Rollercoaster

It’s been a month since I last posted. This time it was not because of business or time, it was because I didn’t want to live and writing about it here would have not helped.

In the month past I have quit drinking (2 months sober, only having 5 drinks along the way). Why? I hated it. It put me in an awful place unless I made myself get absolutely wrecked, so I quit. While quitting, I realised that I was getting worse. For the first time in years, I didn’t want to exist. The alcohol had been a cover, masking the fact my meds weren’t working. Now, i’m getting better. The dose has been increased (although tooth pain side effect is driving me insane) and i’m getting more distractions from medicine.

I have started working part-time, I have joined the university cricket, cycling and triathlon teams. Although this has meant spending less time on my studies, I am not behind.

I was lucky this time to have someone who listened, when a lot of others ignored the problem. There was no instigating factor this time, my mind just suddenly turned.

I’m not going to put a message such as ‘you’re not alone’ in this post because when you feel suicidal, you do feel alone, as if no one can help you, but, there is always someone to contact, to talk to, to save you from yourself.

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Self Help(lessness)

More often than not the only person who can help you is yourself.

It can be a struggle to find the help you need, but finding it is only the beginning. This week I started counselling again. This is nothing new, however since moving to a different university everything which had been set up nicely in place was gone, I was back to square 1. So as soon as I felt myself getting worse, I got on the self-referral. My initial impressions from the new counselling include knowing exactly what I want out of it. Before I went in and just said everything that was on my mind. Now, I don’t want to go over that all again, but instead focus on what’s really troubling me. I’ve even been given homework to do between sessions (because nothing says ‘I understand you have a lot of work, so here’s some more’). Ironically, it’s actually the first time I want to get the homework done.

I realise it will take time for it to have the full desired effect but i’m on the right path again.

Until then, I may as well keep plodding on…

Mental Health and Med School

Be under no illusion, regardless of whether you are doing a 4 year graduate entry medical course or a 5/6 year undergraduate course, there will be times you will struggle.

Mental health issues in the general population are common, 1 in 6 people will have an episode of depression in their lives. In the medical school setting, the incidence of mental health issues in medical students increases 2-5 fold (Rotenstein et al., 2016) and with it the thought of suicidal ideation.

I, personally, have suffered with chronic severe depression for 7 years. At first it was thought it was just a ‘teenage hypersensitivity’ to the world. As time went on, nothing in my environment changed and depression took a hold of my life and well-being. There have been tough times and there have been straight up thoughts of ending it all. This is not meant to be a sob story. The statistics say it all, I am not alone, you are not alone.

My situation at home has never been great on a psychological scale. It’s left scars which have taken years to even start to heal.

In 2014, enough was enough. If it wasn’t for a very close friend (thank you) it might have ended very different. I got help, antidepressants (ADs), counselling, CBT. It got better, not happy, just content. A weight had been lifted and life could continue. I remained with counselling and ADs (many different ones until one worked) until graduation.

Now I find myself somewhere new. New people, new location, new house, and while change is great, when you have help set up in one place having to start it all over again is tough. 1 month after starting med school I was back on ADs, even now, 5 months later, I’m still struggling. All the structure is gone and I’m having to start again. Doctors talk about burnout, in medical school, some will burnout once a year, others once every few months, some every month and some every week. It’s February 2017, and my burnout count is sitting nicely at 4.

Life as a med student is tough at the best of times. When there’s barely enough time eat, you can see why it can get so difficult to get help, but please do! It’s nothing to be a shamed of, and will make you a better doctor, friend, husband, wife and person in the long run. Because believe me, there is a long run.