Galaxia Ward 1102

2019 Auricle Writing Competition Second Prize

By Bill Wang

Prompt: Imagine you are fresh out of med school and it’s your first day as an intern. What will be the scariest/ wholesome/ funniest situation you encounter?

The floors were scrubbed clean, or as clean as anything could be in the wake of an explosive end to a jelly-based alien, the dangers of space peri-peri chicken for organisms without proper gas venting mechanisms it seemed. 

A few janitors were still standing in the corridor, waving vacuums across the last of the goopy green jelly that still plastered much of the windows and ceiling with a vengeance.  

‘Watch yer step’ one of them called out in broken Galactic Basic as Consta walked past. 

Consta shuddered, it was only his first day since graduating medical school from the prestigious Monash Space University and the stress of the ward round was already getting to him. He had trained to deal with problems humans had! How could they expect him to suddenly treat an Ethereal with end stage hocus-pocus space disease? 

Even worse was the resident that he was on call with. The man? Jelly? Amorphous blob? Had not spoken a word of galactic basic and only method of communication seemed to be increasingly agitated vibrating whenever Consta was making a mistake. 

He shook himself from that moment of self-pity, aware that the janitors had stopped their vacuuming to watch him stare into the literal empty void of space beyond the window. He wondered if he should say something – anything to reassure them that the newest intern in Galaxia had not already fallen insane – an event that appeared to befall over 78% of all new interns at the hospital. 

BOOP

The bleep strapped to his waist suddenly burst to life. 

‘BOOP! CONSTA TO WARD 1102’ 

He thumbed down to silence it and continued his brisk pace down the corridor, stepping cautiously around the green slime puddles. 

Ward 1102 sounded familiar in his mind, ‘did someone mention it during orientation?’ he mused.

Whatever the case, he did find it slightly concerning when holographic signs along the path to Ward 1102 started popping out. 

‘DANGER’ screamed one, providing an additional picture of an exclamation mark. 

‘INSTANTENOUS AND SLOW DEATH AHEAD,’ announced another. 

‘IT WILL BE SUNNY WITH LIGHT METEOR SHOWERS IN SPACE CLAYTON TODAY,’ came the next. 

‘hmm,’ Consta muttered. Had he forgotten to take his washing in today? Getting meteor impacts out of fabric was quite costly this far from the tailor star systems. Regardless, he was on call for another 36 hours so that would have to wait. 

Finally, he found himself outside the heavy airlock that sealed the entrance to Ward 1102. A set of 3 massive hydraulically sealed doors manufactured from indestructible-ium he would have to cycle each door one by one before he could even enter Ward 1102. 

As he stepped to the first door a robotic voice gave a coolly called out, ‘Attention, you are about to enter Ward 1102, containment unit for indescribable patients. Incidental death or insanity is not the responsibility of Galaxia Hospital.’ 

With that the hiss of pneumatic pumps de-pressuring the airlocks filled the corridor and as Consta began to walk forward the doors slid open and closed behind him with resounding thunks. Then he stood in the darkness. 

‘Over here,’ came a whispered voice from the darkness, ‘be very still and calm, they can sense fear.’ 

A splodge of goop landed beside Consta’s foot – he realised it was his resident. 

‘You can speak Galactic Basic,’ Consta shouted in amazement. 

‘Shush!’ came the panicked voice back, ‘if they hear us it will be over.’ 

Consta snorted. ‘This is all some elaborate rookie hazing prank isn’t it, the over the top warning messages, all the dramatic build up? I’ve read my share of horror novels; you guys aren’t going to get me.’ 

His resident swore quietly under it’s breath, ‘We don’t have time for this, here take this and for the love of whatever you believe in take me seriously – if it does turn out to be a prank you can shoot me with it.’

Consta felt a tendril drop something heavy into his hand, faintly he made out the outline of a plasma pistol. Now that was something that definitely wasn’t allowed inside a hospital. ‘Fine I’ll play along, what do you want me to do?’ 

‘Look one of the indescribable patients has escaped from their containment room, the ward staff have cut the power and vented the entire wing with paralysis gas. We need to secure the subject and return it to containment before they can turn the lights back on.’ 

‘That doesn’t sound like a job for doctors,’ remarked Consta. 

‘It’s because we are expendable, the space uni’s churn out medical students by the dime a dozen – hospitals can’t afford risking perfectly capable security guards on these trivial matters. Anyway, enough talk, we need to sweep this wing.’ 

And so, Consta began searching, stepping cautiously through the darkened wing – the faint glow of his plasma pistol guiding his steps across the ward. He suddenly realised he didn’t even know what he was looking for – what even was an indescribable patient? 

The scream suddenly split the silence – short and panicked before cutting out again. Consta immediately spun around and started sprinting towards its direction, skidding to a halt outside a consult room he realised was faintly illuminated by an emergency beacon that was independent of the main power supply. 

Hefting the pistol he slammed through the door and pointed it into the room. 

He saw his resident pointing a disintegration beam at someone else in the room – what was it? As Consta slowly made sense of the situation he realised the other figure was an exact copy of his resident – staring back at the first copy with a terrified look. 

The copy with the disintegration beam called out to Consta first, ‘quick! I have it cornered! It seems like the indescribable patient was hiding in this room and the light has restored its functions! On my count we need to shoot it together to bring it down, my beam alone can only hold it off!’ 

