Let me introduce myself. I am a 41-year-old mother of Drew and Emily, wife of Chad, sister, daughter, aunt, tennis loving, yoga practicing, strength training, searching for the zest of life, passionate and compassionate human being. Oh, and I am a veterinarian. It took me the past 6 months to get that right. I am not just a veterinarian. I am so much more.
As long as I can remember I wanted to be a veterinarian. I was in love with our first dog, a Beagle mix, named Lexy. She was my confidant, my comfort and my companion. Her passing when I was in third grade is one of my most vivid childhood memories I hold. The morning she was to leave for “some testing” at the veterinary hospital, my parents told me to say good bye to her. I refused. I cried and stayed in the other room. I refused to say good bye because I had the strong intuition it would be the last time I saw her. I couldn’t bare it. She passed away that day. My parents came to school to get my siblings and me. I had fallen in the mud that day at school and needed a change of clothes and both my parents arrived at school, an unusual event, and my Mom kept her sunglasses on; I knew there was something wrong. They took us out of school and we drove to my Grandma’s house. It was mid-March and the ground was still frozen. My Dad worked tirelessly to dig an appropriate burial site. He even went as far as lighting a fire in the ground to soften the earth. When it was time to place Lexy in the lovingly dug hole, my Dad retrieved her from out of our station wagon. As my Dad gently lifted her out, the lid of the box she was in slid off a bit and I could see Lexy’s soft brown ear. I’ll never forget how that ear felt against my cheek. It was the first time I ever saw my Dad cry. Somehow that profound love and animal human bond sparked my desire to pursue veterinary medicine as a career and as a passion.
My story may sound like many of my other fine colleagues. I worked my butt off as an undergrad, but alas the elusive large manila envelope stating your acceptance into veterinary medical school was not to be had. I then ventured on to graduate school to pursue a Master’s of Science in Dairy Nutrition. Again, the ever-elusive acceptance letter was not mine. I obtained a job with Cargill as a research technician. Finally, after three attempts, I got the manila envelope! The day that letter arrived still lives vividly in my memory. I was living in Minnesota with my then fiance, now husband, and he retrieved the mail. When he came in the door with that envelope in his hands, I took off my glasses, placed my head in my hands and wept. I knew I made it. A culmination of so much hard work and effort and I had been accepted into the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2005. If I only knew then what I know now.
I loved vet school. I thrived there. I made lifelong friends there. I excelled in my clinical year and even was awarded “vet student of the year” award much to the chagrin of my friends. The world was mine. I was offered a job before graduation back in my home town of Green Bay, WI with a hospital I worked at in high school. Life couldn’t have been working out better.
Then the realization of the profession slowly unfolded. Within my first two months of employment I was faced with the awareness that my colleague, who I had hoped would be an excellent mentor, instead was full of jealously and tried to sabotage me at every turn. I literally became physically ill on my drive into work. I was infuriated. I had worked so hard and had what appeared the perfect set up back in my home hospital only to be thwarted by some nasty woman who was threatened by me. She told me I was too confident. What I had hoped would be a great working relationship and mentoring experience ended in me telling my boss it was me or her. Thankfully he chose me. But that then left me alone, as a new grad, on my own without direct supervision. My boss was at our other location roughly 15 minutes across town. Yes, he was just a phone call away, but it wasn’t a strong mentoring establishment. The learning curve was steep, but that made me smarter, quicker, more confident and forced me out of my comfort zone. I practiced that way for about three years before we brought on a part time associate. We got along well, until I became an owner and then things weren’t quite the same. She ended up back stabbing us pretty good at a time of need for me when I had my second child. Another life lesson learned.
I did become an owner. I have purchased 49% of the company from my business partner. We have a nice arrangement. But he still has that 2% and 35 years’ experience on me. With the generation gap comes complications and difference of opinions.
Thankfully I have been married to an amazing man who has worked and help support our growing family. As many of you know veterinary medicine isn’t the most lucrative of careers compared to our human counterparts. Get sick of hearing that. Don’t put limits on yourself. Statistics may say one thing but that shouldn’t handcuff you into believing we can’t live a great life pursuing your passion and making a livable wage. I am now at a successful point in my career that my husband was able to quit his job three years ago and become a stay at home Dad. This has allowed me to lesson some stress of always rushing home, feeling guilty that I was not parenting well and letting me focus on practicing the best medicine I can.
