Medicine X and Embracing Moments of Vulnerability
Today marks Day 01 of Stanford Medicine X 2014.
Here’s the thing about MedX: it hits you like a train. Truly. It is every emotion you’ve bottled up for the past year (or 10 years) and it hits you when you least expect it. Maybe it’s a photo in the slideshow of someone’s presentation. Maybe it’s a conversation overheard in the hallway. Maybe all it takes is the sound of water hitting the rocks or a moment of fresh air in the midst of intense conference stimuli. Maybe it’s being in an unbelievable amount of pain, trying to hide it, and hearing another epatient get on stage and speak what you are actively trying to hide.
Maybe it happens on Day 01. Maybe it happens during the closing of the conference.
But it happens. Every ePatient here will have that moment.
And today I had mine—much earlier than anticipated.
When I left Medicine X last year, I’d had a life changing experience with 35 people. These 35 people permanently altered the course of my life and the way I interact with the people. Learning how to take my walls down and embrace my vulnerability was the hardest lesson I’ve learned since being diagnosed. Certainly, it was the most important. My relationships are so much more fulfilling. There are three times the amount of people in my life.
I have Medicine X to thank for that.
So when I walked in here today, I wasn’t expecting to learn that lesson all over again on any scale. But that is exactly what happened.
My pain randomly shot up from a 2 to a 6-7 in the first 20 minutes of the conference, and with the pain came tears. I pushed them away and put my walls up. But Britt Johnson got on stage and began talking about the emotional impact of pain and it occurred to me:
Holy. Shit. Sometimes I push the pain away, push through it so much, that I very literally forget that chronic pain makes me unbelievably sad. We spend so much time pushing through pain to focus on living that we disconnect ourselves from the actual emotional experience of living with chronic pain. An enormous wave of grief hit me all at once and I found myself bordering on sobs in the downstairs hallway of this Stanford lecture hall.
Here I am again. Trying to hide it in the one place where I don’t need to hide, the one place where I do not feel disabled or sick or inherently different. Why?
And here they were again: these epatients. Sarah, who came and talked me down and talked me through it. Joe, who despite being in his own pain with a bone bruise, showed up with thermal patches and biofreeze—just because.
MedX has this indescribable way of tearing all of your walls down. I hate it. I love it. I loathe it. And here I am yet again, back for year two, and I am doing my best to embrace this lesson.
Perhaps it is one I need to learn again and again. Maybe it’s a lesson we all need to learn. Maybe it’s this vulnerability that is the key to letting us connect as different healthcare stakeholders. Maybe.