I don’t really remember a time I wasn’t anxious if I’m going to be perfectly honest. From the age of 7 I was told I’d burn out – self-fulfilling prophecy maybe. However, it wasn’t until I started medicine that things really kicked up a gear. When I started in 2015 I already felt vulnerable after losing my grandmother less than two weeks before and looking back I was headed for a big fall.
My first two years in med school were tough, I struggled to adjust and for the first time in my life was dealing with crippling social anxiety. Every day I felt the sting of imposter syndrome and compared myself to the amazing people I was slogging through this degree with…every single time I came out poorly. I was convinced I wasn’t meant to be here, wasn’t smart enough and that everyone hated me. My performance in clinical situations suffered, so afraid of failing and making a fool of myself I would have complete mental blanks whenever I was put on the spot leaving my questioning myself even further. My colleagues would always reassure me: “Don’t worry, you’ll do fine,” but I was consistently crippled by my fear of failure.
In my third year I was given a place at Dubbo. I quickly fell in love with western NSW and the people, but my time there threw challenges at me I never anticipated. In June this year on my way to my general practice placement I had a serious car accident which was entirely my fault. While I wasn’t injured the effect on my confidence was shattering. Everyone told me I was lucky but I didn’t feel it and threw myself back into uni hoping I could forget what had happened. Little did I know I was plunging into a deep depression that would leave me almost unable to function. I stopped studying, I struggled with attendance, started taking unnecessary risks and withdrew from most of my friends. I made mistakes and alienated some people, things I couldn’t take back and only served to deepen my depression. It wasn’t until I saw a fantastic psychologist that I realised I couldn’t cope with all of this myself and that’s perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learnt. As doctors we aren’t infallible even though we try to convince ourselves we are. I was at rock bottom but still I threw myself into my work thinking I could do it all and it was to my detriment- it’s so important to know your limits and take a break when you need it.
I’m still working towards coming to terms with what happened this year but I’m hoping with the help of my GP and my psychologist I can move forward and become the best doctor I can be. I work every day to convince myself I’m worth it and not everything that goes wrong is my fault. I’m not perfect, I slip up but I’m proud of the person I’m becoming.