When we need help, we count on doctors to put us back together. But what happens when doctors fall apart?
Funny, fresh, and deeply affecting, We Are All Perfectly Fine is the story of a married mother of three on the brink of personal and professional collapse who attends rehab with a twist: a meditation retreat for burned-out doctors.
Jillian Horton, a general internist, has no idea what to expect during her five-day retreat at Chapin Mill, a Zen centre in upstate New York. She just knows she desperately needs a break. At first she is deeply uncomfortable with the spartan accommodations, silent meals and scheduled bonding sessions. But as the group struggles through awkward first encounters and guided meditations, something remarkable happens: world-class surgeons, psychiatrists, pediatricians and general practitioners open up and share stories about their secret guilt and grief, as well as their deep-seated fear of falling short of the expectations that define them. Jillian realizes that her struggle with burnout is not so much personal as it is the result of a larger system failure, and that compartmentalizing your most difficult emotions—a coping strategy that is drilled into doctors—is not useful unless you face these emotions too.
Jillian Horton throws open a window onto the flawed system that shapes medical professionals, revealing the rarely acknowledged stresses that lead doctors to depression and suicide, and emphasizing the crucial role of compassion not only in treating others, but also in taking care of ourselves.
Jillian Horton, M.D., is an award-winning medical educator, writer, musician and podcaster. She completed a residency and a fellowship in internal medicine at the University of Toronto and has held posts as an associate dean and associate head of internal medicine. For sixteen years, she has cared for thousands of patients in an inner-city hospital. During that time, she had three sons and mentored hundreds of students. Horton now leads the development of new programs related to physician wellness, and won the 2020 AFMC–Gold Foundation Humanism award. As a teacher of mindfulness, she is sought after by doctors at all stages of their careers. Long before she was a physician, Horton was a promising writer. She completed a master’s in English at the University of Western Ontario before beginning her journey into the heart of medicine.