The musings of a fourth year English medical student

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Why are we afraid to be who we really are?

I don't know if you can relate to this, but in my mind there is a constant battle between what I know to be true and fair and my irrational/emotional thoughts. Sometimes the fair thoughts win and sometimes the irrational ones do instead. 

For example, I have a test tomorrow on my neurosensory block that I complete this week. I am partly shitting myself (the emotional part) and at the same time I am trying to tell myself that it doesn't matter (the fair and true part). I know that the test will not stop me from passing second year and ultimately become a doctor, however, if I do badly despite putting in so much effort I worry I will be a failure. And what about the rest of the year? I don't like thinking I am at the bottom of the pack, but that is how I feel most of the time. I know I am not stupid, but I know I have so many peers with so much more potential and drive than me. 

Similarly, when I realised more and more people were reading my blog, I was scared that people wouldn't like it. Again, that I would be a failure somehow.

And then I realised something. My successes and my inevitable failures are what makes up me, Kate. This is my blog, these are my views, this is my brain and this is who I am. Ultimately, I fear that others will perceive me as a failure. It's about how I compare myself to my cohort, my friends, my peers. The times I get stuff right and the times I mess up doesn't make me good or bad. I know I am a nice person. And by accepting that not everyone will like you, not everyone will agree with you, not everyone will be impressed with you: that's ok. It's more than ok. It doesn't matter. 

So, as I go to my hospital placement, as people read and critique my blog, my grades, my body, my wit, I know that I am happy with the person I am. I accept myself. And I want to be myself; wholly imperfect, but not aspiring to be perfect, either. 


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Saturday, 26 September 2015

IS MEDICAL SCHOOL WORTH IT?

Recently the morale of my medic friends has really taken a nosedive. This is mainly because of the new suggestion of change to the junior doctor's contract. In a nutshell, the salary will remain unchanged, but the working hours will no longer be 9-5 Mon-Fri, but 7am-10pm Monday till Saturday. This is bloody outrageous.

Naturally, people are pissed off. It is ridiculous that a junior doctor would get paid the same salary as a McDonald's Manager. According to their own website, you don't actually need any specific academic qualifications to work as a McDonald's Manager, either. You could literally leave school at 16 or 18 (depending on the country you live in) with no qualifications whatsoever and get paid the same amount or more than someone with at least 3 A's at A level and a minimum 5 year degree in Medicine. 


Salary aside, it isn't safe to work those hours. It's well known that junior doctors are already overworked. Fatigue leads to human error, and human error kills the patient. 

I would like to ask the government, namely Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron as to why they are not giving us clear explanations surrounding this issue, or trying to make amends? Turns out David Cameron couldn't be arsed to do PM's question time last Wednesday so he could try and avoid the #Piggate fiasco. Nice one David. Can't you tell how much faith I have in the Conservative government. 



I think it would be abnormal if medical students never questioned if medicine was for them. However, the way medicine is in the UK is not the same as it used to be. Doctors used to be respected, whereas now there's always an article in the Daily Mail slagging off GPs. Doctors work within poorly-managed NHS constructs and budgets due to cuts by the Conservative government, and then they get an earful from patients for making them wait and from their coworkers for not meeting unrealistic national targets. The patient list expands, the services diminish and the salary reduces. A doctor can feel no longer valued by their patients nor their government, who is planning to abuse their rights.

So why would you put yourself through 10-12 years of training (depending on speciality), the emotional baggage, constant physical exhaustion, the guilt of depriving yourself and your loved ones, just to be a punching bag for the right-winged members of society? 

It is truly heartbreaking to see how upset doctors are made to feel because how the NHS is today. I implore you to watch this 5 minute video by The Guardian looking at what it's like to be an A&E doctor in London. 

For most of my friends, it's the first time we've thought about working abroad. Australia sounds nice. Or New Zealand, or Canada. Lovely developed countries with good health care systems that don't take the piss. Bit far away though. 

So, is medical school worth it? For me it definitely is. I've always wanted to know how the body works physiologically, but I don't want to be working in a lab or doing something stuck behind a computer all day. I want to talk to people and enjoy the challenge of winning over their trust, whilst knowing that I'm doing something that matters. Who knows where in medicine I will end up, or where in the world. But this whole Jeremy Hunt junior doctor's contract furore is not enough to stop me from pursuing a worthwhile career. 

