In a Funk.

It’s the middle of January and I’ve run a whopping 18 km.  If I am to meet my goal of running 1000 km this year, I need to be running minimum 20 km per week! I’ve been struggling finding the time and motivation to run. The office has been exceptionally busy thanks to the two weeks off I took over the holidays.  And with the drama the holidays had for me, I didn’t feel particularly rested.  I hardly ran much at all in December (28.5 km) and that inactivity seems to have seeped into this first month of the year.

I acknowledged yesterday that I’m in a running slump. Almost daily I get emails about upcoming races in my area.  I haven’t signed up for anything yet but I think I need to in order to get out of this funk I’m in.  I am also annoyed with my body.  I just can’t seem to go any long stretch of time without an injury, not to mention I feel that after two years of running, I should be able to run more then 3-4 km at a steady pace without walking.  Perhaps that’s too much to ask for?

I also seemed to have lost something when I left Instagram and subsequently deleted my profile.  I lost that connection to other runners (to strangers, really) that I followed on Instagram.  And just saying that makes me angry.  I am angry with how I came to rely on those stupid notifications on my phone that someone liked my latest run photo. 

I wish I could abandon all of it and just go back to that insular quiet little life where no one knows what I’m doing unless they ask or I tell them. This constant need/desire to broadcast one’s life over the Internet and get instant gratification for it is narcissistic and I’m ashamed for allowing myself to get caught up in it. 

So yeah, I’m in a bit of a funk. 

My Brain on Internet.

One of my goals this year is to spend less time on the Internet (oh, the irony, as I write this blog) reading vacuous material and more time in the real word reading real books of substance.

My brother told me about this book over a year ago.  I avoided reading it because I think I already knew what it would tell me.

I spent the last month hardly tied to my phone which was incredibly liberating.  Of course, with the holidays and the illness rampant in my house as well as my dad’s hospitalization, there wasn’t enough time in my day to waste on surfing photos on Instagram.  Now that life has returned to some semblance of normal – the kids are back in school, my dad is home and recuperating and I am back to work – I find myself wanting to go back to old habits.  My brain wants its drug back. I really hope reading this book sets me straight.

Unplugged.

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It has been a week since I took myself off social media, well except for Facebook, let’s be honest, I’m not that strong. I have to admit it was easier than I expected it to be.  Whenever I felt the need to pick up my phone and open an App, I found myself instead picking up a magazine at the office or reviewing an interesting medical topic on UpToDate.

The one thing I do miss about not being on Instagram is posting photos of my progress on my cross-stitching projects.  It was nice to see that other cross-stitchers enjoyed my work and “liked” my photos.  I was also apparently missed by a few followers and received messages from them asking why I left.

I left for a number of reasons, many of which I won’t discuss here but suffice it to say it served mainly to rid myself of a desire to watch others at a distance. It was unhealthy and really served no other purpose than to torture me.  I created my own prison and couldn’t find a way out, or rather, knew exactly how to get out but didn’t have the courage to do so until last week.  The year is coming to an end and a new one is just around the corner.  It’s time to move on.

I have decided that I want 2016 to be a year of less Internet voyeurism and instead more real-life interaction.  I want to read more books and enjoy life for myself. I want to stop using my phone to take a photo and immediately think, “Oh, that would make a great Instagram post.”  I want to live in the present through my own eyes rather than a camera lens.  I don’t need anyone to approve my life or “like” what I’m doing, least of all strangers.  I also don’t need to provide an open window for my past to watch me through.

Which leads to me this blog. It is the one thing left (other than Facebook but thanks to good privacy controls, I may still keep my accoount) that I still allow my past to witness. I could make this blog private and I might still do so in the new year, I haven’t decided yet.  I know there are those who visit my blog whom I no longer see in real life.   It used to really bother me that they were visiting my blog and it caused me a lot of frustration and stress.  It became an obsession to check the tracking log every day to see if they were back.  I am happy to report that that obsession is now over. The website tracking is gone and I kicked another addiction.

And damn if I don’t feel like I’ve freed myself.

I have unplugged.

I suggest you do the same.

 

 

 

Habit and Breaking It. 

I’m writing this as I sit in a taxi on my way to a conference. My driver is a woman. This is a first for me! I can honestly say I have never had a female cab driver before. My initial instinct after telling her my destination is to take out my phone and snap a photo of her. Why? To post on Instagram of course. 

I stopped myself. 

