By Anil Idiculla

Caped crusaders.  Champions of good.  Protectors of the universe.  Dominators of snaggle.

Whatever you wanna call it.  Superheroes.  We are all superheroes.  We all have a special superpower that is unique to us.  In every situation.  These superpowers can change depending on where we are in life and who we are with, but we all have them.  Do not forget this.  Learn what it is, channel it at the right time, and use it wisely.
I thrive on being positive and uplifting to everyone that I meet.  Many have you have heard me say, “Life is the lens you see it through”.  I will almost always view life through the eyes of a child.  It is way more fun that way!  I hope to never grow up. And that is one of the biggest reasons why I love being an orthodontist.  What is my superpower?  Most of the time, it’s to Live Life Smiling™.  It’s just what I do.  It’s in my blood.  It doesn’t take practice or effort.  It just…is.
This past month, however, has been one of the toughest that I can remember.  The practice is up.  My friends are the dopest squad around.  My family is all alive and full of love.  But some kryptonite appeared out of nowhere and caught me by surprise.  I am not used kryptonite…either because it doesn’t appear that often, or I don’t let it affect me that much.  These were huge pieces of kryptonite, though.  I was catching myself staying isolated and not reaching out to anyone…not even my closest friends and family out of embarrassment or fear of looking mortal.  When you are a beacon of positivity, it is tough to have a bad day publicly.  I literally became communicatively paralyzed.  I went into what I call “turtle mode”, where I crawled into my shell and stayed there, trying to process what was going on and how to “fix” it all.

Well, now I am here to show you my vulnerability and the lessons that I have learned through this.  I am not through the storm yet, but I know that I will.

  1. Family and friends are everything.

At the end of the day, they are all that I have.  During the week of Thanksgiving, we asked a bunch of our patients on video what they were most thankful for.  Almost every single kiddo mentioned a person, ~not~ a material thing.  Life is the lens you see it through, right?  People and experiences are more important than stuff.  Always.  Reach out to your loved ones today and tell them how much you love them and why you love them.  You never know how long you have with them.  There is no promise of tomorrow.

  1. Online study clubs are not just about practice building.

I reached out to my fellow members in ProOrtho FE when I was down.  I didn’t give out any details of what was going on…just that I was in a rough spot.  The amount of responses, texts, phone calls, and prayer was unheard of.  I know that I am not alone and that I have so much support from all across the country.

  1. Ask THE question when a friend is in a dark place.

I was driving in my car early one Saturday morning to gain clarity.  I love waking up early because my head is clear, the city is quiet, and I get to work out and listen to my favorite music and reflect on life in pure solitude.  This day, however, one of my buddies that knew I was struggling through our text exchanges called me.  I never spoke to him on the phone about it because I was in full turtle mode.  I hesitated to interrupt my favorite time of the day, but I answered the call.  Within 3 seconds of the phone call, I started sobbing.  Ugly cry.  Like can’t catch your breath cry.  My friend knew that this was pretty serious and unlike me.  I couldn’t even speak and I did not want to speak about it.  I was not supposed to break down and show weakness.  And then he asked me the question.  The question that I will never forget.  My friend asked me, “Anil, are you in a safe place and have you thought about hurting yourself?”  WTF?  Me?  Hurt myself?  And then it hit me.  This question was one that I remembered was the number one take-home message from a TEDx talk I attended in Denver.  This question is the number one question to ask ~anyone~ in order to prevent something terrible, aka suicide, from happening.  I lost my number one mentor in orthodontics to suicide.  He was the happiest, kindest, and most inspiring man that I have met to this day in our entire profession.  He lit a fire in my heart to truly be me and live an authentic life.  When my friend asked me this, I was definitely in a safe place and I was in no way thinking of hurting myself.  BUT I knew from this question alone, that my friend cared for me so deeply that he had to get “uncomfortable” and ask me this.  I instantly stopped crying, and I thanked him for asking me this because I know why he did.  I beg all of you to think about this and ask this question to anyone that you know that might be surprisingly quiet, that does not have friends, and/or that isolates themselves.  You just might save their life.

