Physicians are people of good will, dedicating their lives in the pursuit of healing others. The challenge is that many doctors neglect their own health, and consequently they struggle to help their colleagues in need. If I were to write a letter to doctors as a peer with bipolar disorder, it would read something like this:
My dear peers,
Your colleagues are in trouble and need you more than you might imagine. Ask yourselves how you might be more helpful to those of us who are currently unwell. We must do more to make their journey one that is safer and easier for them. We all march forward when those who have been suffering in silence speak out. But that is only half the solution. It is too heavy a lift for those of us with mental health conditions to push this heavy rock up the hill by ourselves.
Share your thoughts
Please don’t underestimate how impactful your words or a hug might be. I spoke with a colleague years ago, sharing my story and her response was simply to give me a hug. It was exactly the nourishment I needed. For any given clinician, it can be daunting to know how to shift the current status quo of secrecy and silence in regard to the prevalence of psychiatric disorders within our medical community. I would ask you to merely look in front of you each day. You are skilled practitioners, perceptive in assessing those of us who are unwell. You know who is struggling.
Remember, we change the culture of secrecy one conversation at a time. Dare to ask your friends and your peers how they are. Most of the time they will welcome this because they know it comes from the heart. Have the fortitude to find your voice and in response, they will too. If we don’t put our compassion into words, our silence can be heard by those who suffer as “you do not exist.” We may ask you at times, to lift us up. Please, consider using the decency and concern that you possess. You have chosen a vocation in which you heal others, so train your heartfelt focus toward healing those of us in need.
The topic of physician health is increasingly rising to the surface in our community given the concerns about physician burnout and the evident morbidity and mortality that afflicts us. Given the conversations we are now having (and my good friend and colleague who gave me a hug), I have faith that we can summon our courage and shift the current avoidant stasis You colleagues and friends are waiting for you to do so. Please, reach out your hand.
How might your letter be similar or different?
10 thoughts on “A letter to doctors from a peer with bipolar”
Excellent Article. You have a very unique perspective.
thank you so much!
A long overdue conversation! So timely
we doctors need to watch out for each other…thnx for reading
I have just come across your article. Thank you. I will be reading your blog. I am a trained lawyer living with Bi Polar. I was diagnosed at 16. That was 32 years ago. I am not ready to publicly share my journey. i don’t know anyone else with the same challenges I have had .I find your courage inspiring. I know one day I will write about it.
Hello Katerina-how kind of you to write. It took me a few decades to truly claim ownership of myself without shame, so I understand you. I was so surprised that so many people (colleagues and friends) greeted me with open arms and hugs when I told them. Not what I expected. Everyone travels their own path and I respect that. I’m thrilled that you will be reading my blog pieces and I’m with you in spirit. I have walked your walk…take the time you need and know that there are many people of good will standing right beside you. Thanks again. Hope that you will stay in touch with me and let me know how you are doing.
Thank you Katerina. And thanks for following my blog. It took me many years to acknowledge my diagnosis to others so I understand. Take your time until you are ready. I have learned that there are few things in life more powerful and freeing than authenticity. Let’s stay in touch
Hello , I am a pediatrician, recently diagnosed and am devastated. Looking for hope and encouragement that it’s going to get better.
Hello and thanks for sharing. I understand how you feel. I have been there so you are not alone. I have been able to travel the distance from despair to happiness and I’ll bet that you can too. Most do. There’s something powerful and liberating about owning who you are-being fully authentic. I had many misperceptions when I was first diagnosed (I’d have a horrible life, need to be on meds forever, be shamed by others, etc.). None of these have been proven true. Check out dbsalliance.org (I sit on the board of directors)- a great organization offering support and education about mood disorders. Let’s stay in touch email@example.com
Please reach out if you are interested in a support group for doctors with mood disorders that I facilitate