During my undergrad I ended up contracting Whooping Cough. I had all my vaccinations, it’s just that I was coming up to needing a booster shot and therefore vulnerable. I also had a really heavy course load that year and needed to maintain high grades to keep a scholarship. So with Whooping Cough keeping me in isolation and the stress of studying, my life seemed like it was going to pieces. I needed help and support but even after I finished my antibiotics and was no longer contagious, the knowledge that I had had a communicable disease kept people at bay. This really affected how I felt about myself and how I interacted with people. Instead of being my usual outgoing self, I would get panic attacks and I had a hard time trusting people.
It wasn’t until a couple of years after I had Whooping Cough, and living in a different city, that I decided to talk to a therapist. I am very thankful for my mum who was always supportive throughout and was the one to set me up with a therapist. Through therapy I was able to work through a lot of the emotions that I was still holding on to years after the initial event of contracting Whooping Cough.
I still have Generalised Anxiety Disorder and get panic attacks every so often, as well as Dermatillomania which gets worse when I’m stressed or worried, but I now know how to manage them. For GAD I take medication and for Dermatillomania I have a plethora of fidget toys but the most important way I manage is by “checking in”. I do this with my therapist, parents and friends. It doesn’t matter if I’m having a good day or a bad day, it’s important talk to someone how you are feeling and what is going on in your life that is making you feel that way. Having a good work/life balance is also important. Doing activities that I love outside of medicine has helped to ground me as well as introducing me to some amazing people and close friends.
Though having Whooping Cough was a terrible time in my life, ultimately it has taught me that grades aren’t everything, find a therapist or a supportive group of friends you trust and check in with them, and most importantly have a good work/life balance (even if that means you have to study on the beach). Thank you AMSA for doing this since even now, I sometimes still think I’m the only med student or future doctor who has panic attacks, but it is encouraging to see people open up so you know you’re not alone.