OK, It's a rainy Saturday. I am not on call. My husband is watching our 2 kids (under 2 years old) so I can work out. I just jumped on our Spinning bike and banged out 15 minutes of hard up-down cycling, while watching Cupcake Wars (It makes the time go really fast, and I vicariously enjoy the cupcakes, while actually burning calories!).
I thought up this post in the midst of the workout, and I jumped off the bike. Now I'm sitting here, sweaty, trying to bang out the writing. Meantime I can hear my toddler boy yelling. He's got a cold and is just cranky, and he wants me. The baby is whimpering, and Hubby will have to make her a bottle one-handed, while our toddler howls and hurls things around the living room.
So let me be brief.
Quick backstory: I'm a part-time internist in group practice, and I had my second baby 5 months ago. My last few posts here on Mothers in Medicine have focused on my journey back to fitness after baby #2. I was 4 weeks postpartum, and realized that at 5' 2" and 163 pounds, I was officially obese. In spite of the fact that I was breastfeeding exclusively, I was gaining weight (and yes, that is common). It was my eating habits. Carbs, carbs, carbs. Bowl of Cheerios here, toast with butter and jam there.
I was shocked, but motivated. I got on the South Beach Diet and I lost a ton of weight. Listen, folks, the low-carb diets work. (I get no endorsement monies from them, BTW) (Though I would take some in a second, if they offered :)
I also started exercising again. For the first 3 months, I just ran outside when I could (though to call it running would be exaggerating. More like jog-walking) and did some Pilates on the floor before bedtime. This month I added back the gym.
And in 4 months, I have lost 30 pounds, down to 133 pounds, only 10 pounds away from my goal. I am well out of obese BMI range, and I feel great. Physically.
However, mentally, I am sagging. Now, Babygirl is still not sleeping through the night. My husband travels for work, alot. Though we have great family support, it is just a hectic schedule. My reserve is low.
But, some days, I find myself just suffering through clinic. The day will start out OK and manageable, and then, as happens not infrequently, I will encounter a difficult patient, and I will just get so down. I mean, so down that I come home and start surfing the net for non-clinical doctor jobs.
Now, the vast majority of my patients are absolutely lovely. Honestly. I have been so boosted, even blown away, by the interest people take in me and my family; by the unsolicited support for my working part-time; by thoughtful cards or baby gifts; by positive feedback on my clinical work
But just one angry/ blaming/ abusive/ demanding patient, and I am just crushed. Even when I am in the right (like in diagnosing an alcohol problem, or not prescribing narcotics). Even when I know the patient has psychological issues, and is only acting out at me because I happen to be sitting there. The negativity will get to me, even if there is no overt confrontation, or raised voices, or complaints. If a patient is unhappy, I feel like a failure. I get shaken, even to the point of physically shaking. I feel like I will have a panic attack in the office.
Colleagues are supportive. We all see many patients a week, and we all have similar experiences, day in and day out. There is plenty of camaraderie, and I can always find someone with whom to vent, and feel validated.
But, at the end of the day, I hate these negative encounters. They make me want to quit my job.
I'm trying to look into this, to see what steps I can take to build resilience so that I don't feel like I need to please everyone; so that I don't feel a failure when a patient is unhappy. I used to be much better at this.
I'm currently looking at the concept of Compassion Fatigue. This is new territory for me. What do other MiM know about this? Is this something that applies? Or am I just an exhausted new mom with little reserve in a demanding profession having a normal experience?