Memory Lane


Traveling back to the city where I did residency is a surreal pilgrimage that sets my teeth on edge.

Is there anyone who really enjoyed residency, I wonder? There were things about it that I did not detest but mainly it was a thing to be endured.

Three years of hell to survive.

Just passing through…

Yesterday I drove past the house I lived in back then. I have vague recollections of it, like I do of the house I lived in until I was in fifth grade, but that vagueness is disconcerting. It was not that long ago was it? Seems those memories should be much more vivid. After all, I remember things at the hospital in great technicolor detail.

I’ll just drive around a bit, call it therapy.

They changed the color of the house and put up a new fence. I got lost in the neighborhood, the stores and buildings are not the same. The hospital is brand new, all shiny and sparkly. The old call rooms and ICUs no longer exist. It is disorienting. A feeling like those memories are no longer grounded.

Perhaps that is a mercy. 

I don’t want to run into any of those old attendings, my fellow residents, any hospital staff. I don’t want to travel back to that nightmare. When I am back in that place, it opens old wounds, brings back old terrors. I have left some of it here in this blog. Some of it I cannot let go of quite yet.

Are there places like this for you? Where? Why?


102 thoughts on “Memory Lane

  1. The first hospital I ever had to stay in makes me feel like that. It was a horrible experience, from start to finish. It doesn’t help that it is at the top of a hill that my sister Judy and I rode down one day, with me on the back of her bike. She responded to a dare and went down the hill with her eyes closed, no hands. We hit a patch of sand and slid down the hill, through an intersection and into a fence. She slid on the left side of her body — me on my face. Somehow, neither of us was disfigured, but no one has ever ridden me on another two wheeled vehicle! And I will die before becoming a patient at that hospital ever again.

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  2. You would think so, given my past, wouldn’t you? But no. The only “place” I feel great anxiety about is wherever my father is. I do have unhappiness and anxiety inside my own home, related to illegal and discriminatory practices I’m expeeiencing, but it isn’t my home that causes the anxiety.

    This is a tiny bit funny, though: Whenever I see an American flag displayed indoors hanging aslant from a pole–like in a classroom–I feel immediately a rush of both the patriotism I felt back when I was a little girl saying the Pledge (a pride I do not feel in the same way today) and a great anxiety. I recognize that the latter derives from my first day in my second Kindergarten class, when my new teacher yelled at me under the flag.

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  3. Nostalgia has a different flavour for everyone, Doc. But, as you know, once the abscess has been lanced, drained and debrided, it is time to let it heal. From the inside out. (But then, there is that lancing!) When the time is right to open the wounds, you will. It is all part of coming to terms with our pasts and seeing how they contribute or take away from our present. When the memory fails to hurt, you know it is healed properly. Mother Hen xx

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  4. My mom’s house (my childhood home) was like this for me, which is part of why it was so surprising how much I hated parting with it. I’d ascribed to the place all the abuses that had nothing to do with it.

    I still don’t love thay house. I still don’t love that it’s not my mom’s. And I think I’m going to keep having this feeling for a very long time, based on the fact I’m already steeling myself to pass by it this weekend … en route to a place she used to take us for our birthdays, no matter how little money she had.

    I feel a little better reading your post, honestly, because I’ll also be thinking of you–and finding a little comfort in commiseration–as I drive by.

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  5. When my daughter flew me back “home” to Sacramento, California. I was so sick from a terrible flight, and she just finally getting her license still didn’t feel comfortable driving on the freeway. She thought she lost the backroad needing to go the route she felt the safest and announced “Mom! You’re going to have to tell me which exits & streets to take!” Now, I hadn’t been there in near a decade. We found the way she knew, and there was no drama. However, as we took the longer route I got to see how much of Sacramento changed & also stayed very the same. That city holds absolutely nothing for me, but her & my grandchildren = just about everything.

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  6. Great metaphor for life in a way here. Going back into the past, “driving around in it” can be a strange form of therapy. The good and the bad all wrapped up in memories can sometimes be disconcerting. You want to remember because it brought you where you are today, but not connect too much ie: running into anyone from the past, because you don’t want to really go back and touch the nightmare. Does that make any sense? Beautiful writing as usual, maybe I read too much into it πŸ™‚

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  7. This is going to sound weird, but yes, I do. It is my aunt and uncle’s basement. I lived down there for a while after dragging my shamed butt back after moving out at 18 and failing at life. It was a point in my life full of confusion, depression, and too much alcohol. Now, after moving out, every time I open their basement door, the smell makes me want to drink tequila and forget that I remembered.

