2017. A Rather Confusing Year
At about this time last year, I wrote a review of how 2016 went. I thought I would do the same for this year.
Overall, I can’t decide how 2017 went. The only thing that I know for sure is that it was no where need as bad as 2016 was. For starters, there was no admission to a psychiatric ward. Nor was I as miserable as how I felt back in 2016. At least, that’s what I think. It is difficult to gauge what it means to be ‘miserable’ anymore. Perhaps it’s just a case of me being better at coping/accepting the feelings that I have now.
That’s not to say that I haven’t been feeling happy, of course. There have been many more instances in 2017 where I felt over the moon. A single one of those days where I felt happy was far greater than how on any day in the whole of 2016. Just typing this has made me remember just how bad and scary depression is.
January – March
2017 started with me feeling rather depressed. It was a horrible feeling. I was dreading going back to Medical School after the Christmas holidays. The last term had been my first since I was admit in a Psychiatric Unit, and so most of it was spent readjusting back to ‘normal’ life. Except things weren’t so normal. My paranoia at the time made me ever so suspicious of people.
Thankfully, I was feeling less and less like people were out to get me but I still didn’t trust anyone. I felt as though rumours about my mental state were still being thrown around. Whether this was actually true or not is something which I don’t know, and nor something which I particularly care about anymore. At the time, however, it led to me hiding from as many people as I could in lectures.
I would hide in the ‘overflow’ room from people. If there was no such room available, I would sit towards the back of the lecture theatre, away from everyone and ready to get up and leave if necessary. It was this huge paranoia, as well as continues visual and auditory hallucinations, that resulted in me being put on antipsychotics not too much later.
There was utter relief when the Easter holidays started.
April: Easter Holidays
Four weeks off for Easter. That was a huge amount. In fact, my next Easter Holiday doesn’t even exist. We have just two days off (i.e. just a long weekend). However, the Easter Holiday in 2017 was anything but a holiday.
The day we were due to get back, we were meant to have our exams. It was therefore just work, work and more work during the Easter holidays. Waking up early in the morning, saying ‘good morning’ to my family, getting a bite to eat and then just going to my desk and working until late at night. I cannot emphasis in words just how much revision there was to do. No matter how much I worked, how little sleep I had, I still felt extremely behind.
I was beginning to get slightly stressed out with all the work. This, however, pleased me which may sound strange. Note the word – stressed. I was not feeling anxious or depressed at all. Well, I was, but to only a very minor level. The work was proving to be a good distraction from depressed feelings. It wasn’t such a nice distraction, mind you – it was bloody frustrating.
But I’d take it over the alternative any day.
May – June
The summer is when things started getting a bit smoother. In fact, this was probably the best summer that I have had for a long, long time.
Let’s start off by talking about the exams. I didn’t feel the exams went particularly well at the time I did them. In fact, I developed a horrible migraine during my first exam and so most of that exam was spent with me feeling very shaky, nauseous and in severe pain. I therefore left the exam hall feeling rather inadequate – and for a while, this is what persisted.
The rest of the summer term was great, however. The Cricket Champions Trophy was happening in the UK too and I went travelling up and down the country to go and watch the matches live at the ground. It was great fun seeing some of my favourite cricket players in real life, and seeing just how good they actually were (TV can only show so much). It was made even sweeter by the fact that my team – Pakistan – ended up winning cup against all odds.
It’s funny how much sports has an impact on me. For the first time in a long time, I felt absolutely elated. Depression seemed to have been kicked out. I was not experiencing any more psychotic symptoms either as a result.
July – September
This was the summer holiday. My fears that I didn’t do well on my exams turned out to be unfounded. The Tweet below explains what eventually happened:
— DepressedMedStudent (@usycool1) 7 July 2017
That was genuinely the icing on the cake for me. I had by this time, almost forgotten what it meant to be depressed. Well, I don’t think I can ever forget just how frustrating and alone that felt, but you get the idea.
The rest of the summer holiday was spent with me playing cricket with a lot of my friends. This too was extremely good for me, and helped improve my mood further.
October – Early November
Year 3 started in October. In comparison to when Year 2 started exactly a year before, I was actually now quite excited to go back to Medical School. I was going to be starting clinical Medicine – that is, actually working in hospitals. I was going to be finally doing the stuff which I had signed up to do before I started Medical School. It was finally going to happen after two years.
And indeed, this is exactly what happened in my first few weeks on the ward. Initially, it was a very odd feeling being on the hospital. It was difficult to feel at ‘home’ when roaming round the place, and feeling as though we weren’t wanted most of the time. That had it’s own fun to it, however. We were on the wards with very little responsibility, and just there to learn. It’s a unique time to be in the hospitals. I left most days feeling rather satisfied with what had happened.
Slowly, however, that feeling of satisfaction began to diminish. More and more, I was finally beginning to appreciate that we actually were seen as though we weren’t wanted there. This didn’t affect me that much initially, but it did make me feel rather useless from time to time. Perhaps this is what contributed to my self-esteem falling.
It wasn’t a nice feeling, and seemed to become a vicious cycle. My falling self-esteem reminded me of how my self-esteem began to fall during my first year of Medical School. This is when the anxiety reared its head again. Was I going to go down that path once again?
Mid November – December
Slowly but surely, I found myself becoming more and more down about things once again. My appetite was beginning to go once again, and my sleep was once again becoming disturbed. It wasn’t only after coming back from hospital where I would feel rather empty. It was now after any outing. There were small specks of hope, however – a mock OSCE which turned out to be much better than I expected, for example.
I was cruelly reminded of how difficult it was to be happy during periods of depression. These small specks of hope were good at masking the constant pain for a bit, but nothing much more beyond that. Speaking to my amazing CPN about these feelings prompted him to refer me on to see the psychiatrist once again, who put me back on antidepressants.
So, in essence, I am now back where I started. Not completely, mind you. This time around, I have managed to seek help early for what seems to be a downhill path. This wasn’t something that was available to me back in first year. It is this fact which I am holding on to, in order to tell myself that it won’t become that bad again.
Let’s hope that that is indeed the case, and that 2018 turns out to be a very successful year.