Just remember I love you

Jess Thomerson, Trainee paediatrician, Princess Royal University Hospital

Published in JHH18.1 – Flourishing in Medical Education

I have always loved art and creative writing and it has always been a very important part of my life and maintaining good mental health. My choice to read medicine at Bristol University was heavily influenced by the importance they put on non-science subjects in their selection criteria and the fact the curriculum included aspects such as whole person care and what was then termed ‘alternative medicine’. The student selected component on art and creativity in medicine explored both how we as doctors could use art to help us process and reflect on our experiences as medics, and consider how it could be used as a healing tool for our patients. I have continued to use art and creative writing as reflective tools both in my capacity as a doctor but also to help me process and traverse difficult times in my life. I am developing my interest in how art and creativity can be used more formally in reflective practice by doctors and am currently exploring with a nursing colleague the possibility of introducing some creative workshops for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) patients.

This is a poem that allowed me to reflect on the ambiguity of life and the messages we receive and give. It is a reflection on being a daughter and a mum. It is a reflection on the process of having to go back to work after maternity leave and balance family and career… and self. It is a vocalisation of the internal dialogue of me suffering with anxiety at going back to work and establishing a balance… the conflict of trying to encourage and critique myself, be kind to myself but often failing to be, and always feeling there is more to be done… that I can do better.

Some of the things in the poem my mum said to me and some I try not to say to my children – many are things I do say. It is also a gesture to the ambiguity of being a doctor and a person – we often give good advice but are typically not very good at following it ourselves. We are in a caring profession but often have self-care at the bottom of our priority list.

The title of the poem can be read in different ways: ‘just remember I love you’ saying that whatever else you forget, remember you’re loved, or: just remember, ‘I love you’ which is more a plea to forget everything else except ‘I love you’. The repeated I love you at the end of the poem is a hopeful one – in the hope that whoever the poem is talking to – mother, child, self, they answer you with ‘I love you’, in the end.