Why psychiatry is the right choice for me

These days, the world is a very scary place.

You go to school. You go to school some more if you can afford it and you feel so inclined. Then, if you’re one of the really crazy ones like me, you go to school some more. Somewhere in that late night caffeine and chili cheese fries induced sophomoronic (no, do not adjust your set) craziness, something starts to click. At least you hope it does. You hope to feel something. A spark maybe? A little tingle? A little excitement that runs up and down your spine and makes you squirm. Even if you don’t go the multi-year schooling crazy route, you still want to feel it. Need to feel it.

What is my purpose in this life? What am I supposed to do with myself? How do I make a living and pay my cellphone bill? How do I eat? We all reach that point in life, some much sooner and some dramatically later, when we know what it is we’re supposed to do next. Does that make it easier? No. Does that make our path clearer? Maybe.

One of the commenters on a prior post, Michael Delaney, said something that really got me thinking and was the inspiration for this one. I told him I would give him a tip of the hat for doing so, and I’ll go one better. I’m going to include his entire comment here to see what you think.

It’s funny that you’re a psychiatrist. I’m 43 and just completed my Behavioral Neuroscience BA degree, en route to be a psychiatrist. However, I was amazed that absolutely no one thought the profession was a good goal, and a few even thought that psychiatry is a scam. I’ve been accepted to a Master’s program in Anesthesiology, but I’ve always wondered …what if … Any thoughts?

I told him hell yes I had some thoughts!

Psychiatry has always been a great choice for me. Just the right mix of neurology, primary practice and behavioral health. I’ve been able to work in hospitals big and small, busy EDs, clinics, crisis units, prisons, county jails, and family counseling centers. I’ve worked doing evaluations for the federal government, had top level clearances, worked in two state mental health systems, and for the Veterans Administration. I’ve worked in multimillion dollar buildings and out of the back of my car. I’ve seen people who could pay me $200 an hour and dressed far better than me and people who had nothing but the tattered clothes on their backs. I’ve often been exhausted, but I can think of very few days I’ve been bored. I’ve tried to do my best for ALL these people, rich and poor, black and white, sick and well, educated and not. I’ve used my talent and energy and determination and training to (I certainly hope) make life just a little more bearable for people who really needed what I had to offer them.

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, once said. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma-which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.”

Make your own decisions.

Do what you think will make you happy and that will at the same time put a dent in the universe.

Never, ever sell out.

People who say that psychiatry is not the real deal have never done real psychiatry. I have.

I am proud of what I do and I always have been. When that moment hits you, when you figure out your direction and set your course for your adult life, will you choose the course that will make you happy?

Even more importantly, will you choose a path that will leave the world a better place after you leave it?

Greg Smith is a psychiatrist who blogs at gregsmithmd.

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