Thursday, January 18, 2018

Find What Breaks Your Heart AND Change It. How Imposter Syndrome Battles Compassion Fatigue

There is this pervasive gnawing of vulnerability following me. I'm running without the time to look back to see their red eyes of furious feverish pursuit hunting us, while in my arms lies some sick-dying desperate soul to save. It is always the same dream. All on me, all alone and fleeing.

In the trade we call it "imposter syndrome". Any mortal who is honest with themselves and humble in the magnitude of this profession understands that we cannot be everything to everyone and yet also be expected to hold the bar to the scrutiny of the specialists should the shit hit the fan.

At some point the dam breaks and you accept that you can only be true to your own sense of ability meets inability. You also learn to always be honest, inside and out. After that the cards fall where they will and you go on.

I have lived about 10 years as a veterinarian between insecurity-hugging-imposter AND activist-holding-up-compassionist. Quite a dichotomy. Plato's symposium meets my real-life. I can only be pulled into two different directions for so long. Every two headed-four legged sideshow freak suspended in formalin died for the same reason; at some point either one half dies, or they both do.

There is not one day that we aren't reminded how fragile life is and how many suffer just to survive.
One of 17 feral cats we are trying to save in the middle of a harsh winter this kitten weight 2.5 pounds and is over 6 months old. She should weigh at least three times that. Instead parasites, pneumonia and fighting for resources has stunted her to this state. Could you walk away? 

After all there are thousands, millions (?) just like her.
There are quotes of inspiration that transition into motivation. If you dwell long enough they can even convert your unsettled  inertia into purposeful kinetic momentum. I am one of those people. I don't like the sidelines. I don't wait for a coach to blow the whistle of permission to enter the game. Sunday I euthanized half of the patients I saw for the day. Quite the statistics to drive my point home. Death waits for no one. You can grow old, decrepit, and exhausted waiting for permission.

"Find out what breaks your heart, and do whatever you can to fix it." Abby Wambach. 

If I were one of the tattoo yielded kids I would have it emblazoned on my wrist. (You know the web-slinging place of Wonder Woman days.)

My heart breaks every single day that I am in practice. There isn't one day where we aren't faced with the reality of the state of our profession. People need us and we are not there for them. These people LOVE their pets and are desperate to help them. They get faced with closed door after closed door of unwillingness to even speak to them, never mind offer real meaningful care. It is the example of the desertion of humanity at its most basic. For me it is the most classic day-to-day reminder of how broken our society is. The smallest and weakest always suffer far beyond the wealthiest's purview. They land here, in our doorway, begging, every single day. To turn my back on them is torture, there is no denying their existence and yet there is no time to try to negotiate the terms to resolution.

I am left with a soapbox, a desperate call for action, and a profession who has come to terms with the divide between responsibility, profit, and castigation. It breaks my heart. It propels me to act and it leaves me vulnerable as the scale overflows my practices ability to hear the cries from below.

Maddie. My muse.
The source of the inspiration that broke my inertia

This shadowed mob of lynch men is real. If you don't think that we live in an angry hateful world ask whoever is on the other side of your political affiliation. We are not so tolerant of the other side. It weakens us all. The system doesn't like change. It fears disruption as a vulnerability deserving of inoculation, eradication and excision.

If I am not heartbroken by the indifference that is so overwhelmingly pervasive in our professional culture I would be both an imposter and a liar. There is a point where you get pulled apart and die from collateral damage to the host. How can I kill the girl who still gives a damn, remain sitting on the sidelines waiting for the pandemic of indifference shored up by excuses and vitriol to blame the other half to win?

If the statistics were available my point would be fueled by a mob so great the profession would fracture into its own broken system of public health practices and couture clinics. The non profits would start dominating the landscape at a precedence the corporate practices would take note of. If the advent of the human medicine minute-clinics restructured access to quick affordable basic care the high volume-low cost practices diversify to meet the need. The walls of secret hidden price schemes based primarily on lack of access and professional pursed lips will fall. If epi-pens were met by lawsuits and lynchings the vet profession better start looking inward.

Let's take some examples; if there is a 90% cure rate with medical intervention in urethral obstructions what is the economic euthanasia rate? How do we justify this growing statistic of unaffordable care when nothing about the treatment plan has changed? How do we answer the public when the cost of this treatment has escalated from less than $800 to over $4,000 in a decade? The difference is corporate profit.

There are inherent rights to every living thing;
1. They all are in the same race. Live and perpetuate living. It is fundamental and undeniable.
2. Action and inaction have consequences.
3. Inner truth is the only salvation to inner peace..

What are you willing to lose in an effort to remain whole? It is a question I ask myself every day as I try to outrun and outlast the mob at my heels.

Like every other civil movement there is a groundswell of people demanding change. For me, in this movement to return medicine to the place of compassionate discussions focused on patient care, and not corporate profits, it is a return NOT a redirect. It will take a war of anger, heartbreak and unwillingness to tolerate the system as it stands, or has evolved into, before the negotiating will begin. In the end the indifference for profit will never prevail. I don't care if this is over "property" and responsibility. It is about love, companionship, and ultimately our ability to recognize that each species, and all beings within these species, need each other.

Where am I? Just swimming against a tide of forgotten little guys still trying to save every single wet nose and still fighting for their tiny voices to be heard with a sea of sharks behind me.

What is my soapbox going to get? A voice on a stage with a megaphone to amplify the stories of the souls we have forgotten to serve. There is a change looming on the horizon, a mob who will have to answer some tough questions, and a whole population of under served who will have their day of reckoning.

What breaks your heart?

And what are you doing about it?

August. Found as a stray at the shelter with a broken femur.
Recovering with us and looking for a home.
She's the most precious kitten!

If you are interested in help for your pet and don't know where to go please find us here at It is a free online community dedicated to educating and inspiring pet people everywhere. It is free to use and open to everyone.

I can also be found at Jarrettsville Vet in Harford County Maryland. Visit our Facebook page here, or see our online Price Guide at our website

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