It’s no secret that I struggle mentally. Everybody does. Maybe I feel blessed to be able to express my feelings through writing. It’s time to open up.
For the past few weeks, I have progressively gone back to my cocoon, to process the passing of a colleague and dear friend of mine. No matter how much you are prepared for it, when it happens to someone you know, it’s like sudden death every single time. The rush of emotions, between anger, disbelief, and disgust engulf you.
But while your inboxes get filled with pesky messages asking about the cause of death - understandable given the curious human nature, but inexplicable when you’re shattered and mourning someone - there are those who show you support and make you feel like you matter. Like you are loved. Like you can confide in them during these tough times.
And I write this today, on this special occasion that is June the 1st, on which we spread awareness as we, doctors, speak up about our mental health. I have loved doing this for the past few years. A tradition that originated in Australia in 2017, thanks to the efforts of a cardiologist by the name of Dr. Geoffrey Toogood, who had this brilliant idea, after suffering himself from bouts of depression, to raise awareness about doctor suicide by wearing “crazy socks” and posting photos on social media with the hashtag #CrazySocks4Docs on this day.
1 in 4 doctors has had suicidal thoughts.
1 in 50 doctors has attempted suicide.
1 in 5 got treated for/was diagnosed with depression.
Numbers don’t lie. But doctors do. They hide their feelings big time. They feel unappreciated. They are always overwhelmed. Their lifestyle is a mess. They eat like shit, they sleep like shit, and they keep in touch with friends like shit.
All they care about is getting the job done and getting it done well. The smile of a patient is their biggest healer, their medication. Nothing feels more amazing than seeing an ailing person thanking you for changing their lives for the better. But sometimes this is not enough. While you channel all of your positive energy onto others, hiding your mental struggle with a big wide smile, you forget to keep some to yourself. The tank soon empties, and you find yourself in a race against time to fill it up again as soon as possible, while the world continues exerting all sorts of pressure on you. You hold on, but only just. Then you sink again, every now and then. But you lift yourself up. Because you are needed. Because there are people out there who care for you. No matter your eating pattern, your sleeping pattern, and your horrendous lifestyle. These gems are invaluable. And messages like these touch the heart and soul: “I know you’re not ok. I know you feel like shit. I am here.”
These people remind you how beautiful life is. How you must benefit from every single moment. Live, love, dance, spend money, be happy. Every single day. Because every instant matters, and will never repeat itself. Surround yourself with your beloved ones. Keep them at bay. Care for them. Tell them how you feel towards them. Appreciate laughs, hookups, random encounters. Enjoy adventures, sex, getting drunk, and whatever makes you feel happy.
Nothing feels better than being appreciated. Especially when you struggle. And while I’m eternally thankful for many who have stood by my side recently, lifting my mood up and helping me with the grieving process, I cannot but do the same for others, especially doctors, and tell them on this day: “I know you’re not ok. I know you feel like shit. I am here.”
Speak up. It’s time to let the world know.