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Humans of Medicine 2017

Home > Humans of Medicine 2017

At the beginning of the year I sat down at my dinner table with a new group of housemates and a close friend and we completed a ‘getting to know you’ questionnaire. One of the questions was ‘Do you have a secret hunch on how you will die?’. For most, this question is probably relatively innocent but for me it touched my deepest fear. I eventually told my friends that I thought I would die by suicide.

I first became acquainted with the complexities of mental illness and the reality of suicide at quite a young age. At the time I didn’t have the maturity or comprehension to see it for what it was, a combination of genetics, past trauma and environment. Intellectually, I hope to use this to one day work in mental health and to provide truly empathetic care to my patients. Personally, it has also left me fearful. I fear that my genetics and the trauma I have experienced may predispose me to one day developing severe mental illness.

Depression does not make you weak. In fact, admitting that you are depressed and seeking support actually makes you incredibly strong. It makes you believe that you are suffering from an illness that can be overcome and that you are worthy of the help. And that when you do get through it, you will be kinder, wiser and more resilient person.

If I was to give one piece of advice to anyone who are struggling with depression it would be to lean on your loved ones and seek professional help when you are ready. Hopefully, like me, your journey will teach you a lot about the world, yourself and how many people care about you.

When I first started to recognise symptoms of mental illness in myself, I didnt want to talk to my friends about it. I knew they would care, and really that was the problem. I thought it was selfish to put my stuff onto them- just one more thing to worry about when I knew they were already stressed.

I got to a point where I just felt like there was no point trying to get help. I came to the conclusion that mental illness was just a part of medicine, and the crossroad I was at was whether I was willing to suffer with it, or change career. When I look back now, I realise how wrong I was, but I wish someone had slapped some sense into me then. While mental illness is common, it is not something we just need to accept. There is help and there is recovery. Talk to your friends, or your GP, or headspace, or whoever it is- keep talking and get help. You’ve got this.

Sure, there are people that question the legitimacy of my problems. They tell me to “stop worrying” and “it’s not that bad”. In some ways they’re right, most of our marks don’t matter and actually, I am lucky enough to have quite a few friends. But they’re also wrong. In a certain state of mind I am incapable of believing myself, let alone them. It’s important to understand that just because someone’s problems may seem trivial to you, doesn’t mean that they’re trivial to them.

Over the last year my life has become about positive coping strategies and rational decision-making. Things that many people take for granted. Things that I really have to work at. I still struggle to admit when I’m not coping but every time it gets easier.

Personally, I see my anxiety as an advantage. When I have things under control, it pushes me to do better in every aspect of my life. When I need a break, I know how to properly look after my mental health.

Hallmarks of severity scare me: I always feel that mental illness is okay, as long as you can show you are only getting better. But the reality is that there is a monster in my brain that I have been fighting for years. Today, it is lying weakly in a small cage in a corner of my brain I don’t explore anymore. I have fought it with all the ammunition I have. But it doesn’t ever really go away, and sometimes it gets stronger, and bad days still happen, but I’m still here, fighting, and I always will be.

My point is this: whatever help you need, whatever ammunition you require, it’s all okay. Whether it’s your first GP appointment, your tenth medication, a new type of therapy, a visit or admission to hospital, a year of intermission: there is no shame in reaching out. We fight the good fight so tomorrow we might be better. And that, to me, is everything.

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