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I am exhausted.

By Bolletje · Jan 20, 2018 · ·
  1. As promised, another update, just a little later than I had planned. I've been working as a doctor for nearly two months now, and I love my job. I honestly couldn't imagine anything more fulfilling, at the end of the day. But it is draining as hell. Ask any honest doctor about their first few months of practicing, and they'll vividly recall being terrified, exhausted, and devoid of any social life. That's pretty much where I'm at right now. I haven't hung out with any of my friends in well over a month. The only place I visited that wasn't my home or my work was just a different hospital, visiting my grandmother who was admitted there. After two weeks of giving her medical advice over the phone after work, it was almost a relief to hear she was admitted. Almost, but not quite, because I couldn't make time in my schedule to visit her until three days after she was admitted. But since I'm the only family member currently in the country (apart from my uncle, who's phobic of hospitals) I felt terrible for not being able to visit her sooner, even though I know she doesn't blame me.

    The first few weeks at the job, I was very tired every evening, but woke up the next day feeling relatively refreshed. As weeks progress, and my workload increases, a good night's sleep just doesn't seem to be enough anymore. It doesn't help that I wake up in the middle of the night, second-guessing my own medical decisions, wondering if I harmed or killed a patient with my inexperience. I have nightmares about all my patients being dead when I return to work in the morning. Some nights are restful, but many aren't. I'm friendly and energetic at work, but when I come home at night, I'm so tired I burst into tears over nothing. I've mysteriously burst into tears three times this week, leaving my boyfriend puzzled and helpless by my side as I try to explain it's just the exhaustion. He's worried I might be getting depressed again. I'm not worried, at this point. This is something we all go through, apparently. It's just not something they tell you about in med school.

    I made a few new friends at work, and was invited to a dinner party at one of those new friends last night. She told me in advance that I shouldn't feel obliged to come if I was too tired. I was determined to go, though. I really like this person, I'm determined to build a friendship with her, she wouldn't mind me guzzling wine if I'm nervous, plus she lives right around the corner. But working on Friday in healthcare is notorious for being busy and unpredictable. So even though my shift ended at four, I wasn't out of the hospital until six. I rushed to catch the bus, still determined to attend the party. Sitting on that bus was the nail in the proverbial coffin. I slowly started to feel how tired I actually was. After getting off the bus at my stop, I got splashed with water as the bus drove off. This brought tears to my eyes. I made it home without bursting into tears, but then my boyfriend asked me why I wasn't at the dinner party, and the floodgates just opened. I texted my friend to tell her I wasn't coming, because I was on the couch in fetal position. She told me not to worry, and if I just wanted to drop by for a glass of wine, that would be fine too. This morning she called me to ask if I was feeling better, which almost made me cry all over again.

    Truth is, I'm not feeling much better. The weekend is too short for me to recharge, at the moment. Plus, I don't have the time to relax. I need to study. Graduation wasn't the end of exams at all. I should be studying right now for an exam on Monday, but my eyes are burning. I have to read up on all the patients on my ward. I have to prepare assignments for the med students on my wards, who look to me for guidance and answers, even though I was still a med student myself a few months ago. I have a stack of medical articles I printed out to dig through this weekend, but I know I probably won't read any of them. I have a list of subjects I need to read up on, but it just keeps growing.

    It's not all bad though. Exhaustion and sheer terror aside, I do want to emphasize that I love my job. I feel myself improving every day. My self-confidence is growing in leaps and bounds. I love working with patients, and they're highly complimentary about my bedside manner, my honesty and my clear explanations of what ails them. I feel pretty good about my teaching methods as well. I have had so many new roles bestowed on me, not all of which I've trained for, but I am good at this. I love teaching. I love patient care. I love trying to figure out the complex puzzles they present with (yay, internal medicine!). I love how the specialists look to me for a plan of attack now, rather than telling me what to do.

    As long as I can remember everything I love about my new job, and as long as I'm happy in between crying spells, I'm not that worried about a recurring depression. I'm just going to have to make it through these first few months, and my first week of night shifts...

    About Author

    Dr Bolletje MD (not my real name), 33-year old (my real age though). I'm a potato chip enthusiast, amateur writer, avid dancer, cat lady, music fanatic and plant kween.
    the_tortoise, Kirsty and rainfall like this.


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  1. Moka
    Every successful person arrives at a place where they want to just give up. Every single one of them.

    Hang in there, and don't ever forget why you made the commitment to be a doctor. It's your calling, even if right now it seems as if your life force is being drained from the overload. This is all too common in the medical profession, and unfortunately complaining can come across as being unbecoming or somehow that you're not cut out for the rigors - which is far from the truth. You're human, and the best way to handle this is to be mindful of your valuable energy. Taking time to recover is often far more important than any socializing when you're feeling run down.

    As far as depression - anxiety and overload are often the root of it. I've found that focusing on my inner peace, and in knowing that my vocation in serving others (selflessness) can override the feelings of exhaustion, and actually generate a sense of purpose and reward, which in turn can help tap into more energy reserves.

    You probably know all of this all to well. I have daughters your age, and if I were speaking to anyone of them, I'd say what a wonderful job you're doing, and not to give up. It will all pay off. You will look back on these years with a sense of pride that you made it. Crying is healthy by the way. If it helps, I do it quite often! God bless, and thank you for sharing. You are an incredibly amazing young lady.
      Bolletje likes this.
  2. Katleya
    Brace yourself for The Corny Minute: crying is like a cloud releasing the rain, and after the rain comes sun again. /CornyMinute over.
    Hang in there. Sooner than you know, you'll be on autopilot and able to recharge faster, handle whatever's being thrown at you (be especially careful if anyone tries to throw a folder, or just duck, you know), even though in the meantime it's long & exhausting & nerve-racking.
      Bolletje likes this.
  3. vangelis
    I metaphorically take my hat off to all doctors as it's something I could never do in a million years. So glad that others have the dedication to do this.
      Bolletje likes this.
  4. Catalyst
    It all sounds amazing! I wanted to be a doctor once, but I was terrified of losing patients and never tried to study for it. I'm fascinated by all sorts of medical stuff, though I learned some time ago that psychology was more my thing, even though I've never been to school for either. It sounds like you're hanging in there with a positive outlook on everything. It sounds very rewarding. Take care of yourself, and cry all you need to. I bet you're doing fantastic. I would love to have a doctor who cares as much as you.
      Bolletje and rainfall like this.
  5. Ambi
    I'm so glad you're hanging in there! I'm way too burned out to manage anything like that. I'm struggling as it is with my far lighter job and life responsibilities right now. Not that it would come to this, but I remember a guy I knew who was in an MSTP program (not sure if they call it that elsewhere - it's a combined MD/PhD program) said half his class started antidepressants/anti-anxiety meds just to survive the program. Maybe if this just wears you down further and further rather than yielding more in the future, a teeny bit of low dose something could help.
      Bolletje and rainfall like this.
    1. Bolletje
      It's definitely something to consider. I wasn't a fan of antidepressants when I tried them 10 years ago, and I managed to recover from my most severe depression without medication. However, I won't discard antidepressants just yet, as I've never faced this type of challenge.