If you want to stop the junior doctor's contract, sign the official UK government petition. If the petition gets over 10,000 votes then it has to be debated in parliament. 




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8 weeks after double jaw surgery

I cannot believe the op was 2 months ago!

The fact that I still feel 'not myself' goes to show that recovery from an op like this is slow. It often frustrates me, but I suppose I've got to count my blessings. 

I tried to go out clubbing for the first time since the operation and it did not go well! My alcohol tolerance is very poor given I've drunk barely any alcohol for 2 months. We got into town but I felt absolutely awful. This was then followed by a horrible hangover and soldiering on through my day at uni. 

Pain:
Very infrequent. I only get pain if I try to open my mouth too wide when I eat or yawn. I don't get ache from talking which is good. I do get pain when it's very very cold and my teeth start chattering. Silly English weather! I can definitely feel that Winter is coming... The temperature has just dropped suddenly in the last week. 

Numbness:
Same as last week really. Upper gums completely numb, and not all sensation and motor control has come back to my upper lip. It feels like how your face feels after you have a tooth removed and they put your gums under local anaesthetic. 

Food:
One word - PASTA! I am eating pasta every day. And rice, too! I can chew things using my tongue but not with my teeth. The reason why I can't chew is partly it hurts too much to open my mouth wide enough, and I almost feel like I don't know how to do it. It feels like I'm learning how to eat all over again. I've been making packed lunches that consist of pasta in chilli sauce, avocado, mozzarella, coleslaw, sautéed tomatoes in herbs. For breakfast, I have porridge or natural yoghurt with honey. Last night I went to a Chinese restaurant with my boyfriend and had a duck soup, vegetable pancakes  and sweet and sour pork with fried rice. It took me a while to eat it but it was delicious! I've also had copious amounts of ice cream with Nutella! Heaven! I can also eat things that are initially crispy but dissolve when wet, like prawn crackers. My lovely friend Sabrina suggested that I should try them and I enjoyed them so much I ate the whole family-sized bag.

Swelling:
Again, like last week, if you didn't know me well you would never have thought I was swollen. I can see that my left side is still more swollen than the right. But it is still less than it was a week ago. My orthodontist said that it will take 9 months for all the swelling to go. 

Braces and bite:
I'm still on the elastics that I had last week but I've had a complication. I didn't wear them over the last weekend because they snapped and I couldn't be bothered to replace them. But my bite stayed in its correct place and there was no pain. However, when I put the elastics back on 2 days later my bite was changed. I actually noticed my lower set of teeth moving so far forward that they were in line with my upper teeth, which isn't normal. The lower teeth are meant to sit just behind, not directly in line. I will see my orthodontist in a week and will see what he thinks. 

Sleeping:
I am almost at the point where I can sleep on my stomach, which is good. Sleeping is okay in general but to lie on my left side is more uncomfortable, so I try to avoid it. 

Weight/fitness:
This isn't something that I have explicitly mentioned in previous posts but thought I would discuss. I was told by my orthodontist I would lose around half a stone through the liquid diet. Before the surgery I was very inactive and ate loads and loads of my favourite foods. Consequently, I was at my heaviest ever weight, around 10 stone 11 pounds. Since the liquid diet I think I dropped down to 10 stone 2, but I suspect I have put on a few pounds since I've been having normal food. I think I lost some weight when I initially stopped having liquids because the portions of solid food were so small and also not very calorie-dense, but they felt more filling because it was actual food! I'm 5ft8 and I put on muscle quite easily. I don't have any scales at uni but I would guess I'm now at around 10 stone 5. To be honest I didn't think I would lose any weight because I love love love my food and always have big portions; I assumed that even if I was on a liquid diet I would still have loads of liquids to compensate for the lack of food. Frankly, I don't give a shit about my weight because if I were to lose or gain a stone I would still have a 'healthy' BMI. I hope to join the gym in November because that's when I'm allowed to do sports and physical activity, but I think that will just make me gain weight because it will increase my appetite and muscle weighs more than fat anyway. But I'll be healthier for it! I miss running and I miss the cross trainer. I was a UK size 12 before and still am now, but all my clothes feel looser and fit better. 
I have one more week of my neurosensory module and then I have a test on it and I have to present my clinical case findings to a consultant. The week after that is my first week of placement! I am really really nervous but at the same time I know it will be an amazing experience. The whole point of this degree is to work in the NHS, so it's exciting to get my first real taste of what it's like to be a part of it. 

