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Archive for December, 2011

Glimmers of hope

I’ve done five days on the new drug now, and the good news is that although I’m feeling continually nauseous and extremely jittery (I literally startle at every sudden noise in the vicinity)  it’s not making me as dangerously unwell, as my first drug trial did. This gives me hope that this might be a solution.

On Wednesday, we got the scores back for our junior doctor job applications (in a nutshell, you get scored across various domains including ability to write 200 word answers to questions about team work/communication etc, and then choose job options depending on score, with higher ranking candidates getting preference. Jobs which include paediatrics, emergency medicine, neurosurgery are higher ranking, as are jobs in popular hospitals). I’d panicked a bit about this as I dropped some academic marks due to last year – but I got a high enough score that I can essentially apply for whatever I like and be likely to get it, as my score is above the minimum needed for every job in my area. I’m so excited about this – looking at the options and realising that in a year, one of them will be mine, is amazing. It means I can go for programmes with neurosurgery and paeds, it means I can avoid jobs I don’t really want to do in the first year (vascular surgery, urology – urgh) and it means I can stay in my city, where my roots are, for another two years. It kind of feels like a sign that after everything, I’ve come through. It was a good week, to hear this, with all the anxiety over medication.

It’s been quite a rough week as I’ve felt so ill, but also rather lovely as I’ve been on the neonates unit, and despite feeling pretty unconnected to a lot of things at the moment, small, sick babies make me remember why I’m in medical school. I want to look after them. And it reminds me how amazing medicine is, that a baby born at 24 weeks (four months early), can survive, sometimes with minimal problems (though sadly often not). It reminds me of my faith, as Jesus was not so different to the newborns I checked over this week, dependant on his mother, just as we are supposed to be dependant on God. It reminds me of hope, imaging what these babies will grow up to be – the leaders of out future, the workers who will improve the world.

There’s still a lot I need to sort out, as although I’ve managed to physically go to placement, getting everything signed off has been a bit much when I’m feeling jittery and unwell enough that I’m not really that on the ball. This could prove problematic with el medical school. Despite feeding back about my GP app as instructed, the Dragon also hasn’t replied – though she often doesn’t, it still annoys me when that’s her job, and I have questions I need answers to. My mood is still very low, and the sertraline is messing with my sleep a lot so I’m continually exhausted, and not able to do more than an hour or so of anything academic before getting fatigued. I think the best description is that I feel ‘sickly’ – weak, wobbly, and queasy. There’s also a lot of small print stuff to sort for my elective – but I am feeling that little bit better, now that there’s more of an action plan in place.

Sometimes, it’s so easy to feel as though God, in whatever guise you find him, has turned from you. It’s so easy to feel adrift and off the rails, and misguided. This week I’ve really felt that inspite of how difficult these last few weeks have been, both in terms of how I’ve been feeling, but also interms of long-term decisions and fallout, that God has come through for me – I have a high score that will get me a job I love (hopefully), I have a plan to get me through the next few weeks, and I have some brilliant friends who drop their own lives for me when I need them. I would like to feel a bit more on the ball, though!

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I had my GP appointment yesterday, with a new doctor I’ve never met, but who is meant to be ‘good at mental health stuff’ who I was hoping would make me feel more like a person with a problem, than the problem itself which was a bit of an issue last year with stereotypicalgrumpymiddleagedmaleGP.

It’s been one of the hardest weeks I’ve had for a while, though some of the worst things aren’t really suitable for public writing – but believe me when I say that last week was a struggle. I kind of feel like someone’s flicked my ‘off switch’ and I just can’t get it back on – like I’m stuck back where I was, stuck in apathy and exhaustion and endeavour, and unable to climb out. This is not who I am. This is not who I am, at all.

