Thank you to the doctor who saw me in the ER and who didn’t sweep my tearful shakiness aside and dismiss me as a time-waster.
Angela — from the moment you poked your head around the curtain and smiled at me, despite the awkwardness of me being pretty much naked whilst the nurse covered me in ECG stickers, I liked you. I felt guilty that I was taking you away from real patients. People who were dying maybe.
You were brisk but not unkind and you apologised for having to leave me as you had other patients who required urgent attention, but that you’d ordered some blood tests and would be back. I smiled with embarrassment through my tears and told you that it was fine and I was fine and it’s fine.
I then lay curled up in a bed under pink cotton blankets, trying not to think about work and failing abismally. The numb tingling pain I associate with inner rage continued to run through my chest and left arm and I continued to know I was simply reacting to The Situation At Work. The blood tests would come back clear as had the ECG. I tried not to worry about everything that was certainly going wrong in my absence. I tried not to cry. I tried not to think and I stared at leaflets on the wall opposite me, declining TV and food because I preferred to continue punishing myself worrying about work.
80 minutes ticked by, the work day ended, although the work event I was supposed to be on the door for was just starting, and I watched the Nurse walk up and down, thinking to myself how much she must despise me. I listened to the overly-loud young male doctor announce a 3-week pregnancy to the couple in the cubicle next to me. I couldn’t tell if they were happy or not with the news.
Then you reappeared out of nowhere. I didn’t expect you to say more than “You’re fine. You probably just had a panic attack. You can go home.” before whizzing off back to Emergency where people needed you.
Instead you smiled and said “Your blood work is fine. I don’t think there is anything physically wrong with you” and then you pulled the curtains closed around my bed and sat down. And you told me very gently that you thought I needed to see a psychologist because I am suffering from burnout and I need some support.
You encouraged me to talk, you let me cry, and you took all the time in the world to hear my ranting and my misery and my sense of failure and of being trapped. And you cried with me. I watched your eyes grow red and shine and then tears started falling, and I wished we could run away together.
Angela. Dr Angela. Thank you a million times for taking time to talk to me and to listen to me.
I am so grateful for Australian healthcare and for how they treat patients. I’m scared and anxious about going back to work after Angela’s prescribed “doonah day”, and I’m terrified of my boss’s chain of nuclear reactions. But now I know that I am not just weak and tired and stressed and irritable and antisocial and a horrible bad angry person. I’m mentally and emotionally and physically exhausted, I’m suffering from burnout, and I’m going to get out of this job very soon.