Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Approaching The Burn

I have just over a month to go before intern year is over, and the only thought I have is I don't know if I can keep doing this for three more years.

Between the third and fourth year of medical school and one year of intern year, I've already been doing this for three years.

And I'm not sure I've come out better on the other side of those years.

Right at this moment, I'm so beat-down and burnt out that it's hard to care about anything. I'm tired. It's hard to sleep at night, because all I can think about is that I have to get up and go to work. Again. And again. And again.

It's been months since I've had two days in a row off.

I know what the signs of burn-out are, and I'm pretty sure I'm checking off the boxes. My performance at work is suffering. My motivation to study is minimal. I'm just doing what is required of me and not much more.

And the thought that I'll keep feeling this way for three more years makes me just want to quit right now.

Except I can't. Because someone has to pay the mortgage and bring home food.

As I was having a mini-meltdown last night, Hubster made a remark about regretting going to the particular medical school I went to. I told him it wasn't the school I regretted, it was medicine in general. I've become a statistic, one of the many doctors that say, given the chance, they wouldn't do it over again.

I resent what my education and training have done to me.

I like to think of myself as an optimistic person. I like to think that I'm an idealist, a dreamer, a hoper. But I'm not sure how much of that person is left. My training has been the optimism and joy right out of me.

There is a reason the depression rate and suicidal ideation are so high among physicians (Great article about it here.) The path through this is difficult. Like a fellow resident-blogger wrote once, "When it is bad, it is very bad. And when it is good, mostly, it's just OK."

But don't worry. I'm okay. I may be burned out, but I'm not depressed. I may not be happy at work. But I still have plenty to have happy about.

See, things at home, well, they are the best they've ever been. Even if Monkey is going through a particularly naughty phase that includes dumping all the drill bits under the deck. The boys are happy and healthy. Hubster and I have reached a new level of communication and love in our relationship. Coming home every day feels like reaching harbor after a journey. I feel like a different person at home. One that has nothing to worry about except being tackled during a game of tag.

Maybe it is the happiness at home that makes going to work so very hard.

There is a resident that I'm working with right now that is still so happy and thoughtful and energetic. I don't know how he does it. Maybe his training up to this point has been different than mine. And then I am envious. Envious that he is happy, when I just can't seem to be. Envious that he is content, while I am trying to survive. Envious that he is still optimistic, idealistic, and hopeful.

But there are times, even when I'm not sure how I can keep going, there are small moments, that I think, maybe, the old girl I was is still in there.


  1. Hi Katherine!

    Greetings from Malaysia again! Just want to say thank you for dropping by my blog on my SITS day. You can read the aftermath of my whole day SITting episode at this link:

    Thank you again and hope to see you back here sometime! :D

    Warmest Regards,
    Jenny aka I'm a full-time mummy

  2. Katherine, I am so sorry that you are going through this. I bet the resident that you wrote about being so happy at work might be because he doesn't have much to be happy about outside of work, so he puts it all in to this as it's all he has to look forward to.

    You, unfortunately have the "curse." You love your life and you love having money, it's just the work to do to get it. I would much rather have what you have, the loving and AWESOME family at home to think about. You have said it before, you are doing it ALL for them, and obviously it is working. you and your husband have a wonderful relationship, you have two smart, healthy, and happy boys that adore you, and you are able to pay the mortgage. :)

    Think of all that you have accomplished in the past decade...more than some do in a lifetime. You have so much to be thankful for and just think when you are finished with the next three years...there are so many new chapters to start, personally and professionally.

    Thinking of you...have a great day.

  3. Perhaps the resident you're envious is like that because his most enjoyable time is spent on the job, while you have something more. Hang in there!

  4. No matter how much we love our jobs and know that is what we are meant to do, we all have times like this. And if we say we don't, we are big fat liars. Hope you find your inspiration to get your passion back soon!

  5. I have the curse of getting burnt out and "selling" myself for a pay check. I'm learning to not pick up the extra hours just so I can have more money...but then my parents complain that I'm not working's an endless cycle! I hope you find some peace, relax and remember why you love what you do.

  6. If you face the sunset and dream yourself back over woodlands, wet lands. prairie, desert and mountains to a white picket fence and lilacs, there is a shoulder and you are never too old or too big to be rocked and held and cry. Aches keep aching when we have no time to process them, no way to track any inside work or messages and no time/know-how to trace sunlight into these dark corners. I am sorry you are so pressed that this is happening. You ARE in there. Doing just what is necessary is fine for now.

  7. I just remember how HAPPY you sounded when you were in the middle of anesthesia. You sounded like you were truly enjoying yourself and that you really felt like it was where you are meant to be.

    I'm thinking that once you get back there, you'll find some of that girl you've been missing.

  8. Dear Katherine, You don't know me. I am a friend of your family, having known some of its members for many years.

    I was feeling burnt to a crisp tonight as I drove home. Interestingly, the thought occurred to me that I should visit your blog. Over the last few months I had read several of your entries and admired your way of thinking, but I had not been to your site for a few weeks. Tonight your words provided additional perspective and reminded me that it is possible to experience burnout even when we are living our dreams. We must take care, literally, so that we have something left to give. We must also be willing to receive.

    I wish I had the ability to share my thoughts as eloquently as your dear mom does. I would just like to add my wishes for your happiness and well-being. I hope you can find heart's ease. Often it appears so unexpectedly; we just have to be open to noticing it.

    Hugs to you from San Diego.

  9. Katherine,

    This may be a dark time on the job front, but you are always young enough to change directions and listen to your gut and your heart. I wish for your contentment and happiness.

    Stopping by from SITS