  1. Therapy is amazing.

“Busy water has no reflection”.  I am slowing down my life to look at myself more.  I have now decided to start seeing a therapist to help me work on my weaknesses.  WTF again?  Anil?  Seeing a therapist?  Some people use the title “life coach”.  Some people use the title “executive coach”.  I don’t care what you call it, but I am seeing a therapist.  Does this make me feel bad?  Not one minute.  I love it.  I am learning so much about myself and how to become better as an orthodontist, as a friend, as a son, and as a future husband and father (God willing).  I am working on getting rid of turtle mode.  I am working on being okay with imperfections.  I am working on letting others love and take care of me.  I am working on a lot.

Doctors…this post comes from my vulnerability.  This post is to let you know that you are not alone.  This post just might save a life.  This post is about letting someone out there know that it is okay to struggle because I am struggling.  I hope and pray that this helps our profession out a little more.  If any of you reading this is having a hard time dealing with some kryptonite, please know that you can call me right away on my cell phone which is (215) 908-0008. And remember…

It ain’t a motto, people.  It’s a lifestyle.
Most of the time:)
Live Life Smiling™,


P.S.  A special thanks to those of you that helped me battle my kryptonite.  You know who you are.  I will never forget what you have done for me.



17 thoughts on “When SUPERMAN meets KRYPTONITE

  1. Anil, that was brave, courageous and inspiring. I lost a brother to suicide in 1998, he was 34, lived in Littleton, CO and lived life smiling. No-one really new the kryptonite he was dealing with – including me; he was the best man in my wedding and I wish that I or someone around him could have asked him that tough question. Having a friend ask that hard question is a gift and sharing your story is as well. I have my own kryptonite times, battle isolation, believe in therapy cause it’s helped me, understand that family and friends are the bedrock. Truth be told, we all have those times just that we each have our own gaidge of “D”denial. Thanks for the transparency, brutal honesty, and encouragement. My experience, recovery from these times is painful but an awesome thing.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story. Incredibly brave and inspiring to read. Life is a continual journey both externally and internally. We complete our careers and often can ignore developing internally. Your support system is always there: slowing down to simply breathe allows the light in. Wishing you well as you find your inner peace.

  3. Anil, that letter was an amazing and brave gesture on your part and I pray that you find peace. We all have our doubts, insecurities and depressions and we all require a strong support group around us. Unfortunately I know all too well the battles that you spoke of and I would be happy to speak to you if you should ever need a fresh shoulder to lean on or a different perspective. My cell phone number is 973-495-5832 and I am available to anyone who needs my help. I have not had the honor of meeting you yet but I have been inspired by your life lessons and hope to meet you in the future.

  4. Thank you for sharing Anil, that takes a lot of courage and also a lot of love to help inspire others to find their way.

  5. Thanks so much for your vulnerability to share Anil. I think the ‘grinders’ are the most susceptible to kryptonite because they/we don’t want to admit that we have a weakness, and when we realize we do, we stuff it because we don’t want to let others down…..they expect us to be invincible and we want to be that for them too. Your points are awesome- – thanks man. Seth

  6. Take a driven type A achiever,put them in a dental school envoirenment with unrealistic outcome goals, maximise the psychiatric input with some pathologic “mentors”and watch the psychological effects over the year !
    As a profession we are not kind to ourselves or each other—-generally.

  7. Thank you for this message Anil (and Ben). Dental professionals are often perfectionists and seem to be overly critical of their own perceived failings. This, combined with the pressure of being a small business owner can be a extremely difficult.

