Posts Tagged ‘thanks’

I met one of my church friends for coffee yesterday. She’s just back from her first mission trip to Belaruss, and is pretty fired up. She’s also one of the first friends I made at church, and the only good friend who stayed in the right place and didn’t move somewhere else fairly soon after the friendship was cemented – and for this reason, I really value the time I spend with her. She’s pretty different to me as she’s an art student, and is a minister’s daughter so has never had the same anxiety I’ve had with respect to church culture, or being new to faith, but I think our differences are why we get on so well. We were talking about how our church sometimes uses its size as an excuse not to be welcoming – as though there are so many obstacles in the way that they just don’t always bother too much. It took both of us well over a year to settle in, and certainly my own experience hasn’t always been that positive, which if you’ve read this for a while, you’ll know. We’ve put some ideas together about how to improve this, and it’s going to take  little time, a bit more confidence, and a lot of trust in God – but more about that another day.

We also had a fairly in depth conversation about depression, which was a bit unexpected –  her flatmates are a year behind me in Medical school, and are on their psychiatry block at the moment, and, like all of us do, find it difficult. It was a bit surreal, as there are so few people who know about my own depression – usually, if I need to explain why I’ve been ill, the excuse I’ve used has been glandular fever as this accounts for my tiredness, weight-loss, and is much more accepted and less susceptible to the rumour mill which is rife amongst students, than depression is. I’m not always proud of the lie – but certainly at the time, it seemed the best option, and did make things easier. The other students and doctors I was on placement with last year weren’t always that understanding or accepting of patient with mental health problems, so I didn’t really want to fly the flag for myself, and after the fairly disastrous result of confiding in someone I thought I could trust at church about my depression, there was no way I was going to be honest about it with other people there. I’ve got closer to K, this friend, through this year though, and she is someone who, had my illness been starting up now, I think I would have trusted with it – and she’s one of the few people I truly feel awful about lying to, and very aware that there’s a very obvious solution to that.

Talking with K made me think a lot – she talked about being afraid of mental illness, as, quite rightly, you lose a sense of self, and your usual coping mechanisms, and can’t do much to improve it, aside from follow doctors’ advice, and promise that you’ll get through the day, every day. My greatest fear now is that if it comes back, I won’t be able to beat it again – I won’t have the ability, or the energy, or the trust that I’ll get through again. I set this blog up mostly for myself, to give me space to get things out of my head, and down on paper (so to speak), but it’s also for people in the same boat, who need to know they’re not as alone as depression tends to make you feel – but it seems that I could be doing this in ‘real life’ as well, by being honest about my experience, and knowing that there might be someone at the back listening who’s out of their depth and out on a limb. I have a horrible, niggling feeling that God is wanting me to use my experiences and speak out – if not straight away, then in the future. It’s true that I’ve always been interested in student welfare in particular, and I have a CV to prove it – but using myself as an example, as a poster girl, is pretty different to what I’ve done before. I don’t want to think that there’s someone sitting at church in front of me in real time and six months behind me in terms of depression, who’s going home crying as I was, who’s convinced that their faith is no more than a coat-hanger for their rapidly diminishing hope, as I was, but statistics suggest that there probably is someone like that, in a church that size. And I have a choice, whether to speak truthfully, when the right situation presents itself (and they always do) – or keep quiet, and know that by being silent, I am just reinforcing the walls around someone else, instead of breaking them down.

Part of me wonders how the conversation would have gone, if I had said, ‘that post viral thing I had, wasn’t post viral at all, it was depression, but I came through it, as most people do‘. Stereotypes only change when they’re challenged and taboos only diminish when they’re discussed. Being a Christian with depression is tough. I want to be part of the solution. Depression is now part of my history, part of my faith, a scar on my skin, a mark on my map. I thank God every day for keeping me alive through it – but as James’ book says (I love James), what good are words or faith without actions? I’ve got a choice now, as to whether I paint over the last year, or actively use it as a testimony to God’s hand in my life. Faith without action is a dead faith. Seems the choice is a clear one.

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The last few days have been…..suspiciously nice. Our new flatmate has moved in, and it’s going well – me and my remaining flatmate L had been a bit worried about how we’d react to losing A, as she’s got a job down South, and gaining R, who we haven’t actually seen in over a year as she studied abroad. So far, not much to worry about – I think it’s going to work.

