As someone deeply interested in physician wellness, it struck me as ironic and more than a little shameful to self-diagnose myself with burnout this past spring. For sure, I skirted around the issue for a while. I said I was tired. I slept a lot. I passive-aggressively asked my colleagues in academic medicine if they ever regretted their decisions. I think I probably drank too much wine.
When I started having random crying jags during the day for no particular reason, I finally started cutting myself some slack.
I remember lying on the couch one day and clinically walking through the three components of burnout. I stared at the little stucco pattern on the ceiling and thought, Well, I don’t think my cynicism or depersonalization are all that bad. Must be my emotional exhaustion. But I felt bad about feeling bad. Burnout was supposed to hit people who had it way worse than me. Despite all that mindfulness training about staying nonjudgmental, here I was judging myself anyway.
Which brings me to an interesting realization. There I was, a reasonably well-read physician on issues related to burnout and I couldn’t even muster up the energy to drag myself out of it. I didn’t feel like doing any of it — no meditation, no relaxation exercises, no coloring, no therapy, no exercise, no eating well. (I did sleep a lot, but more so as to avoid having to do anything else). I did talk about it eventually. But as far as practicing all that I preach? Phooey. I mostly just retreated under the covers and waited for things to get better. Not a strategy that I would recommend.
I did think to myself during those months that I should write it all down. How I was feeling, my circular thoughts, what happened. But at the time, even the thought of typing on the computer made me reach for the bottle of Zofran on the bedstand. So I write it down now because, despite my lack of all things wellness during those months, things actually did get better. I hope to continue posting new material on the site and re-vamping some of the old.
But mostly I write my experiences down — here and elsewhere on AKOSMED — hoping that someone out there reads it and thinks,
“I am not alone.”
With much optimism,