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Archive for February, 2011

This is a summary of what’s been happening over the last few months, and the challenges ahead.

As a clinical medical student, my time at university is spent rotating around different medical specialties, learning practical techniques, and meeting patients with different health problems.  I started fourth year on psychiatry, which unlike most students, I was quite looking forward to; mental health is something that interests me, and I have done some volunteering within this field since I was nineteen. Also, a lot of my family have had various mental health problems, which in part lead me to elect to spend two weeks specialising in substance misuse followed by two weeks with an intensive home team, working with people either trying to stay out of the psychiatric hospital, or recently discharged. I found it hard to see families affected across the generations by mental health disorders, and disheartening that in many ways, so little can be done with the NHS’s limited resources. There was also a lot of overlap with my own family history and I started questioning whether as a family, we had acted correctly, and were quite as recovered as we seem from the outside.

By September, I wasn’t eating or sleeping, had no concentration and mostly just wanted to go into hibernation and escape. My own efforts to fight my depression was failing. I was eventually frog-marched to the GP and started on medication, which unfortunately made me feel much worse, and by December, the only thing I was praying for or thinking of, was death. Church was torture as I felt completely cut off from the rest of the congregation, and the few Christians I did confide in, essentially told me that if I prayed harder, my mood would lift.  I lost interest in everything I had been passionate about and my world view grew bleaker by the day. I was referred to my medical school’s support officer as academically things were slipping and encouraged to investigate counselling, which I put off for some time after a bad experience with it in my second year. I was living in a haze of heaviness, so far from my usual cheerful self I could hardly recognise  the grey-faced person I saw in the mirror.

January came and passed, and finally, my mood started to lift a little, though there were still hurdles in my way. I extended deadlines, made wall charts and prepared to shoulder the extra work I would have to do in order to pass the year. I faced up to my fears and contacted the counselling service at my church, and waited for a slot to open up.

We’re now on the cusp of March and although I am so glad to be feeling higher, I am overwhelmed with the amount I have to do in the coming months. I start counselling tomorrow, and am afraid of having to sit in a room with a stranger and let them see my vulnerability. I also start a new rotation, and wonder how I will manage a strenuous timetable after months of barely coping with getting out of bed. I have meetings scheduled with the leaders of the medical school, and have never done well with authority figures (they terrify me). I have to conquer the shame I feel for my depression, and learn to heal. It’s going to take a while.

The link below is a song I love, and identify with a lot at the moment. It’s after the crisis passes that we have to stop and survey the damage, and work out how to rebuild with stronger foundations than before. It’s after the winds quiet, that we can see how far we have drifted,  and how low we have fallen. It’s when the darkness starts to lift that we understand  how far we have to climb to reach recovery.

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