Isn’t it interesting what things we are afraid of? The more time I have, the more I succumb to my fears. Before I went to medical school I thought I had it tough. Once I was immersed in the day to day stress of critical illness, it made being late for work look like a joke. Who cares if someone yelled at me. And for that matter, who gave a crap whether you got an A or B on that test? Or whether you gained five or ten pounced eating that extra piece of pumpkin pie. None of it seemed to matter.
Once I stepped outside of my own EGO my real concern was in my patients. My real concern was whether I was going to be able reverse the liver damage on that two year old, intubate that premature baby or stop the brain swelling on the 4 month old in the PICU.
I’ve always liked that about medicine. It seemed to put it all into perspective. I knew a psychiatrist who once said that peoples fears and neurosis served a purpose. At some level they benefited from it. I don’t think we’re conscious of what benefit we receive but often when the fear becomes an indulgence and we are suddenly aware of this fact, it falls away. Here’s an excerpt I read recently. It’s by the author Abigail Thomas who writes of her experience with her husband following a traumatic brain injury.
Old fears are evaporating, the claustrophobia that crippled me for years is gone. I used to climb the thirteen flights to our apartment because I was terrified of being alone in the elevator. What if it got stuck? What if I never got out? Then there I was one Sunday morning in the hospital, Rich on the eighth floor, the elevator empty. What had for years terrified me now seemed ridiculously easy. I haven’t got time for this, I thought, and got right in. (emphasis placed by me)
– Abigail Thomas “A three Dog Life”