I had the pleasure of sitting down with John Tamerin, M.D., and Mike Myers, M.D. to discuss the psychiatric needs of mental health clinicians. Dr. Tamerin has a private practice in Greenwich, Connecticut and is Clinical Associate Professor at Weill Cornell College of Medicine in New York City. He has been running a support group for those living with (and affected by) mental health conditions for over twenty years. Dr. Myers is a national expert on physician health, has authored 8 books and is Professor of Psychiatry and immediate past Vice-Chair of Education and Director of Training in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn, New York.
Dr. Myers moderates the session and introduces the discussion by saying
“The sad irony is that many (physicians) do not receive the care that they so sefflessly give to others and that they need and deserve for themselves.”
I am a physician living with bipolar disorder. For many years, I travelled the bumpy road of refusing to accept my diagnosis. I avoided psychiatric care for far too long. And, I internalized the shame and the stigma of being a doctor with a mental illness. This caused me to nail my bipolar closet closet door firmly shut. Despite this, I opted a few years ago to step forward and publicly acknowledge that I have a mood disorder. I hoped that there would be a greater good in doing so. I have shared my diagnosis with family, friends, colleagues and at international conferences. It was the start of a bipolar doctor becomes authentic.
I never expected it but I have received more hugs and support from those who now know my story than I ever thought could come my way. Although I had been worried about personal and professional repercussions, it turned out that these fears were unwarranted. My biggest hurdle turned out to be the guy staring back at me from a mirror colored with self-condemnation. I have come to see that there are few things in life more powerful than authenticity. Replacing the corrosive inner narratives that had been swirling in my head with ones of affirmation and self respect has freed me in a way I couldn’t previously imagine. By coming out of these shadows, I have stepped into the light of a much brighter and healthier day.