In the mood to dance?

Emily Feng-gu 

With calendars brimming with study, work, extra-curriculars, and social events, fitting in time for exercise can fall off the radar. Getting enough exercise shouldn’t feel like another burden on your time and mental space. For those of you for whom more traditional exercise activities, such as jogging or cycling, just don’t seem appealing, you might want to consider dancing. Associated with a range of physical and mental health benefits, dancing is a fantastic exercise option. Moreover, if going to a regular dance class is primarily for personal enjoyment, then it’s more likely to be a sustainable fitness regime.

Physical benefits

Even when undertaken at an amateur level, dancing is an effective way of improving fitness levels. Benefits differ depending on style, duration, and frequency of dance. In general, however, studies have shown that regular participation in dance can reduce the risk of developing several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, back pain, and even neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

Furthermore, dance has beneficial effects on balance, co-ordination, and flexibility. Unlike some more traditional exercises which involve repetitive movements of a select few muscle groups, dance requires active concentration in co-ordinating and balancing complex movements and engages the whole body.

Mental benefits

Medicine offers a rewarding and meaningful vocation, but the path can be long and sometimes testing. Developing healthy coping mechanisms early is invaluable for maintaining wellbeing, happiness, and the right mindset to thrive as doctors. Regular participation in dance has been shown to improve mood, decrease feelings of anxiety and stress, and improve self-esteem and overall quality of life across a broad range of age groups.

Dance is also an opportunity to take a mental break and reconnect with the body. It’s a chance to tune out the planning, the ‘what ifs’, and the other million little things fighting for your attention, and genuinely appreciate what it feels like to live in a body. When going about our daily routines, our body runs on autopilot while our mind is elsewhere. Dancing prompts new movements and unfamiliar forms and makes it a little trickier to translate mental instructions into actions. This compels us to reappreciate the interconnected relationship between mind and body.

Finally, dance pays tribute to the body’s functional beauty. So much of the focus in media and pop culture is on what our bodies look like and how they might look ‘better’, but that entirely misses the point. Bodies aren’t for looking at, they’re for doing things. Dance can be wonderfully expressive and cathartic, a reminder that bodies are not passive objects but active forces able to change the space and world around us.

 

 

My experience

I used to think you had to be a certain type of person to be involved with dance, and it simply was not a mould I felt I fit into. It was only after being roped into a class by a friend that I realised my mistake.

The group present at my first dance class could only be described as eclectic. It included an effortlessly classy older couple who had been married for 40 years and had danced for 30 of them, two children who were too short to comfortably dance with anyone except each other, and everyone in between. Irrespective of age, size, or experience level, every person left smiling. I am the first to admit I had my initial reservations, but the experience was overwhelmingly warm and positive. Ultimately, it sparked an interest in dance I never imagined I would have.

The upshot

For anyone who is curious about starting or re-starting dance but feels intimidated, please take it from me – anyone can get involved. Round up some friends and sign up for a class, whether it be Zumba, salsa, swing, hip hop, ballroom, or anything else that takes your fancy. Alternatively, if dancing without any eyes on you is a more comfortable proposition, No Lights No Lycra dance events are held in the dark and have a fundamentally non-judgemental ethos. It may just be the one fun night out, but perhaps you’ll pick up a new way of staying happy and healthy.

 

The reality of imposter syndrome

“I’ll never be good enough”

“What am I doing here?”

“I don’t deserve this”

If any of these phrases sound familiar to you, you may be suffering from imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where you feel like you don’t deserve you own success. It’s that gnawing voice of self-doubt that only criticises and focuses on your flaws, or that fear of being outed as incompetent. It’s feeling like a fake or as though you don’t deserve your success, putting it down to good luck and timing instead.

 

If you relate to this self-doubt and fear of being revealed as a fraud, you’re not alone. Imposter syndrome is highly prevalent, with up to 70% of people experiencing at least one episode in their lifetime. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that it may be even higher in the high-achieving cohort of medical students and healthcare professionals where you’re surrounded by people who excel and the stakes are high. I’ve seen it in my friends, my peers, and it’s something I’ve often seen in myself. After my very first exam in medical school, I remember the fear of not belonging at medical school, of being revealed as some dumb high-schooler who had conned the interviewer into admission, despite the HD I had just recieved. Now at the end of my medical degree with internship fast approaching, these doubts still haunt me – I fear that I will be an incompetent intern, a deadweight dragging down my team.

