September 23, 2022

Just checking in . . . I’m still a piece of garbage

by Dave Young MD MS FAWM DiMM
Chair-Elect, ACEP Wilderness Medicine Section

As I transition into the role of Chair for our Section this autumn, I wanted to pick up on a topic our fearless leader, Taylor Haston, has focused on these past few tumultuous years: wellness. Taylor has shared some valuable insight and personal vulnerability regarding her well-being in previous newsletter posts. She shared some shortcomings, how these became frustrations, and led her to develop a skillset of self-care. She has provided motivational words and encouraged a deeper connection with nature.

Taylor is clearly not alone in her thoughts and feelings. The past few years has been hard on so many of us, certainly I am included. I have struggled with low energy, lack of creativity, crappy follow-through, and feelings of self-doubt. While at times I still feel like a piece of garbage, I do think that discussing these feelings is wildly helpful. Ultimately, I know I’m doing my best under the circumstances, and it helps to know that I am not alone. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on Taylor’s sentiments, in part to thank her for her service the past two years, but also to continue her discussion. Like all relationships, our relationship with ourselves takes work. And this work means revisiting this topic over and over to reassess and refocus.

I find those intrigued by wilderness medicine are already a step ahead of our emergency medicine peers. Those who are invested in spending time in the outdoors or combining their profession with their passions are on a track towards well-being. Channeling Taylor, I want to encourage you all to revisit your wellness for a moment. Can I start by asking a few questions? Oh crap, that’s already a question. Well, I’m going to ask anyway.

How have you been, really?
Does your energy-out match your energy-in?
Where were you last that you felt at peace?
Who in your life do you feel most relaxed to be with?
What is taking up most of your headspace today?
Do you have enough quiet time with yourself?
How is your career adding to your wellbeing, and in what ways is it subtracting?

Ok, thanks for putting up with a few questions to contemplate for the moment. I encourage you to talk about one or more of these questions with a loved one. I hope this brief reflection will help refocus an attention towards your well-being.

Wellness is deeply personal, and clearly one size doesn’t fit all. However, in this day and age of talking about wellness, I think we are all paying closer attention to what this means for each of us. This attention to wellness is also changing the landscape. Wellness is not only something we talk about in newsletters and therapy sessions. It has become an upfront conversation among family, friends, and even colleagues. I find this to be a huge success. Not only has our personal wellness been normalized, but people are actively taking charge and changing things based on these discussions (or at least contemplating change). As we emerge from an isolating last few years, I hope we are able to continue developing this skillset . . . one that helps us to discover, develop, and protect our wellness. I truly believe that when we are all in a better place, so are our communities, and the world at large.

Let’s continue to connect to those closest to us, the outdoors, and ourselves. As we prepare for much needed in-person meeting in San Francisco, I hope we can resume these conversations while fostering our wilderness medicine community. See you soon!


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