A few years ago, I found myself in A & E. I had never felt so ill. I was mentally and physically broken. So fractured, I hadn’t eaten properly or slept well, or even changed my expression for months. I sat in a cubicle, behind paper-thin curtains and I shook with the effort of not crying. I was an inch away from defeat… but I knew I had to carry on. Because I wasn’t the patient. I was the doctor.
No sleep, skeleton support, a head full of anatomy lectures and idealism: this is life for our junior doctors in their first few years on the wards. Here, Joanna Cannon tells her own story in visceral, heart-rending snapshots.
We walk with her, facing extraordinary and daunting moments and meeting her patients: from attending her first post-mortem, learning the overwhelming power of a well or badly chosen word, sitting with a young woman in her final hours, to small sustaining acts of kindness and connection. These moments teach her that emotional care can be just as critical as restoring a heartbeat – and eventually lead her to her true home in psychiatry.
Deeply moving, warm, compassionate and beautifully written, Breaking & Mending shows us why we need to better care for mental health – and for those who care for us.