Archive for July, 2011

This is a bit rambly – sorry!

I’ve had a lovely weekend, after getting my result back, and my younger brother and his girlfriend came to stay as my brother turned 21 yesterday. It’s been lovely, catching up and laughing together, and hearing stories from his work at the camp I’ve been involved with for two years, but couldn’t work this year due to starting 5th year. He’s looking after some of the campers I cared for, and love a lot, so I kind of still feel part of it, through him.

I’ve been thinking about validation this weekend as, after getting the all clear with the research project (TAKE THAT, DEPRESSION!), I feel so much calmer, as though I’ve finally proved that I deserve to be in my final year with everyone else, as though the barrier between me has been brought down. I’m no longer marching to a different drum, or doing things in tandem – I’m back on track. For the past few weeks, I’ve  felt like a fraud, still waiting to hear if I’d ticked every box for 4th year, or is I was going to be hauled up again and find myself working out of synch to make it up, again. I feel more validated now, as though I have a right to be where I am.

Seeking and needing validation is tricky territory – very ‘of the world’ as the apostles would say. Since becoming a Christian, this is certainly something I struggle with, when at times, there’s a constant sense of only being as good as your last exam mark or assessment, and I don’t always manage to separate out my requirements as a medical student to hoop-jump and satisfy criteria, with my requirements as a person under God, who needs no other validation or title. Academics are an easy bolt hole in a lot of ways – when I was a teenager, maintaining perfect grades was a good way of convincing myself that things were fine – as long as I could do calculus, what did it matter if my dad had been sat in the ER overnight again, sobering up? I was ostensibly fine. I could differentiate with the best of them. And that stayed with me through university – it took a long time to even start getting away from thinking that God uses a grading system too, or that he lines us up according to ability or worth, with the runts confined to the broom cupboard. My confidence in academics and medical school has certainly taken a dive recently, as has my confidence in most things – so I’m trying hard this week to remember that I don’t need any other paperwork or confirmation, or validation or proof, than that which I get from God. Depression built itself a lovely wall between me and my faith – it’s going to take a while to get all those bricks down again and back to baseline, before moving forward in faith once again.

Feeling on equal footing to everyone else as a Christian has been something I’ve struggled a lot with – one memorable moment was at one of my first services, listening to someone read from Isaiah 40, and panicking as at that time, no, I didn’t really know, I hadn’t really heard and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, aside from following a pull I couldn’t describe. I sat there feeling like a fraud for not knowing about Jesus and not knowing about God, and wondering if I’d get thrown out if anyone knew just how clueless I was. As someone who came to faith late, I don’t have the stories about sunday school and church holiday camps. I wasn’t raised saying grace before meals or praying before bed. I don’t know a lot of Bible history and I get a bit confused between all the Simons and Peters and Simon-Peters, and all the Johns too. I don’t know the words to the songs the children sing, have no contemporary Christian music on my ipod, don’t really know what to say when I receive communion and get a bit stuck when I’m in a prayer circle and can see that it’s my turn to give something up. I usually feel like I’m running a completely different race, bowling with the bumpers up, cycling with training wheels, swimming with armbands – separated out by a lack of history and a whole lot of uncertainty. It took a long time to realise that if and when I’m standing outside Heaven, St Peter is probably not going to whap out a Bible and say ‘you have ten seconds to find Habbukuk – GO‘ – and that if he does, that’s probably a lot easier than the whole judging of my life etc. Note to self: start preparation for End Times.

This last year gave my self-worth a heart kick in the teeth, to be honest. This week, I got my validation from the medical school and thus can more freely move on and get on, with my last year. Tackling other insecurities isn’t quite as straightforward – it’s not as if I’m going to get an email that says ‘just to let you know, you scored an 88 on being a child of God – above average, but room for improvement. Formal feedback sheets available from the college office’. I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to tackle this, aside from getting back into my Bible and seeking out those verses that tell me that I’m not as unworthy and not as much of an after-thought as I often feel. Psalm 139/Ephesians 1/John 3, here I come…..

One of the first Christian books I read was by AW Tozer  and I remember being completely bemused when he wrote about a mild, meek man who was nothing out of the ordinary, who didn’t break records or the glass ceiling, who didn’t kill himself striving and trying – but who was completely firm in his value, every day, no matter what, due to his inheritance from God. At the time, I didn’t get it – I didn’t understand that our value to God has no bearing on our position in the stock market, our mortgage, our children’s IQ’s or our climbing careers. This is something I am gradually getting to grips with, though breaking a life-long habit of using my CV as my yardstick for worth, is hard. According to my counsellor, I’m pretty typical for someone ‘growing up alcoholically’ (her words, not mine) – in that I was raised with mixed messages and changing promises, with love used as a tool for bartering and being with-held when someone stepped out of line. Without wanting to get too Philip Larkin, those early relationships both mould and marr. Early patterns are hard to break.

So – now that I can stop focussing on ‘worldly validation’ from the likes of the medical school, I’m going to focus the next few weeks on sorting out my own stumbles in seeking validation from God. Let’s see how it goes. Any tips/ideas/maps always greatly appreciated.

In other news – I’ve got a week left on care of the elderly before moving off to GPland for a month. If you’re a praying person, please pray for elderly patients and the staff caring for them – there’s a lot of tough stuff going on for some of them and if it was up to me, I’d take them all home with me and set up a nursing home in my living room. However, as this is somewhat socially contraindicated, prayers from you, and (attempted) attention from me, will have to do.

