The Adventures of Pen

By Rav Gaddam

There are many things that bind the medical student community together; our love of stealing food, the ability to still be bamboozled by an ECG, and of course, our innate skill to lose pens at a rate that Ebola has got nothing on.

But have you ever truly wondered what happens to a pen? Where does it go? What adventures does it have? Ever wonder about the people and things it sees?

Well, if you’re reading this article, you can guess that I have.

My pen’s journey began last year, when I lent it to my consultant who snapped their fingers at me and gestured to my pen as they were on the phone. “Do you also have some paper?” I was also asked, while begrudgingly handing over my favourite black pen.

I was unfortunately called away by a registrar, lured away with the promise of being able to cannulate the next patient. As you can expect, I never did get that pen back, and I assumed it had been lost in the depths of the pen blackhole that is a hospital.

At the same time though, I also imagined that my pen saw many exciting things in its life. It would likely have been used to draw up a drug chart to save a patient from a DVT, or sign path forms for a renal patient on dialysis. It could have been used to write down obs on a glove in ED, or provided comfort to that paeds patient who had left their mark on the hospital (likely on the walls, possibly on the bed covers). It could have also vacationed in world of hospital administration, and heard all the juicy gossip about the number of beds that were not available that week. Who knows what the pen could have done; the possibilities are endless!

Well, in some exciting, awe-striking news, I found the pen.

Nearly a year later, as I rocked up to the first day of my new rotation, I found “pen”, as I affectionately now call it, sitting innocuously in a surgical theatre. “It couldn’t be,” I thought to myself. “After all this time?”

Now, I can imagine some of you scoffing at this story, and some perhaps even accusing me of stealing a pen that perhaps did not even belong to me anymore, for it now belonged to the hospital. Pish-posh, I say. This event was a reunion that would have put The Notebook to shame, and made you weep like the time Mufasa died (it’s been 24 years, and I still cry. Every. Single. Time.)

It would have been a reunion story for the ages, a tale so splendid that David Attenborough would have wanted to make a documentary about it.

That is until the consultant snapped their fingers, and off my pen went on an adventure again.


Featured image from user FP Network on The Fountain Pen Network

Dating Medicine

By Ning Yih Kam

My relationship with Medicine has been a tumultuous one. It is very much like I’m dating medicine…

My love for Medicine started with an infatuation – a crush, as some might say. I was attracted to the prospects Medicine offered me. ‘He’ appeared reliable, strong, caring and sometimes even mesmerising. But that is all I know about Medicine. I was attracted to the security he provided me with, the respect everyone seemed to have for him, and his seemingly endless intellect. But that’s not why Medicine was attracted to me. He seemed to respect my diligence, my willingness to make sacrifices for the things I wanted. He appreciated the fact that I could hold my own against him.

Then Medicine asked me out. I vividly remember the day he did so – it was nearly 3 years ago now. Even the fact that he bothered to ask me out seemed like such an honour – people were practically throwing themselves at him – and here I was, a plain Jane, that Medicine asked out. I was elated to say the least. On our first date, he woke me up at 8am in the morning, with a call – telling me not to worry, the first few months of a relationship he said, were always the best – the Honeymoon period, or so he called it. And he was right, Medicine for those months, never ceased to be charming, provocative and ultimately seductive. He could’ve seduced those who were at first, totally uninterested in him, and put off by his demanding attitude. I did not just want to be with him, I wanted to be him.

And then we celebrated our first anniversary. The first of many, I would’ve hoped. He gave me a utilitarian, digital watch and says, ‘I don’t want you to miss any of our appointments – they’re all important’. I was so pleased at the gift – I hadn’t expected any, but at the same time, I was profoundly confused – surely, we will have some time outside of each other?

It was by third year that the cracks in our relationship started to appear. At first, the thought of spending all my time with him had made me so happy, but all of a sudden, as I watched my friends enjoy their social lives, I realised how restrictive our relationship had become. And that wasn’t all. There were stories. People who had dated him before told me to beware of the initial allure, of his initial charms. ‘He doesn’t work out for everyone, you know’, said a friend.

