A Snapshot Of Mental Health


Treading Water

I think as we go through life we will all have different phases. Times when we are killing it and crushing life, moving forward at the speed of light. Times where everything is calm, relaxed and peaceful, and life is good and happy. And times when the wheels are coming off the bus and it’s all you can do to stay on the road.
I’ve certainly been through all those phases multiple times in my life. Just as my anxiety and panic have had their ups and downs through the years. I was always anxious even as a kid, I remember being afraid to sleep at night for years, hiding under my blankets until exhaustion would creep in and lull me to sleep. For many years my anxiety was not something that registered to me, it was just my normal state of being to worry constantly and be an insomniac, and I thought it was perfectly ordinary.
In college I had my first bout of life-altering anxiety and panic. I was then, as I am now, a highly functional, competitive, type A person who was always involved in 12 different things at once and making my way towards medical school. In the wake of my first real and terrible breakup, I became unwound. Beyond just the typical break-up blues, I was in constant state of anxiety. Then, as it had been now, I sought medical helps in multiple ways, and had many physical symptoms. I went to my college’s medical clinic and counselor and even to the ER with symptoms that in hind-sight were born of my anxiety disorder. This episode also led me to have a brief run of using diet pills that gave me dangerous tachy-arrhythmias. Luckily, my roommates and friends pulled me out of my own head and got me back on solid ground.
My second life-changing encounter with anxiety and panic happened in medical school. During my first two years of school I became more and more reclusive. I could not enter a classroom or have an encounter with my classmates or professors or take an exam without having a panic attack. I got to the point where I did not want to leave the house to get groceries, as I was terrified everyone I met was judging me and could see that I was falling apart. I went to the dean of the school and requested to take a year off. At that time, I did not know if I was ever going to go back to medicine. I worked as a research assistant for a year in a darling company in Yellow Springs, and slowly found my way back to myself and to living a regular life. I was able to become reinvigorated and upon returning to medical school, I found myself and my place again in the world.
My anxiety has continued in bursts and spurts, always there at some level since that time. In residency, terrible physical injury led to another prolonged episode of worsened anxiety, and depression. It is only because of the love of my life Rob that I have been able to come out of all these past episodes unscathed. He is my grounding force and my light, and he has never, ever wavered in his support of me.
I write about these past episodes now as a way of release. As a way to remind myself that I have been there before and come out the other side. As a way to acknowledge my own innate humanity and struggles. In taking time to reflect, I am able to get outside of myself temporarily and let myself know that there is a way out of this.
And that could not be more important. Because right now I feel as if I am treading water and only a second away from drowning. I feel as if my panic is not coming in “attacks” but is a constant force underneath my skin on the verge of tearing through. I have moments where I succumb to the panic and cry and scream until I cannot take even one more breath. So I need to remember that I am a person who has had this struggle before and come through it. I need to tell myself that it is going to be okay. I need it to be okay.


International Women’s Day


In honor of International Women’s Day here’s to all the amazing, smart, kind, generous, beautiful, strong, dedicated ladies in the world! ❤️❤️
As I’ve gotten older I have become more strongly attached to being a woman. I grew up a tomboy and pretty oblivious to gender roles in society, thanks in large part to my family always making sure I knew I could excel at whatever I chose to do in life. Over time, I’ve seen blatant and subtle acts of sexism pepper my days. I’ve seen the vast differences in how women are treated based on their culture, religion, ethnicity. I’ve reflected back on my own life and how it has been shaped by my gender, even if I didn’t realize it… the opportunities I had, and the ones I didn’t.
I am grateful for my experience in the world as a woman. I’m grateful for my voice when so many women in the world are forced to be silent. I’m grateful to be able to stand up for myself and to speak out against gender disparity. I am grateful for my amazing husband, the center of my world, who is an awesome feminist and a true partner to me. I am grateful for all the many phenomenal women I know and how we celebrate and empower each other!


