I broke

Three weeks today I return to work after a long period away. This wasn’t leave that I had looked forward to or planned. It was imposed on me by my health, or perhaps I should say my ill health.



Back in June 2017 things had got pretty bad. In fact I hadn’t really realised how bad. It had all crept up on me insidiously. A thick dark fog had descended on the world. My soul, my passion and my enthusiasm for life seeped from my exhausted body. Yet my mind was racing, my thoughts so jumbled that at times that I could not make sense of them. I was worn out by the constant indecision, the questioning, the anticipation and anxiety. I felt like I was at breaking point but was compelled to carry on. Giving up work was not an option. In fact I despised myself for showing any sign of weakness; having time off epitomised failure as a medical professional.  People tried to tell me otherwise, but when it came to my situation, all I heard were empty words.



There is a culture ingrained in medicine of not asking for help. Fragility and vulnerability are not desirable attributes in a doctor.  This misconception silenced me for years. I tried my best to be tough, to repeatedly pick myself up, dust myself off and crack on. So, when my psychiatrist advised me to take some time off work, I sat opposite him and sobbed. I was broken. I was a failure. My job had finally defeated me.

As I left my local GP surgery the following day with a sick note in my bag, all I felt was guilt. My colleagues, my patients, their families… nowhere in that moment did I think to spare a thought for myself. Medicine teaches us to be kind, empathic and caring. Maybe it’s time that we started to treat ourselves with that same level of compassion…

What do you do for yourself?




One thought on “I broke”

  1. This is truly heartbreaking. Thank God you met with your psychiatrist, but to feel broken in that way must have been utterly shattering to the core.

    When I put together my first book proposal for a book topic that didn’t work out, I contacted Dr. Liz Miller to write the foreword. I saw her in Stephen Fry’s documentary and I was impressed with how she lived her life.

    As you might know, she co-founded the Doctors Support Network, the confidential self-help group for physicians in the United Kingdom with mental health concerns. That was one of the coolest things I admired about her. Until then, I had no idea that physicians went through enormous trials and tribulations and it was totally understandable!

    You asked us, “What do you do for yourself?” Well, I take my meds religiously, I walk my dog for exercise, and I see a therapist & psychiatrist regularly. I read & listen to music. I enjoy my wacky family although they make me nuts.

    There is a lot of room for improvement. My sleep sucks. Although I’m vegan and I’m very happy I made that choice, I’m a sugar addict & compulsive overeater so I’m no paragon of health. If I could sleep better and improve my diet, I feel that my life would improve 50%, but I also feel close-to-hopeless that I could achieve either of those goals.

    We shall see!

    Thanks for your post!🐬


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