How many of you spent too many hours this past year down the rabbit hole of binge-watching a Netflix, Prime, or other network series?
My husband got me sucked into a show called “The Boys,” which features a group of superheroes or “SUPES,” as they call them. These are not the good superheroes we grew up with, but rather a group of two-faced conflicted individuals who are a means for product promotion for a giant corporation. (I know your interest has peaked now, but please wait five minutes until the end of my story to start googling.)
Many of us in medicine are outwardly seen as superheroes, more like those in the “olden days” – doing good, always around when you need us, putting others before ourselves. The year 2020 showed many examples of us living up to that. At times, we may have felt like the hero that we were told we were. However, at other times, we thought we did not deserve that title. Despite the conflict in our thoughts, we are human and not superheroes.
In a presentation last year, I explained to my audience how I had embraced the ability to change and step out of my comfort zone. I got curious and decided to pursue a different model of practice. Well, at the beginning of January, as I started that new endeavor, I found myself being very human!
I had a vision of how things would go. I had expectations in my mind of what would be ideal.
I thought I would have it all lined up and organized, and it would be smooth sailing.
I had not thought about what might happen if the dominos did not fall in place as they were supposed to.
I failed to remember things I had heard from other physicians about wearing masks all day. I empathized with them because I had not been working this past year clinically, which was my first time experiencing this.
I forgot how tiring learning something new could be.
I expected to have everything under control to set myself up for success this first week of my new job. I could recreate my smart phrases, set up my quick actions, form my preference list, get my VPN set up to connect from home – plus get a new phone, email, zoom account, and list of connections.
Oh, yea – and I had to get a vaccine!
I had imagined that by the time I saw my first patient, it would be seamless. It would feel like I was sliding back in a perfectly fitting glove or superhero suit.
But I was human. I needed to rest. I needed to take my mask off to drink enough water during the day, not to feel dehydrated, and not to eat junk in my car because I was still navigating what I felt was safe to do in the office. I also needed to experience some self-compassion. I needed to realize that I cannot control everything. I needed to have realistic plans for what I could and could not accomplish.
At the end of my first week, I talked with a fellow physician who reflected on her recent work transition where she moved and set up a new practice six months prior. “I forgot it takes about 6-12 months to feel like you are back in the flow at a new job,” she remarked. It was like a little lightbulb went off in my head, and a smile came across my face. I had forgotten that too. She reminded me I was human, and my expectations were superhuman. I needed to adjust my thoughts to set myself up for success and not failure.
I want to honor all of you who have been doing this longer than the beginning of January 2021. Thank you for being a hero to all those you serve. I want to remind you to support all the things that make you human so that you can continue to be both!
Marion Mull McCrary MD FACP is a practicing primary care general internist in North Carolina. She works with both physicians and non-physicians as a certified integrative health and wellness coach. She is also a Women in White Coats Writers Fellow and Podcast Co-Host. Her website is http://www.marion-wellness.com, and she can be followed on Instagram and Facebook @ marionmccrarywellness.