Wednesday, 26 December 2012

I think it's time for this.

I'm barely focusing on revision. When I do it, I do it. I get it done and I'm happy doing it. But I'm not really motivated. It's not laziness or apathy. It's just not my focus.

I feel fragmented. I've felt out of touch for so long, like I'm in a waking dream. And it's insular and safe.

I feel like I'm in a bubble and everything in it is safe and slow and measured. It's fragile and naive but it's static and just outside it is something that isn't. Something that's going to hurt. I'm waiting for it to hit me actually and I suspect it dances to the tune 'life goes on'.

I made mistakes this semester, personal ones, that have fragmented my life into pieces. Falling apart doesn't even begin to describe how the last three months have been for me. I worked so hard to get into medical school, sleepless nights, scary nights, lonely ones where I couldn't imagine a life where I was not a doctor. I built my life around it and made it the centre of my universe, suffered for it and earned it. So when I say that I lost all interest in it on and off for three months solid I want it clear what that means, how bad it was, how badly I needed help.

I wanted to leave. I wrote up course withdrawal letters and deleted them. I told next to no-one. I stopped talking altogether. It wasn't the course, the course is fine. Excellent even, brilliant, amazing, one of the best in the country. It's tough but it's wonderful as a course. I want it clear that it wasn't medicine, it was my life.

A number of things contributed to the events of the last few months. Being completely away from family who were depressed by their own problems as well as the imminent war in Syria (have now lost an uncle leaving behind his widow and six children, lost a ten-year-old cousin; another three uncles injured, one of whom is in a coma and the other two shot in the chest and arm), away from friends, somewhat burned out from three years of biomed, somewhere new, somewhere relatively lonely and scary for me, accommodation miles away from the university, bad and barely-there diet that I couldn't find a way to control, things that happened whilst I was on holiday in Syria, meeting someone wonderful and involving them in the biggest mistake of my life, the daily schedule, the bitter cold, the feeling of inadequacy, of stupidity and redundancy.

I have been depressed for over three months now. Unfortunately I'm the type of person to self-punish. It's stupid and accomplishes nothing but I did it anyway. After the mistakes I made I became ill. I refused to go see anyone for help, I refused medication, refused rest and sympathy. My immune system was in shreds, I wasn't sleeping. The nightmares didn't let me rest for more than a couple of hours. The sleep paralysis came back; I was having hypnogogia episodes up to three times a week. When I woke up there would be a terrible pain, like something had been ripped out of you from your throat down to your gut and where it was was an empty pit with boiling walls. I would run every excuse in my head to not go into university. I'd look through the lectures and tell myself I knew it from biomed. I'd ignore calls, texts, e-mails and facebook messages from family and friends. I wouldn't eat, I didn't care what it did to me, I ended a very short term relationship - if you can call it that - in Syria.

Worst of all was the feeling of rejection and abandonment. My mother couldn't forgive me for or help me with what had happened; in fact she made things worse, unbearable. During and after every phone conversation with her I felt like my heart was going to stop beating, like my muscles would collapse and I'd suffocate to death from emotional exhaustion. My friends often found me like that, having a panic attack. Countless times I wondered that it would hurt less if I just stood in the middle of the road and waited. I felt like I had turned my back on my faith and in turn my God had rejected me, like my faith didn't want me, like I wasn't good enough.
I'd beg not to be left alone. It was pathetic and I said so when I was finally made to see how bad things were and to go see my personal tutor and student services.

Naturally little work was done. I functioned well at university but pretty soon everyone on the course noticed things weren't ok, everyone was talking. I was lost.

Week after week I'd cycle through depression and something vaguely resembling normalcy. By the end I'd tried everything; cutting myself off, being around people, avoiding people, talking to family, talking to friends, talking to student support, asking to move groups, begging for respite from my mother's inability to cope whilst begging her to help me feel like half a human being again. The things I said, the thoughts I had, they felt and sounded like complete break down.

It's over now of course. I've done what I can. My father helped me, gave me peace again and forgiveness despite my going against everything he's ever taught me. My mother was never very good in a crisis.

The saddest thing is the wonderful person involved in my mistake, the person I have to ignore my feelings for and vice versa. He stayed with me and he is still with me, with more understanding and integrity than anyone I've ever met save my father.
If you ever read this, if you ever see this, I want to thank you. I want you to know that without you I would not be recovering so quickly. The things you did for me no one would have expected you to do and anyone would have understood had you walked away at any point. Thank you for not leaving when I or anyone else tried to make you, thank you for being more human than anyone I've ever met. And you're right, we'll be the greatest friends we can be, as close as we can and it's not second best, just another way to be with someone.

Sometimes you know what lessons you learned from your mistakes, sometimes they leave scars or memories you wish you could un-sully. For me it has been all of the above. What I did did not come from a bad place, it wasn't rebellion or malice. It was love. Irrational and naive - stupid, even. But it was love.

I'm idealistic enough to be sorry that that's not enough and old enough to understand why.

Thank you, to anyone who read this.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Compartmentalising - A summary of Leicester Medical School

I suppose I'm trying to break up all the events of this semester at medical school into little pieces so that they make sense to anyone who didn't live them. I wonder sometimes whether I'm writing for myself or the people who read my posts and find my writing becoming less personal and more people-pleasing to ensure no one is bored to tears by someone else's foreign experiences. But if I did that, if I wrote purely with readers in mind, I'd get a job as a writer instead of as a future doctor with a cathartic repository for a blog.

So, this is my space and I don't know why I'm apologetic about it. 