 

Looking back over my years at medical school, I’ve now realised that this has been a massive source of stress, anxiety and low self-confidence, and I know that this will only get worse once internship and “real” responsibility starts. In addition, while imposter syndrome isn’t a diagnosable mental health condition, it can be linked to depression and anxiety. As such, what can we do to combat imposter syndrome?

 

How to overcome it?

Unfortunately there is no quick fix for imposter syndrome, but it can be overcome with ongoing, conscious effort. Some strategies I personally believe would be useful include

  • Gathering hard, objective evidence about your successes: write down a list of your achievements and skills. This isn’t bragging or tooting your own horn, it’s acknowledging that you are capable and deserving of your own accomplishments.
  • Talk with your peers in a safe environment: it can be really helpful to voice your thoughts – often you’ll find they share the same concerns, which helps normalise your feelings and lets you know you’re not alone

 

At the end of the day, remember: you are better than you think you are. You know more than you give yourself credit for. You have value. You are worthy. You are enough.

 

Keep Smiling

The warmth of the quilt enveloped me, as a blaring cacophony erupted in the background. It was 5:45am and unlike the four days prior it took everything to leave  my sheltered cacoon and step out into the world. Practically inhaling breakfast, it was another day I left my watch behind as I raced to make the bus. It was running late. Predictable.

Now doe eyed and eager, I brushed past the worried faces at the hospital elevator, racing up four flights. Can’t be late. Empathising with our COPD patients, I puffed into the empty doctors’ office. Drat. Why didn’t we start at the same time every day?

‘So what did the physiotherapist say?’, the registrar asked. Illegible, more illegible writing. It was already 2:30pm and we’d barely seen half the patients. ‘It’s just one of those days’ I told myself. ‘Just keep smiling’.

3pm. ‘Isn’t that your patient in Bed 5?’, the nurse yelled, as we finally sat down to lunch. It wasn’t my first MET call. It wouldn’t be my last. Plastering myself to the wall I watched the herds flocking to the scene like sheep. ‘Can’t breathe, can’t breathe,’ the patient gasped.  Only yesterday she had been telling me how upset she was her son hadn’t visited her in hospital yet. A moment I had cherished, congratulating myself for finally finding the time to truly get to know a patient. She remained surrounded. Lines, masks, leads.

‘Increase the oxygen, why isn’t there an alcohol swab here.’ With doctors and nurses engrossed in their individual roles the patient’s eyes moved to me. It took everything to muster my courage and give her a smile. We both knew, but neither said a word. Silence. Flat lines on the ECG. A life lost. My eyes darted over to the corner as her young son and his wife ran into the ward. A single tear trickled down his face. A missed oppurtunity.

 

Within moments I was rushing to grab a progress note as we moved to the next patient, the only remnant of our previous encounter being my quivering hand as I began to write. It was funny how I forced a smile.

‘Hey, hey, what’s wrong?’ I heard. It had only been a few hours; couldn’t I have smiled a little longer? How did they know? I felt angry. Why was I staring into space whilst the rest of the team continued to deftly craft intricate management plans for our complex patients?

My colleague stood me outside the room, as the team proceeded to see the next patient. ‘You have to learn to forgive yourself’ I heard her say ‘We all knew you knew her better than any of us.’ ‘It’s ok, you are allowed to feel this way’.

Maybe I had needed to hear that a few hours ago.

Maybe the smile wouldn’t have been so forced.

My hand may not have quivered.

We always expect ourselves to work at our best, despite the circumstances. We compare our responses and reactions to others, often more experienced. We feel guilty about taking our own time to process our emotions. Why? Maybe it is our internal drive, maybe we learn it from our environment and peers. But can we really bring the best care to our patients unless we are functioning at our best?

So…

 

Forgive yourself.

Take your time.

Realise.

You don’t always have to keep smiling.

