I sit in clinic with my cup of tea. I see another patient. I listen to the parents. We talk. I order a few tests, arrange follow up. Yet at the end of the morning I still feel useless; I am so far from where I want to be. I know what my peers are doing. They are getting on with it: fellow registrars rushed off their feet working on rotas with multiple gaps, unable to eat their lunch let alone getting a cup of tea. This has become the norm. The norm now seems impossible.
At Christmas I was diagnosed with type 2 bipolar. As I continue to recover from the last couple of years, I struggle to see how I can possibly manage to work in the acute paediatric setting that I once thrived in: the fast pace, the quick thinking, complex decision making, unpredictability, staff shortages, responsibility… I used to be able to do all this.
I grieve for the doctor I used to be. She had an incredible passion and drive for medicine, for improving care, for teaching and training. She was amazing with her patients. I miss her so much.
Mid April 2018
I went to meet my supervisor prior to returning to work. As I entered the hospital I could feel the panic rising in my chest. Each junior doctor that I passed in the corridor seemed to walk with confidence, exuding brilliance as they strode off. The more people I passed, the more anxious I became and the smaller and smaller I felt inside. I headed outside, the panic growing further. I tried to phone my friend, my husband, another friend. Nobody was available. I clung onto a wall near the entrance of the hospital. I thought of all the resources and strategies my therapist has taught me in the last two years. My breathing steadied and my chest loosened. Slowly I felt better.
Maybe that is what I need to remember when I am sitting in clinic feeling inadequate, like I am not pulling my weight or haven’t shown my face on the ward. Three months ago I couldn’t walk into the hospital without having a panic attack. Three months ago I was terrified at the idea of having coffee with a colleague. Three months ago I couldn’t manage the drive to work without crying.
It turns out I have achieved a lot, I just need to readjust my yard stick. You can’t run before you can walk.
I know I can still be the inspiring paediatric doctor that I have always wanted to be, the question I have to answer is whether I still want to do that. It comes at a cost and, maybe for me, that cost is just too great.
There are other options out there. Just because your path was mapped out years ago doesn’t mean you can’t stop and rethink, take a risk and start afresh. Maybe a new start is what I need.