by Carrie Jurney DVM DACVIM (Neuro)
I think in our modern world, a little too much emphasis is placed on being special. Be an individual! Be independent! Think outside of the box! Normal has taken on the connotation of boring.
But I think sometimes, we need to know we are normal. I had a great therapist in my residency. I had some really hard stuff happen, and it spun my anxiety out of control. She told me a few things.
1) Most of the things I was feeling were completely normal. That I was reacting like many other humans who had been in similar circumstances. My emotions were not spectacularly bizarre. I was not the first human to feel these things. It took away a lot of my shame. I was ashamed, and hiding a lot of myself because I felt isolated and abnormal. It let me see those problems in a new light, and deal with them differently. In a lifetime of trying to be special, it was nice to feel normal.
2) The things I was most stressed out about, and beating myself up about were actually some of my best strengths. They were my normal, and I could either choose to fight them forever or I could embrace them. It all came crashing down when she said "You know those things you don't like- the rehashing you do, the analyzing- that's what makes you a good doctor."
HOLD THE FRONT DOOR! That is some serious breakthrough shit right there. Lights, bells, angels. My normal includes some personality traits- ones that have brought me far, but definitely need a throttle for me to feel good. So, don't hate your obsessive mind. That's the same mind that memorized nerve to nerve neurolocalization for boards. But, don't let that obsessive mind keep you in knots for a week about a case that didn't go well.
Look, if I've seen one thing in my years of being an admin at NOMV is there are some recurrent themes in my colleagues. We are perfectionist. We obsess, rehash, and tend to beat ourselves up. Many of us are bad sleepers because of it. We all experience imposter syndrome. And most of us are comforted in hearing that the rest of our tribe is just as crazy as we accuse ourselves of being. If NOMV does one thing it helps remove that isolation- you see that those things you are beating up about at 3am are in fact common- they are normal in our job. You see on the page that 500 other vets see and say the exact same things that you have said to yourself. They have the exact same struggles.
I'm not saying you should let those things torture you- far from it. Don't let them control you. Maybe recognize that as part of this tribe, you have some tendencies? Some of those tendencies- your intelligence, your drive, your perfectionism- pushed you in to medicine. But those same tendencies can be your worst enemy if you let them.
So, my friends, go call those demons by their name. Get a therapist to help you sort out what's what. It's completely reasonable, dare I say normal, to need an outside perspective to see what's normal and what's not normal in your life.
The Admin Team of NOMV is a group of veterinarians dedicated to improving veterinary mental health.