‘I’m Fine’ Even When I’m Not | Rachel Bramblet, DO
For the first time in my many years of training, I called my mom to tell her I wasn’t ok. My mom and I have a great relationship, and I call her frequently for advice on work, parenting, and life. She will always ask how I’m doing, and I would say that I’m fine. The majority of the time it was true, but even when I was struggling, I just wasn’t able to admit it to her or the many other people who love and support me. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be resilient. Perhaps the age-old adage of “fake it until you make it” was playing in my head. Besides, all of these years, I’ve been “fine.” How could I suddenly tell a loved one that right now I’m exhausted, and I feel burned out?
In residency, I realized that maintaining a sense of balance and wellbeing was something that required active participation. I found small things that I could incorporate in my daily life that helped me wind down from work and feel better. When exercise, Audible, and cooking wasn’t enough, I would just grit my teeth until I made it out of a rut. Life was different entering fellowship though. My priorities and responsibilities were shifting. I now had a child at home that I longed to see and hold, and I had so much to learn and do in such a short amount of time. The habits I picked up in residency were chipped away until they were gone.
I found myself in a spiral. I was burned out, and it was affecting my work, my confidence, and my ability to be present. I tried my hardest to incorporate the activities that had helped in the past, but I just felt even more stretched. I was at a breaking point, and I felt alone.
On the other side of that conversation with my mom, I’m glad to say that that I am doing well. Honestly! Getting back on track to achieving a state of wellness requires the same principles we use to become an expert surgeon, clinician, or educator. Practice, self-reflection, and coaching. Just like we don’t become an expert surgeon overnight, we don’t achieve wellness overnight either. Be kind, be flexible, and learn from your experiences. Always fall back on your principles.
I’m fortunate to be in a fellowship program that has incorporated the SGO wellness modules into our curriculum. I have learned skills to incorporate at work that can make some of the more difficult and demanding aspects of our jobs more manageable. Sometimes you even utilize these skills in ways that will surprise you. I never imagined I would use techniques for navigating difficult conversations with my mom, but I’m so glad that I did.
Rachel Bramblet, DO, is a gynecologic oncology fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.