Medicine takes something away from you

When someone asks me about what it is like to be a doctor, a funny thing happens.  My eyes start to water and the words catch.

It’s rather comical how emotional I can be.  I have been all my life.  I sometimes feel the sadness flow through me.  I am a sieve.  Whether it be a touching book or a sappy TV commercial, I cry.  Silently.  Often missed by others in the room, the tear ducts in my eyes become overactive.  And it eventually stops.

I used to be embarrassed.  I used to cover my eyes and wipe the tears dry before anyone could see. I don’t anymore.  As so often in life, I find it much more empowering to own my “weaknesses” and embrace it.  This is who I am.  I’m comfortable with that.  In fact, I enjoy it.

We can fight the inevitable pain of life or we can bask in it.  When we allow the skin to become penetrable, emotion soaks right through us and then out.  We become free once again.

I am no stranger to the suffering in life.  My profession, my calling, requires that I squat in the most uncomfortable climes.  I have watched hundreds die. I have walked in moments after the last breath has faded, and I have felt the spirit leave the room.  I tell people often that the end is near.

And I have done so all these years without shedding a single tear.

It is only when someone asks me about how it feels to be a doctor, that the emotion returns.  Here, away from the examining room and aseptic hospital halls, it is once again safe.  The heat rises into my chest and the throat becomes dry.  And I remember that I am neither dead on the inside nor cold, just in pain.

How ironic to describe a majestic calling from childhood in chocked and unsavory terms.  The words struggle to leave my lips in such anemic tones.

It takes something away from you.

Jordan Grumet is an internal medicine physician and founder, CrisisMD.  He blogs at In My Humble Opinion.

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