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We Are All Perfectly Fine: A Memoir of Love, Medicine and Healing

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When we need help, we count on doctors to put us back together. But what happens when doctors fall apart? Funny, fresh, and deeply affecting, We Are All Perfectly Fine is the story of a married mother of three on the brink of personal and professional collapse who attends rehab with a twist: a meditation retreat for burned-out doctors. Jillian Horton, a general internist, ha When we need help, we count on doctors to put us back together. But what happens when doctors fall apart? Funny, fresh, and deeply affecting, We Are All Perfectly Fine is the story of a married mother of three on the brink of personal and professional collapse who attends rehab with a twist: a meditation retreat for burned-out doctors. Jillian Horton, a general internist, has no idea what to expect during her five-day retreat at Chapin Mill, a Zen centre in upstate New York. She just knows she desperately needs a break. At first she is deeply uncomfortable with the spartan accommodations, silent meals and scheduled bonding sessions. But as the group struggles through awkward first encounters and guided meditations, something remarkable happens: world-class surgeons, psychiatrists, pediatricians and general practitioners open up and share stories about their secret guilt and grief, as well as their deep-seated fear of falling short of the expectations that define them. Jillian realizes that her struggle with burnout is not so much personal as it is the result of a larger system failure, and that compartmentalizing your most difficult emotions—a coping strategy that is drilled into doctors—is not useful unless you face these emotions too. Jillian Horton throws open a window onto the flawed system that shapes medical professionals, revealing the rarely acknowledged stresses that lead doctors to depression and suicide, and emphasizing the crucial role of compassion not only in treating others, but also in taking care of ourselves.  


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When we need help, we count on doctors to put us back together. But what happens when doctors fall apart? Funny, fresh, and deeply affecting, We Are All Perfectly Fine is the story of a married mother of three on the brink of personal and professional collapse who attends rehab with a twist: a meditation retreat for burned-out doctors. Jillian Horton, a general internist, ha When we need help, we count on doctors to put us back together. But what happens when doctors fall apart? Funny, fresh, and deeply affecting, We Are All Perfectly Fine is the story of a married mother of three on the brink of personal and professional collapse who attends rehab with a twist: a meditation retreat for burned-out doctors. Jillian Horton, a general internist, has no idea what to expect during her five-day retreat at Chapin Mill, a Zen centre in upstate New York. She just knows she desperately needs a break. At first she is deeply uncomfortable with the spartan accommodations, silent meals and scheduled bonding sessions. But as the group struggles through awkward first encounters and guided meditations, something remarkable happens: world-class surgeons, psychiatrists, pediatricians and general practitioners open up and share stories about their secret guilt and grief, as well as their deep-seated fear of falling short of the expectations that define them. Jillian realizes that her struggle with burnout is not so much personal as it is the result of a larger system failure, and that compartmentalizing your most difficult emotions—a coping strategy that is drilled into doctors—is not useful unless you face these emotions too. Jillian Horton throws open a window onto the flawed system that shapes medical professionals, revealing the rarely acknowledged stresses that lead doctors to depression and suicide, and emphasizing the crucial role of compassion not only in treating others, but also in taking care of ourselves.  