Pasta, chilli sauce, sautéed tomatoes, avocado, Mexican chicken and mayonaise




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Friday, 18 September 2015

7 weeks post double jaw surgery

Finally, I have something positive to write about!

I have improved loads since last week. In my previous jaw recovery post, I mentioned that a lot of pain suddenly came back. Thankfully it had subsided 2 days later, and I am feeling great. I don't have lots of detail to go into so I've summarised the recovery into sections, which I should have done right at the start really!

Pain:
Almost no pain whatsoever. Sometimes when it gets very cold it makes my teeth chatter which hurts. Occasionally I get a strange jerky twinge in my jaw which is painful, but only lasts a second.

Numbness:
Almost all my sensation is back. I have almost normal use of my upper lip, but that whole area feels a bit funny sensation-wise. You can tell that the full motor use hasn't come back yet because I still have a funny smile when I try to do an open-mouthed smile. Upper gums are still completely numb but I never notice it. 

Food:
I still had liquids at uni and then semi solids at home this week, but I am going to start eating normal food during the day time now. I can now eat things like pasta, but I can't actually chew stuff yet. Things can be thick and lumpy. As long as I don't have to chew it then it's fine. As I eat I need a supply of tissues to hand as I get a lot of food all over my lips. I have a massive appetite and cannot wait for food again. What is stopping me from eating is the fact that when I open my mouth widely I get a lot of pain in my left jaw, and chewing is painful as well. This will slowly go. 

Swelling:
Practically non-existant. Nobody would suspect I was swollen, but I can see that I have more swelling on my left side than my right.

Braces:
The elastics on my braces are so annoying. I'm so glad that I can take them out when I want, but they snap all the time and are SO hard to put on!! They just snap at any moment, particularly at night which worries me because I could choke on them. 

Sleeping:
I cannot sleep on my stomach yet, but sleeping on my side is fine. I do get pain in the left side of my jaw if I lie on it for a while, so I prefer to sleep on my right side.

Overall I am happy with the recovery, but it has made my university experience much more stressful. I have a lack of energy because I can't eat well during the day, and when I had my jaw pain last week it was really hard to concentrate on my work. It has been incredibly intense, but everything is starting to feel doable now. 








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Thursday, 17 September 2015

Keep calm and carry on!

Hello lovely people,


First of all, a big thank you to my Liverpool medics for being so kind about my last blogpost. Was really nice that you had my back! I also got comments from medics from other unis who strongly resonated with my thoughts. Shout out to Katie who also helped me write the post and shared her views with me. You should check out her blog and her Twitter account. She is wonderful!  

Anyways, I wanted to apologise that some of my blogposts have been negative. Whilst I am not ashamed of having feelings of course, I appreciate that hearing nothing but negativity is in no way uplifting!

However, I've got to start off with what happened to me this morning. Up until today I've been living alone as my housemates had not yet moved in. Luckily I had the morning off and was planning to go into the library and do my anatomy pre-reading. However it didn't exactly go to plan. After having a pretty awful meltdown the night before, I woke up with vigour to take on the day. I have recently had several problems with my new house, which my housing agency hasn't fixed. Anyway, I heard the letterbox flapping (why don't people knock these days?!) and I got the door in my PJs. It was 8.30am, I was enjoying a rare lie in. Two handymen were at the door, initially I was relieved. That quickly changed. They came into the house and one of them had a copy of my most recent email. He then stood there and told me all the complaints in my email were lies. I was protesting that I was telling the truth, but he was having none of it. When I wrote the email, I had checked all previous emails so I had my facts straight. This same man came to my house yesterday NOT at our allocated time, which I mentioned in the email, and he said once again I was lying. Rob and I were at the house when this had happened, we both checked the time. It was not during the allocated time. But it was his word against mine. As he proceeded to enter the kitchen he continued to say that I had not made my complaint soon enough. I have been emailing the agency since the day I moved in, 20 days ago! At this point, it got too much and I burst into tears. This man was in my house making me feel like a fool, like it was my fault. Thankfully Rob came over and helped out. After the not-so-handymen checked the various faults in the house, nothing got fixed. I was short of breath and couldn't stop crying, I felt so embarrassed. They then left saying they would get someone else in at some time. Morning thoroughly ruined. 

