You will never be successful if you have a mental illness

By Molly Maxwell

‘You will never be successful if you have a mental illness’. 

This was a lie that I had unknowingly been telling myself for the 5 years.

After a significant battle with mental illness in year 12, the trajectory of my life felt like it had changed forever, and I felt like I had made it out of school by the skin of my teeth. So I started on my daunting journey of leaving my depressive episode behind. In the years following, I was able to recover and put my past behind me. I felt well enough to pursue a science degree in the hopes that I could maybe…possibly… probably not, but maybe… get into medical school one day. I worked hard to relearn how to function and focus and learn and in December of 2019 my dream was realised when my frantic refreshing of the application portal yielded a successful result.

I immediately started bawling my eyes out, not because I was happy or relieved but because in that moment I had finally proved to everyone around me and myself that I was not a failure and that I was normal and that I was no longer the sad teenager who would never amount to anything.

But BOY  could I not have been more wrong. It took the first year of medical school and the wondrous quandaries that a global pandemic presents to show me that this was not at all the case.

Throughout the last 5 years, I put so much pressure on myself to remove my identity from that of the depressed teenager that I failed to let myself actually address the mental challenges that I continued to face. Looking back now, the obviousness of how my mental illness affected me is almost comedic, but my desire to be normal and my “high-functioning” outer shell prevented others and myself from noticing just how much I was struggling. In early lockdown, I began to spend hours each day ruminating on anxious thoughts that consumed me and once again took away my ability to focus, and learn, and care about almost anything; thoughts that couldn’t be brushed off as uni stress or friendship issues anymore.

Over the years, issues like this had occasionally seeped out. Times of high stress and traumatic events would cause my brain to overflow where I felt like I desperately needed help, but every time I could never follow through. This was all because subconsciously, I had believed that if I couldn’t get into medicine without help, I didn’t deserve to be there at all.

As I sat in isolation, I realised that not only was my mental illness becoming all-consuming but my inability to treat the problems that I was having for fear of never making it as a doctor may actually make me unwell enough to fail medical school and ironically, not become a doctor. So finally, I got help. I relinquished my internalised stigma towards mental health and medication and for the first time in my living memory I finally experienced not having every thought and action derived from some part of my illness. It was not easy but it was worth it and my only regret was that I hadn’t done it sooner.

I write this in the hopes that someone, maybe you, will read this and take this as a sign that you do DESERVE help. That help will not make you less successful or whole or talented or any number of the wonderful things that you likely are. Treat yourself how you would treat the ones you love the most and together we can begin to change the stigma of mental health in medicine.

Phone counselling service @ Monash

Call 1300 788 336 [1300 STUDENT]

Telephone counselling open 24 hours.

  • From Malaysia: 1800 818 356 (toll free)
  • From Italy: 800 791 847 (toll free)
  • From elsewhere: Students +61 2 8295 2917 | Staff +61 2 8295 2292

More information can be found here.

Or contact MUMUS Community and Wellbeing

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