I have always loved the idea of the New Year and becoming a new person. Cutting out alcohol, eating my five-a-day, running, starting a new health kick and a magical turn to happiness. Well that gnawing depression screwed with that plan. Like most people, I couldn’t suddenly drop the emotional baggage, shed my skin and become a new person at the turn of the year. I should have anticipated it but it still comes as a disappointment during the dark months of January each year. The Christmas break wasn’t an overly happy time for me. As it creeped towards the New Year, all I was reminded of was the time that had been taken from me. I had wasted a year of being ill. Nobody wants that.
I am doing well enough at the moment. I was discharged from services in my home town over Christmas and it’s now strange to think that I will be going it alone. The Med School has requested that I am under a Community Mental Health Team in the city I am studying in and if that doesn’t happen it will become a “fitness to practice” issue. I find this separate world bizarre. This world of medicine appreciates that it is a challenging environment and in an attempt to support those who are more vulnerable, it chooses to flex it’s muscles. It sees that I am well enough to study but still wants more; as if I haven’t been actively seeking better health over the course of the 6 years that I was under mental health services. I have found it amusing how the University have been so taken aback by the lack of miraculous recovery from last year. They seem completely unaware that some of my residual issues are coming up to 10 years old, they are independent individuals who if they were human would be soon moving on to secondary school!
Despite all of this I have achieved a lot, even since I last posted back in December. I have had my arms out in two Clinical Skills classes and dealt with the strange reactions from my peers. Most have been brilliant and have acknowledged them and not changed how they are towards me. But one student in particular surprised me with his lack of tact and immaturity. He volunteered to be a ‘patient’ and I was in the middle of a basic respiratory exam when a Doctor/ lecturer walked in. There was a group of around 10 students at this time all watching me and waiting for their turn to perform the exam. The lecturer commented that I should be bare below the elbows and so I apologised, pulled up my sleeves for the first time and turned to continue with the examination. I was met with wide-eyes, finger pointed and an exclamation of “Oh my word, what happened to your arms?”.
I surprised my self by how cool and collected I was. I looked at my arm and said “It isn’t a very exciting story, can I carry on examining you?”
Where the hell did this blasé girl with her shit together come from?! I stayed for the rest of the session and then went on with my business as if nothing had happened.
I am writing about this because it feels like such a monumental step for me to take. My classmates now know some of my history- it was literally all over my arms. The guy who had questioned me so publicly didn’t do so maliciously, it was his lack of awareness. It scared me that someone who didn’t pause, even for a second, to think of the consequences of his words is training to become a doctor. The words didn’t affect me, but they might have if they were towards a vulnerable patient. This is why things need to change, and hopefully I can help to show that illness and strength and are not mutually exclusive.
Now I am the girl with the scars because I do have scars, but they will not be the only thing that I hope to be remembered for.