NaBloPoMo 2017: Field Notes from a Life in Medicine
Did you notice the photo on my post Gratitude Again? That was the view out my office window around 5:30pm last week. These days I appreciate the winter dusk a lot more than years past, mostly because the physically hardest years of training and my kids’ lives (for me) are over. My intern year I rotated in the medical intensive care unit (MICU, or MICK-you, or just ‘the unit’ for short) in November. Usual days started by 6am, and finished whenever my patients were stable enough for me to leave, usually past 7pm. I really never saw the sun that whole month—not from outside, anyway. Every third night on call, my resident and I covered the whole place. The longest I ever spent in the hospital was 5am until 10pm the following night—41 hours straight, only to be back again the next morning at 6. And that was nothing compared to the generation of doctors who trained before me. Thinking back on it now, I can still feel the saturating fatigue, the utter hopelessness of ever seeing the call room, let alone lying down on a bed. Thank GOD those days are over. They weren’t all bad, though. Residency was one of the hardest things I’ve done, and it was also intensely rewarding. The friendships I made those years, the unique shared experiences—I carry these with me also. They made me strong and gave me confidence.
But if I thought getting up in the dark during intern year was hard, somehow doing it as an attending with two little kids was even harder—go figure. The sleep deprivation of working motherhood is a completely different animal from that of residency, its toll multiplied on family. The blaring alarm clock, the utter blackness of the bedroom, the contrast of cozy warmth under the blankets with the cold still air above. They all conspired to make me peevish, sullen, and supremely unpleasant to be around every morning—an additional cost to my soul every time I lashed out at the kiddos out of my own exhaustion. To borrow a phrase from Vee over at Cute Kids, I might well have died of a bad mood or something worse if that situation continued.
So Husband staged an intervention: He bought me a dawn simulator for Christmas. It’s an ingeniously simple device: An alarm clock with a built-in light dimmer that comes with its own full-spectrum light bulb. All you have to do is connect it to a bedside lamp. Then you set sunrise time, as well as duration of rise (I set mine to 6:45, 15 minutes). Every morning for the past 7 years I wake up naturally from a steadily brightening, gentle and warm glow from one corner of the room. It’s infinitely more pleasing; no blaring involved. Of course now I have my iPhone ‘by the seaside’ alarm as back up, especially for this month as I stay up too late writing blog posts. And I’m not a morning person in general, so no Mary Poppins songs bursting forth with domesticated mechanical birds on my windowsill. But life is infinitely more tolerable between Halloween and Easter each year now—for all of us.
Thanks, Husband. Ya done good.
Sadly, mine just died after 18 or more years of dependability. Need to get another!!!!
😦 death of a dawn simulator.
What will they think of next, Cathy? I had never heard of a dawn simulator—an amazing idea! I have friends who would love this. Perversely, I am one of those pesky morning people, always up and energetic well before dawn, when it is dark and peaceful and no other signs of human habitation are yet evident. The very best time of day. As a result, though, I am often comatose by 10:00 p.m.
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Hi Donna! Teeheehee, remind me not to room with you when we go on our first writing retreat together 😉 I wonder if there was such a difference between early bird and night owl people before we had fire? And I wonder if the differences diminish with age? It seems like people wake earlier as they get older, or that is what my patients tell me–they simply cannot sleep late like they did when they were young… More stuff to learn, clearly!
So I wonder also, do you do most of your writing in the mornings, also? I have an exponentially harder time getting myself to sit down to write during the day, and so I always end up staying up too late. I really need to work on this, for my health if nothing else… ;P
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Yep, you’re right, I do most of my writing in the mornings (the earlier, the better). If I’ve had a productive morning, I often continue or resume in the afternoons. I almost never do any writing in the evenings—for me, that’s reading, planning, and relaxing time. If I’m on a deadline, though, I can write anytime and anywhere. Interestingly, I just came across this article this morning, “How To Design Your Ideal Workday Based On Your Sleep Habits.” I always take things like this with a few grains of salt, but it’s interesting to read. I’m closest to the “lion” type, but it isn’t all that accurate. I’m guessing you’re closest to the “wolf.”
With your busy life, it’s no wonder that you’re facing a challenge!
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Thanks for the reference, Donna, I will check it out!