Third year, the relationship had become a chore. He wanted more and more. He was insatiable. My time, my intellect, my life: everything was not enough for him. Nothing was ever enough. Maybe our shabby foundation had started to rattle us. We decided, or rather, I decided, that I needed time away from him – time to do what I loved to do, without him intruding. I just didn’t feel like me anymore – I felt like my life was overrun with assignments, OSCEs, hospital placements and more.

During our time away from each other, I realised how shallow my reasons were for dating Medicine. What had attracted me to Medicine? Was it the unattainability? Was it the glamour? Was it the constant challenge? Was it the allure of making a difference? Perhaps it had been the strange amalgamation of all of the above.

As I contemplated my return to Medicine, I knew I would have to confront all I had learnt in the past 3 years. The reasons that had drawn me to Medicine initially, now appeared feeble – or even slightly repulsive. A return to Medicine would require stronger foundations. I needed to be able to justify the long hours, the years of less than desirable working conditions, the intellectual rigour and the physical exhaustion.

At the end of my deliberation, I decided to return to Medicine. In my cynical moments, I thought I was returning to him because I had nowhere to go. In my moments of positivity, I felt I was returning because of a faith that things would work out between us. But ultimately, the appeal of either of these extremes never lasted. I didn’t want to return to Medicine cynical or hopeful. What I did want to do however, was to return to Medicine not in a way that consumed me; but in a way that allowed me to retain who I was.

This is why we couldn’t date anymore. I look at Medicine now, as an equal. I’m not exhilarated by his presence, and I am no longer ignorant to his flaws. I want Medicine to be part of my life, not my whole life.


Featured image from Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

 

urological surgery: an interpretation

By Georgia Carter

you are in a submarine. you are looking through a periscope. all around you is blackness, the crushing shade of water when the sun is a distant rumour. you hang, suspended motionless in the current that stirs up flecks and clouds of matter. below you, thrown into relief by your tiny circle of light, stretches a fleshy coral reef. outcroppings, patterned with crazy brain-like shadings, shadow near-invisible holes, and malignant little jellyfish try to pattern themselves after the pinkish floor they cling to.

with your curved little instrument you dig away at the reef. satisfying lumps of material slide easily off the whole. what is left turns pale and fluffy at the intrusion, its stuffing almost frothing out like a slit couch. beeps and sizzlings accompany your work.

you turn your attention to the floor, scraping delicately at the jellyfish. silky red flags unfurl from their hiding places and spiral smoothly into the dark. your instrument begins to roughen, blacken, and the smoky smell of a barbecue left unattended rises incongruously around you.

a jellyfish clings to your cauteriser, suddenly squid-like, red and white like a sunburnt beachgoer. you manage to scrape it off against the floor, and it too whooshes away with the current


Feature image from National Geographic

“Have You Tried Being Happy?”

By Adya Choudhary

“At the root of this dilemma is the way we view mental health in this country. Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there should be no distinction.– Michelle Obama

I came across this quote the other day as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed. It’s an interesting idea, to liken a mental illness to a physical one. Depression and anxiety seem far removed from a broken arm or leg –  but, at their core, are they really that different? Continue reading

Depression: a pop-up joke by my brain.

By Rav Gaddam

As I write this, I am sitting in class, questioning how I got here. Not medicine, or life, or anything as deep and meaningful as that, but more how did I get to this class, all the while feeling sad and teary?

As Maria von Trapp once said in a brilliant movie, “Let’s start at the very beginning, A very good place to start.”

This morning, I woke up before my alarm, and I did what I do every morning; I start my day telling myself that “Powerful people get back up every day”, then dragging my hideous PJ clad-self into the shower to begin the routine; a ninja wash, waging and winning a war against my hair, breakfast sculling and then off to placement.

Here, things diverged from the routine.

Normally, I would pretend to be 100% interested in my placement, soaking up things like the knowledge sponge I am, all the while secretly day dreaming about lunch. Once in a blue moon, an intern or a consultant will interact with me and ask me a question (which I usually improvise an answer to), and slowly but surely, lunchtime appears.