30 review for We Are All Perfectly Fine: A Memoir of Love, Medicine and Healing

  1. 4 out of 5

    Canadian Reader

    Jillian Horton's memoir about her five-day Buddhist mindfulness retreat reminded me a great deal of psychologist Caroline Elton's book from a few years back--Also Human: The Inner Lives of Doctors--which concerns doctors' personal struggles and mental anguish as they practise and sometimes decide to leave medicine. Initially strangers to each other, the participants who attended the retreat in Chapin Mill, New York along with Dr. Horton were similar to Elton's clients: doctors on the edge, all o Jillian Horton's memoir about her five-day Buddhist mindfulness retreat reminded me a great deal of psychologist Caroline Elton's book from a few years back--Also Human: The Inner Lives of Doctors--which concerns doctors' personal struggles and mental anguish as they practise and sometimes decide to leave medicine. Initially strangers to each other, the participants who attended the retreat in Chapin Mill, New York along with Dr. Horton were similar to Elton's clients: doctors on the edge, all of whom were experiencing some degree of personal and professional "failure to cope." Many physicians, Horton included, enter medicine for unconscious reasons, to right wrongs or address unacknowledged suffering in their own early lives. Horton's elder sister, Wendy, was diagnosed with a life-wrecking brain tumour in childhood. After surgery to remove the mass, Wendy developed meningitis, which further added to her brain damage. She was profoundly mentally and physically disabled, and the lives of all members of the Horton family essentially revolved around her care. Horton's other siblings also experienced great hardship. Her brother, Christopher, descended into psychosis in his teens. He spent the next twenty years--right up to the end of his life in 2020--in a psychiatric institution. Jillian's other sister, Heather, also had trouble making her way in life. She inherited the Lynch-Syndrome genetic mutation and developed cancer. Jillian was supposedly the "lucky" one. But was she? In a way, she was scripted to save them all. A gifted and musically talented student, she didn't inherit the faulty gene, and would likely have succeeded in any number of careers. After gaining undergraduate and master's degrees in English literature, she won a full scholarship to pursue a PhD at Oxford, but she opted to attend medical school instead. Her memoir opens many years into her successful practice when she is experiencing debilitating burnout. Horton tells many compelling stories about her training and her patients. She acknowledges that some of the reasons for her reaching a point of despair are personal ones, but that flawed, dehumanizing, competitive medical education also played a significant role. The idealistic, perfectionistic, and driven young people who train to become physicians are conditioned to become increasingly divorced from their own emotions. Working punishingly long hours, they also learn to disconnect from or deny such basic needs as sleeping and eating. They compartmentalize, too, closing off many rooms in their own psyches--rooms that hold memories of failures, mistakes, and shame. Horton's book explores how the retreat helped her to open some of those doors in order to understand how she'd ended up in such a dark place. This is a brave book that humanizes doctors. I can't imagine putting myself "out there" in the way that Dr. Horton has. Having said that, I do feel her memoir is too long and repetitive. Trimming it by a third would have made it a finer book. I'll admit, too, that I'm not fond of first-person, present-tense, play-by-play tellings. I don't care to hear about giggles, chuckles, and who raised her hand to "share" at the retreat, so a fair bit of the text just felt like filler to me. I grew impatient reading page after page about mindfulness exercises, sitting and walking meditation, the group sharing, and the hugs and tears at the retreat centre. While I understand why Horton set the book over a period of five transformative days, I personally would've preferred a more conventional chronological approach. Horton's frequent free associations, under-the-breath quips, and sardonic asides also became somewhat tiresome to me. Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for providing a free digital copy of the book for review purposes.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Luca Smans

    Randomly coming across this book in the library, I have to admit that random doesn't always pay off. This book by Dr. Jillian Horton wasn't my favorite in terms of the story and the way it was written. I also didn't fully connect with the author, and the rest of the people she meets at Chapin Mill, especially at the beginning of the book. Not feeling a connection with the characters and the book overall, is often a sign to me that I'd rather finish it quick so that I can move on to another book. Randomly coming across this book in the library, I have to admit that random doesn't always pay off. This book by Dr. Jillian Horton wasn't my favorite in terms of the story and the way it was written. I also didn't fully connect with the author, and the rest of the people she meets at Chapin Mill, especially at the beginning of the book. Not feeling a connection with the characters and the book overall, is often a sign to me that I'd rather finish it quick so that I can move on to another book. Yet, the way she reflects on her past wounds, her burnout as a doctor, and her way towards healing, was a touching part of this book and was written in an authentic, no bs kind of way. It presented some hard truths about the medical world and doctor life, that I think are important for people to talk about and for doctors to find a place to reflect upon. Luckily, a place such as Chapin Mill, a meditation retreat for burnout doctors, is there to offer a place just like that.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Horton’s memoir really affected me. I too have suffered burnout and immediately recognized a fellow traveller in Horton. She did a masterful job of recreating the experience of burnout which is defined as “erosion of the soul” or, in my vernacular, “the club of the living dead.” I appreciated that there were no miraculous moments of salvation; she makes it clear that the road to recovery is long and challenging. Still, the book isn’t unremittingly dark. It’s filled with humour, sometimes gallows Horton’s memoir really affected me. I too have suffered burnout and immediately recognized a fellow traveller in Horton. She did a masterful job of recreating the experience of burnout which is defined as “erosion of the soul” or, in my vernacular, “the club of the living dead.” I appreciated that there were no miraculous moments of salvation; she makes it clear that the road to recovery is long and challenging. Still, the book isn’t unremittingly dark. It’s filled with humour, sometimes gallows humour, but humour nevertheless, and with stories that show doctors as fallible human beings and a system of medical education that so often brings even the best of them, as Horton clearly is, to their knees.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rosie | rossiereads

