I Lost My Friend of 12 Years/Best Friend of 7 Years, but Gained a Relationship with God and Became Closer to my Family

Disclaimer: this is a deeply personal post, much more than the previous one. Views are my own.

“Getting a corgi so you can attract all the ladies right?”
“Like I have time for that.”

“This sacrificing for medicine thing is no joke. Just turned down a hot date to study on a Saturday night.”

These are real quotes I heard in the past 24 hours from fellow medical students.

I didn’t get closure. I don’t know when I will. I am working on it.

We FaceTimed every day, catching each other up on our days. We had just seen each other the week before. Although we had a difficult conversation before parting, a joke was mentioned at the end. A week later, they want nothing to do with you because they found someone new. They want no contact because it’s not fair. Just like that, knowing someone since 5th grade means absolutely nothing. I am sentimental, sensitive, and loyal, so this shattered the depths of my core. Without going into all the details, our companionship did have a romantic plot for some time, but due to many external circumstances, slowly fizzled along with growing apart in different cities. I knew we were at different stages in life and wanted different things out of life, but I couldn’t stop my loyalty. Is it a death sentence to remain friends with your ex??? Maybe, I’m the only weird person, but life is too short. There should not be a limit as to how many people you can be kind to. I also would like to add I’m not some crazy person that would hold onto something relentlessly that isn’t reciprocated. All I’m asking is for relationships that grow apart: why can’t two people discuss a civil dissolution and go their merry ways while still remaining friends/acquaintances in the most general sense? I’m aware of the old adage of people entering and leaving your life for different reasons, but I was naive to believe this person would be my lifelong friend. If you look at my life, my dearest friends are those that I’ve known the longest. These are some life lessons I’ve learned recently:

  • People don’t have to be in every season of your life.
  • You’ll never change other people’s thoughts, attitudes, way of life. Accept what is and move on if it’s no longer giving you good energy and you’re no longer enhancing each other’s potential.
  • Even if you have the best intention, other people are not guaranteed to think like you do. I constantly think about how life is so short on this planet compared to eternity. This motivates me to relish in all of my relationships and connections to people and overall live with kindness for all people. I really do believe in the phrase “forgive, but never forget.”
  • Nothing is ever lost in life: memories were made, experiences were shared, lessons were learned. Take them with you and don’t make the same mistakes.
  • Always hold your family closer than friends (exceptions do exist, like when you have very unreasonable family members who always tear you down, but I sincerely hope this is not the case). It takes a lot to be estranged from family members as you share a blood line, but with friends and significant others, anything can break that bond within seconds no matter how long you’ve known them. Through my heartbreak, I’ve opened up to a lot of people and heard their stories. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard similar sentences, “married for 24 years, raised 4 wonderful children together, and divorced.” In my neighborhood, I am a part of a row of 3 houses that have single middle-aged women living independently after a divorce. The lifelong probability of a marriage ending in divorce in the U.S. is 40-50%. That’s about half of us! Here are interesting stats of some variables associated with divorce:
    • race/ethnicity
    • importance of religion to the couple
    • timing of the first birth of any children (before marriage, within 7 months, after 7 months, or never)
    • if one spouse has generalized anxiety disorder

This is not meant to be pessimistic, but realistic in the fact that anyone can have a change of heart. One of my prominent goals in life is to not experience divorce, so this little bit of research helped me prepare for the future.

  • Serendipitously, I became quick friends with an elderly gentleman at the gym I regularly workout at. He describes our friendship as if “we’ve known each other for years” when in reality, it’s only been a few months. Even with a 40+ year age difference, we’re able to talk about anything and everything. We know all about each other’s love lives. Something he shared stuck with me: “I wish I would have gotten divorced 5 years before we actually did.” Early on, they both knew trouble was brewing, but he really wanted to stay together for the kids, at least til they all graduated from high school. He shared that kids know when there’s something wrong. Sometimes, it’s not about holding on and being loyal, it’s about letting go. This reminds me that selecting the right person is so important, no matter how long it takes. Don’t rush and don’t settle.

