What’s that awful ‘photo got to do with anything? Well, yesterday was my first non-clinical birthday. That’s to say, on the 27th of July a year ago in 2016 I was in that building scrambling to finish my final work in the NHS and my final work as a clinician. I didn’t quite get everything done and had to offload making sure a couple of letters went off to a kindly trainee psychiatrist but, looking back on it, rather remarkably, everything else was done and I crossed the road from that small psychotherapy unit in which I had been working to the pub directly opposite for my leaving do.
That’s the rather lovely Adam & Eve pub, a picture I took a year before during the pub’s 100th birthday year. Look at this for an glorious piece of decorative glazed brickwork. I wonder how being in the first or second year of “the great war” affected building something like that?
Enough of that, well, not quite. It was a lovely pub and had the unusual distinction of having an L-shaped pool table. I was a bit overfaced by the evening which was had a mixed sample of my fellow staff from the Trust: a good number of psychiatrists in training and a good number of older colleagues, mostly but not all from that little building across the road. I think I’ve always found myself two not completely miscible groups of friends, acquaintances, peers, colleagues throughout my life. Hm, topic for a post there some time thinking on how true that has been.
Anyway, where has the year gone? Where has it got me? Where have I got myself? Do I miss clinical work? What have I achieved?
Aye, there’s the rub! But interesting questions. Well of course, the year seems to have raced by. It started with the cycle ride, my pilgrimage, that created this blog/site and it’s been hard for anything to compete with the pleasures, and the challenges, of that. However, I’ve seen some fantastic theatre and exhibitions. I’ve had great work trips to Portugal, Albania, Italy and Spain. I’ve had great family holiday trips to Glasgow, the French Alps and to Lefkada (Greece). I’ve done some teaching of various sorts in Roehampton to some great students, and some of that went satisfyingly well and some of it was OK but good in helping see things to improve. I have done a lot of number crunching and I’m a lot more familiar with R (https://www.r-project.org/) and a few of my methodological ideas have developed a bit. However, I’ve got very few papers out, only one so far in fact (Psychometric Properties of the Finnish Version of the Young Person’s Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation (YP-CORE) Questionnaire). Last year wasn’t great for paper output either and I’m aware of feeling quite unproductive and frustrated with that.
My intention was to make more time for pleasure: art, theatre and reading and for exercise and I’m probably about halfway to the increased hours in the week that I was hoping to have for those things and I know that can be changed. I wanted to be able to cycle pretty much everywhere I needed to within London and I really have done that. I guess I’m not quite where I wanted to be but it’s not bad really. So why do I feel so unproductive and dissatisfied with that?
The last few weeks as I became aware that the year was nearly up I have wondered more about missing clinical work and I had a short run of nightmares or horrible dreams all of which were about me being in some sort of clinical situation or other and failing to do all things that were necessary and getting sickly scared of what would happen. Some were definitely psychiatric in setting but the focus was on physical health things I should have been doing and some had me back in pure physical health settings I hadn’t been in for 32 years. I’ve thought a little bit more about ex-colleagues (not the ones I keep in touch with, they’re always floating around my mind!). I’ve wondered about getting back in touch with some people but so far it’s felt wrong, I’m not sure why. I’ve thought a bit more about ex-clients and that’s surprisingly often about the same really very small percentage of them and almost entirely either about poeple I saw very early in my career or ones I saw in my last job (behind that inauspicious gate onto Homerton High Street). I remain completely convinced that I made the right decision to stop and also intrigued by how little I’ve overtly missed the rôle and the work. However, I think some of the dissatisfaction with my productivity is because it’s so hard to replace that you were really pretty important to people: to colleagues as well as to clients. That’s a funny one to digest. I think I was careful not to let that get out of hand or be too important to me but it undoubtedly patches thin bits and frank holes in your confidence to find that you matter. One year on I can feel that I do miss that, that it has given me some work to do on those exposed holes and fraying threads in my ego. The challenge is to work on them by things other than just working hard and trying to output a lot. Work in progress! Starting next week, on the 2nd, the anniversary of that grey, damp morning that I pointed a well laden Toto off towards Compostella, I intend to review each of those days and to see if I can upload more things here and blog each day, mostly reliving the pleasures and challenges, but also using it to help the movement on.
Fun ahead I hope!
2 thoughts on “One year on and where am I?!”
Chris — such a wonderful posting. Thanks for sharing your inner life with all of us. I read your blog entry this morning just as I woke up. You are a talented writer. It felt as if you were in the room, talking to me.
I wish I had the right sorts of words and insights that would add to your process of healing, but they fail me at the moment. I sure do admire you and your courage to take the steps you have taken to reclaim your life.
Blimey, that was excessively generous Gregory. You’re right about my steps though: it does feel like a campaign to reclaim my life. That also feels very odd as I was incredibly priviledged to have that life and enjoyed it greatly for many years. However, it had come to take too much of me, or was increasingly doing so. This afternoon I was talking with someone still in the sort of clinical post I had, though she has a full time post where I always only did that for between 40 and 60% of my week. We agreed that in many ways the NHS, perhaps particularly for mental health, has become paradoxically toxic and she envies me my escape (she has at least twenty years to go before she could escape with a pension, probably more at the rate the retirement age is being pushed up). Tragic. Great for me if my ruminations give such joy and it’s lovely to have this global connection. Globalisation has its problems but linking pretty much anywhere in the world to browse things in their own waking hours at any point within 24 hours of something going up. Lovely to share! C