Slapped round the face by Reality

It turns out I didn’t need to send that email after all.

Less than 12 hours after I posted my last blog about how I was debating over whether to tell the GMC I’ll to return to the NHS in this time of coronavirus crisis, I got an email from the GMC informing me that, because I had relinquished my license within the last three years, I would be included in their first round of callbacks.

I had completely forgotten about this. I knew about the three year thing from hearing it in the news, but as I stopped practising five years ago, I assumed I wouldn’t be in included. But I had totally overlooked the fact that I didn’t immediately give up my license to practice! I, in my infinite wisdom, kept a hold of it for two years after I left ‘just in case’.

I guess I simply wasn’t ready to let go at the time I left, which is fine, but the consequence now is that going back into the fray seems a far more real possibility – one step closer to returning than I had anticipated.

Pretty soon after that email dropped, a Whatsapp group of fellow ex-docs was set up and buzzing. They, like me, have a LOT of questions about how this would work, what exactly we would be expected to do, and how on earth we would do it safely. And they, like me, feel a deep resentment towards the GMC and the NHS about their treatment of doctors. Thanks to section 18a of the Medical Act (1983), it would seem the powers that be reserve the right to dig their claws into us long after we’ve told them where to go.

I’m sorry if I sound mean-spirited. I still do intend to help out in any way that I can, and any way that is safe, but I think the reality of this situation has just really hit me the last 24 hours. I’ve been in emergency mode the last few days just trying to keep things together as my family self-isolates, so I haven’t really had time to process what’s going on. But when I got that email, it was like reality slapped me rounf the face. Today I’ve just felt so tired and ill, as all of my repressed emotions welled up inside.

Everything has changed. In the last two weeks, I – like so many other self-employed people and business owners – have lost almost all of my clients. Two weeks ago, my business partner and I were busy creating a new podcast that we were absolutely loving, and that felt like the perfect project for us. Now, she and I are now both in full time mum-mode as schools and nurseries shut down. I loved my job – I loved it. And now, for the forseeable future, it’s gone. And in its place is the prospect of going back to a profession I didn’t feel I belonged to and a job that I hands down hated. People are being so kind and telling me I’m being selfless and brave for being willing to go back, but I don’t feel selfless or brave – I mostly feel anxious, scared and resentful. Meanwhile, the world as we know it is falling apart around us.

Of course, there are many things to still be grateful for – health, friends, family. And I am mindful of all that, but after a conversation with my best friend today, I realised we need to make space for grief as well as gratitude. One of my favourite perspectives on gratititude is the idea that, when practised too early, gratitude can make us feel guilty for the pain that we do have. When we are too precipitate to make meaning out of suffering, we suppress the grieving process that is so critical to our emotional well being. We shouldn’t take it so far that we end up depressed, obviously, but the paradox is that allowing ourselves to embrace our pain and be present with it actually leads us to a healthier and more authentic form of gratitude.

So this is me making space for that grief. So many things are changing, and change is hard, and right now, most of it sucks. I miss my old life. And I’m terrified of what the future holds.

It’s funny, even just writing that paragraph is helping me to feel more positive. Maybe in coming days I’ll be able to write a reflection on everything I am thankful for. But right now, I need to sleep. A war is coming, and if I’m gonna go in, best get some rest.

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