The musings of a fourth year English medical student

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

WHAT I'VE LEARNT ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

Throughout my second year of medical school my depression has been at its worst and now currently at its best. I've embraced that I have this problem and engaged with options I was given by my GP. My university know and so do my friends and family. Plus, I've now put it on the internet, and I hope that this shows people it isn't something you have to hide. It's been a mad year but I have learnt a lot about myself, and in turn about mental health in general. I've been privileged to hear other people's stories on my hospital placement, and also from friends in my life who have approached me about the subject. I thought I would share what I have learnt. 


 If you want to get better you have to accept you are struggling


This may sound terribly clich├ęd and like a slogan from Alcoholics Anonymous, but I can’t stress enough how important this is. Through blogging about my experience of depression, many of my friends have come to me in confidence to discuss their own mental health. Many of them initially refused to see a GP or tell their parents. I know how this feels. When I first felt that I needed help, I went and spoke to my GP without telling anyone else. He instructed me to start CBT at my sixth form, and only then did I eventually speak to my parents and my friends about it. It’s still hard to discuss it now, but 100 times easier than it once was. I feel like a weight has been lifted.  


Self-respect is so important

Speaking for myself here, self-respect plays a big role in terms of happiness and the things I worry about. I realised that all harmful thoughts I used to have about myself were stemming from not respecting myself. One example would be self-harm. If I ever felt like I wanted to do this, I could remind myself that I have to respect the functioning body I have been given, and in order to help me get better I have to respect this body and not hurt it. When applied to social situations, I stopped letting people push me around or make me feel small, because I know that I deserve respect. If ever someone said something unkind, instead of letting it bother me, I would tell myself I don’t deserve to be treated like that. I try to apply self-respect to what I eat, how often I exercise, being confident in social/work situations, and academic performance. I have realised that if I want to be happy, I have to give myself love and have standards. Know that you deserve kindness, you have rights, and you are entitled to do what you want to do with your life.


Make your happiness a priority


I’m not religious and I don’t know what the meaning of life is, but I’ve decided that all I’m really concerned about is being happy. This means that if I am feeling down, I put myself first. I try to think of ways I can improve my mood in a constructive manner. As much as I love my family, friends and boyfriend, I need to be a little bit selfish and look after myself. This is my life, and I’m not going to live it according to what other people expect of me or what they would prefer me to do. It sounds silly, but if you want to be happy you have to care about doing things you like to do that make you happy! I think that many people can develop depression through their lifestyles or through doing things that they don’t want to do. They’re living a life they didn’t necessarily choose, and so they aren’t content.  


Medications and talking therapies can work


To the average Brit, the thought of having a counsellor seems almost cringe-y, something that Americans have. We need to shake off this apprehension. I hated the idea of going on anti-depressants, but I got to a point of desperation where I was willing to try anything. I have a great GP who has listened to me attentively. I still feel uneasy about the fact I have been on Sertraline for almost a year now, but I know it has done me so much good. The combination of CBT with a psychologist at my university and the prescribed SSRI has made a massive difference. Some people wonder what the point of taking an anti-depressant is. It goes without saying that they aren’t a cure, but I think that they can reduce the severity of the symptoms one may experience. For example, I found that my sleep pattern improved loads, and I felt that my depression was less debilitating. I no longer wake up in the morning feeling completely exhausted and so low I can’t get out of bed. I don’t get so frantic and stressed when I get ready for hospital placement. 


I hope you found this interesting to read. Mental health is sadly still a taboo, and I hope that people can stop feeling ashamed about an affliction they never asked for, so that they can get the help and support they need. 

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1 comment

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