To be or not to be – lets box that question

By Dr Nikhil Patravali
FRANZCOG, FRCOG, AFRACMA, DGO, DFFP, Dip Med Edu, MBBS. Head of Department Gynaecology, Nepean hospital, Sydney. Australia.

I opened my eyes and the air sifted a perturbed vortex around me. ‘How was it that the world had changed overnight or was it in a nanosecond?’ my mind rattled. ‘Am I alive or have I actually passed on ?’ ‘Is this how it was supposed to be? ‘ I had tried as a medical professional since time immemorial how ‘not being alive’ could ‘feel’. Well, one could be any professional and try and unify all your finite senses to fathom that feeling only to zoom into an abyss. I believe there is no feeling at the end or rather at the beginning of that journey on the other side. ‘No, stop these thoughts!’ I scolded myself, having confirmed all of my five comprehensible senses were intact. 

My world had changed around me with the arrival of a novel virus, which now has been immortalized in the living memories of human beings as COVID-19. (Ouch, it hurts me even with the mention of it ! ) My thoughts made me feel as unwell perhaps as I would be physically infected with this extraterrestrial entity. I wasn’t infected physically but the virus had made deep erosions in my mind for sure. 

I had a dilemma or rather ‘quadrilemma’ or ‘quintilemmas’ (of-course these are neologisms in a very confused mind) ensuing in my brain to find the best way to comprehend this overwhelming information of adversity. This is where primarily the advancement of technology had failed me and perhaps all of us. With the speed of light, it bombarded us with information of it’s lethal impacts. It brought to our attention quickly all the feared news of doom and gloom. But where was that main information, that ray of hope, the light at the end of the tunnel, a conformation of that elixir and magic solution to this single problem? 

‘For God’s sake we are living in the 21st century, we should have all the solutions available to us with a click of a button! Alas, not for this one!’ Now, this thought was scary! Technology could bring forth all the negative information but no solutions to the problem. 

‘I have to save this world, that is my job and I have subscribed to it, I cannot let myself down now’, ‘What will my family say, what will my work say and certainly what will society think of me as a qualified and reputable doctor?’. My vulnerability and self-image stared at me and dismantled me from within like a sudden and profuse infestation of termites. I could see myself crumble. I had to think straight and make sense of it soon. This was an un-welcomed intruder at home in the middle of the night destroying my slumber. 

As a professional and a leader, I developed strategies to help the hospital and community through these challenging times, but the stress and personal toll were non-palpable. ‘How can I personally come out of it ?’ I had to go back to basics. 

I knew looking after my own well being will bring in some resilience to cope with this ‘new world’. And that is exactly what I did. I gathered my thoughts and segregated them into boxes in my mind. There was a box for virus scientific information, there was a box for all the possible scientific solutions, another for all the unscientific and superstitious ways to deal with it, another for change of my practice at work and strategies to bring forth as a leader, a box full of ways to look after the family in a locked-down routine and obviously there was a miscellaneous box to put all the other thoughts in which didn’t fit in any other boxes. I opened one box at a time and then shut it when I moved to another box. My favourite though was my ‘ ME BOX’. That box retained a small bucket list that I could fulfill for myself like an intensive exercise regimen that I always wanted to do, drawing and painting, learning to solve the Rubik’s cube, growing an in-house garden amongst many others. This obsession of boxing has allowed me some clever time management with the least amount of anxious procrastination. My perception of well being for myself has improved and I am certainly able to handle my family and my work with an invigorated zeal. I am sure over time I am able to offload some of these hoarded boxes in a tip and make space for a big box yet to be delivered that reads a label of ‘Nothing inside’ on it!

More about the Author

Dr. Nikhil Patravali is currently working as Head of Department in Gynaecology in a tertiary hospital in Sydney. Along with his public work, he also manages his busy private practice. His special interests include the art of Reproductive medicine and IVF, minimal access surgery, prolapse issues, colposcopy and Obstetrics. He has extensive leadership achievements and has held University teaching positions. He has lived in 3 continents stemmed from his desire to travel and see the world amongst others.

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To be or not to be – lets box that question
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