Almost immediately the other copy cut in, ‘Don’t listen to it! The indescribable patient’s gain the ability to steal memories and take the forms of those around them as their disease progresses! You need to shoot it now with your pistol to stun it!’ 

Consta swung his pistol wildly between them, realising that during both their pleas they had both inched forward towards him. ‘Get back!’ he yelled, ‘I may have taken the WHO oath to consecrate my life in the service of humanity but you two are definitely not human, so I won’t hesitate to shoot!’ 

The copy of his resident holding the beam weapon started bubbling, growing taller and twisting and turning as its outer layer slid off like a snake shedding skin. From inside his sister stood up. ‘Oh Consta, you wouldn’t shoot me, now would you? Now be a dear and shoot that indescribable patient before anything else has to happen.’ 

Consta swung the gun towards the thing masquerading as his sister and fired, splashing it with a bolt of sizzling plasma. Before it could even finish the unearthly echoing scream, he turned the gun again and fired on his resident. As he watched their forms burn away to reveal the twisting shadowy masses within Consta finally let out the breath he didn’t realise he was holding – his knuckles bone white from his grip on the pistol. 

‘Scan him.’ 

Consta jumped when the gravelly voice came from behind him. He swung around just in time to see the black visors of the hospital security team as they pointed a scanning device of sorts at him. 

‘He is clear, get him out of here.’ 

Two of the guards stepped forward and grabbed Consta by the arms, dragging him towards the exit. The rest stepped into the room and began firing, the whomps of plasma impacts accentuated by the further screams of the indescribable patient. Outside in the corridor his resident ran up, vibrating in agitation. It produced a set of pen and paper and began writing in broken galactic basic. 

‘Sorry, shouldn’t have sent you in there alone. Didn’t know it was unsafe. Assumed it was a simple task to locate and return patient to bed. Go home and rest.’ 

Consta could only nod. 

‘Thankfully you realised I can’t actually speak,’ called out his resident as Consta walked out into the bustling world beyond the warded gates of Hospital Galaxia. 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________

Photo Credits to Josef Barton

https://wallpapershome.com/best-photos/?author=1274

When the weather changes

2019 Auricle Writing Competition First Prize

By Gizem Hasimoglu

Prompt: “How have your ideas and notions about being a doctor changed since starting medical school or entering clinical years?” 

 

When the weather changes, so do you.

The shaking off of leaves and the layering of dew,

The scorch marks of past fires and the blossoms of something new,

Medicine is like the weather – when it changes, so do you.

 

***

 Spring

 

Wide eyed, well dressed

Nervous butterflies fill the room

It’s your first day, no need to be stressed

‘Student doctor’ is your costume

 

Years of study have bought you here

Yet suddenly they seem so far

You have no idea what is to fear

You think you’ve passed the bar

 

It’s a new page, a fresh start

You take a deep breath and open the door

Excitement fills your heart

Looking around, you can’t wait to explore

 

Flashing lights, buzzing sounds

All the doctors seem to be saving lives

Magical seem the hospital grounds

You can’t wait to help someone survive

 

Summer

 

Wide smile, stethoscope around your neck

It’s a few weeks in and you’ve got the flow

You think you’re ready for a pay cheque

Yet you still can’t write notes, you’re way too slow

 

You know all the doctors by name

Although they don’t know you

You tell yourself you’re on the path to fame

And occasionally you get a free coffee too

 

Ward rounds and logbooks are becoming too easy

Although consultant questions still stop your breathing

At least you now know what to do when someone is wheezy

Perhaps maybe you should do some teaching

 

Patients think you’re important and first years idolise you

You can now hear murmurs, as long as they’re grade six

This is what it’s all for, you might finally help a few

Just stay away from hospital politics

 

Autumn

 

Tired eyes, looking defeated

Reality is slowly catching up to you

You’re feeling as if you’ve been cheated

You just can’t figure out by who

 

You reflect back on the start

Reminiscing about books with all the answers

As you stand here in front of endless patient charts

None of which seem to have curable cancers

 

The many lessons told about patients slowly fade

As they are replaced with the lessons taught by patients

The amount you know becomes outweighed

As the amount you don’t, begins to cause hesitation

 

The idealistic view of medicine you held so strongly

Starts to fade away like falling leaves

Slow at first but stripping you surely

As you feel the cold breeze you begin to grieve

 

Winter

 

Head low, shoulders down

The weight of the stethoscope begins to feel heavy

Patients look vulnerable in the hospital gown

And you no longer feel comfortable being so dressy

 

Only months left for ‘the brain tumour’ the doctors found

While ‘the murmur’ is struggling to breathe

You wonder what it will be like when it is the ground

Rather than the hospital sheets that they are beneath

 

When their families plead with their hopeful eyes

You no longer wish it was you they put their trust in

And when each of your sighs only amplifies their cries

Even a moments rest feels like sin

 

But this isn’t a hypothetical exam question

You realise there isn’t room for the unknown

When faced with a real life or death situation

The now empty patient beds make you feel alone

 

***

 

But do not despair for eventually Spring will return to you,

Summer, Autumn, and Winter too,

Life isn’t all about the daises, it’s about using what happens to renew,

That’s why medicine is like the weather – when it changes, so do you.

 

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.