“I usually see a world full of colour, sparkly and bright! But my burnout eventually took control of my life and the colour I usually see faded.“
I am a chatterbox, I am nosy, and I love people. That worked out for the best for my 20+ year career as a general practitioner and it most definitely contributed to my natural draw for community medicine. I am compassionate about people, and I want to know their background story to truly delve beyond the surface issue and create a more holistic understanding of their health needs, in all aspects: mind, body and soul. I believe such understanding helps to empower patients, expand their thinking and open up more choices for them. That is the change cycle and that is where healing truly begins. The biggest draw I get from my career is the privilege to step into somebody’s life with unconditional trust and help them understand their health needs better. Working in a deprived inner-city area, this privilege I have helps to make a difference to lives and I cherish that. I am grateful for that.
Being a healthcare worker is undoubtedly a rewarding experience, especially when you see your patients undergo transformative healing journeys. The most ironic part though is that a majority of medics make the worst patients. Why? They allow everyone else’s needs to come before theirs which is something that is inherently grained in them and strengthened with the sort of personality that is generally typical to them: compassionate, empathetic, driven, and perfectionist. It doesn’t help that medical school does not teach the importance of recognizing one’s own needs and to fill oneself up. Rather, it encourages the constant “give, give” mindset and to keep going even when you are on the brink of burning out because you just got to “suck it up” in this career if you are to succeed. That is problematic. If you don’t fill up yourself and needs, how can you possibly give any sort of quality care to someone else?
It took me my own burnout to realize that I did not have to slog my way through my career. I do want to do the best I can at providing medical care, but not at the expense of my own health. There are wiggle rooms, and it has now become my mission to share them with my colleagues, my patients, the next generation of medics and really, with anyone else. I like to call myself the “Burnout Warrior”, one, because I love superheroes, and two, because I hope that the lessons I learned with my burnout would equip someone else to better navigate through their struggles and be passed on like a ripple effect.
Burnout hit me 12 years ago and to me, it was not just exhaustion that would go away with a nap. I just did not feel rested even with sleep. It was undying fatigue that never disappeared. It didn’t happen in one go but it was an insidious process. What sustained me and kept me pushing through, even if I was clearly not okay, were my typical medico traits: I had so much drive to hustle and not stop and question what was happening. I shrugged and pushed through, telling myself that this is normal, everyone does this. Slowly but surely, I was disconnected from myself. I usually see a world full of colour, sparkly and bright! But my burnout eventually took control of my life and the colour I usually see faded.
I hit rock bottom. I could no longer keep going on, and I had to allow myself to be guided because I was not okay. I reached out for therapy and so began a long, transformative, messy, painful but gratifying journey. Till-date, I consider my burnout a blessing, despite how it crippled me physically and mentally, as it had to happen for me to stop, learn and discover. My experiences from burning out and obtaining psychological support changed some of my perspectives in life. They helped me better understand how to keep myself alive, how to recognize my needs and how to restore them. Healthcare professionals are the worst at acknowledging when things are not okay, be they physical or mental. The very qualities that make someone a great healthcare worker like compassion, empathy, professional curiosity, determination, etc., can be a downfall if they are unaware of their personal needs. I live, breathe and share this: know your various needs and how you can fill yourself up. Identify when you need to take a step back and rejuvenate. Understand what it means to keep your needs balanced. Acknowledge it if you are not okay, accept it and ask for help from the people you trust. It’s sort of like arming yourself up.
These lessons with burnout shaped my own life and also the care I give my patients. It’s where my awe and passion for holistic care and the importance of a whole person-centred approach to medical care come from. This inspired me to compile a holistic prescription called the “F list”, which I use with my patients. Combining holistic care of the body, mind and soul with the scientific aspects of medicine is a compelling healing approach and truly transforms people. I experienced this first-hand during my recovery journey and have also seen it in my patients. This transformation to me is like glitter, as it shines within a person and shows in their eyes, glistening. That’s where my tagline “The Glitter Practitioner” comes from. I am now in the process of sharing the power of holistic care, beyond my clinic, with a book titled “Be You with Bells On”. Post burnout also made me take a career pivot as a Life Coach to further share the impact of holistic care and mindfulness with as many people as possible.
Burnout made me discover my deeper needs, beyond the physical and emotional ones: the psychological and spiritual aspects. This deeper understanding of myself was like an awakening that made me realize the significance of nurturing one’s full needs. It was like a light bulb moment that I wanted to share immediately, which also eventually led to the creation of my holistic F list. That’s why I find my crystals, particularly this amethyst chunk, so important because they help me connect with my spiritual needs and stay grounded. I remember when I was nearing the end of my therapy, I was drawn to this earring which happened to be a rose quartz crystal. When I was looking it up, I found that it represents unconditional love for oneself and others, which couldn’t have been a better summary of what I learned. What started with crystals led me to a path of spiritual awakening and made me holistically embrace all my needs. That’s what my burnout story taught me: all things that keep me in balance, and that’s what I want to keep sharing and spreading the “glitter” around!Back to main page