    I loved this memoir from Dr. Jillian Horton. Going into the read, I was expecting a tale of burnout recovery, specific to the medical profession, however what I found was that the shared experiences were extremely relatable, even for non medical professionals. The tale is told with humour and wit, and I look forward to more of her writing in the future. Many thanks to Harper Collins for the ARC copy in return for my honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mariah Hughes

    This book was a process in healing. It was one of the many steps towards processing and grieving a year on the frontlines. Dr. Horton tells her own story in a way that is relatable and reflective, with interspersed humour. I couldn’t put it down, but had to put it down at the same time. Would recommend to anyone.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    Dr. Horton lets us ALL the way in with this memoir, allowing us intimate and authentic glimpse into details of her childhood, professional career, internal reckonings, and connections with fellow physicians at a 5-day retreat (the description of which made me break out into a social anxiety-induced sweat). Dr. Horton dares to describe the ways she thinks she has failed, the ways so might have actually been enough, and the questions that remain about who she is as a doctor. Though we do not share Dr. Horton lets us ALL the way in with this memoir, allowing us intimate and authentic glimpse into details of her childhood, professional career, internal reckonings, and connections with fellow physicians at a 5-day retreat (the description of which made me break out into a social anxiety-induced sweat). Dr. Horton dares to describe the ways she thinks she has failed, the ways so might have actually been enough, and the questions that remain about who she is as a doctor. Though we do not share a profession, I found myself very connected to the way she describes her work as a calling and an identity. This memoir invites us to explore our grief about the work we do fully and with raw emotions, even if we have kept these feelings at bay for years. And, bravely, Dr. Horton encourages us to do this work by showing us her own processing first.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Donna Costa

    Horton's story mimics that of other doctors I know who are suffering from burnout. The allopathic system has serious internal problems. I expected the story to to relate only to physicians, but found the questions Horton asks and the observations she makes relate to issues non-medical people face as well. Horton's story mimics that of other doctors I know who are suffering from burnout. The allopathic system has serious internal problems. I expected the story to to relate only to physicians, but found the questions Horton asks and the observations she makes relate to issues non-medical people face as well.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cece

