The last day of the year brought with it patients in every manner of crisis. A patient called in tears, certain that she has brain cancer, her head feeling like it is splitting in two.
"I want one of those things where they put a hat or something on your head. Oh, what is it?"
"An EEG?" I ask, grasping at straws.
"Yes, that's it! I want that!" she yells, dissolving into more tears. "And I think I have throat cancer, too."
The next call revolves around---what else? Narcotics.
"Why does the doctor want to decrease my oxycodone? I only did heroin once and it was just to celebrate. I won't do it again."
Again and again the calls come in, like everyone just seems to need to put their crises in my lap before the year is over. Maybe it's just pay-back for planning to leave altogether. Several patients manage to suck me in today, and I feel emotionally triggered by the ferocity of their trauma, my mind working with my psyche to mitigate the damage.
The highlight of my day is delivering bottles of sparkling cider to some of my favorite patients, leaving behind a smidgen of New Year's (non-alcoholic) cheer. A few shared laughs and blessings bestowed upon me round out the day, keeping me from sinking beneath the onslaught of unquenchable need.
Home embraces my weary bones like a treasured balm. Thoughts of what has proven to be a quite difficult and trying year lead to wishes and desires for a kindler, gentler year in 2008. Personal loss, worsening illness, and the physical manifestations of stress and burnout have all come home to roost this year. Through it all, I have tried to maintain a healthy "witness self" who watches the wheels without going under---a frequently Sisyphean task.
In 2008, I will leave my full-time job of seven years, piecing together a new way of earning a living, manifesting improved health, shrugging off the ills of undue stress, and re-embracing creativity and spontaneity. No resolutions, no promises, no enjoinders. Just a healthy desire for change, for health, and for a new chance to do it better.
Happy New Year, many happy returns, and may all beings everywhere be free from suffering.