People always tell me that I was brave enough to apply to medical school in my thirties. But for me, the bravest thing was to walk away as a doctor after 10 years.
I always wanted to study medicine, but believing that I wasn’t smart enough, I left school at the age of fifteen and didn’t return to education until my thirties. Despite discovering the self-confidence I lacked as a teenager, moving forward was difficult. Personal commitments meant great mobility and money was always tight. The ultimate goal is to keep us all going, though, imagining the kind of doctors we wanted to be. We did not dream of awards or rare diseases that bear our name. Each of us dreamed of being a doctor who made a difference. Doctor fix things.
You spend five years in medical school learning how to fix things, but after graduation, when you spit in a hospital ward, you soon discover that there are many things in life that you cannot fix. It’s a hard lesson. Especially in under-funded and understaffed landscapes; If everyone in the NHS did just the job they were meant to do, the entire system would collapse within 24 hours.
It wasn’t the workload that I struggled with. The long hours and lack of resources, I could handle, because everyone had to. What I found really impossible was the emotional load. As a doctor, you know you are going to witness upsetting things. You know you will hear people give out devastating news. You will watch people die and you will see the most terrible ordeal. Being present in these vulnerable moments of a stranger’s life is a privilege, but it also becomes a burden, like me, if you are unable to let those moments pass. You never know how you will react to something until it is right in front of you. I thought I was strong enough to handle it. I thought life experience would help me. I was wrong. I collected those painful moments and carried them through until I was mentally and physically fine. Until their weight started crushing me.
Ironically, medicine is not the place to break, and I knew I needed to find a coping mechanism very quickly, so I started writing. Writing allowed me to escape, a door to another world, but it also helped settle my thoughts. On my lunch break (if I had one) I would sit in the hospital parking lot and empty my head on a page. I wrote a story that I don’t think anyone would read (I thought my mom might read it), but this story has become so goat and sheep problemIt will be a Sunday Times bestseller. But with such an unexpected success, I had to make a decision. Were you a doctor or a writer?
Whenever I tell people that I no longer practice medicine, there is always a rhythm of silence. Quiet judgment. Because medicine is not just a job, it’s a job profession. As for the invitation, it is a dangerous word, because we use it as an excuse poor working conditions and the absence of quality of life, and anyone in a caring profession would be expected to tolerate things that no one else would tolerate simply because they had some kind of divine calling. After the silence, people usually gather themselves together, smile, and say, “Well done to you.” And that was really it, mentally and physically.
At this point my parking book had been sold to HarperCollins, the stress of work and the emotional stress of the medications made me feel so unwell that my GP sent me for an urgent cancer referral. Fortunately I did not have cancer. I’ve been suffering from burnout (a dangerous term because it refers to something that is obvious and obvious, but often goes unnoticed, even by the person on fire). Writing, something I had started as a form of therapy now gave me an exit ticket, a chance for self-preservation, and I took it. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly. I worked hard to get to this point, but I knew that if I didn’t put myself first, I would eventually disappear.
I still work in the wings now, but as a volunteer. Because I don’t miss reading ECGs and writing prescriptions, I miss patients. It was only about patients. Since I left medicine, I’ve been called out for many things. Snowflake. weak. I was told I don’t have a backbone. All of this may be true, but there are times when you need to focus on yourself. If you have come a long way on the road, it makes no sense to turn around. Dangerous, approx. But I don’t regret my decision for a second, because coming back and leaving, is often the safest route of all.