I’ll never forget the day. I’m my elderly father’s caregiver, and I go off on him. As soon as I do, I feel like a complete failure.
I’m 35, living and working in DC, about to start my THIRD post-graduate degree as a physician, and physically and mentally exhausted, from caregiving as well as 15 years of non-stop medical training.
I’ve just made my dad lunch, and after two bites, he pushes his plate away and says, “I’m not hungry.”
I rearranged my day, moved appointments so I could care for him, and then he refuses to cooperate…
I go off.
I yell. I throw the plate in the sink, and it breaks. I stomp off to my room, slam the bedroom door, and fall sobbing into my pillow.
Sobbing because my dad is deteriorating. Sobbing because of who I have become around him. Sobbing because I feel I am a complete failure.
I’m on the brink of a breakdown. And I am lost. (It will be years before I learn that there is a medical name for what I am suffering, “Compassion Fatigue,” and it is common among caregivers.)
Then one day my coworker, Jennie, sits down next to me. “How are you, Anissa?”
Something about how present she is with me allows me to drop my guard and open up fully.
“What are you really interested in?”
My answer comes instantly, and I surprise myself by even saying it: “Creativity.”
I haven’t spoken of my love of creativity for almost 20 years. As a child, I loved photography. But all that was buried under a mountain of medical training.
I start with a photography workshop in Kauai. Wow! I reconnect with my artistic nature and find a new tribe with creatives.
I reclaim joy again by being creative.
I want more, so after graduating fellowship, I take a
year off—a year of self-empowerment work, therapy, and exploration of my creative spirit… specifically photography. I discover a love of portrait photography, capturing photos of people as they tell me their stories. It is my way of really seeing my subjects.
Functional medicine gives me what I am looking for as a doctor—a way to spend quality time with my clients so that I can hear their stories.
When I am deeply present to someone’s story, I can help them connect the dots and see how their health issues so often relate to their significant life events.
So my vocation evolves into two halves that make a whole: practicing functional medicine and making portraits of people. Having both in my life allows me to merge the two sides of myself — healer and artist.
TODAY, looking back, I can now understand that at 35 years old, when I yelled at my father and cried into my pillow, I wasn’t just having a “bad day.” I was suffering from something much more serious called “compassion fatigue.” Caregivers become invisible in their role, and my mission is to help them be seen again and reclaim the parts of themselves that give them joy and energy.
And because both of my vocations, doctor and photographer, depend on me holding safe space for people to be truly seen and cared for, I like to say I’m on a mission to give new meaning to the phrase,
“The doctor will see you now.”
I am a board-certified functional medicine physician with extensive training in internal medicine, geriatric medicine, and hospice and palliative medicine. After a decade of practicing conventional medicine, and after my own journey of burning out while caring for loved ones,
I realized my true passion lay in helping other caregivers like me
get the healing and support they need. I am dedicated to
creating and developing meaningful relationships with the
people I serve in order to make lasting and
transformational changes in their lives.
Would you like to be seen and understood in your challenges as a caregiver?
Are you ready to have a clear path forward to become the most empowered, most supported, and happiest caregiver possible?