“You aren’t on Instagram anymore.” 

“Who are you posting that for?”

“Why does anyone care!?”

I admit I got caught up in the desire to photograph my life for others to see, that is, to photograph those things that I wanted people to see. Again I have to ask myself why? What does it prove? Why does anyone care that I’m awake this early on a Saturday attending a conference about the Eye?  The better question is why I feel the need to tell people about it? 

Deep thoughts for a Saturday morning. 

Busy Bee.

It’s been two whole days since I took myself off a couple social media sites and I am doing surprisingly well.  It certainly doesn’t hurt that work has been insanely busy and there have been lots of letters to write and forms to fill out for patients.

I also volunteered earlier in the fall to be a file reviewer for a medical school admissions program and had forgotten all about it until an email arrived this week advising me that the files will be sent to me in the next few days.   I am very excited to have been given this privilege of helping review files of prospective medical school candidates.  It really does put a lot of things in perspective for me.

I am also attending an all day course this weekend, so will be busy learning all the things I need to be taught again.  This break from social media is good for me and so far hasn’t been nearly as hard as I expected it to be.

Perhaps the withdrawal hasn’t quite kicked in yet.

Light Reading.

One of the toughest things I find while being on maternity leave is finding the time to read my medical journals.  Oh sure, there’s plenty of time to write my blog, surf the net, check Twitter and FB, eat food and nurse the baby.  But sitting down for 10-15 minutes to read a journal?  Surely, you jest!

I subscribe to several medical journals – CMAJ, CFP and NEJM. For some reason, I have stopped getting paper copies of CFP, so it’s even more rare that I read it.  However, CMAJ and NEJM come regularly.  And they pile up on my desk.

I will usually skim through the CMAJ but the one I read a lot of is NEJM (though you wouldn’t know it to see the stack on my desk right now).  I really enjoy the Case Records of the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Images in Clinical Medicine. Only in a medical journal can you see some gross stuff (well, I’m sure you can find lots on the Internet, but that’s a different thing).  Both are great exercises in problem solving.  The Case Records goes through a patient case step by step, from initial admission to discharge/conclusion.  Most of the cases are pretty obscure but there are a few that I have figured out before the diagnosis is given.  Same is true for the images, though most of the time I have no idea what I’m looking at because the medical condition is so obscure.  Still, it’s fun.

The only problem now is that I just don’t have the attention span to read the journals.  I am so, so tired.  I feel like a broken record. I read a sentence and I have no idea what I just read.  It’s not even that my  mind is on other things – my mind is actually nowhere.  Zombie-land.  Clouds. Ether.  I have no idea where it goes.

I know it’ll get better. I have done this before.  I know what that feeling will be like to wake up in the morning and realize I’ve slept for 7 hours non-stop.  My first thought will be, “Oh my God, is the baby ok?”  And then when I realize he’s slept through the night I’ll be beyond happy. Ecstatic.

Until then, the journals will continue to accumulate and hopefully, slowly but surely, they will get read.

The Biggest Time Waster in Modern History.

NaBloPoMo – Day 11.

What the hell did we do before the Internet? How did one waste time prior to 1994?  I say 1994 because that was the year I got my first email address.  It went downhill from there.

The Internet is a huge time waster.  Or, I should say, using the Internet is a huge time waster. Seriously though, how did we pass the time before we had laptops, iPhones, BlackBerrys, Androids, iPads and tablets?  If I wanted to know who was in such-and-such movie, I’d have to go to the local library and find their copy of Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide.  If I wanted to talk to a friend, I would have to, [gasp] pick up the telephone!  Who does that anymore?  I know I certainly don’t.  The only people I ever call are usually my parents, ie people who don’t use the Internet. Now if I want to contact a friend, I text her or send an email or write on her FB wall.

Had I had children prior to 1994, how the hell would I have passed the time with a newborn?  God forbid, would I have read a book??  I have lost count of the hours I have spent surfing (where does that expression even come from?) the Internet while the baby nurses.  Be it Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, any number of message boards or blogs, it is how I spend my time these days.  While I do have other hobbies, in particular my cross-stitching, it is difficult to do with a newborn.  (Excuses, right?).

I also wonder where my attention span went to.  It’s no wonder I haven’t been able to finish a novel.  Who can concentrate these days for more than 5-10 minutes at a time when we are constantly “clicking” from one page to the next?  My news updates are one, maybe two sentences long. Sure, I can read an editorial online, but let’s be honest,  I usually skim the first sentence or two of each paragraph.  I have to force myself to concentrate.  It’s sad, really.

