A New Normal

One month after my father’s death, I went back to work. I went back to daytime hours, unsure of how I would cope with the stress of emergencies, of possibly having to break the news of death & dying. It was all too new & too raw for me to be any good to anyone else in that situation.

But, by January, I was back full time, counting down the last few months of my training, to the day when I would finally become a consultant. I’d had to postpone my FRCS graduation as it was the same week as dad’s funeral. I was supposed to be celebrating my achievement, instead of grieving.

Those 6 months were not easy. I found myself constantly apologising for being emotionally labile, always on the verge of tears, feeling I should be able to keep my emotions locked up during the working day. And so I became even more adept at putting on a brave face. In a profession that can view showing emotion as weakness, I learnt to lock away my emotions and feelings. I became increasingly afraid to let them out & confront them for fear they would consume me. I threw myself into work, using it as a distraction. I started working as a locum consultant surgeon in August 2013, 9 months after my dad’s death. How’s that for 2 stressful life events in lest than a year??

Another thing I hadn’t considered fully was how difficult it would be to get a substantive consultant position. I went to interview after interview, always being second best. I went to interview courses, kept up to date and practiced so hard but to no avail. Meanwhile I working as a consultant and doing it well. But, just after moving hospitals in the autumn of 2014, I noticed my mood was starting to slip. I was miserable, I disliked where I was working (I’ve never been great with change) and I was starting to resent my job and doubting my abilities. I had enough insight to know I needed help so I saw my GP and was started on low dose antidepressants. And this helped, for a while. But, as I took on more & more work and had further unsuccessful interviews, I had to increase my dose to feel any benefit.

And that worked again, for longer this time but it was not the full solution. At the start of 2017, things came to crisis point and I had to take some time off work. I thought I would only be off for a few weeks but ended up being off for 6 months. I don’t recognise the person I was at that time, my journal entries make for very difficult reading. But, in the space of a year, with a lot of hard work and self care, I have turned things around. I now have a permanent position in a team that I love and a house in beautiful Portstewart. I have also learnt which friends I can really turn to when things get tough.

2 thoughts on “A New Normal

  1. Refreshingly honest and thank you for sharing. We can become so good at hiding behind a mask of ‘coping’ mechanism s .. Causeway is very wise to have employed you and the patients very fortunate for your surgical and holistic skills.


  2. Such a brave and honest piece of writing. As Doctors / Surgeons, we are adept at looking after patients but terrible at looking after each other and ourselves. The Causeway Hospital are very lucky to have you x


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