But today? Not so much.

Today, I got to the placement, joined the handover, and then, I had a funny feeling. It’s the feeling that you sometimes get when you know your housemates are up to some mischief (like perhaps sticking your flamingo candles to the roof). Call it intuition, call it a warning shot, whatever floats your sailboat. Turns out, I was right to be on guard, cause today, my brain decided to play a fun little prank on me.

What was that joke, you ask? Well, I went from being Pooh Bear to Eeyore in under 5 minutes.

I’m going to be honest with you; if I were to have a hidden OSCE talent, this would be it. If there was a station to see how fast you could go from being relatively functional to crying on the floor about how you didn’t wear matching socks today, I would blow the examiner away. I would be the percentile that was above the percentile, an ATAR score of 100, if you will.

So today, at placement, I went to the bathroom and cried.

What triggered me? Who knows, I probably never will. But for some reason, my brain just decided that that today is the day for a cry. I like to imagine that perhaps there are little people in my head going “TODAY, SAD RAV WILL BE ACTIVATED.” Yes, I know I do med, but I still have an overactive imagination, so the people in my head will continue to be there to make the decisions that I make.

I digress from my point though.

Depression is a funny thing; a little bit HAHA funny, but a little bit frustrating funny too. Your doctor tells you to remove your triggers, your therapist tells you to challenge your thinking, your mum tells you that you are powerful, you can dust yourself off and rebuild again. Despite all that great advice though, sometimes you just don’t know when it might hit, or what you might be doing (fun fact, I once broke down while eating a HSP, and I don’t know if you have ever seen a person ugly cry while also shovelling food, but trust me, ain’t a good look).

What does it feel like, I hear you ask?

Well, imagine watching a really sad movie (not sad because they are terrible like Twilight, more sadder like Marley and Me), and take the part of the movie you cried in, and put it on replay. That feeling of sadness, despair and a little hint of hopelessness, all combined with irritability, anger and tears, that’s what depression feels like for me. It usually just tracks along most days in the background like all the advertisements on the interwebs, but every once in a while, it pops up despite your ad-block, so you just have to emergency quit Safari and hope that you didn’t lose anything important in the tabs you just also accidentally closed. Somehow, while all of this is happening, you’re also expected to trundle along and keep smiling/being derpy and continue to be a medical knowledge sponge.

So where to from here?

Well, I do need to get through this class, despite my mind telling me that this is not worth it. Then, home would be a good start. A hot shower, a call to the therapist, perhaps a visit to Officeworks or Aldi. I am fortunate/unfortunate enough to know what to do when I get in one of my spirally low moods, but not everyone might be at this point yet. Figure out what helps you from spiralling downwards and deploy it as necessary. Ask for help, and if anyone even mildly gives you any shame about that, either:

  1. Cut them out of your life
  2. Ask them why they are doing it, and get them to challenge their thinking
  3. Walk away like the BAWSE you are and let the haters do their own thing

Most importantly though, be kind to yourself. Love yourself, even if your brain decides to throw a tantrum and ruin your productive plans and be accepting that some days/weeks/months can be an absolute shit-show. Even if you are completely “normal”, you are bound to have a bad day, but if you’re somewhere along a mental health issue journey (like me), know that you might have more hurdles than most, so be accepting of that, get your warrior mode on and be that powerful person and try to get back up every day.

Forgive yourself for having the bad day. It’s ok, and know you will always have people to help you get back up again.

Oh, and just to bring this to a full circle, how did I get to class? I drove myself. (HAHA funny joke, I know, I am now set to do stand-up as my back up career.)


 

Medical Student Gets Lucky; Consultant Buys Team Coffee On Student’s First Ward Round In Five Weeks

By Christopher Nguyen

In a feel-good news story for your Monday evening, The Auricle has received word about some miraculous happenings at Monash Medical Centre.

Third year medical student Jean Allen, attending her first ward round of the rotation, has managed to swoop on her rotation group’s hard work and take advantage of a free cup of increasingly transient and ineffective liquid Ritalin: a good old-fashioned coffee.