I hope by writing and sharing, I can gain some closure. I often think about how my experiences can help my future patients. As doctors, we need to remember we are humans and remind patients we are too. An activity I recently did to cope with loss is: writing down all the reasons why this was meant to happen and then on the back of the page, specific qualities of life you wish for in the future. Keep it somewhere you can access when you need to. Spirituality has also helped me cope tremendously. My family had roots in Buddhism, but I didn’t grow up with a religion. I’m not sure where this will take me in the future, but I have found comfort in developing a relationship with God, praying, knowing that He has a plan for our lives, and listening to Christian music instead of mainstream radio. Another relationship I gained is a closer one with my family, particularly my mom. We’ve had our ups and downs, and still do, but this is the most honest relationship we’ve had in our entire lives. Due to external consequences, that individual and I did not open up to our families about the relationship. As teenagers and young adults, we blindly believed love is all we need. This was not healthy, toxic even. After I told my mom everything after 7 years, I vowed to live honestly and authentically, especially with family. If someone doesn’t appreciate honesty and authenticity or if I find myself doing something that violates these values, I know I don’t have to force a relationship with that person or continue doing that activity. I can’t wait to finally live freely and without fear. In the Asian culture, respecting and caring for our elders into their old age is extremely valued. It can be hard growing up in the US where this is not valued. It’s an ongoing internal conflict for me. The current cultural notion is: we’re young, we should be building our own lives, move far away, have 5-minute surface conversations on the phone with one’s parents, they don’t need to know the important thoughts and activities of your life, visit them only during major holidays because being away from your friends is so boring. Years pass and the next time you really become close with your parents again are when they’re nearing death in a hospital room. Yes, we should all be independent adults chasing our dreams, building a life worth living, taking as many trips as we can, and having fun as 20-something-year-olds. I don’t disagree with that, but I also know life can flash in front of your eyes. Years quickly pass, your parents get older, health problems arise with age, and when you finally realize you should have cared and spent more time with them before they pass, it might be too late. Looking at the grand scheme of life, we have a lot of time to live without our parents if that’s what you’re looking forward to, upwards of 40 years. Imagine stepping into your parent’s shoes. The best situation would be to still have your significant other grow old with you, but what if you were divorced or widowed in old age? Would you want at least one of your children you raised to care about you or be sent to some arbitrary nursing home instead? I’m not advocating to live in your parent’s basement or constantly worry about them and put them first before the important things in your life, but a healthy balance must exist between independently building your vibrant future while also remaining close to your family, especially those that sacrificed so much to raise you to be the successful adult you are now. I am happy to return to my true values and know that one of my purposes in life is to care for my single mother. Never change your values for anyone. I can only hope that my future significant other respects me for who I am, values and all.

Sample some of the songs that have helped me get through tough times:

  • Stars Go Dim – You are Loved
  • Danny Gokey – Tell Your Heart to Beat Again
  • Matisyahu – Live Like a Warrior (Richello Remix)
  • Chris Tomlin – Impossible Things
  • Axwell – On My Way
  • Mandisa – Unfinished
  • Lauren Daigle – First
  • Matthew West – Mended
  • Bobby Mcferrin – Don’t Worry Be Happy

There were a whole host of reasons for my situation, but I cannot leave out the fact that medical school played a part. We have to say “no” to hanging out on weekends with friends, going to birthday parties, family functions, weddings, vacations. We need to plan around major exams. We only have one summer between 1st and 2nd year. We always have things to study seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Lifelong learning is a cornerstone to being a physician. Sometimes, friends and family don’t understand this. I’m creating an ongoing list here to resolve this sacrificial dilemma and think about it in a more positive light:

  1. My faculty mentor told me “you can have it all – all of your priorities”. Know what your priorities are. Write them down. Your studies should be #1 or #2 on your list. If you make time to do what’s most important to you (say the top 5 things), you can have it all.
  2. Treat medical school like a 8-5pm job. Work relentlessly hard Monday-Friday during those hours to get things done. There’s always going to be more, but if you had a good week, don’t feel bad about taking one day during the weekend off to enjoy your #2-5 priorities.
  3. Share with your friends and family what you do and what interesting facts you’re learning about in the human body.

