We’ve all heard the adage “Physician Heal Thyself”. This ancient proverb was originally intended as an admonition to mind one’s own problems rather than advising others on theirs. Physicians (even ancient world ones) have always been notoriously bad at taking care of others’ “business” before their own. Physicians’ own needs often come last in the hierarchy of demands. But this concept has broader implications in today’s world, and physicians really do need to work on “healing” themselves. The concept of “self-care” has become an important one because physician suicide is on the rise.
It might seem odd then to say that for this particular physician/writer, firearms, rather than being a “suicide risk” during times of stress, actually provide a much needed outlet and social support.
At my residency graduation dinner, a wise physician mentor reminded my graduating class of the importance of having friends outside of the medical community. He emphasized that as we launched into our careers, having experiences outside of medicine would provide much-needed perspective and change of mental gears. He reminded us that as busy physicians we would need to come up for air occasionally and get a look around at the real world.
I have found that the shooting sports and associated comaraderie provide me with such friends and social support.
Time spent at shooting matches with friends has never been a wasted effort. Though my scores have often left room for improvement, the experience of mutual support, mutual ribbing and joking, and “shop talk” about calibers and features has never left me wanting for laughs and common interests. I have had more fun standing in the pouring rain with friends on the range than one could ever imagine. As the saying goes, “A crummy day at the range beats a good day at the office”.
In the same way, time spent afield with trusted hunting friends or alone in the woods in a ground blind can be wonderful therapy.
The scent of freshly spent shotgun shells combined with the smell of damp earth in the Autumn is a tonic to the spirit – especially while watching a good bird dog work a field.
The smell of pine trees and dead leaves, with a half moon shaded by misty clouds as a guide to the ground blind can be a positively spiritual experience for an exhausted soul.
Greeting the sunrise, breath steaming in air that crinkles the nostrils, while the birds slowly awaken in the trees, is a slice of heaven.
Even when the only “quarry” is Autumn Olive berries, my time outdoors in nature provides much-needed recharging, while the S&W .357 on my hip provides some personal security when alone in the woods.
The real world perspective that my firearms experience has given me also reminds me that not every predator lives in the woods and walks on four legs. The self-defense end of firearms training has given me some different perspectives from that of my pediatric colleagues.
While most pediatricians tend to be the sensitive and kind-hearted type, I’ve learned that my own nature in that direction has limits. If it comes down to my life or that of a predator, I will do my best to make sure that the predator doesn’t win. This is because I have been taught that my OWN life has value too. This has been the biggest blessing that my association with the firearms community has bestowed upon me – the lesson of valuing my OWN life and providing me with the means to defend it.
From my perspective, firearms have not been the evil death-dealing public health “disease” that Organized Medicine would have the public believe. Rather for me, firearms have provided life-affirming opportunities and friendships. Firearms have provided the means of saving my own life – both literally and figuratively.