“This is the first ward round I’ve attended in this rotation and it just happens to be the one where the consultant’s finally warmed up to the medical students enough to shout them a soy cap. I reckon I’m off to buy a lottery ticket today.”

Her less truant counterpart, ward partner Michael Jamieson, scowled in the corner with his long black, ruing the early starts and daily four-hour sessions spent roaming around the hospital trying not to get in the way of important routine procedures on the ward rounds each morning.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t annoyed. I’ve tried every trick in the book; getting here earlier than the registrar, chanting my full name three times whenever someone’s asked for the medical student, even scrambling for my stash of fifteen pens that I’ve slowly been giving away in the hope that the consultant realises they’ve been taking my pens before taking pity on me and shouting me that elusive coffee. I’ve even declined going to the outpatients’ clinic to subject myself to an afternoon of tagging along with the intern on the ward and being an absolute pest while they’ve done paperwork to try and cash in on just fifteen glorious minutes of team bonding and that damned free coffee I desire. It’s just unfair, ridiculously unfair. I had half a mind to oust her right there and then. I was going to go all Damian from Mean Girls on her.”

In light of these revelations about the underground world of ‘coffee hunting’ from the higher ups, we went in search of more comments on the current state of arse-kissing at a third-year level and future forecasts for the field.

“I reckon it’s all about picking and choosing the team based on the vibes you get,’ remarks one student wishing to remain anonymous. ‘Things like whether the consultant wears a tie doesn’t give you much to go on; it gives you an idea of whether you should bother showing up at all, because you’d probably be grilled on how they used to treat a rare condition back in the 1960s. I’ve heard some people use the consultant’s reaction to the classic ‘I have a tute’ excuse to get out of ward rounds as their litmus test for whether they should persist with trying to get some sweet, sweet bean. If they show interest and ask you about your tute trying to catch you in a lie, you just know you’re in for a bad time. My yard stick is whether the consultant continues to ask for your name despite forgetting it at least 5 times. I’ve got this general surgery consultant and she’s up to 4 now; she puts in the effort to ask every time, I’m definitely in with a chance. She’s operating tomorrow and there’s a prime twenty-minute window between her second and third case; pick your battles wisely, I say.”

At the very least, it’s abundantly clear that this issue hits home for many medical students; both in its familiarity and importance. As another student explains and/or complains, “How am I supposed to know whether I need to buy myself a baseline coffee to get me going in the morning if the field is so volatile these days? What if consultants suddenly start buying us coffee before ward rounds? Would I even want to live in such an unpredictable climate? I can’t have two coffees within 30 minutes. I haven’t experienced enough stress and hardship for that yet.”

What started as a positive snippet of news has become an investigation into an extreme sport as old as time itself. The competitive nature of coffee hunting and today’s incident may even perhaps be an allegory for the challenges of finding advantage and favour, in order to further our individual causes at the expense of our relationships with our fellow peers, only contributing to the mutual self-destruction of cohort morale. This, however, isn’t the time for speculation into any hidden meaning behind a seemingly harmless and friendly sport occurring every single day.

Despite all this, our team is left with more questions than answers as they assess the facts that remain: first, that team coffee rounds will perennially be unpredictable, perhaps on purpose to drag students out of bed to ward rounds; second, that the coffee conundrum of whether to bank on snaring a free coffee and forgo the self-funded morning perk continues to stew in the bleary minds of students; and lastly (yet most terrifyingly) that it’ll only get even more messy in fourth year as coffees on the ward are exchanged for babies in the labour suite. The Auricle understands that the dynamics only get more tense when the stakes are higher and midwives and logbooks are involved.

Reporting for the Auricle and signing off,

Christopher Nguyen


Feature image from The Independent 

Getting Outside

By Ash Spittle

By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard of some of the most important positive emotions that contribute to a sense of wellbeing: gratitude, joy, and love, to name a few. But there’s one that is not often discussed, and that is awe. Awe is the feeling of goodness on a grand scale, of feeling overwhelmed by greatness, and often happens when we are looking at something magnificent like a landscape of huge mountains, or a wide-open ocean stretching as far as the eye can see. I’ve always felt happiest down by the beach or amongst the mountains and I’ve noticed that the first glimpse of ocean as I’m driving down to the beach, or the first time I see the mountain peaks on the drive to the snow, is met with a feeling of relief, relaxation, and happiness. Only recently have I learned that this sensation is a well-recognised phenomenon. Awe.

