Two Terms Completed – The Return to Medical Student from Psychiatric Patient
The second term of medical school was drawing to a close and I was feeling rubbish. Utterly rubbish. From being stressed out due to upcoming exams to grieving over a bereavement, it wasn’t hard to work out why I wasn’t feeling great. It didn’t quite, in my eyes, account for feeling utterly rubbish, however. Little did I know at the time that in just a few weeks time, I would be properly diagnosed with depression, would end up psychotic as a result and would end up becoming a psychiatric patient.
That was all last year.
Second term is now once again coming to an end, except it is the second term of my second year at medical school. Whilst I am still not out of the woods, I am getting there. And this time, I feel closer than ever to finally escaping from this dark hole. Much closer than last time.
Beginning to feel a sense of belonging once again
When I did come back to medical school to start second year back in October of last year, I was terrified. It was the first time I would be back at medical school properly since being a psychiatric patient. I therefore very much felt as though I didn’t belong. I was unsure of my ability to continue as a medical student, and so I felt almost guilty. Guilty in that I was in a place where I felt I had no right to be.
Now, however, that second term has ended, this doubt about being a medical student has almost evaporated completely. I am on top of lectures, did decently in a clinical communications exam and generally feel less sad than I did a few months ago. Many of my peers who I’ve spoken to have remarked: “You look much better!” and I cannot emphasise how much of a confidence boost that is for me.
For the first time in a long time, I finally feel as though I am a medical student again. I almost feel back at home.
Feeling…happy after a long time?
“You said you’re not that sad anymore,” the head of my medical school asked me when I was in a meeting with him. “But do you feel happy?”
“No,” was my reply.
But that was last term.
Sadly, I cannot claim that the answer has changed that much since the day he posed that question. Whilst I no longer feel as sad or down as I once did, I am still not really at the stage where I feel happy. I still don’t enjoy things as much as I used to, but it is coming back slowly. I remember, for example, walking home from medical school one day this term and just feeling so…free.
I can’t describe it. It just felt good to have the sun out, be walking without sadness and just feeling as though I was untangled from a tight and suffocating web. I would almost describe it as happiness. It didn’t last for too long, but I still consider it to be progress.
It is these small things like being happy that we must all cherish – we only realise how great they truly are when we lose them.
Mental Health Team Referral
A good thing that happened this term was that I was finally referred to the mental health team that would be looking after me. It took a good 8 months or so since I was discharged from psychiatric unit, but it has happened nonetheless. I don’t blame the professionals in any way for this – they have been fantastic. It has been clear how overwhelmed they are, however, and so the faults lie in the system.
The new mental health team who I have been with have been brilliant. I have a fantastic CPN, a brilliant psychologist and an equally outstanding new psychiatrist. In many ways, the referral has made things much easier for me in terms of recovery. I do wonder, however, how much quicker my recovery could have been had the referral gone through straight away on my discharge. But there’s no point in playing these ‘what if’ games.
The only downside of this is that my new mental health outpatients unit is based at a hospital where I have a fair chunk of my teaching. This means that fellow medical students often see me waiting in the outpatients unit, and undoubtedly they’ve worked out things. I am pleased to say, however, that these medical students have acted extremely professionally in the matter.
This is something else that I feel has improved a fair bit. I am now on an antipsychotic, but this is not because my psychosis has got any worse. Rather, it is more because of the delay in my referral – the antipsychotic should have been prescribed a while ago. I am hardly every hearing voices anymore, however. I’ve not had any visual hallucinations for a long time. The only thing that remains is a small amount of suspicion and paranoia.
Last year, for example, I really enjoyed going out on walks. Now, my paranoia sometimes is so great that I am afraid to leave the house at all. It’s a vicious cycle – I stay at home, get bored, think more, get more suspicious, feel more anxious, get more paranoid and so on. However, this is also rarer compared to first term.
I’m not often proud of myself, but I genuinely am at the moment. Proud that I have been able to get through two terms of medical school, showing myself that I can still go on and become a doctor. Let’s hope that this continues. Who knows, maybe the end of third term will be me saying I’m finally out of the woods?