“One day I found myself looking down onto the train tracks, toes jutting over the edge of the platform.“
Why do we suffer? Is constant suffering a part of my destiny? Is there ever any Hope?
I was racially bullied in my formative years while attending predominantly white private schools. This created my hyper-competitive,overachieving identity in an attempt to silence the daily verbal and physical abuse. I was not good at taking failure. However, a relationship breakdown and bereavement in my third year saw my academic performance take a hit and I started to resent medicine. One day I found myself looking down onto the train tracks, toes jutting over the edge of the platform. I realised I was having a depressive episode and took a year out, with the support of a great supervisor and an understanding university. I got a dog, and through her, I found routine, compassion and love. I spent time with my friends and family, and their love kept me hopeful. When I returned to university, I made a host of new friends with the year below and I began to love medicine again.
Come the first shift in my foundation year, I was tasked to verify the deaths of seven elderly people. I learned that it was not a typical first shift of a junior doctor, but this is part of what a doctor does; you simply carry on. Senior colleagues would give the juniors extra work just before the end of the shifts, and all hell would break loose if you dared challenge their decisions. Rota coordinators would craft the most bizarre shift patterns, and guilt trip juniors into working extra shifts. For the littlest of mistakes, seniors would humiliate you, instead of acknowledging the positive aspects of your efforts. The system is killing junior doctors; I wish the system understood this. I found myself working as a lone wolf rather than in a team.
Then the pandemic befell us, and the ward came down with COVID. Being surrounded by death became part of the job– more prominently than usual. At that time, I felt like I became a battered gladiator rather than a compassionate doctor. Depression slivered back into my life, and I was fearful of what it meant if I disclosed my health condition to others and the implications. I did not want my family to worry. I burst into tears at a handover, before taking a few weeks off.
I returned for a rotation in a child and adolescent mental health service. Whilst I was enjoying it and finding it rewarding, I experienced intense suicidal thoughts and visions daily. Losing all hope in life, I eventually came up with a plan. With this master plan, I felt euphoria. I organised a work party as my last send-off. I planned to go to a train station after the party and find my release from suffering. I had at last found hope–in death. A turning point came: a colleague noticed something unusual from a sentence I said and inferred my intentions. She made me call my parents, who took me to A&E. My intensive healing journey began from an inpatient in an adult psychiatry unit. If it wasn’t for the person who caught what I was going to do, I would not be here today, trying to prevent this from happening to other people.
I have resigned as a F2. We need to treat the wounds underneath rather than sticking plasters and bandages. I read a lot during my time-off. I made sure I had my physical boundaries and structure to my day for my healing – half of my time was strictly related to myself: reading, writing, exercising, spending time with my partner and family. I found my purpose through reading, especially after the books “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor E. Frankl, and “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan Peterson. My purpose now is to improve work culture through occupational health, medical education and creative endeavours. This higher purpose gives meaning to all the pain and suffering I have endured and will experience. I have completed a diploma on occupational medicine course, I am now writing a handbook on physician’s health, and working on embedding lived experiences into medical education. I have come to realise the power of creativity in healing: I am now writing fantasy fiction. Through suffering, I found purpose. From the darkness, I have seen light. Out of the Abyss, there will always be Hope in Life.Back to main page