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Why write? Physicians share their stories of healing through writing.

I’ve read countless articles, posts, blogs, and books over the past year and a half, written by physicians, and I’ve learned an incredible amount!

Every physician’s voice is special, distinct, and remarkable.

Why write? Write for yourself. Many articles, including at least one study by the American Psychological Association, speak to writing as being a powerful tool for stress relief and healing.

Some physicians write as part of a gratitude practice, some write using the “thought download” model as a valuable method for raising self-awareness, and some write poetry.

Two physician writers discuss how writing has positively impacted their lives:

Bryce Bowers, DO

Burnout has plagued me for most of my medical career. This is a phenomenon that is not unique to me. It is my belief that every physician at some point in their career does experience burnout. For some, the manifestations are obvious. For most, it is much more subtle.

Despite finding myself on the other side of burnout, I still felt an inner sense of uneasiness as I saw my colleagues fight the same fight I had for so long. After receiving some physician coaching, I realized that sharing my story and struggles during my medical career might resonate with some of my fellow physicians. If it struck a chord and helped even just one, I knew it would be worth it.

As with most of us in medicine and especially for those of us still in training, the studying, exams, and long work hours have robbed us of hobbies we used to enjoy. There is little free time to explore new ways to creatively express ourselves. We eat and breathe medicine. Day in and day out.

Each day in residency, I become more acutely aware of why we physicians are struggling with our mental health. The system, in many ways, has set us up to fail. After bathing in burnout and overcoming a long history of anxiety and depression, I knew I needed to do something different to stave off old habits and old feelings.

That is why I created my blog, Badge of Burnout. I love writing. But I always felt like all my time should be diverted toward studying and my career. I now realize how erroneous I was in my thinking. Writing is a creative outlet for me. It has done wonders for my mental health. While still in its infancy, several people – friends, colleagues, and complete strangers – have reached out to me and let me know that in some capacity, what I am sharing and writing has helped them. That brings me unparalleled joy.

It is for that reason, and so many more, that I will continue to write. And I hope to encourage other physicians to do the same. It certainly doesn’t have to be a blog. It can be a podcast. A YouTube Channel. Whatever medium suits you and satisfies that creative need, that is the best one. We all have a story. We all have perspectives and experiences unlike anyone else in the entire world. It is so important to share these to help others who are struggling and remind each other that we are not alone.

The right words at the right time are the perfect melody. Share yours with the world.

Dr. Behrooz Behbod

I had never considered writing as one of my passions or talents. Being a public health physician, my world revolved around patient, population, planetary health, and well-being, far removed from the artistry of words. Yet, life has a curious way of revealing hidden avenues just when we need them.

In 2020, I found myself struggling under the weight of burnout. It wasn’t just the pressure of the pandemic that had me gasping for breath. It was a culmination of years of hardship and stress that had been piled on my shoulders; caring for my terminally ill father, looking after my prematurely born son, and the strain of establishing my career footing amidst frequent international relocations. During this tumultuous period, I began to question accepted norms about work, health, and love. Could it be that we’ve misunderstood these cornerstones of life? This question led me on an exploratory journey, an inward voyage primarily to unearth the root of my burnout and prevent it from consuming my happiness. Surprisingly, the insights I discovered during this introspection found a voice through writing.

I never previously enjoyed writing; it was a medium to communicate my findings to my son, to share my lived experiences so it could spark his own insights. I want my son to live a happy life. In the precarious world we live in, fraught with stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression, I felt it was my duty to guide him toward an understanding of life that ensures happiness, fulfillment, and well-being.

Writing transformed from a mere tool of communication to a spiritual journey. The act of putting pen to paper became therapeutic, a means of healing, a pathway to self-discovery. The highs and lows of this journey were profound and moving.

Sharing stories is a powerful wellness tool. It allows us to express our struggles and triumphs, connect with others on a human level, and foster a sense of community and shared understanding. For doctors, it can serve as a form of emotional release, a way to process the intense experiences we encounter in our profession.

For the conscious entrepreneurial leaders among us, writing can inspire and motivate, fostering a healthier, happier, and more prosperous world. I see now that writing chose me. It has taught me to reevaluate my perspectives, understand my experiences, and share my journey. It has helped me heal. Writing can do that for all of us. We’re one insight away.

Kim Downey is a physical therapist.


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