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  8. The California city I grew up in, San Jose, is a mix of feelings for me. It’s home, yet it’s not. When I am going there, I’m excited to be going home and flooded with positive memories of growing up and of my teen years when so much of my future looked bright. When I arrive, I feel lost, not just because so much has changed and because I didn’t drive when I lived there so I didn’t know my way around very well, but because the negative memories begin to crowd my mind. I travel by the place where lived last and where my brother had a horrible car accident that changed who he was. I travel in the old downtown part of town and I remember the night my rage-filled father called me a whore because I was wearing “stage makeup” for a pageant I was in and the tears come flooding back. But what really gets me is when I am near the cemetery where one of my brothers is buried. My heart begins to pound. My mouth goes dry. My eyes spill. His suicide took place at home, at his adult home, which is about half a mile from the cemetery so that whole area makes me feel the horror that came to me via that late night phone call and then the events surrounding the funeral with a family divided when they should have been brought together.. And when I leave town, my heart races and I feel like I am leaving a part of me behind, until the next time I go back and it all starts over again.

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  9. There were — there aren’t any more. The one awful place in my memory was high school and when I did finally return in 2010 for my 40th reunion, I learned that it wasn’t high school that was awful; it was the situation around my family that colored everything else in my life. But I definitely get the idea of change in a place “ungrounding” ones memories. That is exactly the feeling I got from Denver the first time I revisited it after moving back to Colorado after 30 years. When I was there a couple of weeks ago I made a pilgrimage to my old “hood” and found a way to tether those memories once again. It was a huge relief.

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  10. I can empathize Victo. For me that emotional upset comes when I go by the building where I did my MBA. The university is in Kingston, Ontario, about 2 hours from Ottawa where I live. Because Ottawa is the capital of the country, with all the attending gov’t offices, embassies, and two large universities, there was sufficient demand to establish a satellite classroom here – actually the better part of a floor in an office tower downtown. I did about 90% of the course work there – with three week-long visits to Kingston through-out the 18 month degree. It was an executive degree, meaning you worked while,you studied. So I was doing 50 hours a week at work and about 40 hours per week studying (including transit time, homework, meetings, class hours, projects, assignments, etc) The academic work load didn’t bother me – I love reading and ;learning – it was the team work that was hard. In an effort to better reflect modern business, 50% of our mark was based on team projects. They did psych testing and deliberately put together 6 people per team who had as different personalities as possible. And, short of moving or dying, your assigned team was not negotiable – make it work or leave the program (and forfeit your considerable tuition). No exceptions. So if you had an issue with another team member you either worked it out or you plotted how to get them to quit or how to get them ejected from the program. And some did flame out and crash – a few spectacularly.

    Working that closely with 5 other type A personalities who ranged from a CPA to a British helicopter salesman [our gov’t was taking bids to replace our Helicopter fleet and this Brit decided to do an MBA while he was here in Canada – not ambitious or anything] to a nuclear medicine V.P to a retired IBM V.P. from Palo Alto [at 40 years old – they burn out fast] to an electronics company executive, was emotionally debilitating. It was not possible to open your mouth without someone disagreeing – everything from the why to the how – there was seldom any agreement. For 18 months every single solitary thought or word, had immediate detractors. And, of course, being professional, they told you to go f*ck yourself and how, with very pretty words, while smiling invitingly.

    I survived and some didn’t. And indeed, the university was right – I learned more about teams and personalities and inter-team politics in 18 months than I would have other wise learned in a life time. And it almost killed me. ha! Of course, it didn’t help that I stirred up a pile of dissent when I got involved with the administration’s politics and they tried to eject me from the program – I won..(Some of the profs were being verbally abused and threatened by one particular high level administrator – and I objected. He was gone before I graduated)

    Anyway, every time I drive by that office tower downtown, I shiver.

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  11. The house I grew up in is like that for me. It was originally built at the turn of the century out of two older houses on the family property. It has always been full of unpleasant ghosts. My father was raised there, my son was raised there, HIS son was raised there. Generation after generation of pain and misery. I am sooo thankful I finally got away from it. I could never have lived this long if I had stayed.

    As you said, it’s enough with some things that they are endured. That is a win, all by itself…

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  12. There’s not quite a spot like that for me. I suppose middle school, which was a lousy experience, but I’m not tempted to go back there even for self-theraputic reasons. Neighborhoods or towns or the like don’t hold enough foul memories for me to feel edgy about seeing them again.

