mental health, Uncategorized

Finding Happiness

I really thought that by the time I hit my forties I had it all figured out. I was done with the bullshit, little things wouldn’t bother me anymore. I was ready to be the real me, take it or leave it. I had found my inner zen; I was more confident and more secure. Well, that was sort of …maybe true…or…maybe not.

When Covid hit my initial reaction was a bit of disbelief and then shock and finally grief. Mostly because of some big milestones that weren’t going to happen, at least not the way we imagined. And as time went on the reality sunk in. I was sad, lonely and isolated. A a physician I was scared by the unknown and the loss of so many lives. I tried hard to justify my feelings, to normalize them, to name them. And then one day, I just couldn’t do it anymore… I couldn’t positive my way out of it, I couldn’t see the bright side. This feeling of anxiety grew within me, fear and doubt took a bigger and bigger hold of my heart than I would ever normally allow.

I am familiar with depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders as an observer, not as someone who suffered from it. But I was in the throws of it and needed to get out. But I didn’t know how. My thoughts went from numbing the feelings by numbing my brain (watching mindless TV mostly), talking to friends and family (venting), considering a therapist (asked for recommendations but never saw one), or hiring a life coach (didn’t hire one, but a dear friend/coach offered me support). The best way I can describe how I got out of what I was feeling is being in a deep, dark hole full of loose dirt and climbing out, sometimes slipping, but not giving up, until I saw a flicker of light. And I kept climbing and climbing. (Some days I still am.)

What Covid made me realize is that the happiness and contentment that I knew needed to be found within me was something I had lost because I took it for granted. And when the world was open I didn’t miss it’s presence because I filled it’s place with So. Many. Other. Things!!! But the quarantine left a void and it got quickly filled with negativity, with people bringing me down, with fear, and with anxiety.


I really want to make clear that although I came out of it without a lot of outside help, I know that for many people diagnosed with a mental health disorder just telling them to “crawl out of the hole” and “be positive” is not necessarily the answer. There is true value in professional psychiatric and behavioral help and at times medication. I do not want to minimize that.

I’m sharing my story, to say that we all need reminders that true happiness lies within us. That we can’t let the business of our lives make us forget that. That although being quarantined is hard, I should be able to find contentment within me, not from positive attention from the outside world. I learned that I must find joy in the everyday mundane tasks. I discovered the true importance of gratitude and that we must look for things to be grateful for ALL THE TIME. I learned that my mind like my body cannot be ignored. I need to feed it with positivity ALL THE TIME. I learned that no matter my age, I will continue to treat my inner happiness as a fragile newborn that needs to be attended to and never ignored. I learned the value of true inner peace. A lesson I do not take lightly and hope to never have to relearn.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Uncategorized

Why We REALLY Need to Show Ourselves Grace

So I’m not gonna lie…Covid has not been the easiest for me.  And I know I’m not the only one.  But what I’ve had a hard time understanding is…why?

I love my husband,  I love my kids, I love spending time with all of them.  I have been transitioning to only work from home anyway.  I live in a place with great outdoor options (although trails and beaches were closed for a while!)  Yes, home schooling aka distance learning was not ideal but honestly my kids were pretty independent and didn’t rely on me (too much).

I was overwhelmed by the thought of “working” and growing my business and frustrated with myself that I couldn’t get more done with all this time.  I tried to give myself grace (because that’s what I told everyone else to do) but it was a half ass grace…like ” fine don’t do anything Elham, it’s fine, it’s stressful, just breathe, but you know deep down you’re just being lazy…get off your ass!!!”

And that was how I was showing up for myself…half grace, half drill sergeant! It wasn’t pretty.  Until one day it just hit me.  I have spent many of my recent adult years training myself to be productive and work in the pre-covid environment and then BAM everything changed…overnight!  I mean, seriously, I’ve worked for years on myself, on my schedule, on showing up for myself and others but not like this. Not with kids home needing at least some of my attention, not with a husband who’s dealing with Covid on the frontline, not while being home…ALL.  THE.  TIME!!  I, like most humans, need routine.  We thrive on it.  And at the moment we are all living in some version of chaos!

So, no, it wasn’t the lack of time, or the lack of motivation, or the lack of resources…in my case, it was the complete 180 change from life as I knew it and all the ways it affected the people around me.  And to be 100% honest, I’m not quite there with ALL the grace, but I’m learning to slowly forgive myself.  To talk back at that voice and say I’m not lazy and I’m doing my best.  To tell myself that most importantly we are safe, we are healthy, and that I need to breathe for reals.

These are my 3  daily covid non-negotiables, and if I accomplish them, I go to bed knowing I did the best I could;

  1. make one small step towards my goals
  2. daily exercise (preferably outside)
  3. remind myself of one blessing that happened that day because of covid

I do the last one with my kids nightly before bed.  We have to find one good thing because of, not in spite of, Covid.  How are you coping in the era of covid?  Are you able to give yourself grace?

I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.-Anonymous

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Dear Patients

Dear Patients,

We have failed you.  The medical system that you deserve no longer exists.  The time of personal relationships, long conversations with your doctor where they learn about your family and you know about theirs, those times don’t exist. Current visits are timed to the second.  If you or your doctor are 5-10 minutes late the whole schedule is thrown off. If your doctor has to deal with an unexpected emergency, you will likely be waiting for quite a while and your doctor will have no control.  If you book a visit for a cold there is no other topic that can be mentioned, not even if you have an acute concern.  For that you must schedule another visit because of the delicate and overbooked schedule.  Nothing could be squeezed in.

No, I cannot look into your other child’s ear, my schedule is booked and I can’t squeeze him in, I’m sorry.

But just a quick peak, you plead.  And here’s what runs through your doctors head:  what if the child has a another illness and I don’t fully evaluate them and miss something serious; what if I miss something and get sued, I’m not documenting this visit; what if they have an ear infection and I need to write for antibiotics…how will I find the time without delaying every other patient today?

This is the reality of medicine today.  I would love to spend 30 minutes with each patient and let them chat and answer every possible question they may have.  To reassure them about every vaccine, to tell them all the wonderful things they have to look forward to, and to assure them the guilt and doubt they feel is normal and they are actually doing a great job.

But the insurance companies only allow for 10 minutes at best, maybe 15 for a well child visit, and many visits are double booked. The result is doctors that are overworked and having a harder time caring.  Because if we cared the way we did when we started, if we cared the way we wanted to, if we cared too deeply, we would break so much faster than we already are.  We would not be able to withstand the onslaught from administrators, insurance companies,  and patients while maintaining an income to pay the overheard and our bills along with our student loans.

I too have experienced this as a patient.  I experienced it when my daughter’s pediatrician asked us to book a longer visit next time if I needed to discuss another issue with her.  I experienced it when my own doctor refused to see me when I was 10 minutes late because I drove to her prior office by mistake.  Even though she had canceled on me at the last minute the week before.  I was upset but I completely understood the delicate nature of the schedule.

Dear patients, we have failed you and the medical system has failed us.  We want to be there for you in every way but it has become physically and emotionally impossible.

The physician should not treat the disease but the patient who is suffering from it.-Maimonides