3 Ways Grey's Anatomy Has Inspired Me To Get Healthy

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I started watching Grey’s Anatomy on a Thursday night and found myself polishing off season 3 (and a pint of Talenti) by Sunday. That was two weeks ago, and I just started season 6 yesterday. This is absolutely out of character for me. I am really not a “binge-watcher,” mostly because I have the attention span of a toddler at Disney World (side note: I’ve never been to Disney World, so this is conjecture.) But this time, I couldn’t get enough. Every episode is an emotional roller-coaster; there is an abundance of pain, loss, grief, lust, and general uncertainty all wrapped into one 45-minute meltdown. But aside from their delicious drama and sickening good looks, the characters on Grey’s Anatomy have affected me in a way that I did not expect.

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Now, I should establish that I know NOTHING about medicine, but by watching this show I feel that I know more than I did before. I now know the difference between a neurosurgeon and a neurologist, and I have learned what “orthopedic” means (make fun of me all you want, but I previously thought this term meant “old people doctor”). But, perhaps most importantly, watching Grey’s Anatomy has made me much more conscious of my health and overall well-being. I’ve watched too many patients go into Seattle Grace Hospital with minor discomfort and end up with a much more serious prognosis.

For my entire life, I’ve been relatively blasé about my health. I’m known to just wait for things to go away on their own, and, so far, I’ve been pretty lucky with that approach (knock on wood). But I know that the “just ignore it and it’ll go away” method won’t always be effective. After watching (too much) Grey’s Anatomy, my health isn’t just hiding in the back of my mind anymore. It’s sneaking its way up to the main stage.

At twenty-five, I am now fully on my own when it comes to my health. My parents aren’t going to remind me to go to the doctor, and I’m not going to receive a cute little card in the mail from my pediatrician reminding me that it’s time for my physical. My health and my body is absolutely in my hands, and it is about time I started paying attention. Now, I am way more conscious of factors like stress, sleep, diet, and exercise. I’ve stopped (okay… cut down on) staying out drinking until 3am on a Wednesday only to wake up four hours later for work with a hangover sent from Hades. I’ve made it a point to introduce much more consistency and health-conscious living into my lifestyle. Examples:

1. Whack-a-mole

If you saw my earlier piece on tanning, you already know that I’ve exposed my skin to WAY too many UV rays. What can I say, I was a cheerleader in high school – those outfits show a lot of skin! I never thought much of my freckles and moles, but when I watched Izzie get diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma, which had spread to other organs, giving her a 5% chance of survival, I made an appointment with the derm. Looking up images of cancerous moles on Google and comparing them to my moles and freckles just didn’t cut it for me, and I wanted an expert’s opinion. Turns out, I’m all good, although I did get a bit of shade about the fact that I was tan in our abnormally long New York City winter. It’s spray, I swear!

2. OBGY-NO!

Going to the Gynecologist is one of the things I hate most in this world. First of all, the office is riddled with posters showing statistics about unplanned pregnancies, STDs and cervical cancer. Second, they make you pee in a cup, which is never cute. And third, I ALWAYS feel like my doctor is judging me, no matter how many times she tells me she isn’t. I mean, even I’M judging me... let’s be real. But watching a pregnant mother on Grey’s worry about being HIV positive and whether the condition would affect her child, I got freaked. So, I made an appointment to go see my OB/GYN and get tested for STDs, which I hadn’t done since college. Luckily, I’m clean for all – high five!

3. Therap-hayyyy

Meredith Grey is initially very resistant to therapy. She doesn’t open up to her therapist, which makes every one of her problems exacerbate one another and wreak havoc in her career and personal relationships. Similarly, Dr. Hunt is resistant to divulging details about his traumatic experiences in Iraq. It takes a near-death experience for Meredith, and almost sleep-choking (is that a thing?) Cristina for Hunt, for the two to actually open up to their therapists and confront the roots of their issues.

I’ve been seeing a therapist occasionally ever since I switched jobs a year ago, and have mostly spoken to her about work, job interviews, and general “surface level” topics. However, seeing these characters change their lives by opening themselves up and allowing a therapist to give them advice encouraged me to do the same. Little by little (let’s face it, we all hate being vulnerable), I began talking about my family, my dating life, my friends, and the myriad of pressures and challenges I face as a 25-year-old woman in New York City. Guys, I can’t even tell you how therapeutic (lol pun) this was. I wasn’t judged or embarrassed, like I thought I would be. My therapist made me feel a lot better, and actually thanked me for allowing her to get to know me a little more personally. And if you’re not open to sitting across from a stranger and telling them your problems, or you aren’t exactly willing to fork over the dubloons involved, there are a variety of online and app-based resources where you can Skype, text, or chat via phone with a certified professional. If it worked for Dr. Hunt, Meredith, and me… Why not give it a try?

This isn’t a post plugging Grey’s Anatomy (but Shonda, if you’re reading, please stop killing off the hottest characters) or a preachy attempt to be holier-than-thou. But if reading this pushes you to think about scheduling the physical you’ve been putting off, or getting that weird mole checked out, I’ll feel pretty damn good. In the words of Doctor McDreamy, “It’s a beautiful day to save lives.”

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