After avoiding the scene of my biggest life trauma for more than a decade, I returned last week. After years of suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) related to my medical training, I went back to Chicago, where I did my residency, with the intention of releasing the stories that no longer served me and rewriting a new chapter in my life.
Facing the fears
The first day in Chicago, I faced my darkest fears. As I walked down Michigan Avenue, getting closer to the hospital where I did my training, my heart started beating faster. Flanked by two close girlfriends who are helping me on my book tour for What’s Up Down There?, I pointed out the building by North Pier where I used to live. I showed them the Hotel Intercontinental, where we had residency graduation every year. Then I noticed the bus stop where I would climb in, dog tired, at 1am on my way home to Lincoln Park. I turned onto Superior Street, passing the pizza joint where we used to get take out. And then I saw it, 333 E. Superior Street, the dark, retro Prentice Women’s Hospital, where I learned to be an OB/GYN.
I stood across the street from the building, bracing myself to step inside into the lobby, where I had puked the one and only other time I had tried to return to the scene of the trauma. I took a few deep breaths. I imagined running into my teachers, the ones who had hurt me. I envisioned judgment, misunderstanding, derision. I was overcome by painful memories of the past. My heart skipped a beat, and then I took a deep breath and padded across the street.
"It's like a grave."
As I approached the dark, grey, revolving door I entered every morning for four years at 5am while carrying my Starbucks latte, I saw that the door was all boarded up. There was debris everywhere, littered around inside and outside the hospital. I felt something well up inside me, witnessing the graveyard that used to be my hospital, and then, all of the sudden, something broke free.
Want to witness my exorcism? Watch it here (and no, I’m don’t cry gracefully!):
After the exorcism, I walked down the block to the new Prentice Women’s Hospital, a sparkly new building, where I convinced them to let me into the doctor’s lounge in Labor & Delivery, even though it had been more than ten years since I finished my residency. There, in the doctor’s lounge, I ran into Dr. Rob Kelsey, who was one of my favorite teachers back in my residency days. Unlike some of the pod people who had abused me during residency, Dr. Kelsey had always been a warm, gentle presence with a soft, loving heart. He gave me a tour of the new hospital, introduced me to some of the new residents, took me into a labor room, filled me in on a bit of hospital gossip, and when we were done, gave me a hug.
Then I saw Dr. Ann Starr, one of the residents from my class, who I always liked. She was the beautiful, sarcastic, funny doctor who all the boys had a crush on but who always marched to the beat of her own drum. We hung out in the doctor’s lounge, laughing and reminiscing until it was time for me to leave for a book signing.
Walking out of the new hospital, I felt 30 pounds lighter. The old me no longer exists. The traumas of my past are no longer true. The hospital doesn’t even exist anymore. I have rewritten my story in Chicago -- Chapter One: Lissa Takes Chicago By The Vagina.
What does Chapter Two hold? I honestly don’t know. But it won’t contain the stories of my past. That part of my life is over. Those stories no longer serve me. I am done. DONE.
I am free.
What about you? Do you have stories that no longer serve you? Are there traumas from your past that you need to release? What can you do to let it go and move on?
Dr. Lissa Rankin is an OB/GYN physician, an author, a nationally-represented professional artist, and the founder of Owning Pink, an online community committed to building authentic community and empowering women to get- and keep- their "mojo". Owning Pink is all about owning all the facets of what makes you whole- your health, your sexuality, your spirituality, your creativity, your career, your relationships, the planet, and YOU. Dr. Rankin is currently redefining women’s health at the Owning Pink Center, her practice in Mill Valley, California. She is the author of the forthcoming What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend (St. Martin's Press, September 2010).
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