I’ve been thinking about eating disorders or disordered eating a lot. After decades of being a pediatrician, I think I’m beginning to understand. I had a dear patient come in last week for likely our final visit and she related to me her experience recently with anorexia, and we talked frankly about treatment and causes and her impression. I learned more from my patient than I’ve had from the textbooks in years.
There is this look that I’ve seen time and time again. It’s this look during the first initial visit when usually the mother brings the teenage girl and we broach the subject the first time. In this case, I’m usually the pediatrician who has cared for said teenage girl since prepuberty and now into this rocky time in adolescence. There is this look that the daughter gives the mother, as the mother is relating to me her concerns. The mother is usually standing rigid and seemingly in control, but I feel like she’s usually a glass statue about to shatter. She gets this gaze that eventhough she is talking to me, the mother is actually not looking at me – but looking at someone else. I’m a stand-in for the entire medical system at that point. The mother relates her concerns usually controlled with undercurrent of repressed emotion. And the daughter. The daughter has the look. The look when the mother has shushed her, and the daughter has stopped talking. She just looks at her mother from a teenaged body but the eyes of a young child, with repressed and unshed tears. And the daughter does not say anything because she’s been shushed. But her eyes say a lot. And I always think to myself the eyes say, “notice me. look at me.” And by me, I mean not the physical form me but whatever the “me” inside who is hurting.
It’s 230AM and I’m UP!!! I’m usually not up this early and I’m completely weaned off coffee for the last almost six weeks. I didn’t even drink a diet coke yesterday nor tea. Seeing a full panel of patients on Fridays was meaningful but it’s exhausting – emotionally. I thought I was okay, but after dinner when I was successfully able to have us eat a good several servings of vegetables by whipping up some broccoli and mushroom steamed vegetable side in the Instapot that went along with various leftovers a can of chilli – I fell asleep early. I was laying on the couch and the entire family was settled in the living room including the grandparents to watch some sort of documentary on a Kenyan marathoner breaking the world record. I dozed off pretty early. I just remember by daughter reminding my husband, “Can you make sure mommy gets to bed?” Somehow I ended up in my bed and had a good six hours of sleep. That is not bad. I usually sleep a good 8 hours these days. But I was thirsty and my body told me to wake up, and I had an idea about a climate project to further our collective efforts to Rewild Mission Bay. San Diego Pediatricians for Clean Air have joined their coalition.
I was talking to one of my teenage patients regarding some adolescent/teenage issues. The teenage years are rough for many. Your wisdom teeth grow in odd directions, sometimes your emotions and your relationships as well. Don’t even mention certain parts of your body! But something powerful that I have repeated throughout the last few years and that I believe in my heart when I look at them across the exam room is “You don’t have to be fixed. No one needs to be fixed.” And that I realize applies to myself as well.
This journey in plastic picking for some odd reason has been very powerful and transformative to me. It’s allowed me to take risks and to explore and to get out of my preprogrammed doctor career. But I was thinking after meeting up with old college friends this past week, is that none of us need to be fixed. There was nothing wrong with the previous me, other than being in a swirling morass of circumstances a few years ago that almost broke me. It changed me, but the previous me before deserved to be treated with respect and love as well. That I felt I wasn’t and bullied and not supported, that is not my fault. I survived it, and survived other things. Just like all of us will go through life circumstances that are hard and difficult. And that it forced me to change and look inward for fulfillment and affirmation of what is right and wrong, does not mean the previous iteration of me was incorrect or bad or wrong.
It’s been a pretty heady and amazing week. We had amazing climate wins that hopefully will help things reverberate nationally. Change happens at the grassroots level. I always have several people approach me after talks and I know that I’ve inspired them in some way or other. I never sought that role, but I realize that by being honest and loving to myself – I am just showing others that we are all pretty amazing people.
Something wonderful I’ve learned about myself, is that I prefer to be collaborative rather than judgemental. I never sought positions where I had to judge, and we all do have to judge at some point. But I’d rather mentor and grow people. I’d rather support than punish. I don’t think I could go back to the former role.
Yesterday was a really big climate win day. I put it on Instagram @drplasticpicker and my personal facebook page. County Board of Supervisors voted to pass 3-2 for the county to join San Diego Community Power. This gives our region a shot at meeting 2035 GHG goals. This was big. Very big. I was only one of two health care voices that came. Anyone can sign up to speak. But Dr. Bruce Bekkar and I were the two health care voices that spoke up as part of the Public Health Advisory Council of Climate Actions Campaign. All the other doctors were working. But for me, I use my educational leave time and OFF time to do climate work.
I’m at bag #534. I gathered two bags yesterday waiting for our daughter to finish her volleyball practice at Salt Creek Recreational Center. It’s a beautiful riparian habitat around the field, and I walked around the perimeter of the field that borders the actual creek. There are wild places even in suburban areas, and I gravitate to the wild places and views. I heard birds at the edge of the playing fields and the sounds of insects. I tried to gather the pieces of human litter that were close to the wild places, caught within the protective armour of the reeds and wildgrasses. The plants and the trees were trying to keep our plastic out.
