Since around Xmas time, the same question has been on my mind, and as the weeks go by it is frustrating me more and more.
Without beating around the bush, it's a simple one. Do I continue to do the RCGP sessions? If you don't know, I work with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) a few times a year, doing sessions with med students who are learning to work in the GP environment. Doing staged consultations, as an expert patient, presenting with symptoms I am familiar with, i.e Depression and Anxiety. I have done this for a few years now, and while I find it pretty bloody stressful, I also take some comfort from the fact that I am helping others to understand the conditions, and maybe help them be in a better position in the future to help future patients.
I have said time and again, I find the sessions exhausting, more mentally than physically, and sometimes it can trigger a bit of a wobble for me. However, I really love the engagement with the students, being able to talk about bouts of depression, and dealing with day to day life with severe bouts of anxiety. So you can see where I am going with this. There are genuine pros and cons.
Each session I do requires me to take a day off work, for the physical sessions which are now returning, I also need to travel to Central London for the day, and pay for transport or parking. In return I get to stretch myself outside comfort zone a little, engage with the next generation of GP's (some of them anyway), and explain from a first person POV what it is like trying to live when things are bad. I don't for one second think this is an unfair balance. I also get an Amazon voucher for my time, so I am very grateful for that.
A couple of months back, I was approached by one of the teams at Kings College London (KCL) about the possibility of doing some sessions for them too. At the time I was in one of my more positive frames of mind, and really keen to get back to doing what I could for the cause, and was happy to talk to more people about living with depression and anxiety. I have to say the first couple of experiences were a little daunting. New people, new procedures, and the likelihood of becoming a lead in a session of my own at some point. For someone with anxiety, that's a big change and ask. But looking back, I went through the same when I started working with the RCGP too.
Over Xmas and the New Year, I had a bit of a wobble, and my head went a bit funny, and I started doubting myself. Not only taking on work with KCL, but also questioning my continued work with the RCGP too. A technical error on the last KCL session left me unable to participate, and in that moment I panicked a little about what the hell I was doing. I was out of my depth, completely out of my comfort zone, and floundering. I made my apologies and bowed out quickly, then spent the next few weeks contemplating. So, here I am!
To compound things more, I contracted Covid a couple of weeks back, which coincided with the first RCGP session of 2022, so I missed that too. The longer I have been away, the more I have doubted myself. I have always said as soon as you start to have doubts and questions about something, it is time to get out. But it just doesn't sit right with me.
I am not irreplaceable, I am sure there are plenty more people who could and would do the sessions in my place. I don't think it is about ego and having some sort of bragging rights either. To me, when feeling positive about things, I love the idea that I am able to help people understand what others are going through. Be it blogging to let others struggling know they are not alone, or explaining to someone, whilst in a rational state of mind, what it is like to be in that situation, and how doctors and the medical world can best help those struggling.
It is ironic that something that I do to help with mental health has caused me sleepless nights, hours and hours of painful contemplation, and yet still it isn't a simple "I'm done" in my head. I need to be sure of what I do next.
- Pros Rewarding, enlightening, educational for others
- Cons Tiring, uses annual leave, travel stress
I know I have made an impression on some of the students in the time I have been doing this. I know deep down inside I want to continue to help anyone in any way I can. Teaching, counselling, sharing. But I would be lying if I said it doesn't come at a cost. So I am stuck!
I am away in Svalbard for a week mid Feb, so think I will take that time in the arctic to weigh it all up, without any other pressures, and go from there. But am always interested to know what others would do in a similar situation. I'm not a martyr, not a hero or a saint, but I know I make a tiny bit of a difference, and like a dirt devil in the desert, I know from small things, big changes can come.
So.... WHAT DO I DO ???