Monday, 24 April 2017

MH Monday: How I got through medical school with depression

As you may know, I am coming towards the end of my time at medical school, and it has left me reflecting on the past 5 years. In particular, my mental health and how I got through a medical degree whilst suffering with depression.

I'm not going to lie to you, it has been so hard at times - to the point where I have thought about giving up a couple of times, especially earlier on in my degree. But I'm living proof that you can get through it, and I'm actually glad that my degree has been 5 years because I have had time to enjoy it. If it had only have been 3, I would have spent the majority of that feeling quite low and lonely.

Here are some of the things that helped me to get through medical school whilst suffering with a mental health condition:

1) Opening up to my medical school
One of the things that I was really scared about was being thrown out of medical school because I had a mental illness - I thought I would have been seen as unfit to practice. I actually ended up asking my GP for advice on it, and he told me that they couldn't take me off my course due to my mental health, as that would be seen as discrimination. A few days after my overdose, I knew that I needed to open up to someone at my medical school in case I needed time off or support. I spoke to one of the staff from the student support pastoral team, and she was so lovely and helpful. She actually told me that it was much more professional of me to admit to having a problem and needing help than to have kept it hidden, and that mental health problems rarely cause issues with fitness to practice.

After opening up to my medical school, they provided with me with lots of support. If I needed any time off, I only needed to email to ask for it and they would sign me off the same as if I had a physical illness. I had meetings with a member of staff every month or so, and I also had their phone number that I could call if I had any problems. Just knowing that someone was looking out for me was very helpful and helped me see that I was not alone. They also referred me to a counsellor at the university, who was one of the biggest factors into me overcoming my depression.

2) Taking time off when I need it
I wrote a post a couple of years ago about taking mental health sick days, and I still think that they are very important now. On the days that I couldn't stop crying or thinking very negative thoughts, the last thing I needed was to go into placement and come into contact with a patient case that could have triggered me even further. The more sensible option was to stay at home in bed and do the things that I needed to do to make myself feel better: sleep, watch TV, speak to my mum and read a book to take my mind off things. I simply emailed in to hospital and explained that I was feeling depressed, and then filled in an absence form - and the undergraduate staff on placement were very understanding because they were made aware of my situation from the medical school too. Even now, although I wouldn't say I'm depressed, if I have a day where I'm feeling down and haven't slept well so I'm a bit emotional, I will take it off to attend to my needs.

3) Seeking the medical help that I needed
Admitting that I had a problem and that I needed medical help was one of the best things I could have done for my mental health, and also one of the most professional things in the eyes of the medical school. I started taking an antidepressant and also saw a counsellor weekly, and these were two major factors in my recovery. My antidepressant took the edge off things, and allowed me to concentrate on my work better and get out of bed in the mornings for placement. My counsellor helped me to change my way of thinking and made my thoughts become more rational.

4) Realising that I wasn't alone
When I started writing my blog, I had so many other medical students messaging me and telling me about their own experiences with depression or other mental illnesses. This really helped me realise that I wasn't alone in what I was experiencing, and I also hope it helped them too. It made me feel like I was helping people and had a purpose, and concentrating on my blog took my mind away from more destructive thoughts.

5) Relaxing and having fun
One of the most important things for me was not working all of the time. I remember when I was in my 2nd year at medical school that one of the junior doctors said, "there's plenty of time for holidays and fun in medical school. Don't waste it." At that point, I was working all hours of the day and night to get my work done, so I thought she was crazy. However when I went into my 3rd year, my work-life balance was so much better, and I started to take more evenings and weekends off to do things that I enjoyed. In my 1st and 2nd years, I tried to learn everything. When I reached my 3rd year, I realised that this wasn't possible, so I learnt as much as I could of the most important things that I knew would come up in our exams and be relevant on placement - the rest you learn as you go along, or don't particularly need to know.

Even when I was working towards my finals last year, I wouldn't work past a certain time in the evening, and I would always make time for the things that I enjoyed (even if it was just catching up on TV series!). There is a lot to learn in medical school, but if you manage your time well you can also have a lot of fun - that's one of the things that took me the longest to learn, but also something that really helped with my mental health.
Self-love: It costs nothing and you gain everything.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Yellow gingham crop top

Bardot Yellow Gingham Crop Top - Zara
Jeans - New Look
Daisy Choker - Zara

I thought I'd show you another one of my outfits from Barmouth today, as I don't have much other news. I really loved this outfit - the top actually reminds me of primary school dresses because it's yellow and gingham, and it looks really summery paired with the daisy choker necklace from Zara. I'm looking forward to wearing it with denim shorts when I'm on holiday, or in England when the weather warms up a bit more!

