What the F*@k?
I was sweaty. Snotty and congested. Red in the face. I’m talking about the kind of ugly cry that makes it so you can hardly get a word out without sounding pre-pubescent. This is not the kind of presentation I’d recommend making of yourself in front of your boss, but hey, that’s life. I sat in the back office of my small animal clinical practice with my practice owner and our office manager with tears streaming down my face. I was holding a letter of resignation, dripping bodily fluids on it. Cute I know. My chest was tight and I just felt deflated. You couldn’t pay me enough to believe that four years into clinical practice I’d be wondering why I even went to vet school in the first place. What the actual f*@k was going on?
How did I get here? It seemed like a spiral of little things over the previous 6 months that left me feeling like a true “third” life crisis was kicking in. The demands I felt from my job, the long hours, long commute, short staffing at the clinic, getting yelled at by clients with unrealistic expectations, the build up of cases/records/callbacks; it was swallowing me whole. It didn’t help that I LET it all happen. Don’t we all? We all just take it because we went into this career feeling a duty and passion for the world of veterinary medicine. My burning fire from when I graduated had turned into a measly candle flickering in a strong breeze. I wasn’t sleeping, I definitely wasn’t fun to be around, I thought about work all the time, and driving there every day I was miserable. I am willing to admit that I let the anxiety overwhelm me but when I seriously thought about it I always came back to the fact that it shouldn’t have gotten to this point in the first place. I tried relief at other hospitals and just felt lukewarm. Not awful or glorious, just meh. Every week I heard about another one of our colleagues commiting suicide and I would cry to Andrew asking what has this field come too. Andrew loved his job as an equine surgeon, so I worried there was something wrong with me.
By some miracle, right when my boss and I agreed to try going down to two days per week instead of four, I also got a text from a colleague that there was a job available that she thought I might be interested in. After a phone call, an in person meeting, and lots of laughing with the program director I accepted a position two days per week as a clinical instructor for a veterinary technician program closer to our home. I had NO idea what I was doing but had always thought I go back to teaching veterinary students, why not technicians? They are such an integral part of our careers and I had been so fortunate to work with many fabulous technicians. So here I was, lecturing some mornings and running surgeries with them other mornings and loving it. I felt like myself again and started to remember why I loved our field so much. Splitting my time between teaching and practicing seemed to be a balance shifting me back to snarky, sassy, a little bit extra Kirsten.
Around the time I had my not so little breakdown at my clinic, I also had been talking to several friends and colleagues about whether they were feeling the same way as me. Shockingly my sentiments were mirrored in EVERY SINGLE PERSON I talked to in some way or another. I spoke with students, new graduates, and people who were 4-5 years out like me. “I’m on my third job.” “I hate going to work every morning but it pays the bills.” “I work nights on ER to avoid people.” “I’ve thought about getting out of vetmed.” “I eat like shit all the time because I don’t have time to cook so I feel like shit too.” “I haven’t exercised in a YEAR.” “I can’t get anything else done when I’m not at work because I’m so tired.” “My husband and I haven’t gone on a date in months.” When all else fails, I did what any grown ass adult should do. I called my mom. Even she as a veterinarian of 30 plus years just nodded and smiled as I went on for an hour about I could not believe my ears the things I was hearing. What a love-hate relationship with medicine we’ve all come to hold near and dear to our hearts.
Our community is packed with fabulous humans full of insight, and I don’t think we’ve really tapped it’s full potential. The world of social media in veterinary medicine is growing and expanding. I had the pleasure of chatting with a new veterinarian and we instantly connected. I finally realized and accepted I hadn’t been fulfilling my potential in this field. I wanted to help animals and people going into veterinary medicine, but what if that meant helping OUR people. Helping students, and fellow doctors navigate the challenges of life as a veterinarian. I started crying (if you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a crier) because I felt like a giant weight was lifted off my chest. I hadn’t felt a fire under like that under my ass in a long time. I know I”m not the only one trying to change the world but I’ll be damned if I sit here and let a single person in our community who needs SOMEONE to be there for them feel alone. The veterinary world has changed so much in the last 10 – 15 years and the expectations placed on us are astronomical. Why can’t we redefine it, or at least be better equipped to handle it like the bosses we are? There are so many ways to be in love and involved with this field. All I know is I’m taking charge of my life and I am here for it! Are you?