I’ve been lucky enough to get more than my fair share of awe in the past six months. In December I did the Annapurna circuit trek in Nepal with one of my friends. At the end of our trip, as we reflected on the two weeks of walking, we both agreed on the two best days of the walk – the days when we had the most incredible view of the Himalayas. On each of these days, as we reached the top of the hill, an expanse of enormous 8000-metre-high peaks simply stopped us in our tracks. We just stood there and admired them, feeling overwhelmed with awe, and couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day (despite our blisters!). Today it’s Easter Monday, and just yesterday I was walking over the Tongariro pass in New Zealand: home to some spectacular red volcanos and sparkling emerald lakes. I feel so lucky and happy to have been able to see that amazing landscape and appreciate all that the outdoors has to offer.

Of course, we can’t have these awe-inspiring moments every day. Even if some of us end up working up in the mountains or down by the beach, in a place that makes us stop and stare, it’s certainly not going to be the majority of us, and it is most definitely will not be the majority of medical school. Right now, our days consist of being inside our cars, public transport, lecture theatres, and hospital wards, often with not a lot of time for anything else. So how can we bring a little bit of awe into our everyday lives?

I firmly believe that being outside in the open air is like being in the mountains or at the beach on a mini scale. I know that the days when I take a moment to appreciate my surroundings are the days I feel happiest in all aspects of my life. So here a few of my ideas for how you can get outside every day, for no other reason than to put a smile on your face.

If you’re a morning person:

If you don’t already, try setting your alarm 10 or 15 minutes earlier, get up and go for a quick walk around your block. Look up at the trees. The leaves are changing colour at the moment and, as cheesy as it sounds, it really is beautiful. If you don’t like walking, find a spot to sit outside and stretch or wake up slowly.

On your way to uni:

Do you catch public transport? Take a moment when you’re walking to and from the train to look up at the sky. Most of you probably have to get going early, and Melbourne has some pretty impressive sunrises to offer. Do you drive your car? Park your car just a bit further away (like a million people before me have suggested) and use the time it takes to walk to relax and enjoy the cool autumn breeze.

Coffee time or lunch time:

If you brought your own lunch, take it outside to eat in the sunshine. If it’s raining, find somewhere under shelter and enjoy the smell of the rain. If you’re at the hospital and have a bit of time, walk to the café down the street to get your coffee, or go around the outside of the building to get to the good coffee place instead of through the over pass (yes MMC, I’m talking to you).

Catching up with friends:

Got a standing brunch date at your favourite café? Try switching it up for a coffee to go and a walk around your local park instead. You can appreciate the outdoors together and save some money at the same time!

Have you got a whole free weekend?!

Get outside and find yourself some awe! We’ve got the beaches from St Kilda down to the Peninsula, we’ve got the Dandenong Ranges just an easy walk from the Belgrave train line, there’s the Yarra Trail (my personal favourite) and all the other bike paths along rivers in Melbourne, and even something as simple as your local duck pond. If you’re really feeling adventurous then head down to the Great Ocean Road or up to the Victorian High Plains and walk, sit, and enjoy.
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Self-care is a long term relationship with yourself

By Tanya Tang

Self-care has become trendy lately. #selfcare has nearly 5 million posts on Instagram, and more on Twitter. But when you log into Instagram and hit up the search bar, the first few posts under #selfcare are of girls with their perfect beach tan glowing under the sun, captioned with something along the lines of ‘how to stay soft all day #selfcare #selflove’ and a long list of beauty products. Further down the page, there’s a post extolling the greatness of a morning bath for a busy mum, complete with a picture of a rose filled spa bath.

Somewhere along the line, something has gone horribly wrong.

