The musings of a final year medical student

Sunday, 31 January 2016


If you haven't heard of her, you need Sali Hughes in your life. Why? Apart from being beautiful and Welsh, she is a brilliant writer. Having assisted makeup artist Lynne Easton and working her way up on the London journalism scene, Sali knows everything about skin, makeup, and knows how to engage her readers.

I got hooked to her YouTube channel, where she has her own 'In the bathroom' series, interviewing celeb makeup artists such as Charlotte Tilbury and Mary Greenwell: she reveals what they actually use on themselves and their clients. However, when she began contributing for The Pool, a new online sassy website, I realised that there's so much more to Sali than her beauty prowess. She is fabulous, proud of her opinions and unashamed of her past. She has written about her own abortion to icons like Madonna. 

She has written her own book called 'Pretty Honest', and I believe she's in the process of writing another. The book is composed of her essays regarding all things beauty: hair removal, botox, finding the right red lipstick. As well as that, she teaches us to not be ashamed of our passion for beauty. We can make the most of our passion and not let it inhibit us from doing whatever the fuck we want. I asked for the book for Christmas and I reread it constantly. 

To me, Sali is all about girl power. She's smart, incredibly hard working and wonderful. Read her column in The Guardian. Read her pieces on The Pool. Check out her YouTube channel. You won't be sorry! 

Disclaimer: I have not been asked to write this, I'm not sponsored in any way. I just think Sali Hughes is a bloody amazing human being. 

Friday, 29 January 2016


This week has been rather rough on me. I had the results of my mock OSCE and was told I had failed, only to then be told later that I had actually passed. I was relieved. I had a mock patient simulation with an actress and it literally could not have gone better, I had no criticisms from staff or my peers. And yet that same day I was later crying quietly to myself in my lectures, hoping no one would notice. 

Nothing has really gone wrong this week but I am still sad. That's the thing with depression, your life can look absolutely perfect on paper and you can still feel utterly helpless and hopeless. There is honestly nothing I would change about my life, but I still feel like shit. And I don't know why. 

It felt like such a ghostly sensation, to feel this side of depression again. I have had an incredibly enjoyable and positive January and had lots to look forward to. Having all my braces off was a very cathartic experience, and straight after I did feel fab. Now the novelty has worn off a little. 

I feel upset mainly because I want to do well at uni but I still feel behind. I haven't even started my research project yet. I am trying to get my shit together yet I'm still floundering. It hurts because I am so passionate about medicine, and I don't want to fail again. I cannot think of anything else I would rather do for the rest of my life. I feel like I need medicine. I adore the rapports I get to build with patients, and the little old ladies at the place I used to work at who still write to me. 

I'm scared of depression because it feels like a fight to be me and to do what I love. I am not depression - I am a kind, intelligent woman who is passionate about becoming a doctor. But sometimes that gets lost. 


Sunday, 24 January 2016


1) Accepting it's a problem and that it's a real disease
What held me back from my diagnosis of depression was my own stigma. I was scared people would think I was lazy, or that I just wanted attention. For many people, they cannot accept they are depressed because their life looks great on paper, and that their problems aren't 'real problems'. They are real, and you won't get better if you don't address them. Ignoring a problem has never made it get better. 

2) Educate yourself about depression
You MUST read this book by Dr Cantopher. He is a UCL-educated psychiatrist and he explains in such a brilliant concise way how depression affects the brain and the pathways involved (it's also great anatomy and therapeutics revision). It's a tiny book so you can read it very quickly. In addition, he explains the ways in which different anti-depressants work. If you choose to take anti-depressants, read the damn leaflet that comes in the box. Learn about your medication, its side effects and its mechanism of action. This will help you understand what's going on in your body and gives you a sense of power because you understand depression better. 

3) Being honest with yourself, friends and family
When your mate asks how you are, take a leap of faith, let yourself be vulnerable and tell them how you really feel. Being honest with my friends and family has made everything so much easier. Yes, it was hard, there were lots of tears, but the more I discuss it the better I feel. This does not have to be a disease you must hide from the world. In addition, if you are at university like myself, tell them. You may not know it but your uni will offer loads of support. Most unis have a free counselling service and will allow you to retake or defer a year based on your diagnosis of depression. 