Goal Jeans


Many people would look at these photos and be mortified to post them online. These jeans obviously are too small and all my fat rolls are hanging everywhere 😆. Guess what? I could not be more proud of this picture. I was ashamed of my body for my whole life, then one day 18 months ago I stopped being ashamed. And I stopped being afraid.
I finally said, you know what, this is my current body, it kinda sucks and it’s unhealthy and in pain all the time and it’s holding me back, but it’s me. I stopped running away from myself and started to see myself for who I really was. That someone was much the same person I am today- smart, caring, type A control freak, a pretty good doc, sometimes funny and sometimes mean, a well rounded person. But that version of me wasn’t healthy. I was hiding and ashamed of how my body had gotten so out of control and limited me from doing the things I loved in life.
So today, I am not ashamed of how flawed my body still is. I choose to look past the fat and the cellulite and the loose skin and the pannus and the wrinkles and the saggy boobs and see the good. The muscles which are getting stronger every day. How my skin is so much healthier and acne free since I started eating better. That my patients still think I’m 20 😆😆😆.
Everything in life is about perspective. I choose to be proud and happy that I can finally kind of button these jeans. These are my “goal jeans” from college- good old Abercrombie and Fitch size 12. Whether or not I ever am able to button these all the way is beside the point. That would be great, but I’m going to choose to focus on how far I’ve already come, not how much further I have to go. I’ve already met and surpassed so many of my goals, and I choose to believe I can do anything I put my mind to. 💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻 ❤️❤️❤️

Instagram @doctorofacertainsize
#drjennygetsfit #goals

F*ck Skinny, Get Fit!


Riiiiiiiiight???? Over the last 15 years I constantly dreamed of being thinner. We are bombarded day in and out with unrealistic body ideals, and it’s hard not to succumb to that vision. But my dreams were not really about my physical appearance, they were always about how much better my quality of life would be when I lost weight. I would dream about hiking in the mountains, skiing, scuba diving, running, playing volleyball, or even just being able to walk my dogs in the woods. For me losing weight is not about the final number on the scale, or the size clothes I wear, or conforming to some insane misogynistic beauty ideal. At the same time, it can be so hard to let go of the numbers. My goal has been to lose 106 pounds, and it is frustrating to still be 17 pounds from meeting that. Being able to let the scale do what it will do, and to keep working on improving my health has been so difficult, but I have been gaining more patience recently and acceptance of my body, regardless of what the scale says.
I am never going to be a stick thin model. I have #thickthighs and a #bootyfordays and #curves to spare. I used to hate all of those things when I was a teenager growing up, I wanted to be petite and limber and delicate like my friends. With the wisdom of age I know that my body is becoming stronger and more muscular everyday, which only means that I will able to do more and participate fully in my life. I have learned to love my strong body and my curves and to flaunt them instead of hiding them. I’m embracing my newly found sense of self and my body. No more sitting back wishing I could do things, time to get out there and live it. So let’s ditch the word “skinny” from our vocabularies and focus on being healthy, strong, and fit.

“Where Does He Work?”



I went to the doctor today. I’ve been battling an overuse injury in my right leg and finally relented to getting another opinion other than myself and my friends. This injury has really been hampering my training, and has been super annoying. First off, I am a bad patient like most doctors are. I go to hear their advice and opinion, but I do not always follow it. Even going into this visit I declined to do the routine x-rays until I saw the doctor and was examined. Sometimes when you are in the practice of medicine you have too much knowledge for your own good. I know I will push things past the limit I would recommend to my patients. I’m happy to report that I had no major injury- no stress fracture! I’m going to try my best to take it a little easier and not overdo it with my running this next month so that I can run my half marathon in May.
Anyway, I get there and I’m sitting getting checked in by the M.A. I had to come from work for the appointment, as I couldn’t get a time on my days off. This picture is from my visit today and what I was wearing.  The M.A. is going through my meds and history and reviewing my records and then comes to check my blood pressure. So I’m sitting there in my pink scrubs, which are embroidered with my name, “Dr. Hartsock”. I’m sitting there and she is taking my blood pressure and she says “I’ve heard that name before, where does he work?”
Boom. It seems even in scrubs embroidered in my own name, I still am not seen as a physician. Yes, I am young. Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I like the color pink. Yes, I am polite. Yes, I smile a lot. It is possible to be all those things and still be a bad ass doctor.
I hope as more and more women enter into medicine our implicit gender biases and gut reaction to assume every doctor must be a man can be overcome! We are women, and we are doctors, damnit!