When we think of self-care, there’s a trend towards self-indulgence. Self-care has become synonymous with ‘treat yourself’—a tub of ice cream for the days that are too stressful, a shopping splurge or ‘retail therapy’ because you deserve it. The face of self-care has become cold-pressed juices, yoga and motivational quotes. Even when we bring this back to the basics that we as medical students have understood and experienced, mindfulness has also been commercialised. The old Buddhist meditative way of living has evolved into McMindfulness that slots into busy consumer lives just as easily as a one-tap-pizza-to-door delivery service. Often it isn’t taught right. For some, myself included, the sort of meditation that is taught to us in first year only serves to heighten our anxiety and, at its worst, can trigger an episode of depersonalisation.

What, then, is self-care?

Self-care is anything that is initiated by a person to maintain their physical, mental and emotional health. The key word here is maintenance. The self-indulgent nature of the modern consumer based self-care so prevalent nowadays is not sustainable. We take photos of our salad and tag it #selfcare but behind the uploads are the bags of potato chips and a few too many batches of brownies that were stress-baked. We buy packs of face masks and beauty products for a night to ourselves but end up peeling off the black charcoal mask to reveal a festering layer of guilt for the wasteful spending of our savings.

And if you see a trend of self-care targeting wealthy females, that’s not entirely a coincidence.

Self-care is neither kind, nor indulgent. It is a chore to be practiced every day, every hour and every second. More than mindfulness, meditation and becoming aware of the present, it is a deep introspection of yourself. It is facing yourself in the mirror and criticising yourself so that you can be a better version of yourself.

It is, in fact, a dedication to discipline.

It takes time to cultivate a truly balanced mental state of mind, and it definitely will not bring a sense of instant gratification. That mental health day we take when we are burnt out serves to only bring us a sense of instant gratification that lasts maybe only a day or two. To draw a medical comparison, it is the band-aid fix to a chronic ulcer. By practicing good self-care and self-control every day, we reduce the chances of burning out. Perhaps we might even prevent needing a mental health day.

How to care for yourself

This is perhaps the trickiest part. Despite knowing exactly what is good self-care, how do we in fact SNAP ourselves? With the trend to become healthier mentally and physically, the motivation to get started is right there; and yet that gym membership is still unused despite saying that you will go to the gym every day since Craig Hassed taught you exercise is the essence of health.

It isn’t a lack of motivation. It’s hardly the lack of motivation with all the attention being focused on student and doctor wellbeing in the medical area, and also on self-care in the wider society (albeit in a self-indulgent way).

It may not even be an issue with laziness.

It’s a problem with converting words into action.

‘Taking care of yourself’ is a huge, intangible concept with so many branches and offshoots, it may as well be one of those mirror labyrinths. There’s the diet, the exercise, the work-life balance, the social aspect and the hobbies amidst all our study. By taking small steps, we can gradually incorporate every aspect of what good self-care looks like, and nurture a balanced physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. We can plan it all down to the details, we can allocate time and money, we can scout out which gym membership is cheaper and we can educate ourselves on the healthiest recipes and procrastinate and procrastinate, but in the end, we have to own up to the fact that motivation was never the culprit in the first place.

In the end, you just have to take a deep breath and commit to yourself.


Featured image from Yoga Journal

Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

By Alexander Bell

“It’s like there’s a cloud that comes over you, and it just won’t leave.”

That’s the assessment my girlfriend once gave me of the periods where I’ve struggled with my mental health. From my perspective that analogy could not be more apt.

Times where I struggle with negative thoughts and emotions are like cloudy days. Of course, much like the overcast sky, these days don’t always look the same. On some days, there’s a smattering of light clouds: short periods of sadness or worry that quickly transform into blissful sunshine. Other days find only the occasional ray of short-lived sunshine poking through a heavily-veiled sky. Sometimes a morning shower can give way to a clear sky of blue, while on other occasions the bright sun of the morning can hide a lurking dreary afternoon. Very occasionally, the day is a storm: a thick band of dark, unrelenting grey that stretches as far as the eye can see. Sometimes, a storm will mark an aberration from an otherwise sunny week. Other times, I spend weeks wondering if the sky will ever be clear again.

