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Adam B. Hill's "Long Walk Out of the Woods"
Wow-what a book!
What can we say except Thank You and Kudos to Dr. Adam B. Hill for writing this emotionally moving story of his journey as a physician and human through depression and addiction and most importantly, through recovery.
Dr. Hill expertly and touchingly shares the events of his life, starting from his childhood where he was bullied and felt like he “never belonged.” He shares how shame and isolation became a part of his life from an early age. He artfully and articulately carries us into his medical training starting in med school through his residency in pediatrics and his pediatric oncology fellowship, all at prestigious institutions. He does this in a way that has the reader feeling they are right alongside him every step of the way, with all the burdens, expectations, joys, and sorrows that entails.
Dr. Hill also brings us along into his experiences of depression, times of devastating suicidal ideation, and his descent into alcoholism along with his courageous climb back up to recovery. He does this with the express purpose to share with us as doctors and humans that even though we may feel we are alone, we are not! His vivid descriptions of all of this allow us to see how we too can be vulnerable and share our experiences for the benefit of all. With intimate details, he captures our interest every single moment of the book by skillfully describing events he encountered throughout his professional training and his personal life, many of which we readers can relate to.
Dr. Hill shares with us about various colleagues who “continue to die every day without being able to share their struggles” and who “buried a brewing pile of turmoil deep inside,” and “never fully processed the angst,” with the eventual outcome of “a confident stride turned into a despondent shuffle.”
Along with his own personal story, he outlines in the book how “Societal and cultural expectations in medicine are set to dangerously high levels and requires perfection - any outcome other than perfection is seen as failure.” By comparing how mental health issues in doctors are dealt with relative to other medical conditions such as diabetes and broken bones, he clearly elucidates how much of a stigma mental conditions carry.
Describing what he calls “a systemic failure of self-compassion in medicine,” and an “ongoing failure of medicine to recognize our humanity,” Dr. Hill follows this up with solutions for how this can all be rectified and reversed, mostly with being vulnerable and sharing our stories; along with systemic changes. He describes establishing healthy boundaries, making space for vulnerability, and practicing gratitude as just a few of the many tools he discovered and utilized during his journey, all of which the reader can adopt into their own lives. In a truly valuable section, he shares how he has adapted the pediatric palliative care acronym SPIKES (Setting/Perception/Invitation/Knowledge/Exploring Emotions/Summary)
to be utilized in this arena of mental health in physicians and it is absolutely brilliant!
Just like Dr. Hill was never the same after all these events and experiences, the reader will no longer be the same after reading his exquisite book. The author shares his experience, strength, and hope with such clarity and emotion that it will be hard to not finish the book in one sitting as we did.
“By sharing my story, I want others to feel there is room at the table to share their story too” and “as long as I have a voice, I will speak out to honor those suffering” are just a couple of the quotes in the book that struck us right in the heart - for all Dr. Hill has been through, his main motive is to help others and that is exactly what he is doing and we couldn’t be more grateful!
Dr. Hill evolves for the reader from a kid who felt like he didn’t belong, to a doctor, husband, and father who realizes what truly matters is “connecting in a fundamental way” and knowing he belongs in the story that is his.
While one has to read the entirety of the book to get the full impact, this quote from it sums up what Dr. Hill is attempting to do with writing the book, and does so superbly - “confronting stigmas with compassion while taking the time to hear an individual story has allowed me to advocate for the truth of a narrative to find the light of day.”
This book allows us to realize that by aspiring to strive toward finding our own lights of days and the light of days for others, we will grow and evolve as Dr. Hill did.