I saw you at a meeting that I hosted last week. You walked in and we both looked at each other, trying to register how we knew one other. Suddenly I felt my stomach lurch. All the confidence I had moments before dwindled away and in crept that vulnerability that only you had seen. We had an awkward initial exchange until we silently registered our connection. You were as just as incredible as the time I met you, when you handed me back my life. As I started my presentation, I gave it my all. I wanted you to be proud of what you had allowed me to go and do. As you applauded and left that night, I wondered if you had thought about me because the last time you met me, I was in the darkest of places. My dear GP, I owe you my sanity.
Rewind life 12 months ago and I was surrounded by a concerned tribe, all begging me to come and see you. I was drowning but I could not see it. I was the overachieving, never failing GP who had taken on a dysfunctional partnership and was too afraid to admit that it was not working out. I was juggling many roles with expectations and pressures from all angles. Day in day out I was managing my home, my marriage, my child, my parents, my practice, my staff, my patients and my dreams. Sightlessly insightful, I thought I had it all under control. The day I came to see you still remains a blur. I had no intention to visit you that day but somehow I ended up sitting in front of you, on the other side of your desk. I was helpless. An inconsolable mess, I could not string a sentence together without apologising for wasting your precious time. Terrified inside of this going in my records, I justified how I felt by rhyming off all the red flag symptoms that I did not have. I tried to tell you unsuccessfully that I was simply stressed. With tears streaming down my face, tissue after tissue, you did for me what I do for others. You listened.
I was exhausted beyond belief. As a young mum with a four year old insomniac child juggling a fulltime business, the constant demands had completely outstripped my supply. I was tired, so unbelievably tired.
I remember feeling total vulnerability. I had completely surrendered myself to you. Consumed with self-hatred and self-pity, I could not even look you in the eyes. I had visited you previously with my son where I presented you the calm, collected and self-assured doctor-mum. I wondered how you viewed me now.
I do not remember how long I talked for; I just went on and on. You did not stop me, you did not interrupt me, you did not throw a pill at me. Instead you took my hand and then you cried with me. It was the most surreal moment in my life, a connection that simply made sense. You told me that you knew what I was talking about. I believed you. You told me you knew how I felt. I believed you. You told me it would all be ok and I completely trusted you. You then did something magical… you shared with me your story.
Fifteen years ago, you had been me.
Just there, at that moment, you transformed and empowered me. Here you were, a GP principal in her fifties, a successful trainer and an honorary member of prestigious bodies and you had been where I was now. You did not fail. You survived and I would too.
Having not been off sick before, I told you I simply couldn’t take time off. Who would do all the things I did? You’re words still stay with me today, “No one is indispensable,” and with that, you printed me off a sick note. You gave me no choice. You told me to quit my unhappy partnership, to take sometime out and simply start again.
Six months on, I am the happiest I’ve ever been. My career is thriving and all on my terms. I am acutely mindful of my work-life balance and am educating others to do the same.
I felt so honoured that you attended my event on Lifestyle Medicine and that you were able to see the outcome of your incredible management of a patient suffering from clinical burnout. Nothing gives us more pleasure than seeing our patients recover.
My entire manner of consulting has since changed and I am a much better GP for it. As I sit daily in surgery in my seat, I see a bit of my past, present and future self in every patient. I remember the rawness of my wounds that you helped heal and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI – this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: email@example.com