I am a doctor, a GP.

I didn’t always want to be a doctor, but loved biology and connecting with people so medicine at that time was the obvious choice.

Medical school was hard work yet great fun. As well as the friends and connections I made, I enjoyed being on the wards talking to patients, hearing their stories and being inspired and moved by them.

I enjoyed it even more in my junior doctor years, despite the very long hours. I had a real window into peoples’ lives. I felt so privileged to be supporting them and their families through illness and hard times.

General practice was a perfect fit. I inspired many others to follow in my footsteps. I really loved my job.

In fact, I did love it for many years. Then stress and anxiety completely crippled me. I no longer enjoyed working as a GP. In fact, I dreaded it. I was exhausted and burnt out.

I have always struggled with anxiety in my role as a GP, worrying that I may have missed a diagnosis, or fearful of getting things wrong. The consequences of mistakes are so devastating.

Stress, from the upheaval of moving area, and the combination of juggling three very young children with the demands of general practice as it is today, caused this anxiety to completely spiral out of control.

It started to affect my family and my work.

I worried about patients coming to harm through hypothetical drug interactions that flashed up with ever increasing frequency on prescribing alert systems. I would wake up regularly in a cold sweat, fearful that I had missed something, or not considered some rare diagnosis or possibility. I felt that everything that happened or had happened was somehow my responsibility, my fault.

I became increasingly overwhelmed. I wasn’t sleeping. I lost weight. I started withdrawing from my friends and family.

I reached a tipping point.  I needed help.

A few months on, and I have recovered. It has been a difficult journey, yet I have learnt so much.

I want to share with you what I have found useful on my journey. The warning signs I should have heeded, the barriers that prevented me seeking help, how I did seek help and how I got better.

I want to discuss what I would do differently knowing what I know now, what makes us particularly vulnerable as doctors to emotional distress and mental ill-health and how we can maintain balance.

My hope is that by sharing stories, others can feel safe enough to start opening up about their struggles. I want to inspire other doctors who are struggling that there is a way forward. That there are other options out there.

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