leaping to freedom
Lisa is part of the current Purpose Pursuit cohort. So many of the others in the community were inspired by her courage
Do you remember that show from the 90s, ‘Quantum Leap’, where the slightly awkward, unlikely hero of the piece, Sam Beckett, would find himself occupying someone else’s body? A time travel experiment gone awry meant that, trapped in the past, he was leaping from person to person, helping navigate them through a particular life dilemma before leaping on again.
Well, if you weren’t lucky enough to catch it; I hope you get the drift.
I’ve just realised that I am Sam. Kinda.
I’ve just leapt – albeit, I’ve not actually left my own human form and my own consciousness remains in charge – but it feels like an out-of-body experience!
I’ve just handed in my notice at my real-life, grown-up job.
I work as a GP and I have been a doctor for the last 14 years.
My decision is discombobulating, disorientating and uncomfortable. And yet I know it’s the right thing for me. I think I feel like I’m having an out of body experience because this kind of self-determination has been a long time coming.
Why did I leap?
The short version is that I decided to value myself, to put my needs front and centre and live a life true to myself.
The longer version is that, sadly, I do not believe that the current NHS system supports clinicians to deliver a high standard of compassionate patient-focused care without sacrificing themselves along the way. The workload demands placed on individuals are unsustainable and unreasonable. What I now realise (with great relief because I believed it for a long time) is that it is not me who is broken. The system is broken.
There is huge sadness in my decision because General Practice suits my strengths perfectly (Individualisation, Relator, Communication, Restorative). In many ways, it is a perfect partnership and I absolutely delight in the human interactions I am privileged to be part of every time I start a consultation. The problem is that the emotional human in me struggles. She has not figured out (and in truth, has no interest in learning) how to adapt her work style to be able to connect with people on a more superficial level, which would be necessary to sustainably do all that is expected from her in a day at work.
Add the Achiever in me to the way I love to cultivate relationships with patients and it’s a dangerous combination. I am driven to work long hours to complete everything that comes my way and invest 100% in every patient interaction (even on the days I tell myself ‘today give less’ – it’s so annoying!) So, my work leads me to feel constantly overwhelmed and drained.
What got me ready to leap?
When my children were born, I was triggered into deep reflection about who I was and what mattered to me. I have done a lot of inner work over the past few years. It’s been messy and life looks pretty different now. Motherhood lit a fire in me to do things differently. I had never before managed to invest in myself just for me because fundamentally I didn’t feel I deserved it. But, for them, I would change, grow and sit with the discomfort, because they deserved the best version of me. Now thankfully, I know that I deserve this version of me too and the deep shame I have carried, since being a little girl, about who I am is fading into the background. The depression and anxiety symptoms I have battled and managed for years through prescription medication and various less-than healthy numbing practices are now simply old friends who visit infrequently and never outstay their welcome. Life feels comfortable.
I made the decision to change the direction of my life one day, not too many weeks ago, whilst pottering in the greenhouse and listening to Glennon Doyle’s ‘Untamed’ on my headphones. She posed the question, ‘Would I want this for my little girl?’.
Framed like this, I instantly knew the answer, my work had to change.
Truthfully, if my children came home and told me about their work being anything like mine, I would be encouraging them to move on without doubt. I would be telling them that they need to value themselves above everything else. I would be reassuring them that they had done their best in difficult circumstances and that it is honourable to put themselves and their family first. I would be telling them that work should be something we do in our lives, not something that rules our lives.
I realised that by making a decision to step away from my career now, I was showing them how to live bravely, how to value themselves and giving them permission to live their lives courageously. Making this decision is a gift to myself and my children.