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Physician Heal Thyself: What Often Stands in the Way?

physician heal thyself woman alone in woods with backpack

Survival Mode

I was running in a million different directions just to keep up. All I wanted was a little peace. I wanted to catch up and maybe even get ahead a bit. “Physician heal thyself,” ha! How in the world was I supposed to do that?

The struggle of asking for help

The truth was I had an underlying sense of guilt about asking anyone for help… including family, friends, colleagues, a coach or a therapist. 
Maybe I wouldn’t have hesitated as much if I thought I was really depressed or struggling with anxiety.  But it’s not always that cut and dry, is it?

Have you been there too?  Maybe you’re just really stressed out. Overwhelmed and frustrated. Exhausted from trying to be all things to all people. Juggling it all. Sound familiar?

There’s that hint of guilt when we think about reaching out for help. Why? What is it that often stands in between trying to take it all on ourselves versus reaching out and asking for help?

So what stands in the way of “Physician, heal thyself?”

I think it really boils down to one thing: Fear of Judgement 

What will others think?…our friends, our family and our colleagues? There is also always that fear that there will be issues with the medical board. Although typically unfounded, many of us still have this fear. 

We are nurturers. We are mothers.  We are doctors. We went into medicine to help others.  We give. A LOT. We don’t want to need help, so we judge ourselves if we do.  We would rather give help. 

The culture of stoicism in medicine tells us the following:

  1. Always put the patient first. 
  2. Suppress your own needs to fulfill the needs of others – even at great personal cost to yourself.
  3. You can and SHOULD give absolutely everything you can to your patients and profession.  Anything less is viewed as not being honorable. This may mean taking on multiple new patients in an already full clinic day even though you don’t get to eat in a 12 hour period and have to arrange for someone else to pick up your kids and feed them dinner.

The unspoken “martyr” mentality – the more you sacrifice personally for our patients, the better doctor you are. ⠀⠀⠀

We fear the judgement of other, but probably more than anything, we judge ourselves. 

We are often really hard on ourselves… even when it ultimately doesn’t serve us.  

And I’ve been there…

My oldest, Grant, was two and a half years old.  And Jude, my youngest, was a newborn. Jon, my husband, worked all nights in the ED. I was working in academic medicine.  

I was exhausted and overwhelmed.  And all I wanted was a sense of peace, rest and control. 

And yet I felt bad about asking for help. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

But putting the demands of our patients and profession first, at our own personal expense without boundaries, puts our own mental health, families, marriages and patients at risk.

So think about it.  Are you in survival mode? Do you feel like you shouldn’t need to ask for help?

Stop judging yourself. 

Asking for help shows strength and compassion for yourself.

So ask. 

I created “House Calls for Physicians” for this very reason. Click on the link below to get my free guide and weekly support and inspiration. We are in this together:)

Kricia Palmer, MD, ASID | Doctor, life coach & interior designer

I’m Kricia Palmer, and I help women physicians let go of clutter and create beautiful, clutter-resistant homes so they can feel more peace, get more rest and be more focused.

What do you want to learn more about?

Create a home you love that fits YOUR style, so you feel relaxed, inspired, and enjoy every space in your home.