Fallible by Kyle Bradford Jones is a memoir about the author’s struggle with mental illness, particularly during his grueling training as a physician. Dr. Jones is never cured of his anxiety and depression, which he describes as an invisible omnipresent “gargoyle” that waxes and wanes through about a decade of his life.
Early in his medical training, Dr. Jones notices that his symptoms of anxiety are exacerbated by the stresses of medical school. Even the road to acceptance into a program has been rough for the young man, who is married and whose wife is expecting their first child. In addition, the couple moves out of state, away from the support of both of their families. Fellow students in his medical program begin dropping out or developing mental disorders of their own. Dr. Jones’ wife, Becki, begins to suffer from isolation as she cares for their newborn in a government-subsidized apartment. The gargoyle that represents his illness is gaining traction.
Dr. Jones’ struggles increase as he begins clinical rotations. During his surgical rotation, after his frustrated attending surgeon throws a scalpel at an orderly, he writes in the memoir, “I had not signed up for this, and I now feared that entering the world of medicine would cost me my soul.” Some of the behavior of other senior doctors that teach him as he graduates from medical school and works in his residency, stun him. He seriously questions his career choice.
Throughout the memoir, Dr. Jones repeatedly seeks help for his deteriorating mental state, but he doesn’t get complete satisfaction or respite from his encounters with various clinicians. The stigma of mental illness is greater among physicians than the general public; he even resorts to self-treatment at one point.
Fallible is important because, as Dr. Jones notes, physicians are three times more likely to develop a mental illness than the general public. They also die by suicide at a higher rate. Dr. Jones explores why this is so: Is it the broken United States health care system, or the erroneous attitude of patients and their families that physicians are gods, capable of curing anything?
Dr. Jones’ writing shines. He has a tremendous vocabulary and a concise style. His explanations of complex topics such as neurotransmitters, which cause some mental illnesses, are clear. His suggestions for fixing a broken medical system in the United States are well thought out.
Fallible is a must read for anyone considering a medical profession. It’s not for the faint of heart; Dr. Jones gets into specifics about the good, the bad, and the ugly of caring for patients while coping with his anxiety and depression.
The memoir was published by Black Rose Writing earlier this month and is available on Amazon.