I told the GP that after a few months of almostifnotquiterecovery, I think, or know that I’ve relapsed, and she did a good job of asking for once all the questions you’re supposed to ask someone in that situation, and seemed nice. She agrees that I need to try medication again, and also agreed to let me try another SSRI, so I am now on sertraline, starting this morning, with another appointment to check in next week, and when I need to decide if I need or want to be referred to psychiatry.

I’m feeling pretty dented – but I know that I’m sliding down so fast that I needed to do something whilst I still had enough insight to book and turn up for an appointment. And I’m afraid of what the next week or so will bring, whether this new drug will just push me further over an edge like the last one did, whether I’m really going to lose my grip and ruin things. I’ve emailed the Dragon again to get her up to speed and am starting to accept that I’m going to be entering another phase of endless meetings and trials – but I am also hoping so much, hanging on, so much, to this new tablet working and taking this black mood away. It kind of feels like a last resort, though I know that’s just my messy head talking. I’ve got to be stable before I go to Nepal though, or try to sit finals, or start my first job. I’ve got to be stable.

It also made me a bit sad when this GP was asking a lot of questions about why my family know nothing about last year, or this year for that matter, and why it is that my relationship isn’t as strong as it could be, and why I’m single at the moment. I can’t help where I come from. And yes, sometimes I’m pretty jealous of people of my age with very supportive families, or who are fortunate enough to have found the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with. But my family has its problems, which I manage by finding support in other places, and depression doesn’t really help you find a partner either. She made me feel quite alone, particularly as things with my flatmates are pretty difficult this week. It’s taken almost a year of counselling for me to accept that all the patterns I grew up with put me off trusting people quickly, or wanting to have close relationships that had the power to harm as much as heal, when things go wrong. And I am learning, and getting better at letting people in, and have strengthened some fantastic friendships because of that – but I don’t really need reminding about my lack or roots, this week.

Anyway – at least things are a bit more in place now, I can plan a little easier what’s going to happen. I’m not in limbo any more. I’m a patient again.

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As everything feeling like it’s tumbling down around my ears at the moment, it feels like a good opportunity to write about something different, that I’ve thought a lot on in the last few weeks. Distraction, and all that jazz.

Two years ago, I was finally coming out of a pretty hefty (and probably pretentious) existential crisis. Many of us have these stages at some point, and yet for me at least, my own one felt like something so deeply personal, so totally confusing, that no one else could possibly understand the conflict I was under. This is the human condition, my friend. I had started going to church in late spring, when I suddenly found myself leading a new student charity I’d set up, starting clinical medicine, mourning my first major breakup, and in desperate need of guidance. From the outside, I was soaring – I’d done very well in my neuroscience year, had just finished my term as elected president of one of the universities biggest music groups, and was totally embroiled in my patient volunteering scheme. In reality, I was sinking pretty fast, and using my drive and busy-ness to avoid thinking about things I didn’t want to face. Church seemed like a strange country with a language I didn’t understand – all of these common experiences I’d not had, all of these discrepancies and expectations and exuberance, when I was not exuberant at all.

Being analytical to the extreme, I tried to assuage my doubts by reading as many books about faith that I could get my hands on. By autumn, I’d read all of CS Lewis and moved on to Tozer, and yet still felt so very far from what a person called by God, should be. I fell in love with the familiar rhythms of the scriptures I had heard as a child, but found no chain to link them in to my own faltering courage. As a young person still reeling from difficult family years that were dealt with by pure denial, the idea of a God who saw right through me was just too painful. As a young person who had forged a path of survival by doing a lot of hiding and a lot of glossing over, I felt beyond grace and beyond Jesus. I did not know myself; how then, could God know me?

As I learned more of God in those winter weeks, I ran further and further away. The idea of a distant, obsequeous deity in the sky was one I could handle, someone to follow who did not not look too closely or notice when I wasn’t there. This promise I encountered of a trustworthy, constant care-driven God was more than I could manage. I had little experience of being looked after. I was used to going it alone, to independance and reliance on my own terms. The concept of God as a father pushed me further away; I’d already been there. I’d already been wounded. I didn’t want a God who could see through the layers I’d built around myself. I could not handle a God who knew me for what I really was.