Did you know heart burn, acid reflux, and GERD are talking about the same thing? This is when stomach acid used to digest our food leaks backwards into our esophagus that connects our mouth to our stomach. The best treatment to try first for this is lifestyle modification, not medication.

  • Eat more plant-based protein (beans, broccoli, spinach) to improve the strength of the sphincter/door between the stomach and esophagus.
  • Avoid dietary fat, caffeine, chocolate, mints, herbs/spices eaten after meals, alcohol, estrogen and progesterone (birth control pills).
  • Lose weight and eat smaller meals, so the stomach doesn’t extend too much.
  • Avoid eating before laying down and elevate the head of your bed 4-6 inches (sleeping on pillows won’t work, you have to physically place blocks under the head of your bed to raise it).

Both men and women 50 years and older are recommended to get colon cancer screening. Colon cancer is 70% lifestyle related. Want to know how to prevent colon cancer in old age?

  • Eat less processed meats (lunch meats, bacon, sausage, etc.)
  • Eat less red meat
  • Eat more vegetables and other fiber-rich foods

The link between a meat-heavy and vegetable-sparse diet to colon cancer is as strong as the link between smoking and lung cancer.

3/4 of all adults and 90% of adults from African and Asian descent will experience lactose intolerance. This means that you don’t have the functioning enzyme to break down the lactose in dairy products. The lactose travels further down your gut and gets chewed up by bacteria. As a result of bacterial digestion, carbon metabolites, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide are produced. This is why you have bloating, diarrhea, and dehydration after eating dairy products if you’re lactose intolerant.

Take your significant other to medical functions or a night out with your classmates. When you involve your loved ones, they become a part of the journey rather than a carry-on baggage you lug around. However, if sharing your new way of life isn’t working and you feel dragged down and stressed by this person, it might be time to let go. We’ve had 3 relationships break up in our medical school class shortly after starting school, but we also have 2 students starting families while in medical school (albeit the wives are not the students). It can be done, but it requires deep understanding, patience, and strong communication from both people. I recently read a wonderful article about how a wife survived family life while her husband was in residency. It helped me gain a lot of insight into how to work on a relationship and what kind of understanding must exist on this journey: http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2014/11/wish-knew-advice-spouses-doctors-residents.html

Thanks for reading. I pray we all live the life we’ve always wanted.

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~lntan

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Day 25 (Tuesday, May 27): Fishery

Officially woke up at 8:30am – the longest I’ve ever slept-in here. Thankfully, class was at 9:30am, so I didn’t have to scramble in the morning that much. Breakfast: mashed rice dish, yellow rice, and omelet.

Listened to two lectures taught by Dr. Raj. Some interesting things we discussed in class:

  • They are checking for MERS from Dubai to Mangalore. I remember mom mentioning the disease a few days ago, but I initially didn’t think much about it.
  • Posed question: is gun violence a public health issue? Common class consensus was yes. He was referring to the Santa Barbara shooting and how mental illness is always brought up. Lindsey shared with us that there’s always more to just mental illness. It’s often how the person is brought up and the mentally ill are the ones who suffer from violence, not the other way around. Basically, Dr. Raj made a call-to-action for us to do something about gun violence. Sesen shared that Israel has a stringent process on obtaining a gun, including a mental health test. It’s an issue between personal rights and governmental control.
  • Someone asked if doctors who worked at tertiary care centers make more money than primary. He said at Manipal, it’s comparable because people want the prestige of being a staff at Manipal University.
  • In the biotechnology lecture, he used the example of cellular phones in the introduction. He flashbacked to the days of beepers/pagers, which were most commonly used for notification of a baby delivery. 1990’s was when everything changed in regards to technology.
  • Cell phones are cheap in India. Poor people own them, even those who cannot afford to eat.

Dr. Kamath came in the classroom to deliver a brief lecture on the fisheries. Then, Sameer took us to the fish market.

IMG_1419It was exactly what Dr. Kamath described and showed in the slides. Women were selling fresh fish with bare hands.