    Written by Cece Scott, www.cecescott.com @cecemscott “Failure to cope. It sounds like a hashtag, not a diagnosis. Yet it’s what we’re taught to write on the charts of people with cancer pain that hasn’t been adequately managed, or elderly men who are mixing up the twenty medications that eight different physicians have prescribed for them in the last sixteen months.” (We Are All Perfectly Fine, Harper Collins Publishers Ltd. page 181). It is these types of scenarios, ones that are wrapped in both Written by Cece Scott, www.cecescott.com @cecemscott “Failure to cope. It sounds like a hashtag, not a diagnosis. Yet it’s what we’re taught to write on the charts of people with cancer pain that hasn’t been adequately managed, or elderly men who are mixing up the twenty medications that eight different physicians have prescribed for them in the last sixteen months.” (We Are All Perfectly Fine, Harper Collins Publishers Ltd. page 181). It is these types of scenarios, ones that are wrapped in both professionalism and empathy and are familiar to us all, whether it be relative to our grandparents, our parents, children or friends, that doctors deal with on a daily basis as they practice their medicine. What many of us don’t have insight into is the actual making of our doctors, the grit and determination, the crazy long and sleepless hours, the untold days, nights and weeks of studying until it’s eyes wide shut, and the ongoing ubiquitous anxiety, stress and worry about making fatal mistakes relative to a patient’s health care. “We have to be perfect,” Dr. Jillian Horton says in We Are All Perfectly Fine. An in-depth accounting of what it takes to both become and then be a doctor, Jillian’s book is an intertwined canvas of both personal and patient stories. Woven throughout those accountings Jillian’s attitude, toughness, resilience and self-deprecating humour, not to mention her empathic and human overall dedication to her craft, makes for a read that is both intriguing and captivating. Jillian earned her creds for toughness and resilience at a very young age, being intimately acquainted with the consequences of a missed diagnosis and hurtful non-compassionate medical care. Wendy, Jillian’s oldest sister, was diagnosed with brain cancer before Jillian was even born. She sustained post-operative meningitis which left her with the “most complex cluster of disabilities imaginable.” Wendy’s condition both tore the family apart while at the same time making them a stronger family unit. There were, as can be imagined, a myriad of repercussions attached to Wendy’s condition. However, the Hortons refused to commit their eldest daughter to an institution and instead became lifelong advocates for her. Added to the family grief was the sudden on-set psychosis of Jillian’s brother when he was fifteen, a condition that made him a permanent resident of a psychiatric hospital. So with a sister in a wheelchair and a brother in a psychiatric ward, every success that Jillian achieved, and there were many – she is an accomplished musician and earlier in her career she turned down a full scholarship in doctoral-level English literature at Oxford so that she could study medicine at McMaster –there was always a deep cloud of guilt attached to those triumphs. How did she get to be the lucky one in life, blessed with so many talents and successes, especially with siblings who were suffering so much, is a question that would haunt her. Inevitably, when a person achieves so many successes, the efforts and hard work tied to them is often wrapped in outsized fatigue and stress, particularly in the medical profession where the demands for complete perfection and intuitiveness is a daily requirement. With a growing family and a demanding career something had to give in Jillian’s world. Married and with three young children, Jillian was well into her practice as a general internist, “the kind of doctor who looks after people with medical problems that sound made up: Typhlitis. Neurocysticercosis. Ankylosing spondylitis, when feelings of a flaming burnout hit Jillian. Hard. On the brink of a two-level collapse, both at home and at work, Jillian signed up for a five-day spartan-like interactive meditation retreat that was being run specifically for doctors under duress at Chapin Mill in New York. What starts out as a keep-to-yourself practice quickly becomes an intimate and interactive sharing of doctors from all walks of medicine- surgeons, psychiatrists, internists, oncologists, and paediatricians, all bowed and bowled over by the unrelenting fatigue and all-consuming guilt and fear of not being good enough. And while this may sound like a heavy read, Jillian, who adds accomplished writer and author to her credentials, fills the pages of We Are Perfectly Fine, with wonderful and humourous stories of her interactions with the other doctors at the retreat - speaking honestly about her first impressions and judgemental opinions of her fellow practitioners – that is, until she gets to know them on a more intimate and supportive level. Not one to mince her metaphors, Jillian is not the least bit afraid to use the ‘F’ word when it is called for, and that adherence to her straight up approach deepened my engagement while at the same time fostering a ‘you go girl’ grin. Along the way, Jillian’s honesty and advocacy towards fixing the currently flawed medical system, a frame of reference that pushes residents to the breaking point of deep anxiety and depression as a result of overbearing expectations, one that encourages medical students and residents to compartmentalize their fears and most troubling emotions in order to move on – to keep going - is a story that needs to be told, understood and changed. There is also some major cool cred in Jillian’s life that is worth the share. Alan Alda, who played Hawkeye Pierce on the popular television series, M. A. S. H., is one of Jillian’s idols. Serendipitously, when an op-ed article of Jillian’s appeared in the Los Angeles Times and Alda read it, he was so impressed that he asked her to send him a copy of We Are All Perfectly Fine. After reading it, Alda sent Jillian an unexpected endorsement, which became the top quote on her book jacket. It reads, in part, “Maybe the best thing about this book is that Jillian Horton allows you to grow as she grows, while saving you the pain of the struggle. But you will grow.” We Are All Perfectly Fine is a humourous and heart-felt read, one that gives each and every one of us the permission to be honest about what is really going on behind the curtains of our individual ‘perfectly fine’ demeanors. Written by Cece Scott, www.cecescott.com @cecemscott

