Monday, May 11, 2020

I can do anything for...

I started doing this in residency. Some months were just so brutal. Abusive really. But that's a different topic for a different day. To keep from falling to far into a pit of despair, I reminded myself that there is an end in sight. I can do anything for one month, I'd tell myself.

Its a handy tactic. I've made it through MIL visits and terrible vacations with infants, particularly bad call weeks, all-consuming grant writing periods, and that one winter when the kids wouldn't keep their gloves on and then screamed when their fingers got cold. I can do anything for one week, 3 months, one hour (long run with a mask on last weekend), 10 hours (a work day after a sleepless night) or 60 seconds (side plank). 

It started in a bit of "wishing my life away' space, but has morphed into more of a testament to my strength. I just feel better knowing there is an end in sight (and in some cases---like exercise or work projects---reminding myself of how good I'll feel when I reach that end). Its a helpful reframing tool.

So it really sucks when I can't use it. When B was a newborn, he cried all. the. time. He never slept. Colic X 1000. I was barely hanging on (if I was at all, in retrospect, I was NOT doing well). I researched how long colic would last and made a countdown. And that date passed and he still cried and stayed awake. So the next countdown. The next.  It was excruciating to not have an end date in sight.

That's what this feels like. Its not as excruciating in the day to day as living with a sleepless unhappy infant, but its hard. And not knowing how long makes it much harder. So I take it day by day and week by week. I can do anything for 7 days. or 84. But 150? 365? more? 


  1. So my sister (labmonkey) told me about an article she'd read about a study on POWs in camps during the Vietnam War. From a mental health perspective, the prisoners who tried to put an end date on their suffering ("I'll be fine as long as I get out of here by x day") and then had to keep moving their goalposts did much worse than prisoners who took the mind set of "This is what things are like right now. One day this will be over. I don't know when that will be. I will take this one day at a time."

    I totally get why your "I can do anything..." is perfect for times that are finite and have an end, but this whole situation is so unclear and new that maybe reframing how you are thinking about it to set it in an open-ended but finite way ("I know this will end one day, but I don't know when") might help?

    I know I was relieved when my premier stopped naming dates on which schools would reopen because it was much harder for E. to have those dates pass (and have the goalposts moved) than it was for me (because I've been mentally prepping for them to be out until September since the beginning).

    1. Yes I've read this too and I get it. And most days, I can be in the moment and be OK with that. But who knows if schools will even open in September? I have to stop my mind from going there, because its a vortex of uncertainty and fear.

    2. Turia, I would love to read this study, sounds interesting. Could you share a link?