I am loving being back at medical school but it has been hard. The work load has been intense and still the best. I am enjoying putting my brain back in gear and challenging myself again. I have presented a scientific poster, sat my exam and completed my first PBL write-up/ essay. I have achieved so much more than I could have imagined and it is scary to look back and see how different last year was; but there is still a part of me that is stuck in time. That part of me is dragging me into self-destruction every time I drink and it is becoming larger now that Christmas is looming. I hate it.
I feel so different and detached from everyone when that part of me is present. It tells me that I am not good enough and that I am a fraud. I know that ‘imposter syndrome’ is common amongst the population, particularly in med-students, but it does have a way of making you feel so alone. That separate part of me also associates itself with my times of ill-health, and when I have been at my lowest ebb. It is bizarre as when I am like that, my whole reality switches. I’m not sure how to cling on to the reality that most people live in where I am a successful woman at medical school who has a lot to live for. Some people would say that what I am describing is depression; I guess that they may be right.
And yet I don’t find labels useful. Most people want to feel as if they are complex and that there is more to them; I know that I do. I am aware that we are living in a mild-delusion pretending that there is more to us when we are fundamentally simpler than we choose to see. That’s why I reject labels, because I like to think that there is more to me than depression, anxiety, bulimia and whatever else is running through my head. I want to think that there is some abstract cause for this rather than mental illness because mental illness is ugly and there is no prancing around that.
It has only been in the last few weeks (actually more like days) that I have accepted that I am bulimic. In truth, I have probably hit the criteria for bulimia for about 9 years. It is a lot of time wasted. I have not had a diagnosis of bulimia because I have denied it to healthcare professionals and they haven’t seen it because I’m not underweight or physically suffering.
To deal with this, I have created this persona around university where I am who I know that I’ve always wanted to be; confident, clever and sociable. That persona has split from the one who I have to spend time with when I am alone in my room or in the library, the one with one that is scared. I dread the two of them joining, when my classmates see who I am from the scars on my arms, the bruised knuckles and bloodshot eyes. It will have to happen at some point.
Something did make me chuckle the other day though. The PBL group that I am in started talking on the topic of psychiatry and inpatient psychiatric units. One person in particular mentioned how it would be scary and violent and that they wouldn’t want to work in that environment. I think that they genuinely believed that people who were mentally-ill were violent. I knew some people still had that view, but was shocked that they would so blatantly air it in front of others. They then went on to talk about suicidal people and how they could not relate and wouldn’t know how to talk to them. It made me realise the vastly different experiences that I have lived and made me value the bizarrely-acquired skill set from my own ill-health. It made me feel as if I was some sort of undercover agent.
I do want to make something great from my past and yet I know that I still haven’t fully dealt with it. It was only the other night, when I had a few beers and this anger that I haven’t felt in so long just emerged from somewhere inside me. It was furious and mad. It wrapped around my chest until I exploded into a scream and threw some punches at wall. It terrified me. There is something still not right and alcohol somehow brings everything up. The easy answer would be to avoid drinking (which I am still trying to do) but I want to address this pile of shit that occasionally bursts over. Even writing about it is making my hands shake.
I am trying my best to deal with it. I tried signing myself up for CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) at the Advice and Counselling Service at my uni. I to an initial appointment and it went something like this: “I don’t believe that we can achieve anything meaningful within the four to five sessions that we would be able to offer you. I don’t think that we are the right service for you”. Well that was me told. Too fucked up for them and too well-functioning to get anything on the NHS.
I am thinking about investing some of my savings into seeing someone privately. I want to find the right person though and I am not sure where to start. The big, wide world is scary at the best of times but it is even worse when you feel as if you are wearing your heart on your sleeve. Asking for help is a hell of a lot harder than I thought.
I am sorry for the long post and the lack of posts recently. I want to make it clear that I am so grateful for this second chance at uni, this amazing opportunity that so few people have access to. This is why I am desperate to make the most of it and not fuck it up again. One of these days I’ll write when things are going brilliantly so you won’t have to read a whiney post but for now it is the same old me…..