2017 literally started off with a bang. And ash. Funnily enough it was the ash that made the experience what it was……
I went to the New Years’ Eve Gala at the Opera House, and so saw Sydney’s incredible fireworks display right in the thick of things. The finale of the fireworks was so spectacular I almost blew a gasket in my brain! Being surrounded by fireworks from the bridge, the city, the top of the Opera House itself was absolutely unbelievable. It was the feeling of the ash on my skin though that let me know that I was really, truly there!! Simply unforgettable.
It was fantastic to work with some great sponsors in Bond University, The University of Melbourne and UMAT NIE in 2017. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to acknowledge the way in which you provide education in the Australian health industry.
I would also like to thank those who provided guest articles, and gave their views for inclusion in our articles.
To Muzda who put up with me for about 3 years and did all the tasks like uploading the articles to the website and about a million other things, thank you so much, and may you have a beautiful journey into motherhood. Your dedication to your work has been fantastic and I don’t know where the website would be without you.
To Sab who is now in that role, your eagerness to learn and the fact that after only 3 months you are already telling me how to improve things is simply outstanding. I am lucky to have found such a gem and am looking forward to where we can take this thing!!
And Carlos, thank you so much for being that person who I can call on for graphic design. How you make any sense of the rubbish design briefs I send you and produce such amazing results is beyond me!!
To everyone who has given us ideas on what to cover on the website, thank you. And to everyone who regularly uses the resources on the website to share with those considering a career in the health industry, thank you.
How will I remember 2017?
Personally, I will remember 2017 for 3 things. It was the year I overcame post-traumatic stress disorder, took a LOT of time out (I’ve never done that before), and did some really great locum optometry trips in between!!
Post-traumatic stress disorder
I could go on and on about this, and will in my first post of 2018 which I will call “What it’s like being a health professional with PTSD.” There were times when I struggled majorly while going through the healing process for PTSD this year. For those who are knowledgeable in this space, you could say that there was some “Complex PTSD” from my childhood experiences. I also then had a major trauma in 2014, and was so dissociated (spaced out) that I don’t really remember much of those next two years until I started therapy with an excellent psychologist in April 2016 (see the physical and mental health section of my 2016 year in review article). That’s when I sorted out the anxiety.
In 2017 I explored my traumatic experiences at a much deeper level than I had in 2016 as I felt that there were a number of areas of life in which they was holding me back. I found silent retreats (led by highly trained teachers) to be very useful in this healing process. At each of the four one-week meditation retreats I did this year I came away with a different perspective not only on trauma, but on life itself. I really saw at a much deeper level than I had before that although there had been some pretty horrific things in my past, these do not define me, and that these things have made me look within to find the way I really want to live. So I am very grateful to have found this new perspective.
I worked mainly in Queensland and New South Wales this year, but also did a 2 week stint in Western Australia. Here is the list of the highs and lows:
- Griffith – I returned to Griffith for one week in January (after the fireworks in Sydney), and had been there previously in May 2016. I really enjoyed this trip as I saw that the granite sculptures I watched being made in May for the centenary celebrations for Griffith had now been transferred to the park near the centre of town. This was something I came across randomly while I was out on a walk, so it was a great surprise!!
- Leaving a practice I’d stayed in for too long – this was a very difficult decision to make. There was a practice where I’d filled in at on and off over the last few years, but after having worked in so many other practices, came to the realization that because of the general “flow” of the practice, I am unable to do my best work in this particular environment. So after an email and two conversations with the practice owner, I made the decision to not work there any more. I still drop in to say hello from time to time as they are a great bunch of people whom I really do treasure. That made my decision all the more gut-wrenching. But at a time when I was really starting to value the contribution that I can make to patients, I know I made the right decision.
- Mackay – this was a practice where I’d previously worked in August 2015. When I returned I found that one of the staff I’d worked with had been diagnosed with breast cancer, undergone chemotherapy and recovered. When I saw her she had just been in the process of dealing with her hair once it had grown back!! This really did make me reflect on how quickly life can change. I also found a brilliant yoga teacher in Mackay on this trip and went to about 20 classes in the 3 weeks that I was there. Her approach on non-striving was exactly what I was looking for, and my body could feel the difference! Thanks so much Ash. You made such a profound difference to me! It was very interesting to be in Mackay one week after cyclone Debbie. The clean-up had obviously gone ahead at a cracking pace, as there wasn’t a lot to see (apart from this tree in the middle of the road) by the time I got there! Quite a lot of people were quite shaken though, and I hope that they have since recovered.
- Broome – this was another stand out experience of the year. On the way to Broome I visited a friend I’d met at the Mindful Self-Compassion course for health professionals in December 2016. He and his family were so welcoming and helped me choose which tours to go on around Perth. I went to The Pinnacles, went sand boarding on the Lancelin Sand Dunes, and fed a kangaroo by hand for the first time at the Caversham Wildlife Park. I also went to Rottnest Island, and have some mixed emotions about my Quokka selfie. The tour guide I had on Rotto said it was perfectly okay to snap some Quokka selfies. I had absolutely no intention of doing so, however, when I crouched down to take a photo of a Quokka from about a metre away it came up and rested its chin on my knee with no coaxing from me whatsoever. So I thought taking some close snaps would be okay. But then a few days later I heard from some other optometrists who also went, that their tour guide said it’s harmful to the Quokkas to have such close interactions with them. So while it was an experience I’ll never forget, I really do hope I didn’t unintentionally cause harm to that little Quokka.
- Broome itself is such an amazing place. It was so great to see a vibrant community where indigenous, non-indigenous and Asian people connect together so beautifully. It was such an honour to have some of the indigenous people share snippets of their culture with me while I was testing their eyes. However, seeing the impact of intergenerational trauma in the indigenous community first hand was so confronting. I cried in the cemetery for about an hour when I saw the number of graves of Broome’s indigenous youth. That experience will stay with me forever.
