Introducing our new co-author at Friend to Yourself

Finally!

I’ve been hoping, asking, looking, waving awkwardly in the hospital hallways, trying to find someone who would join me in this great blogging experience with you on self-care. And, finally.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Helme Silvet! You will love getting to know her, and she will love, as I do, sharing space with you. Keep on.


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Helme Silvet, MD, MPH, FACC
Loma Linda University School of Medicine
Chief of Cardiology, Jerry L. Pettis VA Loma Linda Healthcare System

Hello!

 

My Blog Journey

Sana (or Dr Q) and I have known each other for two decades or so (and yes, we have lived that long). We have spent hours talking about what makes us excited to be physicians, what gets us up in the morning, and what makes us upset. Finally, we decided that it was time to share some of these thoughts together. Taking care of self is a principle that we both try to teach our patients, but also practice ourselves in order to be effective parts of our families, communities, and humanity. The goal of this blog is to attempt both from the, perhaps, somewhat unique perspective of biology, and medicine as the starting point to self-care.

My Professional Journey

My medical experience started in the “old country” behind the Iron Wall – I grew up in Estonia and graduated from medical school there. After the Soviet Union opened its borders, I made my way to the U.S. and finished an internal medicine residency at Loma Linda University and cardiology fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Lown Cardiovascular Center. Starting in 2003, I have worked at the VA system as a cardiologist. Along the way, I also graduated with an MPH degree from Harvard School of Public Health. I am passionate about making people get better – this includes preventing, treating and managing heart disease as a cardiologist – but also helping my patients make sense of their life journey. One cannot treat and prevent disease without caring for the whole person.

My Life Journey

Between my two sisters and myself, we have lived in 5 different countries – this has made for interesting holidays! Seeing different parts of the world up close has given me plenty of experience, but has also come with a certain sense of displacement. It has been a continuous struggle in my life to figure out where I fit in the wide world in general, and in my little microcosm of a world in particular. In this context, it has been fascinating to learn different things from different cultures, and observe how people with different life experiences can effectively communicate with each other. And I noticed that somewhere along the way, my quest for truth and knowledge is giving way to a quest of understanding and compassion.

Disclaimer

The thoughts on this blog are my own and do not represent entities I belong to in a professional capacity. The stories that I tell are true in principle but the details may have been changed to protect people’s privacy. The blog is not meant to offer professional advice or treatment advice for specific medical conditions; the goal is to share ideas, general principles and stories of a personal journey.

 

Presence – What is Turning In You?

How the pages turn slowly in life

Image by Nina Matthews Photography via Flickr

It’s summer break already and that means more Mom-time for the kids,… and a few other things.  But if there’s more Mom-time for the kids, we all know what there is more of for Mom.  These things come together and equal more spending-money-time combined with less work-time.  This can’t be without consequence.

I’m thinking stress, memory-makers, lots of kissing marshmellow-cheeks and tears to show.  Always tears.  The kids cry of course but if I do, its all,

Mom!  Oh NO!  Mom!  Stop crying!  Agh.  I can’t stand it when you do that!

Lots of exclamation points are involved.  I’m thinking this summer will have some of that because some days are stressful and painful.  Others are just too beautiful to leave unstained with tears to sign my name by.  Get ready kids!

Tonight, this is what I have.

I am licking my finger and turning a page.  I feel the book as the page slowly fights the air to pass over.  I haven’t seen the other side yet but the way the page lifts up and toward me, I know that this part is significant in itself.  Lick my finger, press it down and sweep up.  Up and passing over, just.  The page is turning and so are we.

Question:  What is turning in your life?

Self-Care Tip #280 – Pay attention to what is turning in you.

Let it Make You Strong

She is young, golden, blushes easily, bright solar eyes, with graceful speech, not rushed or loud.  Like so many others, she doesn’t believe her beauty.   She came to me to get help.  Crippled by anxiety that hits out of the blue, like a hooded man grabbing her in an alley.  She feels during those times like she is dying or going crazy.  She started avoiding public places and became fearful looking over her shoulder for the next attack.  She was humiliated on all accounts by her uncontrolled emotions and thought people could see how crazy she was just by looking at her.  Branded and tortured.

When Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter, he made plain the cultural pressure to define what is apparent, seen, and interpreted.  But more importantly he made plain the ability of an individual to define themselves on their own terms regardless.  Hester Prynne wore her letter A at first by mandate and then by choice, letting it represent who she was, where she came from, and where she was going.  She wore her letter and when people tried to change its meaning to something culturally less scarlet, “A” for “Able” she made it clear that she is the one who will decide the meaning of her life’s events.  Her and God and no one else.

When anxiety hits, we are scrambling to understand why.  We think, “What could we have done that is so terrible to have brought this kind of torture on?”  As Hester Prynne began her scarlet letter days bewildered by the force of emotion behind her angry neighbors, so victims of anxiety are bewildered by the level of shame and wild fear they presume must be linked somehow to this judgment upon them.  It becomes their life’s work to determine the meaning of a life with this.

Nathaniel Hawthorne writes,

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not to tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers—stern and wild ones—and they had made her strong…

Suffering is a schoolhouse for the courageous.

After some months of medication therapy this twenty-something woman said

I’m not so uptight about things.  …I didn’t know my anxiety was that bad until I got out of it.”  What amazed her even more was how better the rest of her body felt.  “Even physically I feel much better.”  No more chest tightness, body aches, and shakes.

She has the rest of her life to figure out how to say what this disease means and how it plays into the way she defines herself.  She will decide I hope.  Not her family, future husband, church, or Brook Shields.  I hope she will take what it teaches her and let it make her strong.

Self Care Tip #57 – Let it make you strong.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  What do you think?  Please tell me your story.