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Review: The Illusion of the Perfect Profession by Betsy Gall

The author shares her heart-wrenching story of love and loss. She was married to her husband for many years, had three children and thought she would have the perfect life. However, that was not to be, and her husband died by suicide, shattering her world. Betsy not only shares her feelings but discusses how doctors have a high rate of suicide.

Going into this book, I had no idea that doctors have such a high rate of suicide. After finishing the book, I understand how this can be and appreciate doctors in a new light. Doctors don’t always get to give good news; they often have to tell patients and their families that they can do nothing for them. Or try, as they might still lose the patient. I can remember the look on my doctor’s face when he not only told me I had cancer but also apologized for having to tell me. The look on his face said it before his words. 

Mental health itself carries a stigma. A doctor suffering from mental illness (in this case, depression) carries what can be perceived as a heavier stigma. They are healers, not those that need healing. Betsy mentioned a few times in the book that her husband was worried he would lose his medical license. It had never occurred to me that it could be a possibility.

Most of the book consists of the author’s personal journal entries to tell the story. She shares her thoughts and disillusions about what was happening and how she was powerless to help and wanted to help so desperately. She turned to God and her faith to get through a tragic time. Within those journal entries were gratitude entries to remind herself that even though her life was in turmoil, there were things that she could still be grateful for. Often, it included her children, but it also included the most minor things, like being able to go for a walk. When we are struggling, it can be nearly impossible to see any time of happiness. Having shared those moments of gratitude reminds the reader that we don’t have to be grateful only for significant things but for the small things that make up most of our lives.

Included within the book are quotes from other doctors and statistics about the high rate of suicide among doctors. Suicide, as a whole, is a horrible event that needs to be discussed to shed light and get help for those who require it. Discussing doctors and suicide goes beyond that with triggers that don’t usually affect the general population.

Betsy chose to make the journal entries italicized so they would be easy to identify. I have done this in the past with books, and usually, I agree with the choice. Because this book included large texts, or entire chapters, that were journal entries, I found this formatting choice to be hard on my eyes. It doesn’t take anything away from the content of the book.

My favourite thing about this book was the author’s use of the word ill/illness. So often, we hear a ‘mental health crisis,’ or we need to cope with our ‘mental health.’ The word health tends to indicate something good, whereas, with illness, we immediately know there is a need for healing. I truly appreciated that the author said her husband was ill. He was suffering from an illness that he needed help from. I think we all need to consider the choice of words that we use when describing our situations.

Overall, this is a very powerful book. There is healing in words; this book can help many others going through something similar. 

Get your copy here (affiliate link – thank you for your support).

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