- I was so blessed to visit Broome when I did. The weather was picture perfect. Cable Beach and Gantheaume Point are so stunning it took me 3 days to take in the beauty (I think I blew another gasket in my brain here). I also did a trip on a Seaplane to Horizontal Falls (I can see why David Attenborough calls it one of the greatest natural wonders of the world), which went over Beagle Bay, Cape Leveque and the Buccaneer Archipelago.
- A practice in a city that will remain un-named – I had major issues in this practice as I think that with all the consultations with the psychologist and after my first meditation retreat, I had a different perspective on what I was willing to accept in a workplace. It was a practice that I’d been to before, and I was shocked to see what an unhealthy environment it was this second time around. So when I asked questions about the way things were being done instead of accepting it as I had previously, it didn’t go down very well. I think they thought that I was trying to be difficult, but all I really wanted was to deliver quality patient care. Looking back now I hope everyone learned from the experience. As difficult as it was at the time, it again made me appreciate environments where I am best able to use my skills, and ensure that I only return to locations where this occurs.
- Airlie Beach / Proserpine – I’m not sure if you’ve ever fallen in love with a community, but wow, Proserpine!! The elderly people in this town were just so delightful. I had a ball laughing at their jokes and hearing all about what they get up to. So many of them are very active in community groups, charities and not-for-profit organisations, and it was fantastic to hear their stories. The community had really come together following on from the cyclone in March 2017 where they were hit quite hard.
The kayaking tour I had planned in Airlie Beach was cancelled, so I went up in a plane over Hamilton Island, Whitehaven Beach, Hardy Reef and Heart Reef instead. I had done this previously in 2011, but it was interesting to see that the trees still didn’t have all their leaves on them 5 months after the cyclone.
- Port Macquarie – I really enjoyed my time in Port Macquarie as it was in a practice I’ve been to before. I love the team and the vibe there!! And on the weekend I went to Sea Acres Rainforest Centre and was intrigued by the back-story of “The Frugal Forest” which is a stunning indoor display made out of items that were otherwise headed to landfill. It was the sort of thing where if you had a quick glance you wouldn’t think it was anything special, but if you looked closely you could see the painstaking detail with which everything had been created. It was great to see how hundreds of people in the community had come together to make this thing happen.
- Orange – holy guacamole it was busy in Orange! I can’t remember the last time an appointment book was so fully booked day in and day out, days in advance. Working 6 days a week, I didn’t really get to see much of Orange, which is a shame as it looks like a nice town. I did find a great Thai masseuse!! Thankfully she did a great job of putting my body back together when some of the constraints of the consulting room made me sore from moving in an awkward way!
Personal health and self-care, taking time out from My Health Career
Okay so I admit it. In having so much focus on my health in the last 2 years, I have gone from secretly thinking that “self-care was for losers who couldn’t hack it” (as in couldn’t handle the pressure or the pace of the health industry) to having a profound understanding of how self-compassion and self-care are such important cornerstones for anyone, but in particular health professionals.
Having been so burned out previously, I think I can see myself becoming an advocate for “health for health practitioners.” To the point where I think I’m going to need to have to come up with a response for those people who purport that “the patient always comes first”. Having put the patient first for many years, and then more recently put myself first, I can definitely say that the latter works much better.
I’m not talking about as health practitioners putting ourselves first in a narcissistic way. But on the days when I’m thinking “what is it that I need right now” in order to be looking after myself, which will in turn allow me to give this patient what they need, the days flow much more smoothly and I feel that I can give better patient care. But if I’m distracted and let a situation throw me off centre, well, then obviously it just doesn’t go as smoothly.
You may remember that last year I was working closely with a holistic GP on my health due to hormonal and gastrointestinal issues. We’ve now added chronic fatigue to the list of things we’re working on, and, all going well, I should be pretty healthy by the middle of next year. It has been quite a process, and my blood work has gone from “concerning” two years ago to “boring” now. My GP jokes that I’m no longer a challenge for her. LOL!! And I’m ecstatic to hear that news!!
This year I moved to a house that is on a couple of acres where the beautiful sounds of the birds are there when I wake up in the morning. There are wallabies feeding in the yard at dawn and dusk, and recently there was a goanna which made its way across the lawn in its search for food. I wasn’t home the day the koala walked up the creek bed!! So to say I’ve been fortunate to connect with nature is an understatement. The decision to have a “tree change” was one of the best I’ve made all year.
I didn’t do any speaking engagements or exhibit at any expos for My Health Career this year as I really needed the time to focus on my health. When I did work on MHC, worked smarter, and got more done in less time. I think limiting my time working on the website has helped me to be more focused and efficient when I do sit down at the computer. The funny thing about giving myself a lot of time off was that it made me see the website in a different light and get out of the habit of doing things in the same old way.
Oh, and for those who are interested in that sort of stuff, we had over 345,000 unique visitors to the website in 2017, up from 280,000 in 2016 and 153,000 in 2015.
Where to in 2018?
2018 will see the website being redesigned. Okay, well, it’s almost going to look as though it’s been bulldozed. It has well and truly outgrown its current format, and we will be re-arranging the resources to make them easier to find.
When the website is redeveloped the tagline will be something along the lines of “cultivating a healthy health industry”. There will be more of a “health for health practitioners” theme throughout the website in general. I will be seeking opportunities to advocate for the health and wellbeing of health students and practitioners. Please drop me a line via the contact page if you think we may be able to work together on this: https://www.myhealthcareer.com.au/contact-us/
Those experiencing distress due to post traumatic stress disorder or other conditions may require the support that is available:
- 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service
- 1300 659 467