4) Be willing to try
I was absolutely petrified to try anti-depressants and I said no to GPs many times. I didn't want to accept that it could help and that I actually needed it. This little pill I take each day has helped me so much. One thing that is hard about depression (amongst many other things) is that most treatments take months to show any positive effect. Persevere. For me it didn't really have any effects until after 4 months and now I feel fantastic. If you are on an anti-depressant and you want to give it up, talk to your GP before you do this. Many anti-depressants have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms which you can learn about in the pamphlet that comes with your medication. Of equal importance is that once you start to feel better, don't stop. Most GPs recommend trying an anti-depressant for 6 months before reviewing continuation. You need to be able to sustain that positive mood for some time before you think about stopping your treatment. It can be frightening to open up to a medical professional and try drugs and talking therapies that you don't know about, but being brave and having a go will absolutely help. I also believe that for medical students and doctors, we need to develop healthy mechanisms of keeping stress down and mood up. This can be done by trying out what works for you and then sticking at it to keep yourself happy. 

5) Knowing when to take a break
I have taken days off uni and placement due to my depression and I am not sorry about it. When I fill in an absence form, that is what I put down as the reason for absence. My university kindly accepts that and reminds me of the medical student support services each time I do so. They're fab. Have a read of Hannah's post about taking a mental health sick day, it's wonderfully written. Many people with depression have symptoms including insomnia and joint pain, and if you've had a sleepless night you aren't going to do well in a working capacity.

6) Speaking to other sufferers of depression
The blogging community has helped me so much with my depression. I have met many people studying science subjects who have depression and can completely relate. They are brilliant and remind me I'm not a weirdo and I'm not alone. 

7) Be selfish
Say no when you don't want to do things. Take time to do the things you love. If someone is nagging you to do something you know that you have no interest in or will hurt you, don't do it. This is your life. 

8) Have a hobby 
What ground me down last year was feeling trapped in my studies; I felt too anxious to join any societies at all. You need time for rest and relaxation. If your mate wants to go for a coffee, go for it. If there's a film in the cinema you want to see, go see it. Now I have an electric piano, I blog as much as I can and I am enrolled on a French course - these are my passions and I am doing better academically because I now have an outlet. 

9) Know that you won't always feel this way
Sometimes on your worst days you will feel as if there is no escape, that this life is unbearable and it couldn't be worse. But it won't always feel that way. You will laugh again and have fantastic experiences. It does get better. You may not know when, but persevere and you will feel happy again. 

I hated exercise, but I have learnt to like it. I go to the gym maybe 2-3 times a week. Yes, I would like to go more often but I'm a newbie to this and I am really enjoying it. I go with my medic mates and it definitely makes the experience more enjoyable. I also go at times I know it will be quiet, usually 8-9am because then I feel less self-conscious and have more fun. You don't have to run marathons or play in the first  team of a uni sports club, but just a little bit of exercise every now and then will honestly help, and also help long-term. 


Saturday, 23 January 2016


What the hell. How has it been 6 MONTHS since my bimaxillary osteotomy?! I was so happy to have my braces off, but for some reason on the day itself I was very anxious and tearful. I cried in the car and in the hospital! I was in and out of the chair in twenty minutes and the process was painless but a bit uncomfortable. Luckily there is no obvious staining around where the brackets used to be, but nevertheless I am about to begin whitening my teeth at home using a kit and trays that my dentist has shown me how to use.

I am really pleased to say I am no longer in pain. I remember the days when all I could think about was the horrible ache I would have in my jaws and how nothing seemed to relieve it. Now I have whole days of no pain at all and it is wonderful. To be honest, it has taken 6 months to feel ‘normal’ again. Eating and teeth brushing almost feels as normal as it did before.

I would not say I have 100% of my sensation back, but maybe 95%. I feel that I do have sensation but it doesn’t feel like how it used to, there still is a slightly ghostly sensation when I brush my upper gums.

I feel so relieved to have finished this orthodontic process. It has really held me back and affected my mood greatly; I do think it contributed a lot to my dip in mental health. Having said that, I have no regrets. Now that I have persevered through the pain and have completed the process I feel fab. I love the results. I feel more comfortable in my skin.

I am sad that part of me is gone and I’m not quite the same person I used to be, but I now feel as if I have finally finished growing up.

Thanks so much to all the people who have supported me throughout this process. It was hard and at times unbearable, but I wouldn’t change any of it for what I have now.

I have to thank the NHS for what they have done for me. This entire process has been paid for by the NHS. I have been seeing a NHS orthodontist for 4 years. In the running up to the surgery I have seen NHS dieticians and lots of other healthcare professionals such as dental nurses who have taken impressions of my teeth. My operation itself was paid for by the NHS as well as my hospital stay. The only personal financial hardship I have had to experience is the travel expenses and buying Corsydyl mouthwash! I had an incredibly supportive team throughout this process. There were times where I would wait over an hour for a time allocated appointment. My surgery was delayed multiple times due to administration errors and also when my surgeon too paternity leave. But looking back retrospectively, these were small prices to pay for a great service and a fantastic result. It truly frightens me how the government continues to break the back of the NHS. I am one example of millions of British people who have benefited massively from the NHS. As a medical student, I really don't think I would be comfortable working in a private healthcare setting. Healthcare should be a right, not a privilege, and I hope it stays that way here in the UK. 
On day of operation, July 2015

January 2016

January 2016


Sunday, 17 January 2016


I recently got my eyebrows threaded at Primark for £6 and have now fallen in love with doing my eyebrows again. I currently use a Collection powder to fill mine in, along with a Maybelline tinted brow gel, but I would love to have a go at using some new stuff. 

