Not sharing these has been really frustrating and detrimental to my progress for the reasons I have explained previously.
Since I stopped sharing them before, I have had many more positive messages; both from people reassuring me that it is OK to do so (and actively encouraging me because they understand the good it is doing me and others), and also from those that are grateful that I have shared it so far. 99.9% of feedback has been overwhelmingly supportive. It also transpires that there are quite a few other similar stories out there in the public domain including with clear identities (I may even put links on the website pages if they consent for me to do so). Why am I any different?
I am aware of the reasons for the concerns. I understand that there is a possibility that someone may try and use this against me. I have my eyes wide open.
However, if anybody did try to do this, I am in no doubt that I have no reason to be worried. I have done nothing wrong. I am ill. I could have a chest infection, tonsillitis, sciatica (incidentally I’ve had all of the above in the last few weeks too!)….and these would all be considered perfectly acceptable reasons to be ill and off sick, even as a doctor. It’s funny how some of the general public seem to think we are immune to illness though!
Why does mental health have to be different? In my case, burnout and exhaustion were the main triggers. Doing the job of a GP has to be one of the toughest jobs out there. Being a mother to two very lively preschool aged boys is fairly hard too! Add the two together and surely that is a valid enough reason to have struggled?! Even if it wasn’t so easily attributable to clear reasons, the nature of the illness shouldn’t matter. After all, we are humans as well as doctors, hence the inspiration for the title of the blogs in the first place.
What is most important, is that nobody has been put at risk by this; the few concerns expressed generally have been around what could be perceived about my competence and somebody might potentially report me or ‘complain’ on the basis of possible ‘impaired judgement.’ My clinical practice has been safe and sure; I just got slower and found things harder. My colleagues can verify this; and have done when I have doubted myself as I lost confidence and self-esteem. When I hit crisis point, I stopped working. I won’t be going back until I am fit to do so. My husband has made sure that I don’t have to carry any responsibility for the care of our children in order for me to have the rest I need to heal, but I am competent and they are very loved happy children (in between age-appropriate tantrums!). Now I am doing pretty well on the road to recovery.
So why does it matter who knows what has happened to me? There has been immense benefit from doing this blog; support for me and helpful to others too and this has been well worth the flip side of feeling a little vulnerable and exposed. People have commended me for being brave enough to talk about it and not feel forced to hide like so many people do, quite understandably. This is what drove me to continue in the first place. I can help other people as well as myself. I can bring something positive out of this experience. I am learning from it and other people may learn from it. This goes back to my motto that I always try and make myself consider when going through something negative: ‘In every negative experience, there is a positive and something to learn.’
Writing the blog, sharing it and the subsequent feedback has sparked something inside me and has given me something to keep me motivated. When I had to stop, I lost this and have felt very flat again. Progress plateaued and even went a bit backwards in a way; I have been much more restless (especially at night!) when unable to do what I felt I instinctively needed to do.
Maybe I have been brave (and hopefully not stupid). All I know is it feels right to continue. Let’s keep breaking down the barriers and the stigma. I am glad to be able to be an advocate for mental health, albeit in a small way.
I have nothing to be ashamed of; I am not going to hide.