Anyway, after all these shitty experiences, I understand the importance of medic friendships. We all have so much thrown at us without the right support networks. We feel like constant failures even though we have the most challenging degrees. I can understand that that sentence may sound incredibly pompous, but it's the truth. It's just how it is. My housemates have now started moving in. I have non-medic friends that got 35% in modules and still passed first year, and have successfully upgraded to a masters in engineering?! How can there be such a disparity between their degree's expectations and our own. In my year, you would feel bad for not making the 85%+ band as that would mean you shouldn't apply for scholarships. How, just how is this happening?! I've spent all my free time working since I've got to uni and I still feel behind. I haven't had any weekends off. 

One other problem with the medic life is the organisational rivalry. There's a competition as to who has done the clinical cases first, who has written the best notes, who got a distinction in their research project. It's sickening. Why can't we just help each other instead of turning the most insignificant things into contests. 

Rant over. Thank you for reading. Will try to spread the positivity soon! Just need to sort my life out. 




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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

COULD MEDICAL SCHOOL BE EASIER?



I've had one of those days where you feel a bit like a failure. The stress is really getting to me. Which isn't exactly encouraging when we are only 3 weeks into the first term.

When I was at school, I didn't care about being the best, I just wanted to get the grades necessary to get into medical school. Back then, I idolised the idea of going to a prestigious university and that with all the impressive buildings and research, it was the pinnacle of education. Now that I am here, there are times when it can feel very emotion-less and cold. At school, so much pressure is put onto getting that sought-after place at uni, but nobody tells you what happens when you get there.

At school, you have laws surrounding teaching, curriculum and Ofsted are there to enforce it. You're a child, you have to have special care and attention (or at least you're meant to); teachers should always be sympathetic. At uni, that's no longer there. Yes, there are often counselling services and help centres, but through my own experience they aren't very effective. You have a tutor, but most of them don't care, and they may only see you once a term/year. The universities are ticking boxes by having theoretical welfare safeguarding, but in reality it doesn't work. In the Student BMJ it was published that 80% of medical students found that their medical school wasn't supportive. I myself had a meeting with my head of year, and despite my floods of tears and hyperventilating, he showed no empathy. He didn't even throw a box of tissues in my direction. Waiting lists and slow replies from staff mean that help and support are not tangible.

I had a tutorial the other day about managing stress in year 2 and it was pretty pointless. The speaker was out of touch with us and couldn't really 'get on our level'. We didn't find any hard and fast tips to help prevent stress, except food and alcohol. Not surprising that doctors have high suicide and alcoholism rates.

Aside from the pastoral care, changes need to be made to the teaching. Lecturers need to be more robust and cover the content they have been set to cover. There should be comprehensive and definitive explanations of the depth of knowledge required to pass exams. The teaching needs to be more interactive; talking to medical students and finding out which bits they don't understand.

I genuinely believe that medical school would feel much easier if we could fix some of the welfare and teaching issues. You can't avoid feeling like a small fish in a big pond. But you can, however, be nicer to people, have the right strategies in place and help students to know what is and isn't expected of them. 
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Monday, 14 September 2015

Making mornings bearable


Are you a morning person? Sometimes I can be. If I get into the routine of early nights then it's fine, but that is not the typical medic lifestyle! I would say most medics don't get enough sleep because they're going out once a week at least depending on the person, combined with late nights finishing off essays and projects, and then the horrible early lectures and placements. I do not sleep well at all. Of course, loads of people have it worse than me. For me to sleep, I have to have complete darkness and silence. People laugh at me because I often need black-out blinds, curtains and an eye mask so that my room is dark enough to sleep! But it is known that blue light in sunlight can subconsciously wake you up; some people buy special blue light lamps that have timers in order to help trick their body into waking up! I always talk in my sleep, too (sorry Rob), and have been known to walk out of hotel rooms in my sleep as well. Not great. 

For me, I need a bloody loud alarm, followed by blasting loud cheery music. Shower is also important, particularly if you start and end your shower with a cold burst of water! I then make myself a cup of green tea with lemon because I like the taste, and I usually watch YouTube videos as I put my make up on. I find it easier to get up in the mornings if I set the alarm extra early so that I can take my time. I can gradually wake up and things feel more doable when I know I'm not in a rush.

