From Physician to Survivor: A Journey Through Burnout, Mental Illness, and Triumph

 Dr. William Lynes completed his residency in 1987 at Stanford University. He began his practice at the Kaiser Permanente Riverside Medical Group in California. It was the idyllic life that most families wish to enjoy.

For the longest while he managed to bury his various attempts at ending his life. He captions his story as one of mental illness, suicide, and burnout. Dr. Lynes’s goal as the author of an article recently published in Kevin MD is to acknowledge the shame he experienced. He hopes to ease the way for others and show them the alternative.

Happiness turns to grief.

Looking back now, the first few years raising their family were magical. In 1998 though, two medical events catastrophic events caused his life to spin out of control.

In 1998, Dr. Lynes contracted sepsis during an overseas vacation. Sepsis and its various complications required a six-week stay in an intensive care facility. The doctor suffered a 40 lb weight loss.

One year later, Dr. Lynes was seriously injured in a snowboarding accident. Once again he was confined in the ICU unit with severe facial fractures, multiple surgeries, had his jaw wired, a tracheostomy and again an unavoidable 40 lb weight loss.

Dr. Lynes went back to his practice while not fully recovered. Perhaps the timing was not optimal.

After enduring these two severe medical conditions, he attempted to resume his practice and life. However, despite appearing well, he did not feel very well. He was severely depressed and anxious, day after day, without any improvement. Following the sepsis episode, he began seeing psychiatrists who diagnosed him with bipolar-affective mood disorder. He began taking various mood stabilizers and anti-depressants and even underwent over 30 electro-shock therapy (ECT) treatments. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to alleviate his condition.

In May 1999, feeling hopeless, he made a spontaneous and poorly thought-out suicide attempt by overdosing on medication. Although he survived, he concealed this attempt and continued living with anxiety. Outwardly, Dr. Lynes tried his best to function, giving the appearance of being well-adjusted. However, he tried killing himself again in 2002 and again in 2003.

Dr. Lynes locked himself in, feeling disgusted with his life. He proceeded to lacerate his wrist then laid down on the floor, hoping to die. He fell into a deep sleep, bleeding profusely and losing around four units of blood. following this attempt, he decided to retire from medicine for good.

Retirement brought its own set of challenges. Dr. Lynes struggled with feelings of humiliation and failure, feeling as though he was no longer a physician. However, attending a physician writing seminar in Taos, New Mexico, proved to be a turning point. He met a fellow physician who had also experienced burnout and mental illness. She had written and published an essay that openly confronted her problems, which brought significant relief to her life.

Encouraged by her actions, He wrote his own essay, “The Last Day,” in which he chronicled his story and the end of his medical practice. It was published in the 2017 Annals of Internal Medicine.

The underlying theme of his presentation revolves around the shame associated with mental illness in the medical community.

The shame associated with mental illness is prevalent not only within the medical community but also in our society as a whole. This shame does nothing to promote the understanding and treatment of this condition.

See the original story here.

Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

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