Ironic that I am writing about this on a “weblog”, isn’t it?  Back in the day, I’d be writing in a journal that no one, other than me, would read. But now, with the Internet, anyone can read my thoughts and vice versa.  In fact, part of me is happy that others are wasting their time on me.  How is that even remotely healthy?  The Internet isn’t a real thing, it’s a collection of 1s and 0s. You can’t touch it, smell it, really see it, yet it’s probably the first and last thing I go to on a daily basis.  Frightening when you think about it.  Frightening when I think about it.

I need to stop now.

I kinda hate the Internet.

Warning – somewhat of a vent ahead, again.  Remember this post?  I’m kinda coming back to it.

The last thing I want to do is offend my readers, but this is my blog and I should be allowed to say what I want, when I want to, right?  Now, I know that my being a physician can be a bit tricky.  While I strive not to provide overt medical advice, I can’t help sometimes to want to talk about medical issues from a personal perspective.  Does that make any sense?

So here’s the thing – despite me using the Internet for my own selfish purpose (ie this blog), I am actually kinda hate it.  I am sick watching (ie reading) strangers discussing their medical issues or their children’s medical issues and vilifying the doctors that care for them.  I used to frequent a few message forums, mostly for entertainment purposes, but constantly found myself drawn to the “health/medical” posts.  Most of the time, I can remember shaking my head at my computer, wondering how some people can be so daft, or shocked that someone would ask a message forum for medical advice about whether they thought their kid should see a doctor.  (If you’re asking the question, the answer is probably yes!)  I made the mistake on a few occasions to post a response.  Big mistake!  I’m not actually seen as an expert by these people.  I am just a GP who can’t possibly know everything.  Yet, the “research” the parent has done over the course of a few days or a few weeks, is far more inclusive than anything I’ve learned in my years of training.  Gee, thanks.

I know what you’re thinking – why bother to visit these sites?  My answer – because I want to know what kind of (mis)information is out there, so I’m prepared to fight it in the office.  I have already made leaps and bounds in my knowledge around the “MMR causes Autism” controversy.  Having read books like, “The Panic Virus” and “Autism’s False Prophets“, I am now armed for those parents who refuse the vaccination.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to matter to most of them, which is quite shocking to me actually.  They would rather believe the stories on the Internet than sound scientific results.  They would rather believe the pseudoscience than tried and tested science.   They really don’t seem to care that they are putting other children at risk by not vaccinating their child.  Their reliance on herd immunity is misguided, because in point of fact, herd immunity is waning.

The vaccine debate is just one of hundreds of discussion points, but it’s the one that comes up the most often in my office.  I would say that about 2-3/10 parents are refusing or delaying their child’s vaccination. That frightens me!   Last year, there was news of a pediatrician refusing to care for children whose parents didn’t vaccinate.  I totally get it.  Sure, it’s an extreme reaction on the part of the physician, but this particular physician felt that parents were not trusting in her expert opinion.  How can she care for their child if there is a fundamental lack of trust?

Medicine has come a long way in the last 100 years. Science continues to advance and yes, maybe in 10-15 years, we might learn that A+B does not equal C like we thought it did.  Case in point: hormone replacement therapy once touted as the savior for post-menopausal women was actually found (via the Women’s Health Initiative in 2003) to cause more harm than good.  This is the nature of the scientific method. Develop a hypothesis, design a study to test it and wait for the results.

I’ve never experienced it myself, but I often wonder what it was like for the older doctors whose opinion was respected for what it was.  Paternalism aside, patients and the public looked up to physicians.  There isn’t much of that going on these days.  Patients are showing up for appointments already having diagnosed themselves.  Patients are not afraid to question their diagnoses, and in fact feel quite entitled to do so.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with discussing my findings with patients, and explaining to them my rationale behind said diagnosis.   It’s the attitude that I find offensive.  It’s the sense of entitlement from these patients that I have a problem with.   I didn’t spend an extra 12 years in post-secondary education to be put down by someone who thinks they know better because they read about it on the Internet.  It’s insulting.  I wouldn’t dare tell a mechanic how to fix my car.

I’m not a perfect physician – I never claimed to be.  But I would like to be respected for the years I put in to my training and for the continued self-education I engage in on a daily basis.

Is that too much to ask?