At some stage, my church opened a prayer room and called everyone to go. Being generally quite ingenuous, I took this pretty literally, and, in all of my agnosticism and doubt, with all of my tangles and messes and fears, in I went, always in the smallest hours when my mind stood still and the silence threatened to drown me out. A quiet prayer room, in an empty church, on a November night, with the clock striking midnight, was where I learned to pray. Those prayers were not eloquent, lengthy or self-assured. They were not loud and proud, or certain in audience. They were small prayers, slight prayers, hesitant, stumbling, hoping, seeking.

Somewhere in those quiet, restless hours, I started talking. I starting talking about all those painful things I’d never told anyone – about my family problems and my dad’s alcohol problems and how so often my issues resulting from those made me feel so very cut off, so very isolated. I talked about how confused and afraid my heart was making me. I spoke of my reticence to believe what was laid down in the book open in my lap. It was not easy. And at some stage, I realised that it didn’t feel like talking to thin air, like talking to an empty room. It felt like someone was listening, at last. It felt like someone was caring. It was as though after years of being invisible, suddenly someone saw me. Someone, was there.

That was when I crossed the line between uncertainty and belief, when I changed from feeling lost to knowing that even when I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m heading, God does. God has only ever been gentle with me. I cannot say the same for our world. I am someone in dire need of shepherding. I am someone in dire need, of rescuing.

These two years have not been easier than the ones before, or lighter, or less disorientating, but without my dependance on God and his Son, I don’t know how I would get through the challenges I meet. God binds my wounds when I am bleeding, he steadies my feet so that I can keep going. He calls me through the white noise of depression and sends his star to guide me home. As a medic, I see pain and suffering and loss every single day, and it never gets easier. But with my faith, I also see grace every single day and it never stops coming. That bond never breaks. I don’t have all the answers, or many of them at all – but knowing that someone does, is a comfort. Knowing that there is a plan, gets me through.

Even now, my faith is not a loud faith, a hands-in-the-air faith, or a faith I shout from the rooftops. My faith is the certainty that in my most silent, most dejected hours, there is something there alongside my heart that keeps it beating. It is the hand on my shoulder that stays with me as I mourn. It is the bursting joy that, on the rare occasions that it comes, tells me that anything is possible and that everything is a celebration of creation. My faith is my own.

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I got an email yesterday saying that Susie from STPT chose my blog as one of her five picks for the ‘Liebster Award’. Liebster is a German word that means dearest, beloved, or favorite. This award is from fellow bloggers and must be given to blogs that have fewer than 200 followers, which is definitely me! It’s been a really rough week and this was such a lovely perk. Susie, thanks for reminding me that I’m not alone, and thank you for your blog, which is such a testament to the faith of a strong women who is strong in God.

So –  please check out my nominee, Susie, at her blog http://sptp2011.wordpress.com/. Now, here are my ‘top five’ in no particular order, who I think should get this award too.

1) Linda Krushke at http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/. Linda has been a real encouragement to me, and her posts are an endless source of grace.

2) Sarah Moon at http://moonchild11.wordpress.com/. I haven’t read this for long, but I can tell that Sarah is AWESOME. Required reading for any young Christians, male or female.

3) Moon Tree at http://recoveryandback.wordpress.com/: MT just comes across as totally lovely and very determined. I’ve learned a lot from ehr.

4) Debbie at http://iftodaywehear.wordpress.com/ Debbie has also been so supportive in the last few months and I really feel blessed to have her as a ‘blogfriend’.

5) Flo, at http://disabledmedic.blogspot.com/: Flo is at a similar stage of training to me, but with very different obstacles. Her posts often make me smile, and want to do better.

So folk, have a wee look if you’ve got some time, and for my ‘favourite five’, have a fabulous day and pass the ‘Liebster love’ on to another five bloggers.

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