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The Physician Crisis: When is it OK to Not be OK?

For many of you who follow me on Instagram(@mentormemd) you know that I recently posted about our struggle as professionals with admitting that we are not OK.

I think some of the strongest phrases that have been etched in my mind are “service to others,” “put yourself on the back burner,” “the patients always comes first,” and finally more recently in my career, “the only way you will get a day off is if you call in from the emergency room, connected to an IV with fluid coming out of every orifice.” That has been my life for the past 13 years. And these statements have become so ingrained in my psyche that I have come to struggle with reaching out for help.

In medical school, I struggled with excruciating migraines. Not surprisingly, they started right before my Ophthalmology match. I was so stressed out that many days I would come home crying and at first that was it. Then the headaches started. I would be fine through the day and then on the way home would be incredibly light sensitive and in multiple instances had to pull over on the side of the road because I would become so nauseous from the pain that I started to throw up.  Then I would go home and close the curtains and just lay on my couch for hours waiting for the pain to go away. I struggled like this for weeks. And then one day, one of my friends, pulled me aside and asked me what was wrong. She had noticed that I looked exhausted and was just not my bubbly self. I debated telling her the truth because I thought that somehow, admitting this part of me, would mean admitting my weakness. Would she understand?

I broke down that day. I tearfully told her how busy I was with so many projects, meetings, etc. I felt like I was breaking apart on the inside. She then said the best words, “It’s OK to no be OK.” She told me that if I didn’t take care of this, I would have a mental break down. She also encouraged me to see the school counselor to just talk through what I was going through. I did and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The counselor and I looked at what I was doing and helped to organize my life a little better. I was able to get my migraines under control as well. Admitting that I was struggling was the first step to my victory.

I always look back on that day and wonder, when did it become not OK to struggle? We are not superhuman, we are flesh and blood like everyone else. Yes, we are called to treat the human body and spirit but we must not forget ourselves in that daily quest. We have to remember that in advocating for our patients we must also be able to advocate for ourselves.

Where are you today? Are you like me and struggle with admitting that you need help? I encourage you to reach out and talk to someone today. I assure you that you are not alone in your struggle.

Why do you think we struggle with admitting when we need help? Comment below.

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1 Response
  • Janie
    January 3, 2018

    Good Read. Definitely needed this! Touches the heart of where I am now.

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