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Coolman

    I am always drawn to books about health care professionals and the obstacles they face personally and professionally due to a systemically broken system. This book did not quite hit the mark for me but definitely had some great insights. I am struggling to write what I thought of this book, so instead I have included a few quotes that deeply resonated with me. "Why am I here? I'm here because medicine has left me a little bit broken. I'm here because I'm not really here anymore, haven't been for I am always drawn to books about health care professionals and the obstacles they face personally and professionally due to a systemically broken system. This book did not quite hit the mark for me but definitely had some great insights. I am struggling to write what I thought of this book, so instead I have included a few quotes that deeply resonated with me. "Why am I here? I'm here because medicine has left me a little bit broken. I'm here because I'm not really here anymore, haven't been for a long time. Because I would like to find a way back into my life" "...I was faceless when I was a resident. That nobody really knew me. That I abandoned myself, that I let myself be sacrificed to something I thought was greater than me. That the sacrifice I thought I was making for patients was actually for a sick and pointless system, that necessity of particular types of hardship only an illusion. It had to be difficult; medicine will always be so." "It is not normal to go without sleep. It is not normal to watch people die, then go drink a cup of coffee and talk about your plans for the weekend. It's not normal to be blamed for not knowing what you couldn't possibly know, to have to carry that weight by yourself across the river. You set off on what you think is a Hero's Journey but turns out to be the Stanford Prison Experiment." "Burnout isn't a clinical diagnosis, right? It's a phenomenon. But you take a bunch of people who are altruists and perfectionists and have the same baseline predisposition to mental illness as the rest of the population. And then you put them in 'jail' for five years, and you script everything they do, right? You limit their sleep, you limit their food intake, you cut them off from their loved ones; they kill a few people by accident and you tell them everything is their fault, but if they keep their mouths shut maybe nobody has to know what they did. But in return, they have to take over running the prison Do it to the next generation." "But there are other reasons we make errors. Inexperience when we're young. Fatigue. A system that constantly asks us to play the odds that most people won't die if we only skim the surface of their history. Pressure to look after more and more patients whose problems are increasingly complex." "...we who are still under-slept and under-resourced and doing the most we can with what we have, and frequently have no more to give anyone, we who ourselves are struggling with grotesque rates of burnout, addiction, depression, suicide. People like me, here for all the right reasons, people who have loved this profession and believed in it with our whole hearts, and have been brought to our knees by it." "It was always here, like a secret door you've been trying to kick for years. And then, in the midst of this trial, as you hang your head in defeat, you notice that around your neck you were wearing the key." "Acceptance isn't the same as endorsement. Leaving all that grief behind doesn't mean you loved anybody any less. But carrying it with you as you cross the river, drowning under is weight, won't bring anybody back. It won't."

  10. 4 out of 5

    Paul Sutter

    Being a doctor is not the easiest profession at the best of times. Now at the worst of times, during the pandemic, has really pushed the medical profession to the limit day in and day out. One must definitely give a massive amount of praise and applause to these dedicated people saving lives, while their own lives are at risk. It is always an inspirational moment when these doctors talks about their world and lives. It gives us a better understanding and appreciation for them. In the book WE A Being a doctor is not the easiest profession at the best of times. Now at the worst of times, during the pandemic, has really pushed the medical profession to the limit day in and day out. One must definitely give a massive amount of praise and applause to these dedicated people saving lives, while their own lives are at risk. It is always an inspirational moment when these doctors talks about their world and lives. It gives us a better understanding and appreciation for them. In the book WE ARE ALL PERFECTLY FINE, Jillian Horton, who is also a musician, talks about her world and how the massive pressure finally got to her. When her own world was crumbling and job burnout was a possibility, she decided to go on a meditation retreat for doctors who had seemed to reach their limits. She talks in detail about that time and how it did more than recharge her batteries. It brought semblance and sanity back to her life and world, as she dealt with other people who found themselves in the same stratosphere. They all were present at Chapin Mill which is a sort of Zen Center in upstate New York. She met many other doctors during the five day retreat, many in the same circumstances. She was a bit cynical in the beginning because the accommodations were so sparse and the fact that communication devices were forbidden and even what they ate was controlled, it was more like a prison than an exercise in unlocking all the negatives of life and work. When she heard the from the heart stories from dozens of doctors, surgeons, psychiatrists, pediatricians and more, the stories resonated within her own psyche and she understood the necessity for such a retreat for her wellbeing and future. Horton holds nothing back in her story of her life, the trauma and drama that were a trademark of the medical profession. There is humor at times, but more importantly, there is honesty and warmth and what in the beginning was not something she welcomed, by the end, her life and world were in greater balance and filled with more positives than ever.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Claire Blomeley