The Meander

In February 2014, I was on top of the world. I just received my offer to study medicine. My life’s hard work had finally paid off. The rest would be a breeze; studying medicine is easy, a bit of memorizing, that’s all, and everyone gets a job at the end. My life was sorted! I became the model student, everyone’s goal, everyone’s dream.

I went into medicine full of joy and excitement, absolutely confident that I had more than what it took to ace this course. I was ready to live the dream, ready to become an excellent doctor…

I am still unsure when the turning point happened, when the dark hour of self-doubt began to settle in. It might have been sometimes before my first end of year exams, when I realised that I could simply not study enough to cover the scope of what could be tested.  It might have been outside the door of many OSCE stations, where I was paralysed by topics that I was not prepared for.

Or it might simply have been the daunting realization that I was not as dedicated, gifted and hardworking as I had thought…As I sit in front of my laptop, too tired to concentrate on studying after a day at placement, I think of my many fellow medical students who achieve higher grades than me, and who through their dedication to juggling uni with extra-curricular and research activities, also enjoy the benefits of having glowing CVs. As I struggled to answer my consultants’ questions, I resigned to the fact that I simply did not have the knowledge to impress doctors and build the social connections that everyone seem to value so highly.

Now, edging towards the end of my time at medical school, I have more questions than ever. Would I be able to cope with the demands of internship next year? How do I determine which one of those multitude of medical specialties suits me the most? Would I ever be good enough to overcome those increasingly difficult challenges that stand between junior doctors and training programs?

 

Through all my doubts and uncertainties however, there is one thing that I am confident about: I have had struggles and self-doubts through medical school, yet I have overcome them. My lists of achievements through medical school may not be less glowing as it was back in high school, but through each and one of them I have learned to strive to be a better version of myself, and these moments of personal growth would allow me to overcome the bigger challenges to come.

My achievements in school have given me confidence and pride, but I was so sheltered that I believed I no longer needed improvement. Medical school has allowed me to know that there is always something to aspire to and strive for, and that is a great feeling.

The journey as a medical student and doctor is long and meandering. Self-doubt and uncertainty are often intertwined with this path. If you ever find yourself feeling doubtful about your abilities, please remember that you have all accomplished so much to get to where you are today, and there is no reason why you wouldn’t continue to do so. Additionally, the greatest achievement is a journey, not an endpoint and I wish you all the best on this amazing journey.

The Wave

It always starts small – like a ripple – before slowly welling up inside. You know what’s coming next, so you brace yourself.

 They’re all just temporary feelings that will pass right?

The tachypnoea, chest pain, palpitations, vision changes, paraesthesia, depersonalization, flight of ideas, and that sense of impending doom. No amount of knowledge can prepare yourself for the wave that comes. It surges through every fibre in your body, filling every nook and cranny, relentlessly striking at every insecurity with more precision than a stressed medical student trying to cannulate a delirious dehydrated patient while trying to decide whether to call a code grey amidst a cacophony of beeping alarms. Its icy grip tightens round your chest, clinging to every breath as you struggle to maintain focus. Through ragged breaths you use every rational thought you can muster to counter your worries and overvalued ideas. And just when it seems you’re not going to make it, you do. You remember to breathe. The waters finally recede as you shut your eyes, inhale deeply and shake it off before ‘resetting’ and picking up where you left off.

 

Five years have passed in a flash and with the end of medical school in sight comes a barrage of different emotions: Joy, relief, sadness, dread. I would be lying if I said it was easy. “Peaks and troughs”, they said. Yet that one line cannot surmise all the obstacles one faced: Mental health issues, challenging colleagues and supervisors, social isolation, insomnia, 4-hour sleeps at night to study for the VIA, the list goes on. One that I found particularly troubling and persistent was anxiety. Here are some tips I found helpful.

 

Seek Help When You Can– You are never alone. Sometimes mates are good and all, but there are times when things can get too overwhelming. There are always avenues for help like Headspace and getting a mental health care plan from your GP. The student services at our clinical sites are also very understanding and always have our best interests at heart. Knowing when we are in over our head and seeking help is a good step in a positive direction. No matter how big or small your problems are, there is nothing wrong with saying you need help.