  8. Can you take out the “a” in my comment before the words “extremely difficult”

  9. Change the Superman “S” to a “K” and you get Kuperman. Superman was my favorite hero on TV in the 50’s, and most of you are too young to know. Like many of you, I met with many successes….eventually starting an Ortho practice at the ripe old age of 26. As the managing partner in the process of building a 20,000 sf building with 5 partners, I totally stressed out. Lost 20 pounds. Could not sleep. Food was tasteless. Medication was limited in 1984 but it did not really help. It took everything I had to make it through the day and to come home to two young kids and not show it. Basically, after 6 months of counseling, I worked through it. Maybe I was lucky…but I am certainly grateful. It happens out of the clear blue with no real reason. It can happen to anyone at any time. Your story is fantastic…Thank you for sharing…Most of us would never dare. Every day presents its challenges and we simply have to personally grow into accepting and dealing with them the best we can. The bad news is that is simply the way life is. I love my work. I love my patients and my staff…and I really love my family most of all. It makes life easy and fun. Unfortunately I still remain crazy…but at least I am not stupid. Thanks again for opening up your life to help others.

  10. I admire your courage, your rational approach, and your logical conclusion. At one time or another we all need someone to lean on. And there’s nothing better than one more sunrise. Go for it.

  11. Thank you, everyone, for the kind words. Let’s keep helping everyone be better more often, both professionally and personally.

  12. Thank you for this courageous post. I think in the rush of our daily lives we really forget the bigger picture, and we end up so mired in whatever difficulties we are going through. Your post came at such a perfect time where I have been feeling so overwhelmed, and just like you, I have retreated and not been willing to discuss it with anyone. We want to keep the image that we are strong and can handle anything… but I think that we can learn that strength also means having the courage to let down our shields.
    Reading this and knowing that there are others who feel this way helps so much.

  13. I’ve never met you but I have to say that I’m so proud of your honesty and candor. I know I’ve felt the same sense of being overtaken by something so dark and overwhelming at different times in my life (losing my father during my residency, losing my best friend to cancer 31 days after being diagnosed, adjusting to becoming a mom at age 40, the list goes on) You find yourself pushing through and pretending to be fine and stuffing all those dark moments in a closet. We get up everyday and go to work and put our professional mask on because that’s what we are supposed to do. I think most of us have the mindset that we have become experts in our profession, so we have the ability and intellect to handle everything that comes our way. But the reality is that we don’t. But it’s expected. We expect it from ourselves and those around us expect it too. That’s where the problem is. So it’s okay to reach out for help or even share that you are not okay right now. It’s actually reassuring to those around us to see that we are human and vulnerable. It can be humbling. And that is a good thing. I compare this to when I became a mother. I would say that motherhood evens out the playing field. You can be a PhD or a teenage mom but you both have the exact same job to do and figure it out along the way. You learn as you go. If you dont have all the answers, you ask for help and advice. I try to apply this to all the aspects of my life, as often as I can. People love to feel needed. Those moments, like the one you shared, can be the most rewarding;)

    Thanks for reminding me to be human again, sometimes I forget!

  14. Anil, lots of love and good Karma coming from me to you. I have walked your walk and the path is long and hard but so well worth it. You deserve the things that you have been searching for and in time they will come. I will always be here for you. Reach out anytime.

  15. Anil, for many years, I have kept the follow in my conscious to get me through the results of my passion.

    We are not an inland into ourselves.

    From Ken Olsen
    Strive for growth, not perfection.

    We are not strong all the time.

    Listen to the children talk.

    Love is a decision to forgive and not keep score.

    I myself am the enemy that must be loved.

    One of the statements in the creed of a mentor: “Lord, give me a few good friends who know me and yet love me.”

    Anil, you make a significant difference for many, you have a courage to be modeled for us all and you are blessed with some amazing friends! You are such a blessing and you are loved!

  16. Anil, thank you for sharing your recent experience! I appreciate your honesty about dealing with your personal struggles and I can relate to it at one time or another. Sometimes I think as orthodontists, we believe we can do almost anything, and I believe this is true most of the time. But, there are times when we struggle and feel isolated about a particular difficulty that we tend to go through what you call “Turtle mode”. I’ve felt like this numerous times in residency and even in certain aspects of my own life. If you ever need to talk man, let me know, I always am down to chat with a colleague and friend about anything. You can fb message me anytime

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