A friend has questioned my involvement with facebook. With the view that it is not good for me whilst I am feeling this way. A fair enough opinion.
Here’s my thoughts….
I have a love hate relationship with social media and facebook in particular which is really the only platform I personally use.
I hate how it sucks people in to the point of obsession; they are glued to their screens in preference to living a ‘real life.’ Missing out on so much to see and do. Missing the precious finer details of their children’s lives.
I hate how people broadcast parts of their lives that aren’t appropriate or necessary for public viewing. It’s not for me to know about the difficulties in a relationship and so on. I don’t need to know what your coffee looks like.
I hate how it can look like everybody else has a perfect life. Facebook friends doing so many wonderful things that you never get around to. Discussions on parenting forums that make you feel like the worst parent in the world.
It carries much that is good for me too and I can mostly switch off from the above issues.
I use facebook as my news for everything. I rarely watch television and only catch the radio news on and off. Facebook provides me with everything in one go. 10 minutes of scrolling and I’ve seen what I want and need to for the day. National news, local news, medical and GP news from professional pages, discussions in GP and doctor groups from which there is much to learn and a great deal of mutual support. Then, of course, lovely pictures and news from personal friends, funny articles to read, learning things from gardening groups. Overall, a positive bit of time out.
One of the most wonderful things that has come out of facebook for me, is a very small group that formed as a sub group to a GP parents forum as we all had babies at a similar time. We mostly don’t know each other in real life, but have been on a great journey together for about the last 18 months (so far); from just before our babies were born until now. We have got to know each other so well. We have been through a lot of highs and lows together. We have discussed personal things as a group of best friends would. They have absolutely been a rock especially during the incredibly hard first few months after my second son was born; though of course not replacing my very special ‘real life’ friends.
Why am I writing about my experience now so publicly?
Last Thursday, when I realised I was falling apart, I tentatively posted a question on a GP forum. I knew where I was heading and was scared about what to do next. I asked about the perception of depression in GPs and how people would feel if a colleague was struggling and needed some time out.
I hovered over the ‘post’ button for ages, even though I hadn’t said it was about me. The responses were rapid and amazingly reassuring. So many people have been through this – and come out of the other side. It is a high pressure environment so burnout is common. Such an incredible relief as the comments flowed in. Tears ran down my face. I was allowed to feel like this. It was ok. Maybe I can arrange to have a break and get some help. I then confessed it was me; it felt safe and right to do so. Such lovely support and advice followed. Just after that is when I realised my mind and body was stopping me from doing any more.
I wrote ‘The Other Side’ for me – only for me. I have been signed off work. Although feeling quite empty, my thoughts are mostly feeling chaotic and disordered. I have struggled to talk, especially to those closest to me. My poor husband, mum and best friend have mostly been shut out. I am not ‘a writer’ – I never have been and have never written things down like this before. It has naturally come out of the situation; I needed some way of giving some order to my thoughts especially as I am finding it hard to vocalise them.
I then decided to share it with those on the GP forum and on another doctor forum; it felt like giving something back to those that had supported me. I also hoped that other people might be able to identify with it.
People liked it. It resonated with them. It helped people question how they were doing and if they needed to change things before it was too late. It was getting shared over and over. The comments of support have helped me more than I can describe; I have intermittently gone back to read them when needing a little boost.
I then realised it had the potential to help others even wider; and hopefully provide some understanding from the general public about our side of the challenges and frustrations of General Practice. I also, ever the optimist, hoped that maybe it might be read from someone ‘higher up’ that might actually be able to make a change to the world of General Practice to make it sustainable in the long term. I rationally know this is extremely unlikely even though it has now been read by over 25,000 people.
By this point, I felt like I had started a journey; and some people have asked me to keep them updated. I suspect I am going to feel I want to keep writing as time goes on, but as things improve, maybe the ‘normal’ me won’t need to keep doing it. Thank you to anyone who is reading and sharing this with me.
Some people know who I am and some don’t. I shared the links on my own profile – but didn’t say it was me. Colleagues have done the same – how was anybody to know who was behind ‘GP and Human?’ – it could be any of us.
However, there is another aspect I need to face and I am now relaxing about my identity at least in certain circles for the reason I am about to explain.
I have spent years telling patients that mental health is no different to physical health and needs treating in just the same way. I would never judge somebody with mental health issues; it is very real and not ‘just in your head.’ A phrase I always remember is ‘You are not weak; this has happened because you have been strong for too long.’ The trouble is, now the tables have turned and it is hard to remember these things. I feel weak; I feel like I have fallen when others keep going just fine. I don’t deserve to feel like this. I feel I have failed as a GP and as a parent. I feel ashamed.
Therefore, part of me accepting what has happened and helping to break down the ongoing stigma that is unfortunately still alive, is to brave publicly writing this and not to worry about who knows who I am.
I am also human after all; not just ‘a GP.’