Leaving the ER
I would like to say that I remember the exact moment I decided to leave the ER, but in reality it was more of a slow transition that began with accepting that I was not meant to stay there. A year after I finished residency and had been working as an attending physician, I realized I had not been processing or dealing with what had happened to me during the five years since finishing medical school. This realization came when I traveled to the Amazon jungle for a spiritual retreat, and at the forefront of what I was facing were my experiences of being an ER physician–the trauma, the violence, the death, the emotions, the failures.
One of the major deficits of western medical training is the lack of proper education for physicians in how to deal with the demands of a hospital setting, of witnessing trauma and death and the skills of self-nourishment and self-forgiveness. I realized during that trip to the Amazon the spiritual toll that my job was having on me. I knew I was sensitive and was not adept at “brushing things off” as many physicians were able to do, yet I was determined after that initial journey to return to my job with a new set of tools that would benefit both my patients and myself.
Over the next few years, I implemented what I had learned in the Amazon, and my ER job became emotionally and spiritually easier. I started sitting longer with my patients and truly listening to their stories without taking them on emotionally. I began to view death as a process that was beyond my control, and I began to see how I could bring light to someone who wasn’t feeling well. Though I was improving in my ability to manage the emotional and spiritual aspect of being on the front lines of illness, I noticed my physical health was declining.
I felt fatigued and worn down, I began having frequent viral infections and I wasn’t sleeping well. I needed caffeine to wake up in the morning and to function at work. I was irritable, tired and never felt rested. My physician found nothing wrong with me–all my lab tests were normal. Yet I knew something wasn’t right. So I decided to seek alternative advice and saw a macrobiotic counselor who immediately diagnosed me with an overly acidic condition, kidney fatigue and adrenal exhaustion.
I’m not one of those people who approach things half-heartedly. So when my macrobiotic counselor gave me instructions on what foods to eat and how to prepare them, I went home that day and started eating macrobiotically without looking back. I cooked three meals every day, and on days when I would work twelve-hour shifts, I would take eight to twelve containers of home cooked food with me. Initially, my energy improved, and I felt more energized; but after a few months, I started feeling tired again, and the physical signs of weak adrenals and kidneys were not improving.
It didn’t take long to realize that eating healthy food wasn’t enough–-the shift work, the erratic sleep schedule, the stress, the coldness, and the chemicals of the ER were having a profoundly negative effect on my body. Even though I was eating really healthy food, there were factors that were not allowing me to heal. It was time to leave the ER.
The idea of transforming into a holistic physician began during one of my trips to the Amazon. I knew at that time holistic medicine was my future path, yet I didn’t know exactly how that would look or what it would entail. The answer came through my macrobiotic practice and studies. I started learning about nutrition, about the eastern philosophy of yin and yang and how in order to achieve health we need to make balance in our lives. I started applying macrobiotic principles to my patients in the ER and realized the satisfaction that came from giving guidance that would have a greater, positive impact on someone’s life than simply giving them a pill.
I’m so grateful for macrobiotics because it has given me the tools to heal myself as well as providing a clear direction to Functional Medicine and an integrated approach to applying eastern and western philosophies to my healing practice. Through this journey I have come to sincerely realize what it takes to heal at a deep level. I have developed an understanding of the commitment, dedication, self-nourishment and self-forgiveness required to embrace true health. I am genuinely excited to be able to share this with others and guide them on their journeys to wellness.