Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Return of Happiness

Years ago, when I was early in residency training, I wrote a post on the first version of this blog called "Fundamentally Happy"*.  In it, I talked about how, despite the many challenges of residency, at my core I was happy.  Satisfied with where I was in life and with where I was going.

Earlier this year, I lost that feeling.  Not just for a moment, but for months on end.  I felt like I was working constantly and as if life was a perpetual slog through overbooked clinics and piles of paperwork.  In the beginning, I was having trouble staying caught up for more than the briefest of moments, and eventually I lost the ability to ever catch up.  I was slowly drowning.

It has taken a lot to come back.   I have drawn on every resource available to me to get through this, and I have been so lucky to have been met by nothing but support everywhere I went.  Support from friends, colleagues (remember the one who took three weeks of summer call for me?), and even my department head.  I am so thankful to have had a good experience, because I know that many physicians who burn out don't.

Life is different now.  My clinics are capped, so even on days when everyone shows up, I usually run (at least close to) on time.  I don't run over too often, and some days I finish early.  I still get behind on paperwork sometimes, but it's usually because I've taken something extra on (like travelling to a remote community to share my knowledge with a group of rural physicians) and not because the work load is too much.  And when I get behind, I can catch up again.

I can finally breathe again.  Not the shallow, panicked, desperate breaths that I was breathing for months.  Deep, calm, happy breaths.

Things are so much better.

*I think.  My memory is crappy.

13 comments:

  1. This post makes my heart happy. It is hard to use our resources, and I'm so glad you've been able to use them and feel supported. Happy happy, friend.

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    1. Thanks friend! I think my institution actually handles physician mental health/burnout really well, because there is lots of discussion about it at the institutional level, and the resources are widely advertised. I've had friends take mental health leaves at various stages of their training, so it was surprisingly easy to acknowledge that 1) something is wrong and 2) this is not sustainable long-term. The hardest thing has probably been taking the pay cut that comes with working less, but even that is something I'm getting used to!

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  2. I feel like we have had similar paths this year. I am sooooo glad you've found happiness. You deserve it. And you worked very, very hard to get yourself to this point.

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    1. Totally! I keep reading your posts and nodding. (Thankfully you write more frequently than I do, cause your blog is awesome.)

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  3. I'm so glad that you found this mindset, friend! Work these days can be overwhelming, and I can only imagine the added stress of being a physician.

    I hope these feelings are lasting and that you can keep taking those long, deep breaths. :)

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    1. Me too!

      I do feel like I've made really concrete changes - less work, more rest, more yoga - to make this sustainable. I'm on call next week though, so we'll see!

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  4. So glad you are feeling better! Having control over one's schedule (at least a little) seems to me to be the key to happiness.

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  5. I relate so hard to the stress part of this post and am so glad for you that you've found ways to make it better for yourself with support. I continue to work on it!

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    1. I hope you will figure out ways to reduce your stress. I feel so much better than I did even a few months ago.

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  6. There's hope for me, then! Thanks as always for your openness

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