    There are different kinds of hugs. The greeting between friends. The polite hug with acquaintances. The lovers hug. This book is the fully enveloping “everything is going to be alright” hug. It’s a comfort and provider of hope in a dark time. I can’t get enough of it. I’m a health care worker and struggling with “burnout”. I saw this book and thought the LAST thing I needed was a book about emotional coping in health care. Don’t I deal with enough of that? But honestly, this book was exactly wha There are different kinds of hugs. The greeting between friends. The polite hug with acquaintances. The lovers hug. This book is the fully enveloping “everything is going to be alright” hug. It’s a comfort and provider of hope in a dark time. I can’t get enough of it. I’m a health care worker and struggling with “burnout”. I saw this book and thought the LAST thing I needed was a book about emotional coping in health care. Don’t I deal with enough of that? But honestly, this book was exactly what I needed. Jillian Horton tells her own story, weaving the personal and professional threads so that you realize how they each impact each other. Somehow, she also tells her story in a way that lets you reflect on your own stories and reactions. In telling her story, Dr Horton gives you the time and space to consider your own experiences. This book is the story of a physician who is struggling to maintain mental and emotional abilities to continue her work- even though she barely realised it at the time. Caring friends and colleagues helped her find a retreat designed to help professionals like her to find a way to heal. Dr Horton approached this retreat in a manner that matched my own “give me a break! What am I doing at a hokey retreat like this?” cynicism and brought me on the journey with her, out of the cynicism and into more honest reflection. I’m keeping this book to read it again. I’d recommend it to anyone who needs to see where hope can come from.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joanne Mcleod

    This book was presented to me at a time of life and in moments most needed. The words of a poem read near the end of the book helped the cracks in myself and in my heart today. With the mounting pressures of hospital work, of life, and after the unexpected and sudden death of not just a patient - a beloved person, the words are like a tender and healing balm applied where most needed. “One winter’s day A crack appeared in all your lives We tried to stop it from spreading It was too late .... Wh This book was presented to me at a time of life and in moments most needed. The words of a poem read near the end of the book helped the cracks in myself and in my heart today. With the mounting pressures of hospital work, of life, and after the unexpected and sudden death of not just a patient - a beloved person, the words are like a tender and healing balm applied where most needed. “One winter’s day A crack appeared in all your lives We tried to stop it from spreading It was too late .... What I had to learn myself: You could not save her And yet You did not fail.” Thank you, Jillian! We did not fail...and although none of us are perfect and life in all its beauty and joy is filled with loss, grief, suffering, and many far from perfect moments.... We are all perfectly fine. My heart and soul are grateful for your reminder!

  13. 5 out of 5

    CATHERINE

    I listened to the audio book which made it even more powerful. Jillian's sister had cancer has a child that left her with life long medical issues. Watching her family try and navigate the medical system and at times to be met with insensitivity at best and callousness at worse, made her want to change it from the inside. So she became a doctor. The heart breaking stories of loss, patients taking out their fear and anger on their doctors are endless. Speaking of her own personal experience she c I listened to the audio book which made it even more powerful. Jillian's sister had cancer has a child that left her with life long medical issues. Watching her family try and navigate the medical system and at times to be met with insensitivity at best and callousness at worse, made her want to change it from the inside. So she became a doctor. The heart breaking stories of loss, patients taking out their fear and anger on their doctors are endless. Speaking of her own personal experience she compares being a doctor to being in a cult - isolated from friends and family, deprived of sleep and nutrition, then forced to work long hours without a break. This book focuses on her going on a retreat with other burnt out doctors. Which beings an exploration of the medical profession with those who know it best. Proving unique insights into what being a doctor is really like, and the sibling of a sick child.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Clara Annabelle