I also met the dragon yesterday (for newer readers, she’s the head of student support at my medical school and we clashed quite a bit when I was first made to go and see her, hence the nickname), with mixed results. She was incredibly congratulatory and praised my determination to complete 4th year, saying that I’m the only student in that sort of situation to manage to double up and successfully get everything done in several years (again, for the newbies, I was ill enough with depression that I had to essentially do two thirds of the year at once, including a big research project and the busiest rotation of medical school – the word ‘stress’ doesn’t quite cover it). This sort of made me angry – if it was so unlikely, why didn’t they make things a bit easier, with a longer deadline, or a bit more support? I was pretty much told I had to do it, and left to get on with it – and at the time, people I confided in thought I was overreacting when I said I felt they were setting me up to fail – but it really seems that they were, apparently no one expected me to complete everything on time, and well. I’m proud that I did it, despite all the implications last year has had for my future work, and confidence – but that stretch of time was so close to impossible, that I think having people do it when the school have such little faith that anyone will mange it, is a little inhuman. I’m not sure I deserve praise anyway – I wasn’t exactly being healthy to get it done, and I didn’t always act in ways I’m proud of, and if I’d have been a little iller, it wouldn’t have happened. I was lucky. Blessed, you might say.

Aside from that though, I think I’ve finally tamed her. And though I hate to admit it, I can see that we are in some ways similar characters, even though I don’t always think she approaches things the right way, at all. It felt like a full circle, since the first time I had to go and see her, when I was so wired with agitated depression that I was literally vibrating, drowning in tears and pretty convinced that I wasn’t going to see this side of the new year. It’s been along year.

I start on the wards tomorrow on care of the elderly, and am quite excited about it – it’s so good to feel keen and enthusiastic, it’s so wonderful to feel like myself. I’ve got my ‘wanttochangetheworld’  mojo back, my internal rhythm of ‘letsfeedthepoorandtendthesickandcomfortthedyingandnursethechildrenetcadinfinitum‘ (this is pretty much what goes through my head when I’m not depressed – I’ve missed it).  I’m feeling pretty thankful at the moment, which is always a little awkward because as a Christian, I should really be thankful all the time – but it doesn’t always happen –  I’m not quite up to the standard of the Apostle Paul yet, rejoicing in misery/prison/poverty etc, but it’s still a good place to be. Praise the Lord!


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First of all, thank you to everyone who replied either to my last post, or more personally (those few of you who know me in ‘real life’) – thank you for sticking with me, and being so kind. Thank you for praying.

I met ‘the dragon’ again yesterday to discuss the issues with my project (which hopefully are on the way to being rectified – cannot even state how much I despise technology at the moment). She’s been very clear since December that I would have to resit the entire medical year if this project is not 1) in on time and 2) up to standard – even if all other requirements were passed. I’m not going to underplay how much this has stressed me out, not least because restarting the year two weeks after finishing it and having to retake exams I’ve already done well in, would be a real case of rubbing salt in the wound, in addition to the expense of another year of university, and having to come clean to my parents who know nothing about the last eight months. Yesterday however, it seems that I finally convinced her that I’m not trying to take the medical school for a ride and that I actually have a pretty legitimate excuse – she’s said that should the worst come to the worst, I could probably just extend the deadline more, which I really don’t see why that couldn’t have always been the case….obviously, I’ve been working desperately to do everything required, but having someone sit a year again isn’t really in anyone’s benefit if it’s for a research project, when you look at how much it costs to train someone in medical school.  There’s no way I would chose to keep on with the project even more (already sick to the teeth of it) but it’s still a relief. Just knowing that has taken quite a weight off – I still have a crazy amount to do, but at least when I’m working for my next exam (covering no less than 6 different specialties…..thank you, medical school) I don’t have it at the back of my mind that even if I pass, I may be working in vain. It annoys me that the stance of the support committee seems to be to assume that students are manipulative and just out to get extensions/special considerations they don’t deserve, until you really prove that you’re not only messed up, but have been messed up for months, and will continue to be for some time. Penalising someone really doesn’t help.  Their previous stance has kept me awake at night for months, and been the thing that’s come closest to pushing me over an edge – I’d like to know if they think it’s worth it, if all the policy achieves is putting a few fakers off. Rant over.

