had to hit that sweet spot in my patient care. It was because I made choices this past year that rapidly changed who I am and a lot of what I stand for. In that patient encounter, I was away from myself for long enough to take a good look at myself from the outside. I look exactly the same, but I'm so different inside.

Part of it is becoming a physician. Another part is giving up on marrying a Muslim man.

I gave up a year ago and I haven't looked back. It was not an easy decision. And it was one that I perhaps could have made with more prayer, but I'm tired. In every interaction, I realize that I was trying to hard to be what I thought such men would want, instead of being myself and being what I want for myself.

And this is not just me saying this. My SO was raised Muslim but does not practice. He believes in God but practices nothing. And I do not seek to convert him.

And with that went so many other things that were depressing to me. And with that went the feeling of hopelessness, that I'd always be alone, that no one would love me, that so many men were missing out on who would be an awesome wife.

I broke free of that, and I don't look at myself the same way. I don't look at love and relationships the same way. And yet, I carry myself the same, my face looks the's just the way that I interact with the world is different. It's easier. I feel like I can relate to my surroundings. I'm not in it but not of it, to paraphrase Stevie. I'm not painfully separate.

Is it perfect? No. But nothing on this earth is.

Are my plans for myself perfect? No. But none are that we come up with.

And I'm sick of my parents suddenly trying to tell me about God like I didn't just go through a long, hard, lonely spiritual journey of my own, learning to connect with God with little help from them and their own religious bickering over the years. Could have used that when I was younger and searching. I do not want to hear your novel discovering now like I haven't thought of them before, meditated on them, took them to prayer, wrote essays in my journal about them.

I think I've also become more cynical.

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