Last time I mentioned that this semester has been difficult. I'd start by talking about the academic side and then the personal side but they're so heavily interwoven I'm not sure how to separate the two. I'll have a stab at it and talk about the university for now, at least that way I'll feel less guilty about more personal, less relateable posts. 

Leicester is an excellent medical school. Our medics committee is second to none giving medics separate clubs and events to fit in with our timetables. The med student events are the envy of Leicester let alone the university - the locals join in during introweek :)
Leicester Medic's Pyjama Pub Crawl:
Leicester Medic's Introweek:

The teaching and integration of clinical and pre-clinical years is seamless. OSCE training starts early in semester one with regular practise sessions at Leicester Royal Infirmary for history taking and consultation, the dissection room for taking BP etc and assignation to one surgical and one general practice patient whom we visit either in their home or the hospital. 
The older years offer excellent peer-peer help, organising clubs and support groups for anyone who needs it. We have medic family revision sessions, there's a real sense of community. The competitiveness is palpable but non-threatening so far. 
Pastoral care is phenomenal, from personal experience, with lecturers and other qualified doctors giving their time to offer anything from academic assistance to a patient, kindly ear - this on top of your personal tutor who acts as first port of call for any concerns. There's a welcome lack of elitism, most fellow medics are down to earth and almost everyone is exceedingly friendly. 
We're given booklets containing pretty much everything that needs to be covered for each unit with learning objectives so we get used to structured, ordered learning very quickly. The emphasis on integration is heavy ensuring you always know or at least ask why you're learning something. Spoon-feeding is there but you're expected to look at the information synoptically, putting it all together during group work sessions. 
And there's no learn-it-for-the-exam-forget-it-later - we have end of semester exams called ESA1 and ESA2. If you attain a satisfactory in both of these you are exempt from the end of year exam called the Year 1 Exam (previously known as The Qualifier), get less than satisfactory in any one of them and you have to take the Year 1 AND redo the OSCE. A satisfactory in LMS is 70%.

I laughed nervously too when I first heard this but, apparently, it really does sound a hell of a lot worse than  it really is (I'll let you know after my ESA1 in January). Its also justifiable - a doctor with at least 50% of the knowledge or a doctor with at least 70%?

To top it off, most of our professors have a very different approach to teaching than I experienced in biomed. Some are very personal with us and you are treated as though you were a fully qualified FY from day one. Some are amazing orators taking you from fits of laughter to sobriety within an hour several times. One thing you will never forget as a first year (and will be grateful for for probably the rest of your medical career): Dr. Hsu and his Health and Disease in Populations unit - statistics would never be half as funny and exciting while still managing to teach you sobering cautionary tales without his lectures.  

And the societies! We have a Quidditch team which has to be seen to be believed. There's also the Assassin club where you're given a student target to assassinate and you have to find out who they are and get to them before they get to you - this involves pretend-stabbing them in the back with a plastic spoon/spork/knife or anything you have handy. Its much cooler and less loserish than it sounds. I promise.
There's the AstRoSoc too who meet for sightings at the on-campus observatory. They build rockets too - I've missed out on all the fun because I'm usually all funned out after a long day. Plus there's The National Space Centre which I'm going to attempt to inhabit at some point.
Medics' Badminton, Hockey, Rugby for men and women, Football, Cricket, Tennis, Wilderness Expeditions, Running, Walking, Bridge. Book clubs at each hall, pub quizzes every Sunday, events at the O2 Academy every day, different medic society meetings, conferences and training events - literally lost count of all the things you can do.

I'm clearly trying to sell it.

No but really, its a great med school, you'd be fair to call bias of course but I fell in love with the place on sight. 

You've heard that medicine is tough, long, harsh, demanding, unrelenting and it is. Having a host of things to keep you sane and a dedicated support network makes you feel like you have a much better chance of taking the hits as they come. 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Defeated but certainly not dead

So the fact I haven't posted in centuries eats away at me every time I come back to this page, start an entry and then abort before finishing the first sentence. Its not because there's nothing to say, its because I have had no sodding clue how to get anything out let alone everything.

Tonight is my last night in Leicester for this semester. My entire life for the last three months has been battered into suitcases and thrown into bags with all the vim and vigour of an inmate on death row.

I'm tired and I'm sad. This semester has been exhausting, draining and painful - and that wasn't even the work.

This is going to end up being a very, very, very, very long post so I'm going to preface with a TL;DR for those of us with lives and write the rest in detail over the next few days for those of us who can be bothered/have time/like drama and are already making the popcorn.

- Started medicine at Leicester Medical School. The course is excellent. A lot of stuff from my BSc which I've forgotten embarrassing amounts of
- Went to my graduation in late November at The O2 in London (finally) - got presented with Tallow Chandlers Duncan Knight Scholarship Award officially (woohoo)
- Made horrendous mistakes and learnt that one of the saddest things in life is wanting something and understanding and accepting every reason why you can't have it because the alternative is insanity and possibly belated self-abortion. Also that the demands of culture, faith and family are there for a reason no matter how punishing and unreasonable they seem.
- Been horribly ill for two months: am currently on doxycycline, ventolin, coamoxiclav, paracetamol and sudafed at ridiculous dosages just to sleep/function. Chest X-ray results get back to me next week.
- Having sleep paralysis. Again.
- Buying a house in Leicester for next year
- Revising for my ESA 1 exam in January over Christmas as have not been able to function consistently over term - thanking my lucky stars that its mostly revision from BSc or at least follows a similar format
- Had a star named after me in constellation M93, have chosen to believe its a Blue Giant :)
- Have cried so hard, regularly and long the skin on my face dried out and went red and sore for weeks. Have been grateful for any and all the support I got from everyone.
******************************END OF TL;DR**********************************