Sunday 24 March 2019

Dr Ciara Kelly: 'Recent changes have left me with crippling anxiety - but it will become less daunting'

Dr Ciara Kelly
Dr Ciara Kelly

Ciara Kelly

There's an old saying, "When the gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers". I guess it's a mythological take on "Be careful what you wish for". Or perhaps a more eloquent version of "The grass is always greener". And I have been thinking about it lately because I have undertaken a lot of change lately - all of which I wanted, all of which I worked towards. But it has thrown up some unexpected personal challenges that I'm still trying to get my head around.

I worked as a doctor for 20 years, initially as a junior doc in a scattering of Dublin hospitals - although Navan and Mullingar deserve an honourable mention, and then I did a year as a GP registrar in North Strand, in Dublin's north inner city. I then worked for two-ish years in Tallaght Hospital doing psychiatry, before heading back to the bosom of general practice where I stayed for 15 years. So it's been donkey's since I started any kind of a new job or pushed myself out of my comfort zone in such a major way.

Oh, I'd been pushing myself out of it regularly in minor ways. Going on TV is very uncomfortable. But once you survive it you feel empowered by it. Debating with people publicly can be uncomfortable but, rightly or wrongly, you can only try and stick to what you believe and people will either like it or lump it! So I thought it would be a natural extension of all of that to leave my comfort zone altogether and try my hand at full-time broadcasting. I was kind of amazed I'd been given the opportunity. And it's true I love - I really love radio. I love the conversations. I love getting to speak to the most expert and interesting people on all kinds of thought provoking topics. It's a total privilege.

But what I hadn't expected was that making so many of the personal advances I've made over some 40 years on this planet have turned out not to be a factor of age at all.

In fact they are a matter of just getting on top of whatever it is you've been beavering away at in life.

So all those nice comfy feelings that us 40 somethings boast about - specifically; 'not caring any more what other people think of you'. And 'feeling liberated' from the expectations of others. And generally having developed that 'sense of self' that was absent for most of us in our youth.

Yup. That all disappears and all your 'youthful angst' comes back with a bang when you land in a totally new work environment - having previously only seen open plan offices really on the telly. Well it's a far cry from a GP surgery let me tell you.

And then there's also the compounding factor of coming from an area where not only were you relatively well established but - after 20 years of practice - you actually had an ease about being mainly on top of your game to now an area where you are more or less a novice. Albeit one with a determination to master whatever is thrown at them. It's very disconcerting.

And I suspect that the media may actually be worse than other industries for spawning insecurity. You have ratings. 'You're hot or you're not'. You can be perfectly good at your job but when whatever you're selling is past its flavour of the month status you can find yourself all washed up in the blink of an eye. And people know that. It's mad. That just doesn't happen in medicine!

So basically career change in middle age dredges up a sense of anxiety and insecurity that I naively thought I had left behind 10 or 15 years ago. As probably many women who return to work after their youngest has headed off to school could have told me had I asked.

So was it a bad move? No!

Like every other thing I have ever done that has scared the beejesus out of me - at some point it will become less daunting. At some point I will gain a sense of ownership of it. And at some point I won't feel like I need stabilisers - I will feel like I'm freewheeling. Until then OK, yes crippling anxiety and stomach churning insecurity the likes of which I haven't felt since 22. But that will pass. Who says you can't recapture your youth?

@ciarakellydoc Ciara presents Lunchtime Live on Newstalk Radio weekdays from 12-2

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