Today I had a session discussing stress in year 2 and a lecture on strokes. I then popped into town to get some bits and bobs because I had spent the whole weekend writing up my lectures; I had hoped to   get them done in a day but they took me longer than I thought. Does anyone else get this? Whenever I have a medical school-related task to do, it always takes me considerably longer than I anticipate. Anatomy pre-reading is the worst - it never ends!

Today I was watching some videos by Caroline Hirons who is a total skincare guru. I often think about putting more beauty-related blogposts up, but they're not exactly relevant to medicine. And I am definitely not an expert, so don't think there would be much point.



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Saturday, 12 September 2015

Assisted dying




On 11th September 2015, MPs had the first formal debate in 20 years as to whether we should legalise an assisted dying programme. Sadly, MPs voted mostly against the bill, and it has not been passed. 

The UK Assisted Dying Bill was based closely on the law in the US state of Oregon, where assisted dying has been legal since 1997. This law would have allowed patients who are mentally competent with a terminal illness and prognosis of 6 months or less the possibility of an assisted death by self administration of prescribed drugs. Patients who had requested an assisted death would be reviewed by two doctors and a High Court judge. If all three agree, the request would be granted.

I totally understand that this is a very difficult and controversial issue. However, I fundamentally believe that if we have the right to life, we also have the right to death. If one's government makes it illegal for you to end your life, then who does your life belong to? Does it belong to the governing body of the country you live in?

I am an atheist. I can appreciate that some religious people heavily oppose the Assisted Dying bill, and I respect their religion and their choice. But I, and other non-religious NHS patients would like to have the option. As much as MPs are meant to represent our views, it seems like the opposers of the bill have the loudest voice. Terminally ill patients cannot patrol the streets or canvas people to believe their cause; they are the silent supporters of a really important law. 

I have very little knowledge about death. I have never seen someone die. My only experiences have been working at an old people's home for 18 months, work experience in a palliative care unit and witnessing my Grandpa lose his dignity and his life to leukaemia. I have seen patients in an undignified, vegetative state. No communication, no proper nutrition, no vision and no movement. Death in a hospital bed or in a residential home is not dignified. I cannot speak for those patients, I have no idea if they would have wanted an assisted death if they had had the choice. But the current ordeal of a 'natural' death is not pleasant. 

The main opposing reasons behind MP opposition was that there is a risk patients would be coerced to end their life by friends or family. Certainly, this is a real and important problem to address. However, the fact that the bill involves approval of two doctors and a high court judge leads me to believe that if there was any coercion involved it would be identified, and thus the patient would not be granted an assisted death. The doctors and legal staff would have to be rigorous and thorough in their decisions. 

Ultimately, I believe that this is my life. It belongs to me. I should have the choice of whether I want to live or die. To me, the meaning of life is to be happy. And if ever there would come a time where I had an incurable, extremely painful and demoralising disease, I would want to have the choice of an assisted death. 

If you support the assisted dying bill, please support the campaign Dignity in Dying

Apologies that this blogpost isn't as cheery as my other ones! Today I am catching up on my lecture notes and enjoying a nice relaxing day at home. Hopefully I will finish all my jobs today and then be able to go shopping tomorrow! 


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Friday, 11 September 2015

6 weeks after double jaw surgery

Another week has gone by, but it has still been a challenge!

I am loving university life, but it is extremely challenging whilst I am recovering. I have no energy in the evenings and I am already a bit behind. I need to sit down and write up notes on 5 lectures this weekend. It has made me really upset to see my friends going out for meals and nights out whilst I stay at home. Fortunately my boyfriend has moved up to uni so I am less lonely now in the evenings. And this may be TMI to some people, but I have to honest about the recovery for it to be worth discussing: kissing isn't great. I still don't have full sensation of my upper lip, so it feels strange.... and to put it politely, I cannot do any 'passionate' kisses. You know what I mean. 

Today has been a particularly challenging one because for some reason my left jaw has been very painful. I haven't taken painkillers for a while now but today I had pain even when I wasn't talking or eating, so I had some paracetamol in the morning. The pain only got worse throughout the day. I now find eating even more difficult, and for some reason swallowing is painful. I've had some codeine this evening which has made me quite drowsy, but only given a subtle improvement. I have no other symptoms and the swelling is still going down nicely. However, if this pain persists or worsens in the next 24hrs I will ring the on call maxfax doctor and ask for advice. 