So why am I telling you all of this. It doesn’t sound so bad, right?
Somehow, over time, slowly but surely it crept up on me, I lost my passion for veterinary medicine. Too many 60 plus hours a week. Too many weekends. Too many missed firsts with my children. Too many evenings coming home so exhausted I just passed by my family and collapsed into bed. Too much eating crap and not moving my body. Not enough time in the fresh air and sun, so much so that I developed a vitamin D deficiency. Too many demanding and ungrateful clients. Too many inappropriate social media posts. Too many inappropriate questions at the wrong time by friends, family, and even strangers. Too much free advice demanded and given. Too many animals I didn’t save, not because I couldn’t, but because owners wouldn’t let me for one reason or another. Not enough vacation ever taken, if ever taken. Shortened maternity leaves to come back and make sure all was running as it needed to. Even taking my 4-week-old daughter with me to work so that I could continue nursing her. It’s what our profession does. It works itself to the bone. It gives and gives until there is nothing left to give.
I didn’t see the ever-slippery slope then. I see where it happened now. It happened the day I got that manila envelope. I thought I had the bull by the horns at graduation. I thought I was doing okay as time went on. I was working out. I had run a marathon in 2011. Life appeared good…from the outside. My husband might have told you differently. Then the Fall of 2014 hit. I only know the timeline because I was slowly losing my grip on reality then. I wasn’t working out at as much. Business started to take a major uptick. I was drinking too much caffeine. I couldn’t tell you the last full night of sleep I had had. I took my family to Disney World that August, the first seven days in a row I had ever taken since joining the practice. I barely enjoyed myself. My happiness factor was at zero. I returned from that vacation and had a major crisis with dear friends that sent me into a deep pit of darkness. I had never dealt with depression before. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now. That’s what it was. Depression. I spent almost three years there, but I was functioning so I didn’t acknowledge it. I was going through the motions of life, but numb. I was numb at home. I didn’t enjoy my kids or my husband. I hid in my room as much as possible. I was numb at work. I still practiced good medicine, but I could have done better. I could have been more compassionate. All I did was complain about overbooking, having to see so and so, why did they call and the negativity went on. I was miserable. I gained 30 lbs. I think that pissed me off those most! I felt like shit. I was always tired. I never felt rested. I napped all the time. My OBGYN would run standard thyroid panels and it would always be normal and she would just chuck it all up to stress as she understood the roll it all played in her life.
Finally, in October of 2016 I hit my breaking point. I couldn’t continue with feeling the way I did. I was miserable and not enjoying veterinary medicine let alone anything else that held meaning to me. I was on Facebook and I saw a sponsored ad for an Integrative Medicine Physician in town. I had seen her in the urgent care a few years back. Because of course when a veterinarian gets sick they first self-diagnose, self-treat and then only after weeks of not getting better did I seek another professional’s help. But of course, with the hours I was keeping I had to use urgent care and not a regular appointment time. Dr. Wagner had a pre-appointment questionnaire unlike any other standard medical history I had ever answered. What foods have you eaten in the last 24 hours? List everything. Uhmm…McDonald’s, McDonald’s and oh yeah, probably McDonald’s. What liquids do you drink in a typical day? Uhmmm…coffee, Diet Coke, water when I brush my teeth. What is your relationship with food? Relationship? I don’t have one, I just scarf it down as fast as I can and then feel like ass afterwards. Describe your sleep? I pass out just after my kids go to bed. Well usually I pass out with my kids in my bed and then they go off to their own beds at some point but I never notice because I am passed out. Then I awake around 11 pm, can’t fall asleep because a million thoughts start running through my head and so I watch Bravo TV in a vegetative state until about 4 am. Then when my alarm goes off at 6 am I am exhausted. What is your fitness like? Well I use to…, but haven’t worked out in three years. Do you feel you live and work in a physical environment that is peaceful, uncluttered and supports your overall well-being? HA! What? Yeah, no. Do you feel your life has purpose and meaning? Well I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about it that way. Do you allow time in your life for fun and joy? Do you feel financially secure? List any major or traumatic life changing events. And the list went on. That’s when I knew I was in for an awakening. One that I desperately needed and was searching for. I will admit it didn’t happen immediately but I was on the right path. Dr. Wagner ran some blood work and that’s when we discovered my vitamin D deficiency. Tends to happen when you live in Northeast Wisconsin and never see the light of day! I did an 4-week food elimination trial to rule out food issues. I am highly sensitive to caffeine. I have almost eliminated it from my diet. Eating clean is now crucial and when I don’t, and there are absolutely times that I don’t, I know I start to feel sluggish, my GI gets bloated and yucky and I just don’t feel alive.