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I got the results from my research project back today – and I got 88 (which in medical school, is a high B). I am over the moon – I really thought I would be scoring just a pass (60) and that my academic average would be really affected, meaning that getting the job I want next year might have been less likely- now, it seems that I’m still on track. It wasn’t the project I wanted it to be, but, all things covered, I’m pretty pleased – I got through the last year, I got through depression, and now, I don’t have to carry last year with me as I start applying for my first doctoring job. I can breathe easy. I can start to move on.

Thanks to everyone who has encouraged me so much over these last few months, you’ve been fantastic!

Today really is a HALLELUJAH day!

Have a fabulous weekend people!

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I have a lovely friend who has just finished their first full year as a doctor. He is one of my biggest role models – he’s truly kind, very calm, and practically, a brilliant doctor for his stage. We met for a drink earlier and it’s really perked me up. One thing we talked about was the (grim) topic of declaring and certifying patient deaths, which is a task that often falls to junior doctors. At present, doctors get a small additional payment for every certificate they fill in – a small perk for doing a miserable task.

My friend donates all the payment he gets from filling in death certificates to charity.

Other people might go and buy a new handbag (though not my friend!), or put it towards a holiday or a car. He gives it away. He uses the benefit he gains from someone else’s passing, to help someone else.

He is one of my every day heroes.

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I’ve had a bit of a grumpy weekend as I didn’t quite get everything done that I wanted, and last week was just long and tiring, so by the end of it, the last thing I wanted to do was get up at the crack of dawn on Saturday and Sunday to write assignments. At church on Sunday night, I was listening to a sermon on kindness – which is always one of those topics we all think we have covered but are usually more in need of guidance on, than anything. I know I often think, I’ve got kindness down – not patience, never patience – but kindness, surely that’s something I’m pretty ok at?  The crux of it was about showing that you value people by investing time, and effort, and any other resources you might have in them, but for me, this isn’t entirely accurate – in some ways, the people I ‘invest’ my time in give me the most back – I spend an hour visiting a patient with no family, and invest that hour, but the joy I get is worth it. Also, I don’t like the word ‘invest’ – it’s so full of economic suggestion, as though you can chose to invest more in one person whom you value more, than another, and that you expect something concrete in return. I want to be someone who values everyone. I don’t want to invest. I just want to give.

At the end of the day, the faith I follow teaches that we can never repay God for the gifts He gives us – we can never repay it, and He knows that. It’s ok. Breathe a sigh of relief.  When I think of people I would say have ‘invested’ in me this year, they certainly haven’t gained much back, except for the fact that without them, I probably wouldn’t be here to write this. I’ve had a group of people who have got themselves around me when I needed it, who have written encouraging letters and kept me going, who have sat over me and made me eat and waited for me outside doctors appointments and medical school meetings. They’ve listened to me ranting about counselling and hugged me as I cried, and when things got worse, stopped crying altogether, with depression. They invested their time and I can’t repay that. I don’t want to be someone who expects payment when I am someone who needs grace every day, more, every day.

I was speaking with a consultant this week about his view on the assisted suicide bill (don’t even get me started on that) that is once again being brought before Parliament and what he said greatly fitted in with this. He was talking about how you can judge a society on how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable, and I believe this is true, at both a national level, and smaller – I love my church, for how it reaches out to the vulnerable groups in our community, but Britain doesn’t always bring home the bacon when it comes to caring. The best example I’ve seen of ‘Christianity in action’ is my learning disabled small group, where each person is truly valued for who they are, and where I was welcomed, regardless of not knowing the words, or the parables, or the structure.  So often, society places value on those who contribute, who push boundaries and speak out, and leaves those who cannot do this. We enforce our own definition of value on them, and box them in, when really, who are we to weigh and measure each other? This doctor said, ‘ask yourself every day how you value your patients’. I want to value them. I want to care for them. I want to be someone who enables and does not disable, who reaches out and does not hem in. I want the extra mile to be the mile I do every day. I want the extra mile to be the one I am known for.

I have my issues with father figures, as you’ll know, if you’ve read this for a while – but as much as I struggle to accept it in my heart, my faith tells me that we are all children of God, and the egalitarianism was something I fell in love with in the Bible early on – if you can’t sacrifice a bull, a pidgeon is fine, if you can’t bring a pidgeon, some grain is fine.  We are all equally loved, the Jews, the Gentiles, the lame, the blind, the greedy, the lusty, the faith-ful and the faith-less. And as much as we have our value and inheritance in sonship, we also have our burden in sin, equally tarred, equally stained, equally, terribly, in need of redemption. We are equally sinful – the Jews, the Gentiles, the lame, the blind, the greedy, the lusty, the faith-ful and the faith-less. In the teachings I follow, I need Jesus as much as you do, as much as I did yesterday, today, tomorrow and after. I deserve Jesus, as much as you do, as much as we all do and did and will do. Who am I, to give and take value when my own value comes from above?

I’m in counselling again tomorrow. It’s been a bit of a jolt, really as I wasn’t due back in till next week but some timetable issue meant I was put down for tomorrow, which actually works better for me although it’s thrown me a little. I’ve had a month off and it’s been nice, not to have it marking my week, not having to rule out the evening of the day I go as I just won’t be up to much and will be feeling pretty blue. It’s so hard. I’m not looking forward to it. An hour of bravery is sometimes a little tricky to find.

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