To my residents after a suicide

It’s been a gut-punch kind of time for many of us, and I want to say a few things that I think are important.

First of all, I really love working with you guys. It is the best part of my job, hands down. I have taken stock of my career lately, and I keep coming back to that. You are young and optimistic and funny (so, so funny). You are also unsure and anxious and scared. And you blow me away again and again with your insight, empathy, and thoughtfulness.

You teach me things about medicine, technology, pop culture and how to be a better human. It is a privilege to spend my days (and less so, my nights sometimes) with you. The students buzz in and out like the fruit flies in the fifth-floor workroom, but you guys are committed. You’re here for three or four years. And I am fortunate to keep in touch with many of you via text or Facebook or in person when you return after sailing through your respective fellowships. And then, you really teach me more about medicine. I am not quite old enough to be your parent but apparently too old to be your peer. And I love this comfortable in-between-ish sweet spot.

You are a remarkable group of people. You are exquisitely loved by many — your parents, your children, your partners, your siblings, your classmates. You have committed yourselves to sleeplessness and years of stress and study and near financial ruin for the privilege of taking care of children. And sometimes it is thankless. Sometimes the nurses and the parents and the attendings are not kind to you. They allow the stress of illness and suffering and busyness get in the way of treating you with kindness and respect. But every single one of you is a remarkable human and so full of value and promise and life.

So lean on each other. Lean on me. I have led a relatively privileged life, but I have known my share of sorrow and anxiety. I have gone through multiple bouts of irrational hypochondriasis. I have been grief-stricken for months to years due to lost love and lost fetuses. I have suffered through years of a long, drawn-out malpractice suit that was eventually dropped but soul-crushing at the time. I have found comfort in writing about these experiences and also in talking to others who have been through the same things.

I sincerely invite any and all of you to call or text or email me at any time. I am happy to talk about anything — postpartum anxiety, SSRI choices while breastfeeding, what it feels like to be served with legal documents or how often I curse at my husband or kids under my breath. This life is hard, but it is also beautiful.

Please reach out, please offer and seek comfort, please be patient with each other and especially with yourselves.

Lisa Sieczkowski is a pediatrician. 

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