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  14. Definitely the high school I attended. (8th through 12th) It could have been much much worse, I didn’t really go through puberty until my senior year, so I was much smaller than my class of the last ones picked on teams in gym, uber shy…loved to read, big glasses, big ears…bla bla bla… Funny thing is 90% of the negative low self worth thoughts about myself have been healed and rooted out.It’s like the negative thoughts were like groves in an old record..and I refuse to play that song.. I love who I have become as a person..I have a tender spot in my heart for broken people..but it feels like there is a strong magnet trying to suck me back to my former self when I drive by that place, or attend class reunions. I thought I’d dealt with all of the negative stuff, but apparently there must still be some wounds that need to be healed. Interesting post!

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  15. Yup, I’m afraid this was high school for me. An intentionally awful place full of cliques to which I did not belong. I spent my time on the baseball diamond, and while I remember that fondly, it’s not where I spent most of my hours unfortunately. Don’t want to go back, don’t want to remember and only a handful of people from that time that I associate with. Uni, on the other hand – well, pretty much erased those bad memories via rivers of rye and big ideas. The best of times!

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  16. Ack! Get out of my head! You did it again. I was just going to dash of a SOC post about something similar. You keep doing this! :::tilts head and smacks the lower temple like you do to get water out of an ear:::

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  17. There are slices of time I’d like to leave behind. Places? Maybe the duplex I lived in when I was in college. We looked at the place in the dark, because the landlord was too cheap to turn the electricity on until some one rented it. When we moved in we discovered the living room walls were covered in what we used to call contact paper with yellow, orange and green flowers that would not have even been cool in the 70’s. The gas heater was also in the living room. But the important thing is that we survived and can be grateful now!

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  19. Hello Doctor V,
    Thank you for yet another thoughtful post & pretty picture to go along with it πŸ™‚ As for me, I physically don’t go back/re-visit the places I’ve left behind (even those with happy memories). I guess it’s my way of saying ‘time to move on’ and look for healing though other methods – like photographing animals πŸ™‚ I was always the type of person who goes by the ‘river flows on’ way of thinking. Once it flows away from where I am, it won’t return. I’ve never gone to any reunions for the same reason.

    But I do have memories of course, and some often come back unexpectedly… πŸ™‚ :/

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  20. There are many places I still have to visit that cause a trigger in me. The town I grew up in and faced the worse is also where my favorite brother lives. I go there to visit him and often avoid going by the Big House of Horrors I grew up in. So much is connected to that town and I am drawn there as a magnet sometimes. Facing the fears and realizing that they are just a place I was and are no longer really helps.

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  21. No place like that for me. Residency was the same for my husband, but he loved where we lived – our first house and he worked hard to keep the house up -and I tried to prop him up on the nights he had off. We socialized with the other residents – softball games and dinners at Greek restaurants. We were in Chicago,a great place to be.

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  22. I used to work in a hospital and whenever they needed us, they would page us, and we would have to be where they wanted us to be, like, the very next second. When I got out of there, I would go to, say, a mall, and whenever I heard the *ding ding* of the PA system, my heart would race, my palms would start sweating, and I would wait for my name to be called, even though, duh, I was no longer in the hospital and of course the mall wouldn’t page me. This went on for months — it was reflex and it made me realize just how much I did NOT like working in a hospital. Some people thrive in an environment like that but not me, unfortunately.

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  23. My post today says a lot. Yes, I have skeletons in my closet, real horrors. I was very abused as a child. I have let go yet again another layer this week, setting myself more free. ❀

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  24. Philadelphia was full of places like that for me, when my marriage ended in Feb 2011 and I moved back here, just two months after the ex and I had left for NYC. It’s been a process of reclaiming this city I love and exorcising the ghosts of my life with him: reclaiming my favorite restaurants, neighborhoods, coffeeshops. It’s almost all okay now — been a long time since I’ve had that prickly sense of danger as I come around a corner — though I still largely avoid the areas where he and I lived for most of our years together.

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    • Bullying is really it, isn’t it. That is what all of these visceral feelings stem from. Bullying by family, spouses, coworkers, etc. I had not thought about my experiences in that way but as I reflect on it…


      • I honestly think med school and residency sounds like an awful awful ton of bullying. Some prolonged hazing (that lasts years!) ritual perpetuated in a culture of bullying.

        Liked by 1 person

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  26. Yes, I have plenty of haunted places like that with the ghosts of past experiences I’d rather forget. But when YOU drove there, it made ME think of your homeless people who would get paid to let you examine their prostate, etc. Oh dear.

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