When medicine gives you PTSD

I immediately noticed upon awakening that the intense jaw pain was gone.  I guess the TMJ was on hiatus.  Than I reached my hand down to my waist to make sure that the pager hadn’t fallen off during sleep (as I do every morning): it wasn’t there!  It took a few moments for me to remember that I had dispensed of it the day before.  For the first time in years, the buzzing, beeping, insistent mistress had been silenced.

And the rest of the week has been just like this.  No headaches, no jaw pain.  When I see a patient for a visit, there is no ringing or buzzing interrupting my thoughts.  There are no overhead pages.  I can actually sit across from another human being and listen, you know, like regular people do.  Like someone has lifted a hundred pound weight from my back and all the sudden I can breath. I am light as a feather.

I feel like a first year medical student.  Free from the chains of overwhelming responsibility, I can return to thinking abut medicine for the pleasure of it.  No one pages a first year student out of the room for an emergency.  No one rushes him through an interview or scolds him for being too generous with his time.

All the things I hated about my job have suddenly disappeared.

How long can this last?  When will some malevolent force descend on me and take away this newly found joy that, until recently, I didn’t even know existed?

Can I tell you how much I hated that pager?  That insidious soul sucker that buzzed against my skin in the middle of the night and woke me with heart racing: the bringer of bad news, evil things, death and disorder.  I started to jump even when the calls were for the most banal of issues.  I should have smashed it.  I should have snuck onto the train tracks and left it idling.

Yes, I know, it wasn’t the pager.  It was the lifestyle that was giving me PTSD.  The lifestyle that was sucking every ounce of my soul and leaving me hollow, empty.

It is the lifestyle that most physicians still lead today.

Jordan Grumet is an internal medicine physician and founder, CrisisMD.  He blogs at In My Humble Opinion.

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