Coping With Stress In Your Thirties: A Letter to the Student Doctor Who Tried to Shrink My Brain

I recently had to go for several medical clearances for an upcoming surgical procedure, and most of them were pretty cut and dry. Then I met an overbearing student doctor who, at the ripe old age of (I’m over-estimating here) 24, decided that she would not be clearing me because I appeared to be “stressed out.”

You think maybe it’s stressful speaking to someone who is extremely rude and judgemental? Maybe just a little, but I digress…

Do I have stress in my life? Absolutely. Do you have any right to judge me by my business suit and faded eyeliner? Absolutely not. Assuming with all of your “worldly knowledge” that I don’t have healthy coping mechanisms based on a twenty-minute interview is just a bunch of malarkey. In a million years I cannot imagine why your thesis project, a stress management support group (an hour away from my house on the same night that my kids have activities) should be mandatory in order to get clearance for a surgery that I really need in my real life. I’m offended by your assumptions about my self-care, self-worth, and self-esteem, due to my weight, I’m guessing, and pretty irked that I wasted an hour of my life with you for a piece of paper on your office letterhead that says “Go ahead and cut her open. She’s good.”

Oh no, I’m sorry, it’s someone else’s office. It’s someone else’s letterhead. It’s still your classroom. There’s a reason they call it practice, and you definitely need some more of that before you put your name on a door somewhere.

So here it is, know-it-all that wanted to compare degrees with me. You wanted me to develop a plan of all the things I need to change. Instead, I’ve prepared you a list of all the reasons I don’t need to, that I get to be fine with who I am, and that you can shove your thesis project where the sun don’t shine.

Without further ado, here is how I cope with my stress:

Time Management – Being proactive and preventing stress before it happens is an essential element of managing a family of five, working full-time, writing on the side, and pursuing higher education.

I know you’re used to scheduling only your own life and assignments in college, so if you plan to start a family someday, you should start planning your life at least three months in advance starting, hmmmm, right now. Also, be sure to overbook yourself at least three times a week and give yourself no other choice, because that’s how this crazy parenthood thing works.

Reading – I spend time beta reading short pieces for a community of writers, and thus helping them improve their writing for potential submission. I also enjoy reading satire articles about current events, Young Adult fiction (mandatory reading- I need to know about the diamond falice in Twilight before my eleven-year-old does), and Alice In Wonderland… over and over and over again for my whole life. It’s kinda my thing.

You probably go home and read a bunch of articles assigned to you. I’m so sorry. Maybe in a few years, you’ll learn how to love reading for enjoyment again. It took me a while when I got out of school too.

Writing – I join writing contests and write short stories or commentaries to submit to various journals, online newsletters, contests, and showcases. I’ve been published in two anthologies this year, I expect to see two more soon, and I’ve had three articles picked up by online newsletters this week. I also post to my blog as often as possible. Work emails don’t even count.

You probably go home and lose track of your creative side, hyper-focus on your work and use “guided imagery” and the other cockamamy tools you’ve learned in school to get you through tough times. I’ll tell you something right now. When you have three kids to bathe, feed, help with homework, and a house to clean, there’s no time to sit around picturing yourself in a friggin’ meadow. I’ve heard it all too, and that’s why I changed majors and left the head games to the head-cases that need to project their insecurities onto weaker people. I’m not about that life.

Analyze that.

Stretching (FKA Exercise)- Are you one of those people who post their trip to the dorm gym on Snapchat? That’s totes adorbs. I stretch privately with my family since I can’t physically exert myself with this hernia. Hence the necessity for surgery. Did you forget about that part while you were looking at me like a lab rat?


Netflix & Chill – I watch television with my husband and then we have sex.

‘Nuff said.

For your sake, I hope somebody somewhere loves your cranky ass like my husband loves me.

Aromatherapy – I use lavender oils in the evening to relax and get ready for bed. I apply them to my pulse points and diffuse them. When I’m sick I use eucalyptus oil. I use lemongrass oils on my dog to help with hyperactivity and dry skin. The whole family jokes about it and calls her “Lemon Ass.” I’ve noticed that I can subconsciously control the mood of my whole family if I make my house smell a certain way. Maybe that sounds looney, but if you had come into the room smelling like lavender, maybe I wouldn’t hate your nasty attitude quite so much.

Music – My husband plays the drums in a 90s alternative cover band and once about every other month we go out to his gigs. I spend time with my friends, we sing at the top of our lungs, and dance around like we’re still thirteen-year-old skater girls (even though I have a thirteen-year-old at home now. How did that happen again?). I also have meticulously chosen playlists that coincide with different emotions, and if I’m stressed I usually turn to my “Bad Azz Biatch” playlist and yell along to some heavy metal in the car before I reach my next destination.

But when you were asking your series of ridiculous questions and staring at my oversized middle, you weren’t thinking about my taste in music, my amazing friends, or my talented husband, nor would you care to hear about them. You had already decided that I was fat, lazy, and stressed out because my fingernails weren’t painted. You have no right to tell me that self-love is a mani-pedi. You haven’t met self-love yet if you really think that’s what it is.

Cathedral Pines – I go to the park on my lunch break sometimes just to get the sense of the brief catharsis I achieve while camping. I. Love. Camping.

When was the last time you pitched a tent and stared into a fire? Oh yea, you still live in a dorm room and have yet to experience the joys of hauling five people and a ridiculous amount of equipment out into the woods, setting it all up, going for a walk, cooking dinner over an open fire, sleeping in a tent, and waking up the next day just to clean it all up and go home. It’s glorious. I suggest you try it sometime in your distant future when you get to where I’m at NOW, Judgy McJudgerson!

I could continue to rant and rave about how unfairly you treated me, how bad you made me feel about myself, and how inaccurate you were in your assumptions about my life, but that isn’t an entertaining read anymore. That’s a journal entry. I’ve realized that any doctor willing to take the recommendations of a snotty little child over actually seeing me as the person that I am, is not the Doctor for me. If you can’t see how hard I work to make this a functional, relaxing, enjoyable life for my big, rowdy family, then no, I’m sorry, no surgeon from your practice will be operating on me, thank you very much.

Oh, and uh, hey Grad Student… I wish you luck in your future career thinking that people who have no time for your stress management shenanigans don’t care about themselves. It’s just the opposite, ya nincompoop.

PS- After this negative experience, I went to a REAL doctor, not a university doctor. I had a very successful surgery within two weeks of my first visit, further validating my point that this kid was just self-indulging at my expense.

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