Why this doctor writes and puts himself out there

Recently, Dr. Mike Sevilla decided to hang up his podcasting mic, his blogging tools, his Twitter creds, and his Facebook presence, all in one fell swoop. Find out more about Mike the man, and why he decided to take this drastic action, at his website.

Now, I have known Mike for some time on Twitter primarily, where we will sometimes comment back and forth about issues of the day or one of his podcasts or one of my blog posts. We’ve never been close, personally close, as I have come to be with other friends in social media. That said, there has always been that connection, usually unspoken, with another doctor who wants to make a difference by what he thinks, says and does online and over the air waves.

Mike started out in this social media space as many doctors have, anonymously. He began to use his real name just a short time back. Now, I can’t speak for Mike and exactly why he decided to bow out and regroup. He has already said a little about this, and he will say more if and when he decides the time is right to do that. I can, however, speak for myself. Oh, yeah. You know I can.

If you’re not in this game, not ever or not yet, you need to understand some things.

If you’re a writer, you have to write. It’s a compulsion. For me, it’s the first thing I want to check off my ToDo app list for the day after making coffee. I write to think out loud. I write to teach. I write to share feelings. I write to celebrate. I write to mourn loss. I write to dream. I write to chastise. I write to lose myself and escape the grinding, wrenching, painful day-to-day stuff of life. I write to exercise a part of my brain that gets little use in my real job. I write because I have been a writer since I was a little kid, since I won that first essay contest medal in school or that first D.A.R. speech competition and realized that if I wrote it, if I said it, somebody would pay attention to it. I write because I’m a a writer.

If you’re a doctor, a good doctor, you want to share. You want to teach. You want to put out there what you know, thinking that you can reach just one more person and bring insight to just one more soul who needs it. It’s about ego, of course it is, because you wouldn’t or couldn’t do it without a healthy one, but that’s not all.

It’s about being needed, being relevant. It’s about knowing that what you do makes a difference in this world. You can share by talking to one patient at a time. That’s perfectly fine. You can write columns for your local paper. You can give speeches about a new surgical procedure at the Lions Club. That’s fine. You can do a podcast like Mike did and reach many more people on a regular schedule.

The point is, you want to be heard, and you find the best way, the way that fits, for you. Facebook and Twitter and other social media platforms have made it easier than ever to instantly share things, says things and advertise things that we think, process and create. Blogging platforms like Blogger and WordPress have made it possible for anyone to publish anything. Much of it is good. Some of it is bad. Some of it is terrible. Goes with the territory.

So, this is all touchy-feely and kittens and unicorn tears and sparkles, right?

No.

If you put yourself out there, if you speak and blog and write and tweet and post and podcast and comment, other things will happen. Trust me on this. I have several well-worn T-shirts.

You will be misunderstood. The thing that you created that you thought was magical and insightful and full of deep hidden meaning for all of mankind? Well, I hate to tell you this, Skippy, but people don’t read your stuff in a vacuum. They BTOB (bring their own baggage) and it colors not only everything that they do but everything that you do. They will take what you hammered out and interpret it with tea leaves, hammer it out on their own anvils, and make it their own. It will be a shadow of itself by the end of the day, after a few hundred hits and a few dozen comments. If you can’t stand the heat …

You will be praised. This is intoxicating and makes you keep coming back for more. Oh, come on, go with me here. Do you think I would keep writing solely for myself if I thought none of you ever read me? If I thought nobody out there cared what I said? I might as well just do a diary entry every morning and be done with it. I need you. I want to hear from you. I cherish your comments, both on the blog and on Twitter and on Facebook, and dare I say this, in real life by the use of something called the phone! I learn a tremendous amount from you, my readers and friends. You may not want to believe that. You may not want to believe that social media and what goes on in this space is real. It is. It’s true.

You will be vilified. If you’re at the top of your game, if you put yourself out there as somebody who knows something about something, somebody else is going to shoot you down, or at least try to. It’s human nature. We’re a jealous bunch. We’re vindictive. We’re snarky. We love to see people succeed, but we love seeing them trip up and stumble even more. If you join the game, be prepared to be shot at. It’s happened to me. It’ll happen to you. It’s not fun. Sometimes it’s downright painful.

I sincerely hope that Mike will decide to come back to the social space, even if it’s in a radical new way. I hope he works through whatever it was that caused him to take this time out. I hope most of all that this does not deter other doctors from joining the conversation.

As you can tell if you’ve read any of my stuff over the last seven years, I am passionate about what I do. The system I work in, health care and the mental health part of it, is badly broken. I flail around in it every day doing he best I can to take care of my patients. I also think about it and write about it and I want to make a difference in how this care is being provided. I want to call attention to some things that I think are not right. I want these things to change. I want to play a part in changing them.

I’m a doctor because I care about people.

I write because I’m a writer.

I’m willing to put myself out there on both counts and deal with whatever comes my way.

Greg Smith is a psychiatrist who blogs at gregsmithmd.

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