Good at Nothing, Good for Nothing

Everywhere I turn, I feel like I’ve failed and have no purpose.

Right from the beginning, it’s always felt the same to varying degrees. At school, I did OK – but was never quite good enough. Grades always a notch down from everybody else. Always missing the special points or awards that other people seemed to get over and over.

My main memory of school is just constantly being the butt of the joke. For how I looked and what I wore, not being into things like the current pop groups and preferring to do less ‘cool’ things like play the piano.  Blushing easily was a major issue; I would be taunted deliberately to make it happen then laughed at a bit more. I had not realised how deeply this work of bullies had affected me until a few years ago when the issues re-emerged with a vengeance in a different form (also relating to being centre of attention which I hate). Socially these days, although confidence developed over time, I’m the one in a group conversation that will get ignored in terms of eye contact or spoken over the top of despite best efforts.

I didn’t quite get the A-level grades I needed for medical school but was accepted anyway (based on the interview). I slogged my guts out through my time at Uni and still just scraped through all the exams; others did half the amount of work and sailed through. I was well thought of in jobs as I worked hard, had decent common sense and put the patients first; but was still always second-rate compared to others in every other way. I didn’t quite complete my hospital medicine exams; in part as my health problems took over. But it’s always felt like I just didn’t have the brainpower to do it; I was never ready to do it then life changed my path.

I transferred over to train in General Practice. Partly to get on top of my health problems, partly because I wasn’t keen on the job role of a more senior hospital medic and partly due to the more predictable lifestyle. I was hoping that I would be able to do more music with a regular routine that allowed me to have evenings and weekends available for playing in orchestras. It also was more fitting for the strengths that I do have; namely people and communication skills.

Another interest I have is Performing Arts Medicine. It perfectly combines medicine with music (and other performing arts). As a 3rd year medical student, now 15 years ago, I did a project on it as I happened to be on a placement with a consultant with this interest alongside his usual speciality. It was suggested that I should publish the resultant work. But I didn’t know how to go about this and nothing more came of it. Ever since then, I have wanted to get into it somehow. But I can’t seem to find a way in. It is the classic chicken and egg situation; I don’t have the necessary expertise to become a practitioner in this field and I can’t get the experience because there is no way to do so.

So, here I am; just a basic jobbing GP. I don’t have special skills. I don’t have extra qualifications or an area I am particularly good at. I do informally in theory, but there’s nothing that really substantiates that; it’s pretty much just the same as all GPs do. I am not academic. I don’t particularly understand the politics and business side. This is one of the main reasons I have always shied away from partnership; I would be out of my depth, flounder in the role and look a fool. The people and communication skills are still my best area; the patients like me as I listen and tune in to their worries well and obviously try my best for them. But, even this was starting to slip. I wasn’t tolerating this emotional burden and I think it was starting to show; my communication was getting more assertive and abrupt. I was becoming more irritated by things like patients arriving late for their appointments. So, the only things that were positive were starting to be lost too.

Now, I can’t even work at all at the moment and I am dreading returning. And I’m only a salaried GP; not carrying the load a partner does. What’s wrong with me? Something very minor but that I had felt I had contributed to the practice I have now had taken off me; probably partly as a couple of things were not considered quite as they wanted it. I therefore worry I have lost their trust too. It is their decision, I understand and respect the reasons and it is absolutely fair enough, but it has left me feeling like I now can’t even be useful and contribute in the only little way I was over and above the basic job. I felt like the most inferior one of the team anyway; I am not sure I am good enough for that practice.

At home, despite having carried most of the load for a long time, this last couple of months has completely changed the dynamic. At first, I did nothing at all as I just shut down completely. My husband (and others) have taken over most things. I have increased how much I am doing since. But, if I don’t manage much, it doesn’t make any difference; everybody gets on just fine without me. What I am doing, I am doing badly. With the boys, I have so little energy that I am still not managing to do much more than take care of their basic needs. Still not getting out much, still not actively doing much, still the television is on too much. My latest inadequacy is not even realising the younger one was getting ill. He was grotty and I didn’t know why. My husband checked his temperature and it was through the roof. It hadn’t occurred to me; I didn’t notice either as a mother or a doctor!

The music….hmm. I have missed it terribly as it has got pushed out from life being so busy. This was always my source of enjoyment and escape. It makes sense therefore, that I should play whilst I am not at work and have time. People are asking me if I am. I have tried a few times. Then stopped. On the piano, my muscles won’t do as I tell them. I can’t play the pieces that I never used to have to even think about. On the violin, I can generally hit the notes, but there is a reminiscence of the scrapy sound of a beginner. These are not pleasurable experiences. I know I need to get practised again but, at the moment, I don’t have the motivation and it simply lowers morale even more. This is the one thing that I was always supposed to be good at yet now, I’m worse than ever.

I started off only mediocre. Fatigue and stress impacted this further. This current situation is exacerbating these issues even more; a vicious cycle for morale.

My stronger points are weakening. My roles are diminishing. My purpose is dwindling.

4 thoughts on “Good at Nothing, Good for Nothing”

  1. Noooo! This is the depression talking. Are you speaking to a professional regularly about how you see your life? Because this is very worrying. I’ve been there, it’s only a few steps from “they won’t even miss me” to “better off without me”…
    Jackie (I sent you a PM early on)

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  2. Absolutely agree with Jackie, this is the depression talking, but at the time it is the only voice you can hear. I’m just a GP trainee but have been struggling too to juggle work & family with increasingly stretched hospital rotas. You are not alone. You are important, you have purpose. Your job is just a part of you, it does not define you. I have to tell myself this a lot. You will get better. Just by being there you are part of your children’s lives, you are enough. I hope tomorrow is a better day. Jen x

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