Women in Medicine


I was lucky to be raised in a place and time where I have not had any significant barrier in my way because I am a woman. I have been allowed to make my own choices, to pursue my own path in life, and my gender never deterred me from achieving what I set out to do. Can you imagine being a woman a hundred or two hundred years ago or more? Surely I would have been burned at the stake as a witch for believing in science and forgoing religion. Even today, in an alarming number of countries in the world I would be murdered in cold blood for being an independent woman who says what she wants, does what she wants, dresses how she wants. I can imagine nothing more terrifying in this day in age than still being expected to be subjugate to a man.
Does that mean my life as a female physician is without challenges? Unfortunately, no. Our older generation still holds on to long outdated ideals and many are blatantly sexist and racist. I long for the day when I glide into my patients’ rooms and every one of them puts down their phone and says “I’m sorry I’ll have to call you back the DOCTOR (not the social worker, the nurse, the PCT, the housekeeper) is here”. There still exists in medicine, as in many other fields, a double standard for women physicians. Yes we can have the big, high paying, important jobs in any specialty we want. We can lead our groups and practices and departments. We can invent new drugs and treatments and policies that change the face of medicine… but we are still expected to be married, have babies, and manage the entire household and family without missing a beat. I am in awe of my friends in medicine who have children. They work all day, 12 or more hours, and then go home and see their kids and have dinner ready for the whole family. They are expected to be just as excellent at work without any concessions to motherhood and raising a family. They work right up to their delivery and are back working full time shifts 6 weeks later. These women are a force to be reckoned with.
Not only is motherhood in medicine a contentious issue, but our behavior as women in medicine is judged differently. How many times in your training and practice have you encountered an arrogant male physician who says whatever he wants, does whatever he wants, and gets away with it? Male physicians can sexually harass female staff, throw tantrums in the OR, and talk to their patients as rudely as they wish. These behaviors are often overlooked as the doctor is seen to be too valuable an asset to address their behavioral issues. In the same vein, women physicians who act out are more easily reprimanded and even terminated for being “difficult”. Women in medicine who veer outside the traditional norms of a caring, maternal figure are labeled as too assertive, uncaring, cold, and bitchy rather than seen as confident, rational, decisive, and proficient. The implicit biases of gender stereotypes still confer women a disadvantage in a field once solely practiced by men.
Even with the challenges we face as women in medicine, there’s nothing I’d rather do. We are changing the practice and the face of medicine. We are strong and capable and we will continue to break boundaries and overcome any obstacles in our path. We are women in medicine. ❤️❤️❤️


Being a Hospitalist


As a hospitalist my main weapons are not scalpels or catheters or ET tubes. I’m not pulling 13 hour days in the OR or performing back to back intubations in the ICU. My arsenal relies on my knowledge, my communication skills and my documentation skills.

Hospitalist medicine is still a rather new area of practice, having been around only for a few decades. It may be frustrating as a patient to know you won’t see your personal physician in the hospital, but that also frees up your doctor to devote more time to his or her office patients. Since we are all trained in general medicine in either Internal Medicine or Family Medicine, our job is to know a little bit of everything. I love being able to take a global view of my patients and their health, as opposed to specializing in any one arena. One of my favorite aspects of being a physician is sorting through a complex patient and trying to bring the entire picture into focus. There isn’t anything like the feeling you get when you clinch an elusive diagnosis and get the patient stated on the right path.

Documentation is the lifeblood of hospitalist medicine. We weave the stories of our patients lives and maladies into electronic records. Our words determine how sick someone is considered to be by the insurance company and if they will pay for and reimburse the hospital for our treatment. A simple turn of phrase and semantics can lead to a major reconfiguration of someone’s severity of illness. You learn very quickly the power of your words and how they can alter the shape of your patients’ lives.
Our profession as hospitalists really comes to life at the bedside. At the bedside I’m able to use my words to comfort, to heal, to reassure, to clarify and explain, to make the difficult to understand simple and accessible. In a few short minutes I can go from never having met a patient to gaining their trust, easing their anxiety, and providing them a clear course of action. It’s not always easy. Sometimes there is no answer for the patient’s complaints. Sometimes the tests come back with unexpected, life- changing results. Sometimes the answers we find are not what the patient wants to hear. In its these moments at the bedside that I always remember why I chose to become a physician. That connection you make with a patient, whether you’ve known them 5 minutes or 50 years, it transcends science and data and medicine. It simply goes back to human connection. That connection is the root of everything I do. I am so grateful for the opportunities this job provides me to do it again and again, day after day.

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