 

Take Time For Yourself– Never underestimate the power of taking some time to focus on you. Take a break from the books, get out there and take some time to relax. Exercise, treat yourself to brunch (not UberEats), hang out with your friends, visit a familiar haunt (or somewhere new). Remember to pace yourself and not burn out. So… Treat yo’self! J

 

Surround Yourself With Friends and Family – It’s easy to get caught up with work and rotations and lose contact with friends and family. Try and make it a point to spend some time with them. Grab a coffee, have brunch together, share your troubles, or just kick back and binge on Netflix. If not, drop them a call. Sometimes all we need is just for someone to talk to or laugh alongside with.

 

Mindfulness Works– We have all spent time savouring that tiny piece of chocolate, trying to focus on every taste bud as it slowly melted in our mouths – I wouldn’t know, I practically inhaled mine. A chocolate fondue fountain with strawberries would’ve worked better, but I digress. If you ever feel tense and unable to relax, meditation has been a great go-to for me. Taking a couple of minutes to regulate your breathing and doing a ‘body scan’ is a good way to reset and start over. If you’re like me, lacking imagination and would rather not type ‘relaxing music for stressed out medical students preparing for final year exams’ in YouTube search bars, then I would recommend the Smiling Mind app which is completely free and has several pre-set programs to select from (no, I do not have shares in the Developers’ company).

 

I hope these tips are useful for those who need it. Good luck for the rest of the year everyone!

Reflections from AMSA NLDS

What do you want to be when you grow up?

By Rav Gaddam

As a child, people used to ask me “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, and my answer use to differ every time – from a detective palaeontologist, to a ballerina firefighter, there was never a time I would be content on settling for a constant straightforward answer.

So, when I was awarded the opportunity to attend the National Leadership Development Seminar (NLDS) by AMSA, I was beyond ecstatic – an opportunity to hear from a dancer doctor, or a lawyer doctor, or an actor doctor? BRILLIANT, all I needed now was to find that Kathmandu jacket to brave the Canberra winter.

Each day at NLDS was based on a different theme, but every day we got the opportunity to listen and to learn from inspirational and extraordinary people who have done amazing things in their life. From having coffee chats with A/Prof Ruth Stewart to discuss rural health, to listening to Michael Bonning talk about his time in the ADF, or attending a breakout session with Jessica Dean (#monashpride), these people reminded me that doing medicine does not mean that I have to finish medical school and only become a doctor (and if you want to be just a doctor, that great too!).

However, the session that left the greatest impact on me was a plenary session by Dr Emily Isham. Though it has been nearly four weeks since the event, I find myself often pondering over her speech. Emily is an amazing rural GP, who despite having lost her son to cancer less than a month before NLDS, stood in front of us and delivered a speech that made me brawl. I spent the afternoon on the phone to my mum as I was reminded that life is short, and I need to embrace the people, the opportunities and the dreams I have.

In summary, everyone’s journey at NLDS (and life) is different, but my time there reminded me to reflect on my life thus far, the people around me, and on my childhood dreams. So, if anyone asks me now “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, I guess my answer is quite simple really:

I want to be a detective-palaeontologist-ballerina-firefighting-doctor.

 

NLDS Experience

By Bowen Xia

AMSA NLDS has been one of the highlights of my year and I highly recommend it due to the skills, experiences and networks that I have gained from it.

 

My favourite experience at NLDS was the opportunity to interact with and befriend medical students across Australia. We can often be trapped in our own bubbles surrounded by people and opinions that sustain it, so it was refreshing to have paradigms shifted, beliefs altered and the opportunity to see unique and diverse perspectives from presidents of medicine societies to future presidents of medicine societies. I can safely say that when I returned to Monash from Canberra, I carried NLDS souvenirs in my bag, countless photos on my phone and new ideas and perspectives in my mind.

 

NLDS Projects was also a great experience. Everyone was allocated into various project groups that worked on finding a concrete solution to a current issue in medicine. My project was ‘reducing burnout in medical students’. We worked on it for a good part of NLDS and had great mentorship from speakers and members of the AMSA Executive Committee. We got to present and view all the projects at Old Parliament House at the end of NLDS. The result was us winning the award for ‘best project’ but the real prize was the fun that we had by working together.