I’m still feeling rocky and this week hasn’t gone well really – I ended up leaving my choir practise as I just couldn’t cope with it and was starting to cry, and then made a rare decision to skip a clinic yesterday as I was feeling so emotionally labile that I didn’t think sitting and talking to someone with terminal illness was that sensible – I’m lucky that as a student I can get away with it now and again as once (if etc) I become a doctor, that won’t be an option. I’m deciding whether to have a rest from church for a while, even just a week, as again, it often just proves too much for me, and I end up feeling worse and worse when I don’t ask for prayer, or take communion, or find it in myself to sing – and if I feel much more negative about myself, it could get messy. As I’ve written before, somehow, feeling cut off and isolated at church, is much worse than anywhere else. It’s like being disconnected from the pulse of the world, like drowning and not understanding how everyone around you is managing to breathe, but just knowing that for some reason, you can’t, the secret isn’t there for you to find.

I had a text message from L yesterday asking how I was – and haven’t replied yet as I don’t know what to say. I don’t really like being in touch between sessions either – which I think is why she makes a point of trying to get hold of me as apparently I compartmentalise far too much and try to put different parts of my life in separate places so that I don’t feel overwhelmed, and this is yet another abberrent coping mechanism (I’m in possession of quite the collection, considering Ebay…). Fascinating as this revelation may be, I’d prefer it if outside of that Monday afternoon hour, I could not feel quite so bound by it, particularly after this week, and if anything, being hassled will only make me less likely to get in touch. When I’m ‘well’, my determination and tenacity are two of the few things I like about myself – I can push projects forward, take initiative, pull others alongside me, but when I’m low, all that determination and head-strongedness manifests as petulence and thinking I know better – I won’t ring L if I’m feeling terrible, or anyone else for that matter. I won’t ring the GP’s for an appointment, I won’t listen, I won’t trust people with my thoughts. I get annoyed and irritable when my flatmates try to check in if I’m out later than usual, even though I know that it’s because they worry I’m wandering around in the dark somewhere, and not because I’m staying late at the library – but my mind says, ‘it’s my choice, if I want to sit in a nature reserve in the dark and be miserable, I’m going to bloody do it, who are you to try and stop me?’ . I hold fiercely to my independance, when the whole point of the last while has been admitting that I can’t do it alone – I need people onside, I need people whose brains aren’t starving for want of serotonin.

So, I’m conflicted, as always. But at least I have finally tamed the Dragon – more of an iguana now? Is the hedgehog of faith, a match for the iguana, a match for all, of this?

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The last few days have been pretty busy – I’ve started a teaching week, with lectures and anatomy classes every day from nine till five – it’s difficult having so much to take in, after what feels like an age of functioning on such a lower level. Tomorrow, I have my last anatomy practical class of medical school, and it feels like a momentous occasion in some ways – five years ago, I’d never seen a cadaver, let alone stuck on a glove and got my hands dirty. Now, I am able to identify parts and reel off lists of facts. I can orientate myself when I get to watch surgery. I see my body in a different way, beautiful, a product of amazing design and evolution. Sometimes, anatomy reminds me so strongly of God – if you google ‘arbor vitae’, you will see that inside the cerebellum (bit of the brain responsible for motion control), it looks like a leafy tree. It’s perfect. Could this really be due to random selection? I don’t think it could be. I think that the priviledge of seeing the inner workings of humans, and animals, is another incredible gift.

Tomorrow will be my last time for some time (I hope!) that I get to learn in such a special way. I am so grateful for all the people who donate their bodies so that I can learn to be a doctor. Each year, my medical school holds a service of thanksgiving for these heros, and every year I think it’s not enough. I try to treat cadavers as both gifts, and also as patients – with the respect they deserve. I’ve learnt as much from these deceased patients as I have from my living ones. I want so much to make sure that their sacrifice and choice went to good use, that I obtain the highest level of skill I can to be the best doctor I can be, to as many people as possible. A lot of people have helped me to learn.

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