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Putting the “Me” back in “Medicine”

By Jessica Stark

Continuous learning, long hours, difficulty with work-life balance. At 18, I said I understood these were the challenges faced by doctors, but at 18, fresh out of school, I didn’t really comprehend what I was agreeing to. I thought it wasn’t that big of an issue, I thought the life of a doctor could only be fantastic. How naive I was. Now on the home stretch of my medical degree, I’m finally reflecting on what I signed up for.

Medicine wasn’t something I fell into. I worked hard at it, and had to make some tough decisions to get where I am today. My family and I sacrificed a lot, but it was all I wanted, and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. I couldn’t contain my excitement when I got my offer to Monash. Though moving to a new city where I didn’t know a single person was certainly daunting, I wanted this career so much and moving away was just a sacrifice I had to make.

It was difficult; far more difficult that I thought it would be. I missed my friends and family back home enormously, and there were periods of time where I cried every day. The endless lectures, tutorials and histology pracs were often a drag, and I was in major struggle town with anatomy, but I knew it would get better once I entered the hospital. And it did. I relished being part of the team, speaking to the patients and scrubbing into theatre. It was just as I thought it would be, and after finally having contact with patients, I knew this career was for me.

As the years went on, I began to realise the competitiveness of medicine and that it was a bit of a cutthroat world getting into a specialty. It seems like you need at least a master’s degree and several publications, plus experience, to get onto several training programs. How is this meant to possible when you’re also working extensive hours as a junior doctor? How can you work more than full time, study part time, research part time and have a life outside of this? The answer – make sacrifices and work yourself into the ground. At least that’s how it seems to me when I look around at a lot of the junior doctors. I look at my friends who didn’t study medicine with their great work-life balance and I can’t help but be jealous. They don’t have to put their lives on hold for years, and they have far more freedom and time to do the things they want.

Whilst I was told a career in medicine meant long-term study and long hours, I didn’t understand that what they really meant was I was partly screwing over my own life to save other peoples. It’s not that I dislike the career; being in the hospital, helping the patients, coming home in the evening and knowing the difference you’ve made for even just one person is truly special and very rewarding. I feel extremely grateful for the opportunity to help people through difficult times in their life, but I do feel sad that it affects my life and my relationships in so many ways. I feel sad for all the sacrifices I’ve made, and all the ones I’m yet to make.

Only a few weeks into my first rotation of final year I experienced burnout. It seemed odd that after three months of holidays I could feel this way, but the prospect of job applications, getting references and paving a pathway towards a specialty training program, as well as the difficult transition back into clinical medicine after a year in a lab, was just too much. I was recently told by someone close to me that I’m no longer the same person I used to be, that my degree has changed me and the happy bubbly person I once was had disappeared. When and how did this happen? A conversation with my doctor made me realise that I hadn’t really stopped in a very long time. I’ve been studying hard since the beginning of high school and continued straight into med school. I’ve always been busy, juggling a job, committee roles, volunteer work and the responsibilities of living out of home. I have always placed immense pressure on myself, and now I’d reached a point where I couldn’t do it anymore. My doctor asked me to take a break and do something for myself, something I enjoyed doing, something not related to med. In all honesty, I didn’t know what that was, despite all the advice to keep up hobbies and have a life outside of medicine, I hadn’t, and over the course of my degree I’d lost myself along the way.

After two weeks of lying on the beach, catching up with old friends, going to galleries and plays, seeing new places in a city I’ve lived in for years – after two weeks of starting to live again, I don’t want to go back to “not living”. Whether that means actually taking time for myself regularly and not getting swallowed by the med monster again, or leaving the med bubble entirely, I’m not sure. It’s going to take some more time for me to figure out what the future holds, but just because I graduate as a doctor, doesn’t mean I’m bound to work as one forever. It won’t mean I’ve wasted my degree, or wasted my time, if I choose to pursue something else. I’ll have had some great experiences and learnt so much. My life is important too, and maybe I need to be a selfish and do what’s best for me.