Second Year Blues

I’ve been struggling lately.  The weather has gone back to its windy, cold and moody self, after playing mind games with us for a week or so.  I’m back to taking my vitamin D, since the sun isn’t offering it up for free anymore.  Maybe that’s why I feel cheated.  It could very well be that we’re presented with so many flow charts it’s like I’ve died and gone to Flow Chart Hell – a special kind of hell where things break down into a series of isolated steps that are easier to understand, for some.

Spending long hours in the Lecture Theatre (or what my classmate fondly refers to as “The Learning Dungeon”) can also wreck havoc on the harmonious mind-body connection.  Maybe it’s the fact that being unable to deal with the psychological stressors of recent challenges at home that has taught me that the road to being a healer is a rocky one.  Whatever the reason, the Big Picture is fading from surrealist to abstract expressionist.

Lately I’ve been wondering if it’s all worth it.  Philosophies of the world often offer up the idea that we need to make sacrifices to obtain the things we love. But, is sacrificing your own health in order to be a healer a fair exchange?  I never got the whole sacrificial rite thing. The fire doesn’t care what it burns, so why do I have to offer up the things I love most; my health, family, time and mental sanity?

At CCNM we are fortunate, as I’ve mentioned before, to be part of a community.  We form support groups, theme weeks, people are active, global and focused on community health and social issues.  Once a month a group of like-minded philosophers meet at Dr. Gilbert’s office to discuss relevant issues of the Naturopathic Journey.  However, there is still an inherent loneliness in the struggle.

There is something about the Big Brother-esque scene in which we are all seated in the Learning Dungeon, laptops illuminating our faces with their eery glows.  Our eyes are focused on a large screen displaying a large version of a document containing factoid-like information, which a hippy-looking person (the teacher?) reads to us.  We all have copies on our personal laptop screens.  We can choose to look at the big screen or on our little screens.  If the person speaking says words that do not already appear on the screen, we type them.  It’ll all be on a test in a few weeks.  The whole thing is like some futuristic, robotic learning machine and we are its moving parts.  I don’t relate to it. This Learning Dungeon scene creates an underslept, overwhelmed and disassociated mentality. Every 50 minutes we are momentarily released from the hold of the Lecture Gods and can leave, blinking as our eyes adjust to the light of day, to get water and wander around the courtyard.  Time to socialize is limited and, therefore, hurried and it’s hard to delve into real philosophical conversations during the school day.  It creates, at least in me, the feeling of isolation in a crowd of many.

It’s probably not as bad as it seems, but shoving a right-brained person into a left-brained institution is like wearing a shoe on the wrong foot; I guess you can still walk in it, or even run, but it just doesn’t fit right.  After a while you start to develop blisters, calluses and maybe a bunion or two.  I’m currently massaging my sore foot and wondering whether this painful race will be worth it in the end.

Jiddu Krishamurti famously said “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”  Can a flawed institution, which in and of itself lacks compassion and balance, produce compassionate and balanced healers?  How can we focus on the “Doctor Heal Thyself” notion that we see sprinkled through naturopathic writings like Christmas tinsel?  Simply put: how can I teach you about stress management when I can only succeed in becoming a healer if I paradoxically manage to push myself to the point where I become comfortable with a life of stress and severe imbalance?

The other day, I escaped in a minor panic attack from a microbiology lecture and went to buy paint canvasses.  I had the intention of holing myself up in my 3rd floor room and painting something abstract, like a black hole.  However, things changed when I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while.  We talked about what we’re up to (he commented on the bags under my eyes).  He was with a friend who, after learning what I was studying, remarked excitedly that naturopathic medicine was “the only thing keeping him alive”.  Wow.

Here, in front of me, was a person who, like many, first tried to heal his Crohn’s disease using the conventional method.  When that failed, he turned to naturopathy and experienced great success.  This person was (his words) kept alive, all because of someone who had gone through the academic hell I was going through and come out the other side.  There is an other side.  And, not only that, on the other side there’s not just “practice management”, “ICD-10 Codes”, flow charts and OSCE skills  There’s real people.  People who need our help.  People who we can help.

So, while the shoe may not be comfortable at times, it still fits.

So, I guess I’ll wear it.


20 thoughts on “Second Year Blues

  1. Fuerza Talita! En toda siembra siempre van a haber muchos sacrificios y es normal tener momentos en los que no sabemos si continuar o dejar todo atrás. Es una apuesta por llegar al día de recibir los frutos.

  2. in the dungeon right now and can relate to this so much its scary!!! we will get there. maybe part of it is learning patience, and also learning to draw your own boundaries. i’ve found this year i am more likely to skip classes because i just need a break… i end up having to do the work another time.

    we need a vacation somewhere sunny and hot! 🙂

  3. Kudos on another thoughtful post that resonates! I am contemplating law school, which I am terrified would be shoving my right brain into a wrong-fitting shoe (talk about mixing metaphors, but you know what I mean). This is realistic, but the ending is encouraging. Keep your chin up, you are doing good work!

    1. you’d be great in law school, but you’re also a natural-born journalist! I still couldn’t believe it when your story on the FARC at the U. Nacional broke on the Colombian news! Thanks for commenting!

  4. You’re not alone in this, Talia! I hope you can take a much needed and well deserved break this summer (before we start this nonsense all over again) — I’m hoping some of my preceptor hours this summer will also help me to see wearing these awful shoes might be worth it in the end.

  5. I read this post earlier on and it stuck with me throughout the day. It’s been lingering in the back of my mind, inspiring my day as I think about the ‘real people’ waiting for me when I complete this hell-ish marathon… I mean “journey”. 😉

    1. 😉 This back-breaking, personality-changing marathon! Ahem, right, journey! Thanks for the kind words. It’s great to receive this overwhelming amount of support and feedback. I wrote this post yesterday while in a pretty dark mood that’s been with me for the last three weeks. It’s been rough, but we’ll get through it… with a little help from our friends!

      1. I also wanted to share that I too bought a blank canvas and new paints (just on Monday!) to unleash my artistic side; the side of me that hasn’t had the opportunity to be expressed at school as of late.

        You deserve lots of praise, Talia. Love the way you verbally scrapbook our time at CCNM (both the good and bad).

  6. love this post! and curious… where are these myterious Dr. Gilbert “club” meetings? I think I need to be a part of that. Hug! sai:)

  7. I loved the end of this article! You know why? Because its that very motivation, the thought of making someone’s life better in a dramatic way that keeps me going every day. When I think about it I get butterflies. I can’t wait! And for that reason, it doesn’t matter how much it hurts to sit inside on a beautiful sunny day, and how painful it is to study instead of visiting with my family. In the end, it will all be worth it! Its less than 1 year until we can start making differences in the lives of others, and that experience in itself will heal the slightly broken spirit that these past 2 years has created! I see the light, and I hope others do too! We are almost there!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Staz. Unfortunately as I reread the last paragraph, I can’t help feeling it feels, now, forced and a bit contrived (although it did happen), like a literary device, giving a moral to an otherwise unhappy story. You’re right the end is near and this summer we’ll be preceptoring our way to learning more about the principles in practice, but until then… I’m exhausted!

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