The musings of a final year medical student

Wednesday, 11 November 2015


I don't even know where to begin with this post, but I'll have a go.

This blog first of all came about because of two things: I love writing and I wanted to help people. It's only just occurred to me how much it makes me happy when I know I am useful and that I have helped someone. And I have come to realise that you can't really help someone if you are not honest.

Time and time again I have mentioned Hannah from Pull Yourself Together. I mention her often because she has helped me so incredibly much. She has helped me because she is honest. She writes freely yet elegantly about her struggle with depression. Like her, I wholly believe we should shatter the misconceptions surrounding mental health. But I was a hypocrite. I wanted to help people, but I was lying to myself and lying to the people who wanted me to help them. I have often told Hannah in confidence that I admire her bravery to discuss mental health, but that I felt paralysed from doing the same. 

I have eluded to the fact that I have been unhappy, but I have never said "I have depression". Well I'm saying it now: I have depression. And it's nothing new to me, either. Looking back retrospectively, I have been unhappy for a long time. And of course, from an obtuse perspective the thought of me, Kate, having depression seems ludicrous. I still think it's ludicrous. I have a loving family, a lovely home in the south and here at university, my friends are genuine and kind, I love the course I am studying and I am in an incredibly happy and stable relationship. The people who surround me are loving and wonderful and I am grateful for their kindness every day. And yet somehow I feel void and guilty. If you look at my Facebook or Instagram accounts, there are pictures of me with my boyfriend, nice meals I've had, pretty flowers I've been given and all my amazing friends. Life looks pretty damn good when you edit the shit out of it and contort what can be seen from the periphery. 

What annoys me most about my depression is how much I wish it wasn't there. It feels like a foreign body in my head; I don't want to feel like this. I want to work hard and go out with my friends and feel good all the time. I don't want to feel exhausted every day and lie in bed wishing I could fall asleep. I wish I had a better attention span and wasn't so forgetful. I don't want to cancel my plans because I can't get out of bed and for whatever reason I cannot stop crying. I want to live my life to the full and achieve all my goals, but in some way I am inhibited from doing so. 

The truth is that humans are flawed. We shoot ourselves in the foot by setting unrealistic goals, and if we do miraculously achieve them we then set an even bigger goal. Life always has to have a new challenge, and whilst that can be very exciting it's also draining. We can become so self-deprecative.

There is one part about medical school that makes my blood boil. At A level, going to a prestigious university to study medicine is put on a gold pedestal. We are told, and then tell ourselves: 'If I can get to that medical school then my life will be great'. You're set on a wondrous trajectory for wealth and success. Medical school, or university in general, are not the panacea of life. Your problems won't melt away, you won't be endlessly happy every minute of the day. I remember being so excited to go to university, thinking this would be the best thing that has happened to me. It is and it isn't. I am definitely studying the right course and have settled in very well, but my depression hasn't gone away - it has got much worse. 

So, to all those who hope to study medicine: yes it is absolutely wonderful, but it is still hard. The challenges are not to be ignored. It is emotionally and physically draining. And to all those who are studying medicine currently, I hope you take comfort in knowing that even if you see your cohort breezing through the degree, know that there's a lot more under the surface. 

The reality is that there are many medical students and doctors with mental health diseases. In order to help these people such as myself we need a honest dialogue about how to manage it. I avoid using the word 'tackle', because I don't think anyone is immune from some degree of sadness. If more people like myself and Hannah can openly admit they suffer from a mental health problem, then less people will see it as a taboo and we can work towards helping others and helping ourselves. 

Thank you so much for reading this. You can message me in confidence through my blog's gmail account or through my Twitter account. I hope you're well, and remember you are not alone. 

Thank you so much, Hannah. You're amazing!

Please respect that this is an issue I have been terribly frightened of admitting to openly (and to myself) for a long time. 

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