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I was drawn to this book because I’m a first year medical student. I thought I better learn how not to burn out. I expected to be more of a self-help type book but instead I found a story of a woman learning to save herself. Learning that life doesn’t owe us anything. That to be mindful doesn’t mean being calm and ignoring the negative but to be aware of your emotions and to deal with them as they come. I’m really happy I finished the book because of the stories of doctors carrying their guilt a I was drawn to this book because I’m a first year medical student. I thought I better learn how not to burn out. I expected to be more of a self-help type book but instead I found a story of a woman learning to save herself. Learning that life doesn’t owe us anything. That to be mindful doesn’t mean being calm and ignoring the negative but to be aware of your emotions and to deal with them as they come. I’m really happy I finished the book because of the stories of doctors carrying their guilt and regret with them. It was powerful and I think it’s important for med students (and anyone who holds on to regret a little too tight) to hear about mistakes and to hear that just because a patient didn’t make it-doesn’t mean you failed. That last tragic yet beautiful story makes it all worth the read. Dr. Horton thanks for sharing your story!

  15. 5 out of 5

    smalltownbookmom

    Told with humor and heart and oh so relatable for anyone feeling overwhelmed, fatigued or burnout from life - you don't have to be a doctor to be able to connect with this memoir from Canadian internist, Jillian Horton. Growing up with a sibling with a severe disability, Jillian gave up a scholarship to study literature in Oxford and pursue her dream of being a writer in order to go into medicine in way to help people like her sister who were treated poorly by the medical community. Mid-career, Told with humor and heart and oh so relatable for anyone feeling overwhelmed, fatigued or burnout from life - you don't have to be a doctor to be able to connect with this memoir from Canadian internist, Jillian Horton. Growing up with a sibling with a severe disability, Jillian gave up a scholarship to study literature in Oxford and pursue her dream of being a writer in order to go into medicine in way to help people like her sister who were treated poorly by the medical community. Mid-career, she recognizes how burnout she feels - like many health care professionals (especially right now): "The one person I seemed totally unwilling to help was myself." She goes on a week long meditation retreat trying to find ways to connect more with herself and her dreams deferred: "There wasn't a way to be everything to everyone...and the easiest dreams to abandon were my own." This is a great read to feel more empathy for the pressures physicians are under (I really enjoyed the patient stories she includes) and for anyone looking to find ways to prioritize self-care. Highly recommend, especially for fans of The white coat diaries or The beauty in breaking by Michele Harper.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    I was drawn into reading this book by reading the free ebook preview, but I quickly lost steam. I found it frustrating and pretentious at times, like the author felt being a doctor meant you simultaneously were more important / smarter / better than non-doctors, and also had bigger, more valid problems than non-doctors. I almost gave up at the halfway point, but ended up finishing it, and I’m glad I did. Learning about the mistakes the doctors made with patients and how those still gripped them I was drawn into reading this book by reading the free ebook preview, but I quickly lost steam. I found it frustrating and pretentious at times, like the author felt being a doctor meant you simultaneously were more important / smarter / better than non-doctors, and also had bigger, more valid problems than non-doctors. I almost gave up at the halfway point, but ended up finishing it, and I’m glad I did. Learning about the mistakes the doctors made with patients and how those still gripped them made the book meaningful in a way it hadn’t been until then, and the final therapy-esque realizations the author had were relatable whether or not you are in medicine. I suspect the people and concepts from this book will stay with me a long time.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kbeckermann

    I generally enjoyed this and I think non-physicians can just as easily relate. This is well written, heart wrenching at times and funny at other times. Horton does a very good job weaving her personal life experience into her experience as a physician and acknowledging how they both contribute to her burnout. As with many memoirs about healing, she is writing from 'the other side' which can be challenging to read (and likely to write!). Many people don't recognize they are burnt out or recognize I generally enjoyed this and I think non-physicians can just as easily relate. This is well written, heart wrenching at times and funny at other times. Horton does a very good job weaving her personal life experience into her experience as a physician and acknowledging how they both contribute to her burnout. As with many memoirs about healing, she is writing from 'the other side' which can be challenging to read (and likely to write!). Many people don't recognize they are burnt out or recognize this but aren't on the other side yet. Horton does a relatively good job handling this balance and yet I wonder, what would her memoir be like if she had written before she went to Chapin Mill?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Erin Toor

