I’m recovering from burnout, but I was never extinguished and now I’m re-igniting myself (not in the awful Buddhist form of protest) instead to get my mojo back. I’m not exactly sure what a ‘mojo’ is, but people always look happy when they’ve got it back.
In order to start the process I had to try to stop. Stop everything that was contributing to the problem. That’s difficult when there is a long list, some of which are within my control, others, like most things in life, not. Already I can hear the guffaws and comments about how stopping isn’t an option, how it’s well for some to be able to take this route, etc. But how often do we see patients with a complex collection of difficulties that are causing them to malfunction and we say ‘Stop’, i.e. those of us not brainwashed by the pharmaceutical/biomedical view of mental states?
If we’re in the latter, we write a prescription for a chemical that enhances other chemicals in key areas of the brain. Well, I’ve tried that and it gave me a mixture of pain and pleasure, i.e. excessive flatulence — so much so that I had to apologise to my patients and blame the poor chap who’d been in before them. As for the pleasure, read the side-effect profile.
We don’t stop because we perceive ourselves to be indispensable. We’re different from them, our patients. We’re so different that if we break, we do so in an irreparable way, hence we write in partnership contracts that if an individual is detained under the Mental Health Act, their rights to continue in the partnership cease. What about the concept of recovery? Is it any wonder that doctors don’t want to be seen to have ventured part of the way down that road?
Or we have the subtle attitudes amongst doctors to ensure that if a colleague is absent for anything more than the usual length of a holiday or a snotty cold, then the patients are to be fed cock-and-bull stories to allay any fears that he/she might have a mental illness. Who wants to see a ‘mad’ doctor? Bad for business.
I’m not really sure I understand that, since many practices have to turn patients away as they are oversubscribed. That’s the Irish for ye — all bonhomie but don’t be mad, gay or black and try to join the golf club!
Why didn’t I stop sooner instead of encountering an increasing number of dysfunctional consultations, an almost complete loss of empathy with anyone who wasn’t requesting a OCP repeat or had an obviously well child with a URTI to whom I could prescribe antibiotics (couldn’t be bothered with the explanation needed to issue no prescription or a delayed one)? Why did I not recognise my increasing alienation from my family — my inability to listen to their needs? Irritability was my default state if anything went wrong. Even my dog was only coming to greet me if I was feeding him or had a bone to give him, rather than to pick with him. I had a bone to pick with everything.
And did the old clichéd substances associated with this scenario present themselves? Well, no, apart from the brief dalliance with the above-mentioned substance.
Did I exercise and socialise? I did, and welcomed the distractions. So what was wrong with me? Was it the Irish health service and, as mentioned in previous letters, the needless chaos and multiple lost opportunities? Yes.
Was it our declining income and the prospect of working for the rest of my professional life to pay off a mortgage to a NAMA bank? Yes. Was it the unresolved difficulties with the building of my house and subsequent planning issues with the local authority? Yes. Was it the dismal prospects for my children both at third level and in their careers thereafter? Yes. Was it ongoing relationship difficulties that I have never addressed because I was too busy being busy and important instead of being a partner, friend, good guy? Yes. Was it the Irish weather and the fact that my onions didn’t grow this year? Yes, that too.
Flippant as some of the comments may be, they’re obviously humorous defenses and I’m fortunate enough to have them, for without them I can see why we have an increasing rate of suicide.
Are there solutions to the above problems? Yes, there are. Some are not very palatable and I’ll leave them to the reader’s imagination. Others rely on relationships, with oneself, family, friends, GP — all the usual (I’m sure others will list supernatural beings, but I personally don’t believe in the Easter bunny).
But one can see that if constrained by age, inexperience, support, clouded by substance misuse or mental illness with a similar set of difficulties (and many have difficulties far surpassing those listed) that suicide is an option and many have taken it. But had they experienced a world that allowed them to stop and stop without the usual recrimination associated with perceived failure? Had they experienced a world that valued people over property and money (and that’s a big ask when we live in a world of Photoshop beauty, action without consequences and fame as an aspiration and end-point in itself), then maybe the numbers taking their own lives would decrease. I’ve decided to stop, find some solutions that suit me and my family and get my mojo back.
GP. Name and address with Editor.