I’m halfway to my goal now. My goal is 1000 bags of litter. I’ll post this months total later, but it was a more productive month than what I expected. I walk up the slopes and inclines where others forget to look, and find the debris of our lives. I have to believe I am making a difference. My activism is very literal. I have to see that I’m doing something everyday. I need to see the litter. I need to see that I am removing the pollution. I have to see that I’m helping bring back life to our earth, and have to see the carbon sequestering into the soil.
Every bag has been meaningful. It’s helped me figure out my life, and has helped me figure out how to help the earth. No matter what happens, at least I have a hobby now that I enjoy. As I was telling a patient I have to keep on being a doctor too, because I’m Dr. Plastic Picker not Mrs. Plastic Picker or Miss Plastic Picker or Hey You Plastic Picker. And a doctor needs patients including the earth.
I made two robot like trash-art people. They are super interesting. Check out my instagram @drplasticpicker if you actually want to see them. They are made from interesting bits of non-recyclable plastic that I found around the house. Mr. Plastic Picker’s small fancy box that his new annoying watch-buying collection came in. The two spouts from to-go coffee carafe that I tried to save from years ago. Nerf gun bullets repurposed into robot eyes. And the plastic carrying handle from the non-coffee breakfast drink almond/walnut mix that I occassionally get from the Korean market now. It all came together as two robots. And on an early Monday morning. I wonder if it means anything? LOL.
I didn’t blog this weekend. I actually didn’t do much of anything purposeful this weekend, other than go to the Climate Leader Garden Gathering on Saturday night with our Public Health Advisory Council. I dressed up fancy, but didn’t really worry about how fancy – if that makes sense. I just wanted to make sure Mr. Plastic Picker and I showed up. We had so much fun. Climate leaders and especially their spouses are really fun to hang out with. We networked and made real human connections with friends that had been mostly virtual.
In times of great emotion or confusion or happiness, I make trashart. I know it’s weird but it’s true. Last night I made this from bits and pieces of plastic from our lives. The bottle caps are from the two Izzy bottles our kids drank during our San Francisco vacation. The winecorks are from @donttrashmissionbeach famous litter picker fame. I’m almost through all the bits and pieces she dropped off at our house. Most I recycled or had to go into the garbage. I saved most of the winecorks. And most of the “head” of this trashart piece is from the packaging from the new headphones Mr. Plastic Picker purchased for me. Most the packaging was cardboard and recyclable but not the handle part.
I have the HMO Family Practice Residents this morning. I helped start this rotation with my old mentor almost a decade ago. Now I just give one lecture on Pediatric Obesity and mentor one morning. I used to think it was a burden, but now I really enjoy my one day. I make muffins for the three residents and I take them on a field trip to visit a former resident who works upstairs. He is a friend. I have a bag of our family’s garden produce with tomatoes, eggplants and peppers to give him. Today I did vary it up a bit. I usually make the HMO residents banana walnut muffins but this morning I was up at 430am and wanted to use up the semi-mushy apples. So I made almost vegan apple cinnamon muffins. I also cooked down most of the apples for my own kids for breakfast/lunch. My teen daughter is needing more fiber, if you know what I mean.
This beautiful wooden date blocks was lovingly given to me by a patient’s family. This is to help me remember what day it is. It pictures very well on Instagram too! It was so kind of them. It really was. Yesterday was the first clinical care day after 1.5 weeks of vacation. Most of that vacation was home, but I we did have that wonderful trip to San Francisco. It was so nice to see my patients again, and I reconnected with a few families I had not seen in a while. I met a nice new family as they are embarking on this adventure called parenthood. I missed a call from another parent, who I will try to call again today. I was able to stop by the HMO coffee shop to get the coffee grounds. It was 7.6 kg of coffee grounds. Our HMO patients were drinking a lot of coffee yesterday! It’s all in the composter now.
It’s 645AM and it’s a work at home day. I have our middle management meeting today. I need to actually listen to the COVID lectures really carefully now, and review all the American College of Immunization Practice updates well. I’m responsible for signing all the immunization orders in our entire organization now. I need to pivot and be more detail oriented, but I don’t mind relearning that skillset. I was an endocrine fellow at some point, and we were if anything but detail oriented. The devils is in the details.
And this week on my OFF time it’s all Green Team for the HMO (which is actual real HMO work that I’m doing for free) and meetings for practice runs on two big presentations. I don’t mind though and actually excited about those tasks because vaccines and climate work and healthcare sustainability practice is now my focus. Thank you for following along. I truly appreciate it. Just blogging and writing a bit every morning clears my mind and helps me figure out what I need to do with life. I have time these days because we just decided not to buy things we did not need. It frees a lot of mental space and time. For exampled, the used uniform sale at school ws 45 minutes and done. The entire process of buying uniforms for our kids was usually $700 (versus $70) and take weeks of agonizing.