Food wise, I am still on sloppy solids. I have had a lot of Bisto microwave cottage pies which are very salty but yummy. In addition I have had lots of Angel delight, spaghetti hoops, canned ravioli in tomato sauce (cut up) and Smash. I also had a Mcflurry the other day which was great! However, I am only having the solids when I am in the house. It is too embarrassing to eat them in public; this is because I am constantly wiping my mouth, it takes ages which isn't practical because my weekdays are so hectic and I still dribble. I even feel embarrassed eating the solids in front of my boyfriend. I feel like a freak. When I eat these foods, there is no chewing involved. I can barely fit a whole teaspoon in my mouth, and then I swallow the food whole. So my food routine is currently as follows:
Breakfast - porridge or banana custard smoothie
Mid morning - large latte (thank God I can still have coffee!!!)
Lunch - chocolate milk
Dinner - cottage pie
Pudding - Angel Delight (it's all about the butterscotch flavour ;) )

In terms of sensation everything is back to normal except my upper lip lacks full mobility and my upper gums and palate are completely numb. One thing I forgot to mention is that every now and then I get a strange jerky sensation in my jaw, like a small twinge. They hurt but they don't happen too often. Sometimes it gets very cold and when my teeth chatter it absolutely kills. 

Most of the time my mood is great because I have lovely friends who keep my spirits up. However, I do get what I would describe as 'depressive episodes' where I feel trapped in a sea of negative thoughts. Sometimes you just can't think of things in a positive light. I am so bloody fed up of people saying "It'll get better". WHEN WILL IT GET BETTER. TELL ME THAT. IT HAS BEEN 6 WEEKS AND IT DOESN'T FEEL ANY BETTER. When will I be myself again. When will I no longer fight back tears as I try to eat a quarter of a teaspoon of mashed potato. 

It's important to stress that throughout the recovery of this operation I have relied so heavily on others. Initially I needed my mum to sort out all my pain relief for me and give me food. Once you are independent and can do things for yourself, the emotional support required is invaluable. I am so grateful for all my family, friends and my boyfriend for all the kind words and positivity they have given me. It would have been impossible without them.

So far at uni I have had one week of paediatric pharmacology and birth defects followed by a week of neuro. Seeing all the birth defects makes you wonder how anyone is brave enough to have kids when so much can go wrong, even if the stats are tiny. I also had a lecturer who insists we should read 50 pages of Kumar & Clark's Clinical Medicine PER DAY which is insane. If you study medicine you will understand! I am absolutely loving the course; everything seems to have a purpose now that we are starting all the pathology this year. 

Today MPs voted against the assisted dying bill which I am furious about. Blogpost on that to follow. For now, I am curling up with Angel Delight and a very reassuring and patient boyfriend who is managing to put up with my bad moods very well! 



My best attempt of an open-mouthed smile



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Monday, 7 September 2015

STAYING POSITIVE



You know what it's like when you've got so many jobs to do and you really can't be arsed... Or when everyone seems to give you a hard time even though you're trying your best... 
Sometimes you need that little boost of motivation to keep up your spirits and your productivity. I've found a few ways to help keep myself in a good mood even when people and the world are starting to piss me off. So thought I would share them!


Loud, cheesy music
When I had my operation I made a playlist on Spotify called 'Feel good music'. It's full of Destiny's Child, Pharrell and Jess Glynne. If I'm tired in the morning and don't want to get up, I put it on full blast. It's also great if I'm feeling tired but still have loads of work to do. It works so well for me.

Saving kind messages
When I get a loving message from Rob or a nice text from my Mum, I put it in my iPhone notes. It sounds soppy, but if I need some cheering up I reread those messages to remind myself that there are kind people looking out for me.

Smile!
I swear that if you make yourself smile it does actually help you feel better. I also do it when I'm nervous or scared and it really seems to do the trick. Yes, sometimes it's hard to make yourself do it, but give it a go. 

Perspective
If I have a lengthy anatomy pre-reading to do and I really don't want to do it (i.e yesterday!) I remind myself of why I am doing it. I want to do that pre-reading because every bit of work I do will help improve my grades and eventually let me become a doctor! A career I've had my heart set on for ages and I am so excited to pursue. At the same time, if a test doesn't go well I remind myself that being at university is not the be all and end all. I'm an incredibly lucky person, and the world is full of opportunities.

Classic TV series and films
As I do my makeup I often put on a really silly TV series like Little Britain. It makes me laugh and psyches me up for the day ahead. Laughter can be such a good remedy for a bad mood.