 

The social activities were also great fun. The ball was an excellent time to socialise with other participants of NLDS over some EtOH and food. The trivia night was a great opportunity to discover that nobody knows anything. Finally, the end of NLDS party at Mooseheads allowed us to celebrate and farewell a memorable experience and then get late night maccas after making closing time.

 

Healthy mind, Health body

I have always been the kind of person who prefers not to talk about their struggles or worries. I prefer to listen to and help other people with whatever is on their mind. Despite this, for a long time now I’ve struggled with my body image and my relationship with food. I have downplayed it because I know that I do not have a serious eating disorder, I am of a healthy weight and I have in a way liked being that “healthy friend” that people know not to bother offering the sweet snack to and that prefers to take the stairs over the lift. But it’s time to out my hidden struggles and recognise them for what they are.

 

I cannot pinpoint when it all started for me but for years, I have been very invested in nourishing my body and only consuming foods that I deem to be healthy. If I was in a situation where I felt obliged to eat an “unhealthy” food, I would be riddled with guilt for hours and this is definitely something that I still struggle with even to this day. I would secretly judge other people for their food choices and in fact very openly judge those closest to me. I would try to convince them that their diets were completely wrong and that they needed to adopt healthier behaviours and follow my strict rules around reading the food packages to ensure that there was no added sugar, no preservatives and that the foods were low in fat and salt. I saw my behaviours as being the right way to live and that everyone else was doing it wrong.

 

These strict rules and restrictions allowed me to justify eating extremely large portions of food and going back for seconds and thirds as long as it was healthy. This led to an unhealthy cycle of binge eating to the point where I felt over full and unwell. This would happen on a daily basis – sleep, overeat, rest and repeat. I had the all or nothing attitude, that: I would either have a good day and eat well and if I failed to meet that standard then I would give in for the day and eat anything and everything and my strict rules would restart again the next day. My days would be consumed about thinking about food and worrying about my body, feeling that I would never be happy in my body no matter how well I ate or how much exercise I did.

 

The world we live in today is a mixed bag of dietary advice. One day we are told that the keto diet is the way to go and the next day we are demonising meat and opting for a plant-based diet. No wonder we are all so confused about what to eat. Societal views on food have definitely impacted my attitudes towards my diet but on reflection so have my perfectionist personality traits. I am constantly striving to be better and do better and one way I thought I could do this was aiming to be as healthy as possible. This sounds simplistic as I know that overall health is not just about what you eat but is related to a whole number of things including lifestyle factors such as exercise, sleep and stress levels but it is easy to get caught up in obsessing over one thing and for me that was and  sometimes still is, food.

 

Over the course of about a year I have begun to realise that my behaviours and thoughts have negative impacts on my life and my relationships. Although the thought of seeing a psychologist about it scared me, I thought it was time that I did something to help myself. I went to my GP who also thought it would be a good idea, however after that conversation I managed to find every excuse possible to avoid seeing a psychologist. Then on another visit to my GP and after conversations with my friends I decided to bite the bullet and book in to see someone.

 

Even though I would have probably been okay continuing the way I have been for many more years, I found sitting down and talking to a complete stranger a beneficial experience. After seeing patients on placement and asking them to talk openly about their mental health struggles I felt that it was important for me to do the same and feel no shame about it. I spoke to my friends about it – something that I wouldn’t have done a year ago and now I have written it down for more people to read and hopefully I can help someone else out there who may be struggling with their own battle.

 

We all have our own struggles and it can be easy to deflect them but the sooner we identify and talk about them, the sooner we can start to heal and realise that we are not alone. I am now a lot more content with myself and have started to focus more on the positives including how amazingly functional my body is. Slowly, I am overcoming my obsession with healthy eating and focusing more on the shared experience of a good meal with loved ones and the power that food has in bringing people together

In Sight

By Michelle Xin 

To perceive is to also acknowledge that there will inevitably be a blind spot. When not conjured by a red hat pin or a side view mirror, there is one more place to check, and that is within. How often do we truly see ourselves from within, for who we are and for who we have become?

What remains in your memory when the days begin to blur with each other, and the granules of time begin to feel viscous?

What reaches within you, and cradles and warms your soul with a compassion that is often forgotten for ourselves?

