McDreamy and Me

Learning About More Than Anatomy From Grey’s Anatomy

“Do you know who you are? Do you understand what has happened to you? Do you want to live this way?”

I began binge-watching “Grey’s Anatomy” last summer. Praised highly by a friend, the show was first just a summertime interlude. But it quickly evolved into a strong personal connection. After watching 11 seasons back-to-back on Netflix, a sort of dynamic between the show and me developed that gave some insight into my life. The opening quotation comes from the show’s tenth season and delightfully sums up what I have learned from the show’s current run.

Derek Shepherd, a series regular, has had the greatest impact on me since starting this show. I aspire to become a neurosurgeon one day—his profession on “Grey’s Anatomy.” Other than having taught me myriad medical terminology and neurological diseases, Derek connected with me on a deeper, personal level. Although his life events are comparably more intense than mine, it’s the way in which he attempts to repair his life that I find engaging. What this show does the best is that it clearly lays out a series of events and explains what the characters do to move on from them, much like what we do when such severe events happen to us. The show provides a blueprint for how to handle trauma.

Neurosurgeon Derek Shepherd met his wife, then-intern Meredith Grey, who also serves as the show’s narrator, at the beginning of the series. His relationship with her was bumpy at first, with problems as major as Derek’s hidden (and cheating) wife and as banal as the ceaseless fights that evolve between the two. Nevertheless, the two are always able to find compatibility despite their differences to help solve their conflicts; Derek assists in easing the transition from hostility to compassion in most circumstances. Even though I haven’t nearly reached marriage level, his link with Meredith has had an influence on how I have relationships with other people.

Derek is a very calm and collected man. He’s documented as a world-class neurosurgeon, but through the events of the series is able to acknowledge himself when he missteps. At first he was seen as slightly arrogant, but now is able to branch out from his old ways and become a humble, modest man. He knows how to make his point while respecting the others’ opinions as well as being able to agree on a solution to the issue. By season 10, Derek was able to leave a once-in-a-lifetime brain mapping job in DC in order to stay back in Seattle when Meredith refused to leave. I’m usually the sort of person that thinks I’m always right and that my way is the only way. Now I look at things twice just as Derek does: how will this affect me, and how will this affect the person in the situation with me?

Derek has also been shot on this series. No, I have not been shot before, but I have lived through the trauma-filled revolution in Egypt four years ago. Gun shots flew all around me, and I witnessed horrendous things happen to people. The show in its middle-run had a gunman enter the hospital and attack multiple people—including Derek. But before being shot, he was able to make sure everyone else was safe and that those who weren’t wounded remained that way, including his wife. I also endeavored to make sure my mom and little brother remained safe since my father wasn’t in Egypt at the time. The situations were obviously different, but I believe that how we both responded resembled one another.

Trauma in “Grey’s Anatomy” isn’t limited to shootings; the cast was also in a major plane crash. Many were injured and many died. Derek, however, did not. Instead, he damaged his hand, and it seemed that he could not perform surgery anymore. I can identify: I recently fractured my leg. I play basketball—scratch that, I eat, sleep, and breathe basketball. So when I discovered that I may not be able to play, it was one of the most fearful moments I had to face, just like it was for Derek when he recognized he may have to abandon his profession and passion. He managed to push through and was able to do surgery after countless rehab sessions, just as I did. We both are now able to do what we love the most.

This show, analogous to our lives, recycles. Damage is inflicted, and we personally have to uncover a way to mend ourselves. In doing this, we echo back on who we are and how we manage our lives. The show urges us to reason:

“Do you know who you are? Do you understand what has happened to you? Do you want to live this way?”