There is so much hype surrounding this highlighter, so I would love to give it a go. 

I do love the Benefit They're Real mascara, but I would like to try a cheaper alternative. I think Maybelline mascaras are always good. 

I have the world's worst dark under eye circles. I have had them since I was a kid, and they're hereditary. My Collection concealer is good, but I think I need something that can cancel out the purple colour that always seems to come through. 

I love REN skincare. I have used all of the products in this kit before, but would like to try them again and see which ones I should reintroduce into my skin care regime. 

Some days you don't want to bother with lipstick, but still look like you've made an effort. These lip balms look amazing and I would love to try one in the colour Rosewood. 

Come on, could there be anything more chic than touching up your makeup whilst holding one of these in your hand? Just beautiful.

At Easter I am going skiing so I think I will try to save up and then hit the Duty Free pretty hard... 

If you have any new beauty favourites I would love to know!

ALSO.... I have a new Instagram account: @TheMedicJournal 


I have been inspired by the lovely Jennifer to write a blogpost about the best moments of this week! I think that her blog is wonderful as she has lots of great food inspiration and one of the posts I like the most that she does is when she divulges the things she has loved in her busy week as a 5th year medic. I also think that it encourages an appreciative outlook on life, and I want to do all I can to keep my mental health in the great condition it has recently been in. 

1. Seeing my family
I went home this weekend because I am having my braces off on Monday, and it meant I got to see my parents, my granny and my cats! Having all the home comforts and catching up on the gossip was absolutely lovely.

2. Throwing Emily a surprise birthday party
My friend Emily from back home turned 20 this week and so I threw her a surprise party! We had pink balloons, pizza and chocolate cake. Happy birthday Em! 

3. Burning my new Diptyque candles
I was lucky enough to get a trio of Diptyque candles from 'Santa': Figuier, Feu de Bois and Vanille. They smell absolutely gorgeous and get me in the mood to revise!

4. Teaching Rob to play the piano
Playing the piano is a massive part of my life because it makes me extremely happy, so to be able to share that passion with my boyfriend is just amazing. He's doing so well and he's getting used to playing Ancora by Ludovico Einaudi. Well done Rob!

5. Going to the gym
I know, I know, me - going to the gym?! My lovely medic friends have been great at getting me to do some exercise, and as much as I struggle through it, it has helped my mental health. I feel great, thank you so much Tabs and Sabs! 

6. Buying 50% off shoes
Oh my God, these shoes!! They're from Clarks, and were reduced from £80 down to £40. I love that Clarks do half sizes, as I have very awkward UK Size 7 1/2 feet! Most of Clarks' shoes are very grandma-esque but they also do some more fashionable shoes. These arrived at my house on Friday and I cannot wait to wear them. 
Twitter & Instagram: @TheMedicJournal

Saturday, 16 January 2016


As much as I love makeup, removing it at the end of the day is another matter. Sometimes my mascara just won't budge. Micellar waters only seem to scratch the surface, and makeup wipes are just plain gross (not to mention unhygienic). If you wear a full face of makeup most days like I do, you really need a cleansing balm. Yes, you need it. There just isn't anything else that can work as fast and be as effective.

I have often shied away from oily formulas because I have oily, spot-prone skin. But through trial and error, I've figured out that as long as I avoid mineral oil and shea butter in my skincare, then actually these cleansing balms do so much good. I don't want to stop wearing loads of makeup, and really nothing works as well as a balm. They do such a good job.

Then there's the issue of residue. Sometimes thick cleansing balms leave a greasy film on the skin. Ew. But through trying a few, I've found some lovely balms that leave no residue. To use, apply the balm to dry skin, massage for a minute or so until the makeup has started breaking down, and then remove with a warm flannel. 
Here are my favourites:

I hate that the most expensive balm I've used is the best. Price aside, this balm is just amazing. No weird fragrance, as it's fragrance free like all of Clinique's products. This balm uses safflower oil instead of mineral or shea butter. This breaks down my makeup so quickly, and leaves absolutely no residue. If you are acne prone like me, I would definitely recommend this. This is my favourite for sure.

