The shriek of the alarm rung in my ears. ‘Here we go again,’ I thought to myself. It was another bright and sunny morning, but inside I only felt coldness, darkness, and solitude. The pressure of running a small business, taking care of patients, and tending to my family’s needs finally hit a boiling point. The clock struck eight. It was time to go, but the last place I wanted to be was in my practice.
Depression and anxiety affect more adults than most might think. According to data published in 2019, 15% of women and 10% of men experienced anxiety on a daily basis, while 5% of women and 3.5% of men reported feeling depressed every day. Women are disproportionately affected by anxiety and depression according to this data. A 2022 study indicates that the Covid pandemic only served to further augment mental health problems; with healthcare workers were particularly affected.
I would rather have been anywhere than in my vehicle travelling towards my office. Large semi-trucks would hurl past me on the opposite side of the road. I would often daydream about them crossing over and hitting me. Who would have thought that a young doctor who had just opened his brand-new clinic would be afflicted with such challenging thoughts and feelings?
Sadly, I suspect that I was not alone in the way that I felt. Many of my patients who are healthcare workers have expressed feelings of sadness, burnout, and weariness. It’s not easy to continue to give of yourself for your patients and have a full cup left over for yourself, let alone for your family when you get home. Many times, I felt like a zombie as I sat at the dinner table, listening to my children and my wife laughing and talking. It was ironic that the person who had helped patients get out of pain felt numb.
Thankfully, my wife and I have a strong marriage and we can talk about anything. It’s important to have a support structure when wandering through anxiety and depression. Verbalising what you’re experiencing can help you gain concrete understanding of what you’re going through. It also helps you know that others care. Feelings of isolation and unwantedness are key thought mechanisms in anxiety and depression.
Be mindful of the people who are in your life. Look for signs of declining mental health in those around you. Also, take an intentional self-inventory from time to time to determine if you’re heading towards declining mental health. Read this great article which outlines the signs of developing depression. The common saying is knowledge is power. If you know what you’re looking for you’ll be surprised with what you can see.
I work with patients who have spinal injuries on a routine basis. Limping into the office as well as wincing and grimacing facial expressions are rather commonplace. It’s easy to see when someone is in physical distress. It’s even more obvious when looking at their X-rays. What’s not so obvious is when a person’s mind is hurt. Neural tissue can be damaged too. We must remember that our minds and bodies are intimately connected. It’s time we all become better healers in the realm of mental health. Doctors aren’t the only ones who can benefit those around them. You have the power to make a difference in other’s lives. Look for opportunities to be a blessing to the people in your life. You don’t know who you might save in the process.
Joshua Burnham, DC is the owner of Precision Chiropractic Services.