I hadn’t ever planned on studying medicine. But when I met a sweet, charismatic boy who was moving away to study medicine, I wasn’t only sad to see him leave. I was jealous. I was jealous that he was fulfilling a dream which I had always held, even if I hadn’t ever acknowledged it. Between the budding romance and this newfound fantasy, I took a leap of faith, left my career and applied for the GAMSAT. I was full of love and optimism. Yet something wasn’t right. My boy had a secret. One night, while I was visiting him, he told me. It’s not my secret to tell, but it made me very, very uncomfortable. I didn’t want to hurt this person for whom I cared deeply, so I downplayed my emotions. I tried to help him to explore and accept his identity, but I was paying for his mental and emotional well-being with my own. Soon it started taking a physical toll as well, as I struggled with an emerging eating disorder. I felt that I was losing myself, and this was the only way to redeem a sense of my own self-worth. Somehow both his problems and my own became my fault, or so it felt to me.
In the midst of this tumultuous time, I received my offers for medicine, including a scholarship, which I turned down to be with him. To this day, that decision fills me with shame and regret. I went to see my GP to have my pre-enrolment vaccinations. I told her a little of what I was feeling, and I could see she was struggling not to interfere. I wish I could have seen what she saw then. I wish I could have seen how the tears and self-loathing were crushing me, even as I told myself that I was happy. My hair was falling out. My period was slowly stopping. I shut my eyes tightly to what was happening to me. Mere weeks before I was to join him, the farce crumbled, and I left him. Almost innocently, my friend said to me: “Now you can start eating again”. All at once I saw the absurdity of the situation.
I took the next year to rebuild my own identity, and to reapply to medicine. I’m thankful for this, at least. I found the courage to pursue a dream. I learned to listen to my own emotions. Medicine can be such a competitive environment, with no room for vulnerability or self-doubt. Understanding and caring for our own mental health is a strength we cannot afford not to nurture. I try to remember to make the effort to look at myself honestly, to check if I am really okay. I try to always have someone who I can talk to honestly, whom I can trust to tell me honestly when they see me struggling. We need to take care of each other.