Are there any ropes of the past which tether you; of hurt, disappointment, unmet expectations, frustration, guilt, of those who are no longer in your lives?

To probe is to also viscerally feel the twinges or perhaps aches of discomfort; the discomfort of confrontation, of facing conflict, of loss, of having room for growth in the first place.

And finally, to begin to understand why your hands are still clenched, perhaps holding onto a thread, a figment of what once was, and when might be the time to slowly let the tension go. To appreciate the beauty of the polaroids of past memory and to acknowledge your own shortcomings. To let go.

To reflect is to also overcome; the challenge of seeing ourselves bare, with the perceived flaws, scars, inadequacies of our bodies and our minds. And to glimpse the mirage beyond our blind spot – through those we are fortunate enough to share our lives with, past and present.

 

Naikan (内観- ないかん), the Japanese word for ‘introspection’, embodies this, and can guide us when we are perhaps lost within the darkness of our minds; as well as to remember that we are never alone in our quest of self-discovery and our forays into the unknown.
What have I received from the people in my life?

What have I given to them?

What troubles and difficulties have I caused them?

In our experience of giving, perhaps we have also received a bountiful supply; an amount that may not easily be repaid, if ever. The generosity is present, even in the most deep-seated grudge – where not even a sliver is initially expected. Crumbling that expectation with a recognition of the gifts received, and turning the conversation within, opens us to forgive ourselves, and to forgive others if need be.

There are days where despite the pen nib touching the paper, awaiting an outpouring of my thoughts, the ink seeps without a destination – an inconspicuous dot on the page. There are days where a familiar face of the past finds its resemblance in passing strangers; to no avail when I glance, unsure of what I am hoping for. There are days where my experience, my difficulties are encompassing, and my blind spot grows once more.

I hope for days where frustration withers, and gratitude blooms within instead. I hope for when that familiar face is theirs, and not misplaced on a stranger, that we mattered, and it is a gift in itself to find our paths wherever they traverse.

I hope that you too, can see within, beyond your blind spot, to see you – and all that you hold, and all that you can give, to others and to yourself.

 

My Superpower

By Evan Kuma 

When I was young, we’d often play a game in the yard that involved a group of us going around in turns and saying what superpower we’d want bestowed upon us in the event of some freak occurrence. A group of friends, we would all come up with the best of powers, and elaborate ways in which to use them. Super strength, so you could lift a car up above your head, super speed so you could dodge a bullet or X ray vision so you could see who was hiding behind a brick wall. But not me, no. I would often wish for invisibility. You wouldn’t need to be super strong, super-fast or have X-ray vision, I reasoned, if you could be invisible. When I look back now, I realise how naive we all were, that is, until recently. Maybe that superpower I had wished for as a young child was finally granted to me in my third year of medicine.

 

It’s like any other day, walking through the wards, stethoscope around my neck and clipboard in hand; have take a history or do an exam today, I remind myself. I walk past the nurse and smile – he’s busy scanning in medications and so he doesn’t realise I’ve walked past. That’s fine, everyone’s busy in a hospital. I know that, so I shrug it off and walk into the meeting area where the ward round team assembles every morning. This is a busy morning like any other – the intern is busy printing lists, the registrar chasing up on night cases, and the consultant – where is the consultant? So, I move to the side and stand, waiting for the bustle of the morning to play out. The team slowly starts to assemble, everyone caught up in their own world, and it strikes me – how is everyone so preoccupied that they forget to say hello? By this point, my superpower is pretty much tried and tested, I am invisible. The consultant comes in and we leave for rounds. There’s a lot of us at this point, so fitting in the room is tough – let me just stand to the side and watch. Rendered invisible again. When we move to the final room, I decide to use my superpower to stand at the foot of the patient’s bed – I’ll be fine here, no one can see me anyway! As the consult finishes and the team empties out of the room, I decide to stay and talk with the patient – she looks sad and I figure she could use some company. And the strangest thing happens – she sees me. As I sit and talk, she tells me her story; why she’s come in, what’s on her mind and where she plans to go. No WWQQAA can guide you in this conversation between two strangers bonding over their shared humanity.  As I get up to leave, I hold her hand to say goodbye. She smiles at me and I smile back, and in that moment something spectacular happens.