Putting on my face and wearing a nice outfit
If I really don't want to get out of bed or there's something going on that day I'm not looking forward to, I make the effort to put on a full face of makeup, curl my hair and wear something I like. There's something very powerful about having your 'game face' on. If I feel crap, knowing that I've taken time to help myself feel better and look a bit better helps me to have a better attitude towards the day. 

Ring up a mate
I have some great mates who will happily give me a reality check when I need one. Sometimes you get so fixated on the little things, and you need someone who will happily listen to your ranting and then tell you whether you should fix your issue or just get a grip. I always appreciate my friends who are honest and don't hold back from speaking their mind. 

Playing the piano
Hobbies really help to relieve stress. For me, playing the piano helps to switch my brain off and I all I have to think about is making the piece I'm playing sound as good as possible. I always start with a really easy/ostenato piece, anything by Ludovido Einaudi really, and then move onto an incredibly hard Rachmaninoff piece. I like having the choice of playing something that is so easy and know by heart, thus requiring no effort, or giving myself a challenge to play something new and complex.

Today has been a long day of lectures and an anatomy tutorial. However, I am loving being at university so much. It feels very homely now and I feel very happy in this amazing city with amazing people here to support me. It is going to be a hard and very intense year, but I will take pleasure in rising to the challenge.









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Sunday, 6 September 2015

SURVIVING SECOND YEAR



Recently I have been thinking a lot about how I am going to approach my second year of medical school differently than my first. First of all, I want it to be clear that I love being a medical student. I really enjoy all the topics we've covered and I still yearn to know more. Whilst I have made such lovely friends at medical school and the atmosphere and community is wonderful, it's simultaneously an incredibly intense environment. 

I have come to realise that I don't want to overwork myself. As much as I want to make the most of all the opportunities that I will have at university, I want to make sure that I make time to do fun things as well as study. I didn't make enough time last year for piano, exercise or any other activity really. I want to put my best effort into my studies, but not to the point where it becomes my life. I've learnt that little and often is the best way to keep up to date with work. I have repeatedly been told that "Medicine is a marathon, not a sprint.", and only now do I understand. You can't cram for medical exams - believe me, I tried! 

Today I have spent most of my time on some form of public transport after my hospital appointment which was far away from my university. As I was saying goodbye to my Dad, he told me "Kate, don't stress out. Just survive. That's all you have to do." And in the little he said, I completely understood what he meant. I bloody well had my face cut open and bones broken 5 weeks ago, and I'm not superwoman. I don't want to be superwoman. I no longer care about doing everything perfectly, I'm happy to make mistakes and to not know everything. 

I am going to making sure that:
- I exercise 3 times a week
- I do some fun social activity each week
- I play piano 3 times a week
- I never work past 9pm
- I join a new club/society
- I have at least one cozy night in a week where I do fuck all but drink hot chocolate and chill out 
- I maintain Rob and I's weekly dates 

I also want to dedicate more time to my blog. I am really enjoying writing my posts and love how blogging has allowed me to meet new people :) 

I'll let you know if this actually happens!

P.S. whilst I've been recovering from the surgery, my meat cravings have been insane! I cannot wait for steak again!! 
Just looking at this steak is making me drool

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Saturday, 5 September 2015

Body image

Body image is something that has been the epicentre of most of my thoughts since I was about eight. At that age I was bullied on a daily basis for being ugly and having 'Bugs Bunny' teeth. Despite having loads of confidence on stage and public speaking, I have felt crippled only up until recently by my negative thoughts about my appearance. Now that I look back on those years, I am very confused as to why I ever felt that way.

Although eating disorders can often not be related to body image, but a need for control, they are rife in our society. According to BEAT, there are 725,000 people in the UK who currently have an eating disorder. And even if your negative thoughts do not drive you to extreme weight loss, that's not to say it isn't an extremely harrowing way to live. Even if you never binge and purge, exercise excessively or starve yourself, having that consistently low opinion of your appearance can drain away so much happiness. 