    This is a memoir of an internist..an honest and heartfelt account of the grief and burnout she faced while working in Medicine. She describes many incidents of suffering experienced by patients and their loved ones. How she internalized their suffering and grief and carried that with her. Her compassion and humanity shines through in this book. This book resonated with me on many levels. There were a few parts that so accurately describe the trauma and grief that stay with us, as physicians and This is a memoir of an internist..an honest and heartfelt account of the grief and burnout she faced while working in Medicine. She describes many incidents of suffering experienced by patients and their loved ones. How she internalized their suffering and grief and carried that with her. Her compassion and humanity shines through in this book. This book resonated with me on many levels. There were a few parts that so accurately describe the trauma and grief that stay with us, as physicians and Heath care workers.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Fei Fei

    Strong 3.5 stars. Dr Horton writes beautifully and her stories are both heartbreaking and eerily familiar. I just wish she spent longer in her final few chapters reflecting on the steps she took towards healing, self-acceptance and mindfulness and how they are reflected in her current practice of medicine.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Johanne

    I almost didn’t finish this book. I’ve been going through a lot, culminating stress and pain and I didn’t want to add more hurt, more tears. It’s a well-written book and I enjoyed interviews with the author and her Twitter contributions, so I kept on. Worthwhile reading, wish I had someone like her as a doctor.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Julia Alleyne

    As a physician, I found Dr Hortons experiences resonated deeply with me. I am not sure others would understand the sub cult of medicine in the same way. You could feel her mind ruminating and sometimes this was anxiety provoking for the reader. Her ending was worth the journey to realize that she was able to use her skills and still find balance.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Anne Day

    This book really made me think about the pressure we place on doctors - in ordinary times, let alone during a pandemic. Jillian is authentic in all that shares, including the challenges facing her family with her sister's brain tumour and much later, her death. At times the emotions are raw and you feel her pain and how hard it is when patients die. This book really made me think about the pressure we place on doctors - in ordinary times, let alone during a pandemic. Jillian is authentic in all that shares, including the challenges facing her family with her sister's brain tumour and much later, her death. At times the emotions are raw and you feel her pain and how hard it is when patients die.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This is a beautifully vulnerable book that is worth reading by anyone, and especially people who work in medicine. I hope that it will be part of the slow culture shift that is happening within the field towards more compassion and life balance for the healers.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ben Rogers

    Had high hopes for this, but didn't enjoy it. It was a memoir, which is a touch-and-go genre for me, and this one wasn't great. I found it particularly rambling, slow, and not very interesting. Not for me. 1.9/5 Had high hopes for this, but didn't enjoy it. It was a memoir, which is a touch-and-go genre for me, and this one wasn't great. I found it particularly rambling, slow, and not very interesting. Not for me. 1.9/5

  25. 4 out of 5

    Julia Christina Dewolf

    Memoir told by looking back on her life as she’s at a doctors retreat. a Canadian dr who’s grown up with a sister who had a brain tumour when she was young then severely disabled due to its aftermath. Book was enjoyable and well written overall. Liked, but not in my love pile.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Noella Allisen

    I believe that these types of memoirs are meant to further aid an author to work through their issues. I hope this one has served that purpose. As a reader I was along for the therapy in that retreat and now hope to drop yesterday's baggage and do better at being present. I believe that these types of memoirs are meant to further aid an author to work through their issues. I hope this one has served that purpose. As a reader I was along for the therapy in that retreat and now hope to drop yesterday's baggage and do better at being present.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hayley

    Validating Reading the unsurmountable challenges a doctor goes thru and the ways in which they try to stay unbroken validates the experiences i had with them…. They are human too… self-care is critical especially in medicine.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Aidan

    Dr. Horton writes a memoire of her life that skillfully pulls together different experiences. It allows you to experience her meditation retreat alongside her and unexpectedly grow as a person as well.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rhona

    Heartbreaking, funny, so well written!!!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Karen Gadd

    Though raw, moving and heart wrenching, ultimately hopeful. I couldn’t put it down

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