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“Too slow; too quick; too superficial; too much over thinking; too empathetic; too rigid; too nice; too kind; too calculated; your clothes are too colourful; too shy; too weird; too lonely; too ambitious; too much; not enough; no one else does this; be like everyone else; too skinny; too bossy; too bubbly; too sad; why did you hug that relative; why did you read a story to that child.”
“Are you all right?” – The moment you find someone that asks you that, looking at your messy hair, the dark circles underneath your eyes, the redness of your scleras, your trembling hands folding and unfolding the paper list that you hold on to, is the moment you burst into tears.
Lost behind a wall of expectations, scared that this system that we all love will crumble underneath our weakness, we turn into robots with the ones around us, but also with ourselves. We give the last speck of humanity to our patients and we turn into iron trying to fight the stress of the never-ending rota gaps, the sleep deprivation and hunger. We are trying to shut down the empathy that makes us doctors, trying to stop the influx of sadness, worries until we become immune to happiness too.
The more junior you are, the more of a chameleon you have to be when rotating from one rotation to another, having to fit in and adapt, to forget what makes you you in favour of “what makes you a good doctor for this specialty”.
Trying to find yourself in this chaos of expectations and labels, asking yourself: “but am I actually good at something?”; no wonder that you decide to take an F3 year to find yourself again.
If you are unable to find or keep a hobby that keeps you above this suffocating chaos, if you are not surrounded by family, friends or people that appreciate you for who you are, that encourage you to be the best version of yourself every day, you are at risk at sinking until there is no turning back.
“Why don’t you just tell him to go and see the mental health service to have his treatment adjusted? Why do you care?”
I do care, I care because we are a team, we are all human and we are in this together. No one should bear a battle alone – a kind word, a cup of tea, a hug, a shoulder to cry on; in a system of targets and numbers, there is no time for all this, not for our patients, not for us, not for anyone.
There are thousands of hands reaching for help and what we do is shut them out behind expectations until they give up.
I want to have time to hug that woman as she is sitting alone on a chair in Resus after her dad has died, I want to listen to her stories of how much of a hero her dad was. I want to run after my colleague that rushed out of the ward in tears. I want to give this card that I have crafter from an echo request and a paper discharge summary template to the little old lady who is celebrating her 100th birthday and her 70th day in hospital all alone.
I believe we all can turn “You must be like this” into “How can we use, adapt and improve your abilities?”; I believe in “we can do this together”.
I have faith in “You are strong, you are enough”, and not in “Stop being like that!”
We have the most human, noble and beautiful profession of them all; the NHS was made by humans for humans, no wonder everything is falling apart when it is being turned into statistics for money.
You, bearing the weight of a heavy battle, this is my manifest for you. We can change this, one smile at a time.
"If you are unable to find or keep a hobby" is it really a big problem? Like, there is so many interesting stuff around us. Everyone can find something interesting for him. I, for one, like astronomy: I read about Mars solarstory.net/.../mars , asteroids, stars. Also, I love astrophotography.
Thank you very much.