The musings of a final year medical student

Friday, 18 December 2015

Ready to rest and recuperate!

Today is Friday 18th December and I am finally finished for Christmas! It has been a long 16 weeks of learning with no breaks or reading weeks. I should state now that if this blogpost seems a little erratic and rambling then it is a fair reflection of how my head feels right now!

I feel that second year has hit me like a tonne of bricks. I don't necessarily mean that in a negative way, but in terms of learning there has been a humungous leap. We've gone from simple memorisation of anatomy and pathways to appreciating the intracies of many diseases, the pathophysiology, how to do a differential diagnosis and then understand the diagnostic techniques and treatments. In addition, we have had hospital placements. Our communication training and clinical training is constantly scrutinised and has to be done on real patients in a real clinical setting. So many consultants have taken one look at me, seen the fear on my face and then torn me up, chewed me up and then spat me out. I feel emotionally and physically drained. I've had some doctors shake my hand or physically applaud me for my knowledge, and others who've asked why I'm even bothering with medical school.

I also feel fascinated. I feel hungry to know more. I feel the emotions radiating from patients; fear, pain, despair, joy and happiness. 

Currently I feel rather lost. I have two weeks off for Christmas and then go straight into mock OSCEs, which I know nothing about. My jaw is giving me pain still which really ruins my mood at times. My depression is like a roller coaster. One week I am euphoric, productive and loving. Another week I am crying on the bus, in bed, in a toilet cubicle on a train, in a toilet cubicle in hospital, in a toilet cubicle in the library (there's a pattern running here) wondering what I'm doing with my life. Why have I come to medical school just for doctors to take the piss out of me, truly borderline abusing me? And not even for any particular reason! You're damned if you have a go and damned if you don't. In order to refrain from destructive behaviour like drinking excessively or self harming, I have started binge eating occasionally. In the past I have had real problems with food. I used to deprive myself, then binge and then purge all the time when I was at secondary school. But sadly, right now binge eating seems like the least destructive coping mechanism. I don't want to do it, but sometimes I just want to feel nothing. I want to be consumed in something other than sadness or hopelessness. 

When I think of Christmas, I think of it as a time of so much joy and happiness. It's hard to have that frivolity and ecstasy when you know you have so much to do in so little time, whilst mingling with your relatives discussing all things trivial.  I am also scared of chatting to my parents about my depression, only because I want the little time together to be happy and joyful rather than me moping about crying, wiping my nose on the sleeve of a Christmas jumper wishing I had my life sorted. I wish I could no longer care. I wish I would no longer feel guilty and jaded about every action I do. 

I apologise for this rather sad blogpost. However, this is real. This is what being a medical student is really like (for me). I'm not saying every medical student has mental health problems, but studying medicine is hard. It is all consuming; you have so much passion for it and in return you must constantly aspire for a level of perfection that doesn't exist. It is hard, but I know eventually I'll figure it out. I'll figure out how to balance work and socialising, how to let go. I'll figure out eventually that medicine isn't everything, and appreciating that will make me a better doctor one day. 


  1. Medicine IS hard - you're very right there. And actually, although everyone does have different experiences, the totally mixed feedback from doctors is something everyone goes through. I've had doctors (and, more importantly, patients) tell me that I'm great, safe and obviously confident. Other times, I've had them question why I'm even there and why can't I do 'basic' things? It's easily said, but try not to let it get you down. Discuss it with your friends if you can - you'll find they probably get exactly the same! (Although if you do feel you're being unfairly picked on by anyone, no matter how senior - do try and talk to someone at uni if you can).
    At the end of the day, I've realised it's more important to have the nice people skills, the knowing your own competencies and limits, and the ability to look after yourself. Knowledge is good, but you can always ask/ look things up. Bedside manner and thoughtfulness doesn't really work like that! Enjoy your time off as best you can, and take things easy when you get back. Having just finished finals, the idea that medicine is a marathon not a sprint has never felt more appropriate!
    Jennifer x
    Ginevrella | Lifestyle Blog

    1. Thank you so much Jennifer for that response. I appreciate your kind words and I hope you have a wonderful Xmas!
      Kate xx

  2. Keep going Kate - you're going to make an amazing doctor one day in the near future. I think that having mental health problems can truly make you a better healthcare professional, as you are able to empathise with patients that are going through similar experiences, and therefore give them better care.

    Trust me when I say, it gets easier. Second year was a HUGE jump, but when you get into third year you find that you are re-revising topics and know much more than you think you do. Learning about diseases becomes easier, as does having the skills for OSCEs.

    Try to have a relaxing Christmas and don't work yourself up too much about your OSCE - they really aren't as bad as they are made out to be (and can be quite enjoyable once you get into the swing of things!).

    Hannah xxx

    1. Thanks Hannah so much for your lovely comment - it means so much to me to here from people who've gone through medical school and know what it's like. Thank you so much and have a great Xmas!
      Kate xxx


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