I've been a doctor for almost twenty years, but I have rarely been so satisfied in my work as when I ran a wellbeing course that was open to the general public. Let me tell you my story.
I grew up in a dysfunctional home. In this context I was determined to study hard and make my own way in the world, so I gained a profession. It was not at all a sure thing that I would do medicine - I was still toying with the possibility of engineering, or even linguistics right up till application day. But there was a word that had stayed with me a long time. I think I'd picked it up in a yoga book that I found on the bookshelf. That word was vitality. Surrounded as I was by the fallout of mental distress the concept of vitality fascinated me. I suppose I wanted to have a sense of vitality for myself, but I also vaguely had a sense that more humans could live with vitality. And it was this that ultimately set me on my path into medicine.
As I went through medical school I was disappointed by the dissected linearity of our studies - how we isolated body parts and organs and never put the whole picture of a human being together. Once I started work - first in hospitals, then public health and finally in General Practice it slowly dawned upon me that the remit of medicine only overlapped slightly with a quest for flourishing and wellbeing.
Finally I decided I could not spend my working life only using the medical model and its approach to diseases and treatment, especially within the context of extremely short appointments that allowed for little more than a knee-jerk reaction. Inspired by my experiences in psychiatry and palliative care I turned to psychoanalysis to understand how to help humans grow emotionally and recover from past hurt. And then I turned this more psychological lens into a research question to explore how GPs themselves were coping with the intense pressures put upon them. Luckily enough I was granted a research fellowship and was supervised by the wonderful Professor Trish Greenhalgh. It was her insight that led me to study organisational theory to get a handle on how humans together create systems that are either supportive or erosive of their wellbeing.
I gained a Masters in Consulting a Leading in Organisations and gradually discovered how I want to work - on teaching people wellbeing, and especially within organisations. Having done a lot of exploration and imbibed some wonderful tools and skills along the way - I am now clear what wellbeing means to me:
- Looking after our bodies for physical wellbeing
- Relating wisely to our minds for mental wellbeing
- Connecting with what matters to us and creating enriching relationships
I now have the enormous satisfaction of teaching mental and holistic wellbeing skills (my Whole Health course) as well as running wellbeing retreats, consulting projects and coaching. It matters hugely to me to walk my talk, and so I do a daily yoga practice or swim, and keep on developing my mindfulness and communication skills. I'm delighted to feel full of vitality myself now, to be aligned with what matters to me and to be sharing some brilliantly accessible and practical wellbeing skills with all sorts of people.