 

This is my revelation – I wait for the sound of ethereal bells or some wise old man to float in and give me a cape – but this doesn’t happen – the change is within. I’ve realised something, something that has taken a while to happen – I am a superhero, but my superpower isn’t invisibility. Maybe my superpower is the ability to push through tough days and continue to smile? Or maybe it’s the superpower to know when I’m feeling burnt out and take time to myself. In truth, I don’t know what it is, but I’ve learnt that even in the toughest of days, even in the days when it feels like no one can see you, the patient still does. Maybe it’s because they feel the same- doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and ancillary services all coursing in and out of the room, yet they still feel invisible.

 

I’m glad that we both saw each other that day, I’m glad I was reminded of why I choose the path I did and I’m glad that I finally realised that being invisible wasn’t my superpower after all.

 

One of those days.

It’s one of those days.

It’s one of those days, when you’ve pressed the snooze button on your alarm for what might be the twentieth time. When no amount of cajoling, self-reprimanding and mentally yelling at yourself can get you to muster the energy to put one foot out of bed. It’s one of those days, when the only safe place is the warm cocoon of your doona; where you can curl up in the dark and quiet, and there is nothing to disturb you but the steady thumping of your heartbeat and the soft whooshing of your blood coursing through your veins. When it feels like there is lead in your bones, and in your chest, holding you down, and it is exhausting just to think, just to breathe.

(It is okay to call in and tell them you are taking a day off today. This is not a defeat. This does not mean you are giving in. In an age when it is burn bright and burn fast, what you must remember is that first, you have to last. When the ideal is to strive for machine-like efficiency, you must concede that you are only human.  You need this. You need to recover for the many battles yet ahead. Tomorrow can wait, will wait.)

It’s one of those days, when there is a lump in your throat that won’t go away and a loop somewhere in your head that seems stuck on replay. When you turn up the volume on your headphones to the loudest they can go. When you take the train absentmindedly past your stop and get off and walk the rest of the way back home. When you distract yourself by scrolling mindlessly through social media and stay up late in the morning binge-watching Netflix until four.

(Self-medication is a band-aid solution and numbing or swallowing your emotions does not make them go away. They tend to lie in wait, lurking in the corners of your mind, until they ambush you when you least expect it. When it’s time, let them in. If the tears come, let them fall. You have been carrying these things that are so very heavy for so very long now. It’s okay to put them down for a while.)

It’s one of those days, when you stare into the mirror and practice a smile that doesn’t quite reach your eyes. When you notice every dark circle, every little blemish, everything that feels too large or too small or too asymmetrical and oddly placed. It’s one of those days, when you lie awake at night and suddenly remember every fumble and folly, when you agonise over every word you wish you could take back, every mistake that you have ever made. When you dissect yourself apart, until you can’t tell outside from inside. When you wish you could just resect those silent malignancies of the soul, those parts of yourself that fill you with shame, or loathing, or anger and disgust.

(If only you could remember to try to see yourself the way those around you see you, or moreover, you would treat yourself the way you treat those around you. Nurture; be patient with and forgiving of yourself the way you are for others.  Of course, you are flawed, as are we all. But what is most important is that you are always learning. Your weaknesses and failures make you who you are, and it is in them that you will discover your strength. They are what make you good, truly good.)

It’s one of those days, when you feel a yearning to return home, even though you are home. When you feel utterly alone in a crowded room. When you cannot fight the feeling that others, even those closest to you, do not see you, do not see through you. When you feel the expanse of an ocean between your heart and theirs. It is one of those days, that a small voice whispers in your head that you are insignificant, replaceable, unworthy.

(Despite what you may sometimes think, you are not alone. There are so many who have felt the way you do. There are so many who have loved you, who love you, who will love you. There are so many who you have not even met yet, who will need you here. There are so many connections, whether fleeting or long-lasting, brimming with meaning and potential, waiting to be made. And sometimes it is up to you too to make the first tentative step. There is so much more to gain than there is to lose. You have given so much, and you have so much yet to give. You matter.)

It’s one of those days.

(And these days too, shall pass.)