I feel compelled to write my first letter to The Pharmaceutical Journal.
I have had a 33-year career in community pharmacy. I have worked full time for the majority of that time; however, by December 2022 I was done — burnt out.
I had pushed myself through the COVID-19 pandemic to be the ‘rock’ in our community but now there was nothing left to give. During the pandemic, the challenges were great; that is, workload, staff absences and customer expectations increased.
My team and I rose to the challenge like many others within the health service; however, with doctors closing their doors, we took the brunt and, ultimately, I paid a price. Mentally, I knew something seemed wrong but I pushed myself to work through it.
I believed I was doing it for my country in a way — people were bashing pots and pans on a Thursday evening — but I felt isolated. By now, my wife was working from home and could not relate to the issues I was experiencing.
I am a recovering alcoholic (18 years sober) so I knew not to resort to alcohol or other mood-altering substances but, owing to the workload (I’d go in on weekends and an hour early before work), I neglected other areas of my life — my marriage, my friends, my 12-step meetings.
I decided to resign and took time out at the end of 2021. It felt like I had lost a limb. I felt so alone and a failure. But gradually, over the past nine months, I have come to terms with what happened. However, there have been casualties like in a war: my marriage ended; my passion for work diminished.
I cannot be the only one in this position and I wanted to shed light on this situation for healthcare professionals working in isolation — please pocket your pride and ask for help. I lost myself in service. I’ve been having counselling sessions, which has saved me more than once, to come to terms with my burnout. Time heals, I guess.
The author of this letter wishes to remain anonymous