This wasn’t it. All that Dr. Wagner was introducing me to had me intrigued and I knew I had to do more. Then I saw on Facebook an ad for Simply Kerry. When I went to her page I saw that Dr. Wagner liked it and had partook in it. Hook, line and sinker. I signed up for a free 7 Day Challenge with Simply Kerry, a life coach. I was never one to look to psychotherapy or counseling. I had many blocks on avoiding it. I thought I could handle this all on my own. I finally gave into the fact that my way wasn’t working. I didn’t want to become a statistic that veterinary medicine is so harshly facing. I had worked so hard to pursue my dream and was pissed that I had fallen out of love with it. Kerry Geocaris has revitalized me. Yes, I am doing the work, but her guidance has been crucial. A life coach, think about it. We have had a teacher, coach, parent, mentor of some sort our entire lives, and then, poof, they’re gone. Perhaps we are then being looked at as the mentor, coach, parent, boss. I only knew life with a coach and then as my career unfolded I had none. It only makes sense to have one in my life. My life coach is giving me tools to live my life to its fullest, to pursue my passion of veterinary medicine and to use my God given gifts.
How you ask? It’s starts with self-love, self-care and acknowledgment of self-worth. I have only really begun to understand how I have self-sabotaged myself in all those areas. As type A personalities we suffer in silence. To the outsider it looked like I had my life all figured out.
Self-love for me was awkward but what it has transpired into is daily affirmations written on my bathroom mirror. Nothing too prophetic but just “I love you”, “you are worthy”, “you are enough”. The reality is what we think is what becomes. If we think negatively, that’s what the universe gives us. If we are of a loving, positive and affirming mind set, that is what we become.
What does this personal growth mean for me? Lots and lots of self-care. That means daily meditation, gratitude journaling, prayer, fostering spiritual growth and connecting with my Director. Movement (notice I didn’t say exercise!). For me that means re-joining the gym that is literally 4 doors down from my practice and committing at least three of my lunch hours to going. It means rediscovering my love of tennis and taking adult drill lessons with a fun bunch of people. It means after years of doctors and physical therapists telling me to do it, I took a private yoga class and have fallen in love with the practice and try to make it to at least one class a week. It means clean eating. Yes, I indulge, but it isn’t three meals a day, seven days a week. I try and save it for a weekend meal, and not the whole day but just one meal. After doing an elimination diet trial I discovered just how sensitive I am to caffeine. All those Diet Cokes and coffee at 4pm to keep me going through the day was doing nothing but interfering with healthy sleep at night. I really enjoy coffee, so I just switched to decaf and I can still enjoy the aroma and warmth without being up all night. Caffeine also creates an overactive bladder for me which made for long days in the clinic and working out annoying. I drink mostly just water now. Occasionally I mix it up with sparkling water, or fruit infused water or an IZZE, but that’s on the weekend. I still have an occasional adult beverage. I was never a big drinker, well once out of vet school, but I do indulge at special events. I also had lots of body pain. Bad body pain. So much that I was taking ibuprofen by the handful and tramadol to sleep. With cleaning up my food act, meditation and daily movement and especially the yoga, the body pain is gone. It flares up occasionally and when it does I know that it is something mental that I need to process through with the tools Kerry has taught me and then the pain goes away. That to me is amazing. I hold mental anguish, usually over money, right in my left lower back and my sciatic nerve. I do have two herniated discs in that region so I always blame it on that, but I know how to manage it now. I rarely take any NSAIDs and I am off tramadol. There is more, as if the above isn’t enough, but that’s the proprietary work of Simply Kerry that I would love to share with you via her Facebook and web page if you are interested. An investment in her coaching has been an investment in me. I am learning to love myself again, to play, to fulfill my inner child’s wildest dreams. It is amazing. I am finding my passion for veterinary medicine and my love of educating clients and staff as well as mentoring and sharing my story. I know this isn’t the end of my journey and I have so much more to do, but I have the tools to help me continue to live the life that God intended me to live.