IMG_1405We saw a lot of cutting and scraping. Occupational health issues: skin candidiasis (fungal infection), contact dermatitis (inflamed skin), and chronic paronychia (soft tissue infection around fingernails). We passed by a slum neighborhood on the way there. Blue tarps served as roofs and children were playing in an open field near an old landfill.

Traveled back to campus for lunch: two rotis, barley rice, veggie/squash stew, bean curry, a sweeter bean curry, and the coconut milk jelly dessert. I sat next to Adam, and we were both fishing in our backpack at the same time, but I pulled out my hand sanitizer a few milliseconds before he did. He was like stop copying me. Anna was wondering who’s the oldest person in our group and she thought it was me and her because we share the same birthday, but we found out Lauren is turning 22 in July! Bought my pulpy orange juice after lunch. The lady at the store front now recognizes me and automatically knows what I want. Haha loyal customer.

Walked back to the hostel with Lauren. Hoping to make some mad progress on the paper! I worked at the desk, while the laptop was charging, but eventually moved over to the bed. I uploaded pictures from the fishery and finished the field trip experience essay about Manasa Jyothi. I learned this fun fact! Karnataka only knows three seasons: spring summer, hot summer, and rainy season. I changed to a long-sleeve shirt and long pants because it was cold in my room. I ate a peanut butter Clif bar because I wasn’t planning on going to tea time. Wish I had brought more Clif bars here! Then, I decided to work in the lobby of the hostel for a change in scenery. I really like the temperature down there – clash of cold and hot air. Anna and Sahanna said hi when they left for tea time. Taniqua said hi when she came back from tea and wanted to join me in the lobby. I made some more progress on the paper. Lauren came down with Taniqua because she wanted to buy mango juice at the mini-store in the hostel. Taniqua bought a chocolate ice cream bar. Nikki, Xhonela, and Ashley came down to go buy dinner on the second floor of the cafeteria. Then, Anna entered and showed us clothes she bought from Fab India. When we no longer ran into people from our group, Taniqua and I had a thought-provoking conversation about life, religion, and love. Some advice she gave, which resonated with me: “do it for yourself because in the end, you’re gonna live with your decision, not your family.” She talked about faith as an intangible thing and people have problems with believing in something they cannot see. The only unconditional love is from God and love from anyone else is conditional. She told me to pray to God for guidance and hindsight. I expressed concern about the uncertainty of the future and she said “go with the flow. You never know what might happen. Things could work out later down the road.” I believe in that too. We talked about believing in more than one soul mate and she thinks soul mates are formed by marriage, which I’ve never thought about that way before. She wants her first marriage to be her only, even if he commits adultery. They’ll work through it. From traveling, she wants to adopt a child in addition to having her own. I’ve thought about that too. Before dinner, I gave Taniqua one toilet paper roll because she told me she needed some and I was afraid of having to take some home with me because I have about 2 full rolls left for 3.5 days. I borrowed her room bug spray because I’ve been getting colonies of ants in the bathroom.

Dinner: two rotis, barley rice, potato and veggie curry, black bean curry, peas and potato curry, and yogurt. I feel like I’ve been eating a lot lately. Talked to Drew about his Fab India purchases and his birthday. Then, Adam arrived and I asked him what he got at Fab India. He showed Lauren, Kelsey, and I his purchases: an Indian-styled red shirt, a western red button-up shirt, and a western gray button-up shirt. I really liked them.

Went to library café with Kelsey and Lauren to work on the paper. I really wish I could Shazam the songs played in there. It’s like Indian EDM. Haha. I purchased Darjealing tea and a mango cup.

IMG_5698Anna, Adam, and Drew came into the library café too. I finished my paragraph about ASHAs. I think that’s the most interesting/well-written part of my paper.

Went back to hostel with Kelsey and Lauren. I washed clothes (I love the hand-washing routine now. It brings me so much joy. I’m weird) and showered. I submitted my field trip essay at 2:30am, which was around 777 words when Dr. Raj wanted 500… hopefully that’s okay. I always write too much.