This balm is fabulous, and probably works the quickest out of all of them. Sadly, I can no longer use it, as it contains shea butter. I wasn't sure if it was breaking me out, but after using it solidly for 2 weeks my skin was not looking its best, even though it is such a brilliant remover. If spots aren't an issue, definitely go for this one. No obvious fragrance. 

3. Coconut oil, £5-15, depending where you look
Coconut oil works great at breaking down makeup. And funnily enough, it has a lovely coconut scent! It doesn't make me extra spotty, but for me the residue left over is quite heavy. I always go for this when I run out of my Clinique one, as it's a cheaper alternative. 

A lovely makeup remover, but not my favourite. It can take a while for the cleanser to melt in your fingers, and the residue afterwards is quite heavy. If you are into natural and organic skin care then this is right up your street, as it's 97% organic. It does contain shea butter, though. It also comes with a muslin cloth, too, but I personally prefer using a flannel.

Does everyone need a cleansing balm? No. But if you're like me and enjoy wearing lots of heavy makeup, the only thing that'll do you any justice is a cleansing balm. 
Twitter & Instagram: @TheMedicJournal

Wednesday, 13 January 2016


Hey there,

Recently I've had bit of writer's block. Uni has been hectic as per usual, but in the best way. This week is based purely around infection and immunity, and I'm not loving it. I do find it interesting, but things like memorising latin names of bacteria and global health waffle doesn't really float my boat. Next week we begin the gastrointestinal module, so I think I will enjoy getting back into the standard mix of anatomy, pathophysiology and therapeutics. 

Every now and then I put up a beauty-related post and they always tend to get a lot more views. I love beauty and have always been obsessed with makeup and skincare, but I don't feel that I have any knowledge to impart, just enthusiasm for new products! I may put up stuff occasionally. I'm currently drafting a post on what my favourite cleansing balms are, as I find they're the only way to properly get a full face of makeup off.

As much as I am loving the course, I find myself time and time again comparing myself to my fellow medical students. I am still pretty jaded from having to do retakes last year, and I am scared I may repeat that this year. I know that I am working 10 times harder and better this year, and always asking for help when I need it. But it still feels humiliating. I know I cannot be the best, but it is strange going from being top in every class at GCSE and A level to now feeling frankly inadequate.

I am passionate about medical journalism and writing for this wonderful blog, but right now I don't seem to have the time or sanity to put effort into them as well juggling my other jobs. I hope that eventually I will get used to the stress and then be able to take on more jobs. Currently I only feel like I have time for lectures, piano, gym and the odd evening seminar. I know some people do less and others far more, but right now I definitely feel like I am working at my maximum capacity, and I don't want to burn out. 

Please bear with me and hopefully I will become inspired to share some new content!

Sending lots of love to my readers, and take care 
Kate xxx

Twitter & Instagram: @TheMedicJournal


Friday, 1 January 2016


Everyone keeps asking me "What's your New Year's resolution?" And every time I have no idea!
However, I think I've figured out what I want to strive for, albeit a day late.

In brief, I want to be happy and healthy. Not just physically but mentally, too. 

When I had my jaw surgery I was almost touching 11 stone. Although my BMI was still 'normal' and I am 5ft8 I knew very well that I was unfit and ate crap. Following the surgery I went down to 10 stone, and currently I am now 10 and a half stone. I am slowly creeping back into my old ways. I feel like crap. Some days I drink 5 cups of coffee. I had far too many takeaways last term. I lived off pasta with mayonnaise and I didn't exercise at all. I went to two fitness classes, that was literally it!

In an ideal world, I would love to get to 9 and a half stone. In addition, I want to eat less meat and give up coffee (eventually). I am going to try getting back into running and actually use my gym membership. 

Then there's mental health, which is a completely different ball game! I would say that despite making good effort in that area through medication and counselling, there's a long way to go. And of course, what I eat and how much exercise I will do has a substantial effect on emotions. I am struggling to find a compromise between having healthy goals that will actually improve my mental health without making them too ambitious, which could worsen my mental health. 

I want to do well academically, but frankly that isn't my concern this year. I feel like that I just need to learn how to float above surface without getting too ambitious. Last year I was constantly drowning in work, and this year I have been very organised by my standards and much better than last year. I know that I will never make it into the top 10% of my cohort. And if I could, I would be sacrificing my sanity. 

In addition, I think hobbies are really important. I will play more piano next term and will start a French medical language course which I am really excited about! As for the blog, I can't really set any goals for it; I think that would add too much pressure. I will carry on as I do now, with no schedule but simply writing when I feel like it, and about the things that I am passionate about.

Happy New Year's xxxx
Twitter & Instagram: @TheMedicJournal

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