'I would certainly strongly recommend that he does not return to his former type of work and the pressures that this involves.'
Yes I was battered and bruised, and no I wasn't capable of fulfilling all the duties of a consultant but despite this I still had a role to play, a way I could contribute to the specialty that I loved, a reason to belong in EM. For the first time in nearly two years I wasn't just a problem, I was a solution.
These are a few lessons from my personal experience across three time frames, prior to, during and after a breakdown, six ways that I believe I could have helped myself in the past and three more that I am working on in the present.
I'm still struggling, I still feel damaged and I have days which leave me angry and frustrated but despite all of that, here are ten things that I am convinced would not have happened if I hadn't broken and for which I am grateful.
The reason I started writing this blog was to be open about my own struggles with the stresses of working in Emergency Medicine. By writing about my experience of burnout and recovery I hoped to make those who were struggling feel less alone, to help their colleagues understand a little better what they might be going through and to generally reduce the stigma that exists around mental health issues within medicine. To that end it is time for me to be honest again... after just over a year of being back to work, I’ve actually now been out of clinical medicine again for the last ten months.
A lot of what you are about to read is pretty unpleasant, far from inspiring and at times quite shameful, I will not attempt to justify any of it, but please hang in there until the end. What I am hoping is that you don’t relate to any of this and that you and your colleagues are nothing like the person I describe below: sadly I suspect this will not be the case for many. If you do recognise yourself in my story, I hope you realise that you need help. The reality is you probably already know but maybe reading this will give you permission to ask for that help.
Should you know someone who is broken, help them, support them, invest time and effort in them because they almost certainly still have a lot to offer. Who you get back may not be who you lost but surely it has to be worth trying... you’d want someone to do the same for you, wouldn’t you?