A post from Dr Caroline Reed O’Connor, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist in south-west London.
She is a co-founder of “Tea & Empathy”, a Facebook group for clinicians which provides “a national, informal, peer-to-peer support network aiming to foster a compassionate and supportive atmosphere throughout the NHS.” The support and compassion shown by all the members to those in the group who are struggling or just need advice is immensely powerful. I would highly recommend that anyone struggling should join this group.
I didn’t know I was unwell until I was very unwell. I was drinking too much and regularly driving home from work thinking about driving my car off the road.
I finally broke down when someone handed me the bleep for another killer on-call weekend shift. I just felt my body convulse – as if to say: I just cannot do this anymore. Luckily the person who handed me that bleep was a compassionate and wonderful soul. Within minutes they’d arranged cover for my shift, made me a cup of tea and arranged for my boyfriend to come and pick me up.
My consultant was phenomenal; she phoned me later that day and gently guided me to occupational health. The doctor there won me over immediately with Blackadder references and helped me to see I might need a little support.
In those early days I kept thinking ‘I’ll be ok tomorrow…’ It took me a while to realise it might take a little longer. I look back now and can’t believe I only had a month off work – it should have been 6! But like the ‘good doctor’ I was – I fought to get back as soon as I could.
Fast forward 8 years… I’ve had several more depressive episodes, a couple of post-natal manic episodes, acceptance of my addictive nature, lots of therapy and support and time… And throughout it all I’ve been amazingly well supported by all my colleagues and flourished in my career.
My resilience is growing by the day. I have learnt how important it is to look after myself. How important it is to stay honest and open about what I’m going through. And how the NHS doesn’t fall apart if I say ‘no’ once in a while or take a day off sick. I have greater compassion, more patience and much lower expectations of others and myself!
Life is generally really good.
If you have any thoughts or questions, or even a thank you to Caroline for sharing her story, please do comment below. It takes a huge amount of courage to share something like this. (You will need to sign in here to do so if you don’t already have a WordPress account).