Today was just spent watching Netflix and packing to drive back up to Liverpool, to start placement again tomorrow. I only have 5 weeks left of medical school now. 5 weeks!!! I can't believe how fast the last 5 years have gone, and I'm so excited for what is ahead. I'm really looking forward to moving into a flat (yes, I will be doing a flat tour!) and start the job that I have been training for for years at medical school. It really hasn't quite sunk in how quickly it has all come round yet!

Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Sailors' institute

Top - Motel
Culottes - New Look
Trainers - Primark

These photos were hastily taken on my sister's iPhone in Barmouth outside the old Sailors' Institute, whilst trying to dodge the many dogs and walkers that were on the pavement. This is an outfit that I wore for a walk with the dogs on a fairly sunny day - I also added my oversized denim jacket when the sun went behind the clouds and it got a bit cooler.

I bought this top a few weeks ago and I love it - I think it's really different with the lucky cat print and the writing down the sleeve. I also don't own many long sleeved tops, so this one seemed like a good one to add to my wardrobe. I wore it with my trusty comfy culottes and some old platform Primark trainers.

It's my last day of my week off for Easter tomorrow, so I'm going to spend it chilling out whilst eating chocolate (basically the same thing as I've done all week...).

I hope you're having a lovely weekend!
Do it for you and not them.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

TGI Fridays Telford

TGI Fridays, Southwater Square, Southwater Way, Telford, TF3 4JG

This evening my sister and I met my friend Roxy at the Southwater development in Telford town centre for dinner, and we decided to try out the recently-opened TGI Fridays. I have never been to a TGI Fridays before, so all I knew was that it served American-style food and looked cool from the outside. As this is the first week that TGI Fridays is open in Telford, it was really busy inside and we had to wait for an hour and a quarter before we were seated. This was a bit annoying because there were lots of tables free, but apparently they didn't want to 'overload the kitchen'. Personally, I would have preferred to be seated and have to wait longer for my food, rather than wait at the bar until our table was ready.

The cocktail menu was really cool and fairly inexpensive. I decided to try a cucumber mocktail, which was really delicious and refreshing. When we were finally seated at our table, we had the chance to look through the extensive food menu. There were so many choices and they all looked so good! It's definitely the kind of place that you need to go to a few times to try all of the different options.

TGI Fridays have set menus from Monday-Friday, the cheapest starting at £9.99 for two courses, and the most expensive at £15.99 for two courses. I decided to go for the £15.99 menu, and my starter was the Jack Daniel's Sesame Chicken Strips - essentially breaded chicken coated in sesame seeds and served with a Jack Daniel's dip. They were delicious - Roxy actually had these as her main course, and I was quite jealous because they were such a good starter.

For my main I had the veggie fajitas. I was served some roasted vegetables with four wraps and three dips. They did taste really nice, but are not my favourite fajitas I've ever had, and I don't think I'd go for them again. I'd love to try the jambalaya or a burger next time I visit.

The decor inside is really cool and has lots of American paraphernalia - I love the drum lights in the photo below!

Overall, I really enjoyed my meal at TGI Fridays and would definitely visit again. I think once they have got past their teething issues, such as not filling all of the tables and not yet being able to book, it will be a great restaurant with loads of menu options and some great cocktails.
All we have is now.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

A weekend walk in Barmouth

After 5 days away in Wales, we got back from Barmouth this afternoon after a 2 hour drive home. I thought I would share with you some photos of our first day, when we went for a walk with the dogs. I forget how lovely Wales can be, and how lucky we are to have it right on our doorstep - it can be just as good as going abroad when the sun is shining. Barmouth is a town in north-western Wales, situated on the estuary of the River Mawddach.

So on the first day we decided to do a long-ish walk with the dogs to tire them out a bit. We walked down the harbour in Barmouth and climbed aboard a boat to cross the estuary towards Fairbourne (which only cost us £2 each). Sailing on a tiny wooden boat with the dogs was a bit of an ordeal - Labradors love swimming, so we had to keep them on short leads to make sure that they didn't jump out!

On the other side of the estuary, the views over to Barmouth were lovely.

We walked along the beach for a bit, letting the dogs splash in the water, before coming out onto a field, which still had amazing views over to Barmouth.

We eventually reached the Barmouth bridge and crossed all 0.5 miles of it, so we basically came round in a circle.

All that walking meant that it was time for an ice-cream at Knickerbockers! This is one of the best places for ice-cream ever, and definitely a must-visit if you ever go to Barmouth.

The only way I can get a decent photo of the dogs is when they're distracted by food...

I very much enjoyed having some time away with the family, but it's also nice to be back in my own bed with WiFi so that I can continue to watch 13 Reasons Why!
Go wherever you feel most alive.