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Why It's Important to Be Yourself

Thoughts on the reasons veterinarians commit suicide.

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Another sad story has rocked my world this past week. It made me think of all the people out there that feel they cannot BE who they want to BE. I do not think this relates just to personal lifestyles, but also to what we want to become as a professional and the type of work we choose to affiliate ourselves with.  But the message came to me by way of a personal lifestyle tragedy.

School shootings are, unfortunately, becoming commonplace in the news. That is sad enough, but this one captured my heart even before we knew the details. At an Arizona high school, two 15-year-old girls were found shot, with the weapon between them.  It didn’t take the story unraveling to put together what kind of shooting this was. A murderer doesn’t often leave the weapon at the scene of the crime.  As you probably know by now, this sad story was deemed a murder-suicide, and it was released that the girls were good friends, even a “couple” perhaps.

Gay and lesbian youth commit suicide at an alarming rate. What struck me in this story, though, was knowing they made this decision together. Likely, they were forbidden, or thought themselves forbidden, to pursue their love for each other. This brought back memories of my high school years, when a similar suicide rocked our community. Only it was a heterosexual couple — a boy and girl — whose parents had forbidden their relationship. They ran their car in the garage of a newly built, empty home, and together passed from this life into the next one, presumably to be together for all eternity.

Suicide in the Veterinary Profession

How lonely it must feel to think that in order to BE who or what you want to BE, you have to escape the world as we know it. It got me thinking, that this is perhaps a component of suicide in the veterinary profession. It might be a feeling that you perhaps cannot continue to be the loving, caring, compassionate animal care provider that you so desire to be. The person who you have become hurts too much to rediscover the passion that called you to this profession. 

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I imagine there is a component of pain, of wanting to escape the continuous pressure and stress, the sad stories and thinly stretched days, of wanting that all to just stop.  But it makes sense to me that this “failure to be who I want to be” must also play a part in this sad and tragic event.  To know that you want to care, you want to love, you want to heal, but you are not able to. It could be because you do not enough time, your clients don’t have enough money, you can’t fit more hours in the day, your practice owner or corporation directs your actions, your family can’t be without you more than 80 hours a week — the list can go on and on.

I don’t have the answer.  I look for it every day, researching compassion fatigue and other emotional ramifications of our work as caregivers. I try to help in the ways that I can, and sometimes I cry, I yearn for the ability to BE the person to help, to BE the person who will help to save our profession from this tragic end. 

Be true to yourself. But please, find a way to do that on THIS earth, rather than seeking the heavens.

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