Personally, being attractive in my head meant that people would like you and boys would fancy you. In addition, I used to read fashion magazines constantly, where airbrushing is used in every photo. Even the advertising we don't choose to see but are bombarded with, such as on billboards or bus stops, show a monotony of slim white women. I think that through the media and the bullying I endured, somehow it got stuck in my head that I had to be thin and pretty to be accepted. And I looked so different to Gisele, Kate Moss etc. in my copies of Vogue, so I knew for sure that I wasn't thin or pretty. I couldn't be, because I didn't look anything like them!
Unrealistic expectations much? I bet even Angie has stretch marks

Now at age 19 the penny has finally dropped. It's bollocks. The friends I made at 11 are still my friends now, even though I have weighed between 7 stone and 11 stone during the time that they've known me; even though I have had horrendous acne at times, going from AA boobs to DD, a UK dress size 8 to now a size 12, even though I've had braces for nearly 4 years and had double jaw surgery. They don't care, and they shouldn't! I am the kind of person who just wants to get on with everyone, and if someone is rude to me or doesn't like me it really gets me down. I hate friction and I wish everyone could just get along. So, when there have been times that people haven't wanted to get to know me, I always thought it was because I was fat and ugly. Bollocks again! You can't be mates with everyone, and if they do care about what you look like then really you've dodged a bullet by not being friends with them. 



More importantly, style and physique only say so much about a person. You can't tell if someone is clever, kind, altruistic or generous based on whether they are a size 8 or a size 18. I didn't get into medical school because I was a certain size, I worked hard and I was confident in my interviews - nothing was going to stop me from achieving my goals. 



Then there's boys. It took me so long to realise that not all boys fancied only girls who looked like pornstars with GG breasts, long extensions, fake tan and size six frames. When I look back on some of the boys I've fancied in the past, looks has had very little to do with it! You feel attracted to their personality and common interests, and then somehow that makes them look like the hottest person you've ever met. I read a quote somewhere that described how when you fancy someone their personality becomes their physical body, and suddenly that person becomes the most attractive person ever. SO TRUE! And even if someone looks like your ideal person, that will never be enough to make you fall in love with them. Looks will never be enough. I've spoken to male friends about their crushes and felt so confused as to how they could find the person they fancied attractive; I just couldn't see it! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 

So, if you can still make amazing friends and find a great partner regardless of looks, why are we so fixated on it? I suppose it's because it's the easiest way to make a snap judgement about someone, and some people believe that we're hardwired to think that way from an evolutionary point of view. I can sort of believe that. Clothing can be tribal, you will notice how most friendship groups have similar styles. 



Really, I think to tackle body image the media and society as a whole need to make drastic changes. Advertisers and all journalism publications need to stop airbrushing and increase the diversity of their models. You shouldn't be able to sell people dodgy diet pills in Boots, Superdrug and online. Magazines need to stop championing every new diet that comes out, or how to get in shape for your 'Summer body'. Painfully thin actors and actresses need to take account of the fact that they don't want their fans to aspire to look like them. Hollywood needs to diversify the actors in their films and stop telling them to lose weight. If we were made to see people of all shapes and sizes praised and celebrated on TV, film and magazines then we wouldn't aspire to look only one certain way. We would be able to see ourselves in the adverts. We would see stretch marks and spots on celebrities and realise they are still  charming and beautiful regardless. We also need to talk about it more. I felt so awful when I saw my first stretch marks, and only now have I realised that almost every friend I have (including men) have them too! Ditto cellulite. My Mum is naturally very petite and I was always convinced that I was meant to be the same as her. Now I realise that I couldn't be a size 8 if I tried; you can't make hip bones narrower or boobs smaller. If I weighed the same as her I would have a BMI of 18.3 and be classed as underweight, because I'm 6 inches taller than her. If I'd sat down with my mum and told her all this years ago it would have probably saved me so much heartache. 

To me, the most important things we should concentrate on when we think about ourselves are confidence, kindness and self-respect. If you smile and talk to people and say thoughtful things, you naturally make people around you happier. People are so often more attracted to confidence than appearance. When someone smiles at you and maintains eye contact as you chat, you feel good. You can't help but like someone who is warm and friendly. You don't need to diet or buy expensive clothes to be a nice person. If you are a good person, people will see that. And if someone treats you like shit, know that you deserve better. Their words say nothing about yourself, but a hell of a lot about their own insecurities. 

One of my favourite quotes is by Maya Angelou: 
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.









Friends now and then; regardless of size or shape. 
If you have an eating disorder, please use the website BEAT for advice. Tell someone close to you and see your GP, and I wish you the best of luck. You will get through this. 

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