Take 8, Call a Mate

By Monique Conibear

Last semester as the minute hand ticked over to 5 o’clock my brain began to pound at my skull, screaming to be let out. The pictures on my screen were blurring into one, diagrams of the lungs and heart forming into something else entirely. Eventually, I slammed the computer shut and flopped onto my bed, pressing my fingers into my temples. Maybe I could get out and go for a walk? No, it’s almost dark. Maybe I could call someone? No, they’re probably too busy, and I don’t even know if I have the brainpower to make it through a conversation. Instead I put on some slow songs and closed my eyes, trying to take a quick powernap.

Suddenly, the music stopped. My phone buzzed. Shooting up, I grabbed it off the bedside table and glanced at the name. With a big smile I answered it. It didn’t even make sense. Two minutes ago, I couldn’t even sit up without my head thundering yet now, as I talked to my friend, I felt excited, happy.

Has this ever happened to you? Unfortunately, in this day and age it likely hasn’t. Or if it has, it is likely quite rare.

We hardly talk on the phone anymore. If we want to talk to someone, we often send them a message, or a Snapchat, or maybe even feel too awkward and decide it isn’t worth them getting the wrong idea. Maybe they are just someone that was in your Anatomy lab last year and you only ever spoke to them at uni. Or maybe you’re close friends but you usually just text or talk in person. You have never had a need to call them. Is this more accurate?

That is how I felt at the start of the year. As I was driving away from my on-campus accommodation towards my rural hometown, I realised I would likely not be speaking to my friends for a while. I would probably text them or talk to them on group chats but calling them? No, that would be too weird. They might not like talking on the phone.

I had a thought. What if I put a post on my Facebook? Put out an offer that anyone who wants to chat can just message me or comment and I would give them a call. It was simple enough, but it would give me an excuse to talk to people I wouldn’t usually talk to and if anyone was struggling it would give them an opportunity to reach out. For the rest of the 4-hour drive home I kept thinking about the details. How would it work? What if I only got one reply? What if I got hundreds of replies? Eventually I realised I didn’t mind if I got too many replies. People would understand if I couldn’t call them for a few weeks and I could keep the calls short.

So, I did it. I took a leap of faith and posted it later that week. I ended up receiving about 6 replies. It wasn’t much but I was still incredibly excited. Two of the people I hardly knew, I had only spoken to them once or twice before and this was a great chance to get to know them more. Another two were friends from Uni that I would stop and talk to if I saw them on campus but would never message them outside of that. The final two were closer friends of mine and I was excited to have an excuse to call them for a chat. Regardless of who they were, I knew they genuinely wanted to chat and that alone made me excited to call them.

For the next two weeks I called everyone on the list, even going out of my way to call my closest friends too. Even though I was hundreds of kilometres away from campus I still felt just as connected as ever. I eventually told my Dad about it casually one night over dinner and he inspired me to take it further. During this time, so many people are feeling alone and often just the thought that someone else taking the time to call can mean the world. So, in the dim light of the kitchen table one Thursday night, ‘Take 8, Call a Mate’ was born.

The idea is simple. Take 8 minutes a day, 5 days a week to call someone and check in. In practice it usually won’t work quite like this. Depending on the person I might talk to them for 5 minutes or 40. I might call 3 people in one day and then no one for a while. Some people I would call randomly and others I would schedule a call. Either way it was keeping me connected and was made me feel as though I was making a difference despite being stuck at home. I could never know how many people it actually reached but if just one person benefitted from it, I had done my job.

One of my friends had an incredible testimony. She told me that she hadn’t spoken to her stepdad all year and their relationship was on the verge of breaking point. She shared the ‘Take 8 Call a Mate’ video and he heart reacted so she gave him a call. They ended up speaking for an entire hour and she came away saying she felt closer to him then she had in months. If that was the only person this helped, then it was definitely worth it.

Who in your life can you reach out to? Who might be struggling? Who might be going well but would still be keen for a chat?

Send them a message. Maybe something like “Hey … just wanted to check in. How are you going?”.

Or if you feel comfortable give them a spontaneous call. Or try and plan a call.

There are so many options, but the idea is simple. Reach out. Check in. Stay connected.

Uncertainty

By Megan Herson

Has anyone else had one of those moments where you start at ‘will I eat the plain or chocolate Digestive biscuit now or later?’ and somehow end up at ‘I won’t be a competent doctor…’?

Last weekend I went for a long romantic walk on the Brighton beach footpath (by myself). The sun was setting, and it was that shade of pink that reminds you of the Wizz Fizz sherbet you ate as a child that sent you bouncing off the walls.

Of course, the sherbet reminded me of sugar. And the sugar reminded me of the humble, not-too-sweet but not-too-savoury biscuity snack I adore (plus, Digestives contains fibre, so surely that’s healthy – right?). And the biscuit reminded me that I’m actually a child. And this reminded me of my paediatrics rotation, which I am currently on. And I can’t tell you exactly when or where along the path it happened, but 30 minutes later, I was at the St Kilda end of the beach, questioning my future as a doctor. One negative thought led to another, and I had spiralled down a sinkhole of uncertainty that concluded in me convincing myself that there is no way I will be able to acquire the knowledge and skills that I need to be a capable intern in 2022.

Uncertainty.

To be: uncertain.

You can’t quite say why you feel like you do, but something inside just doesn’t feel right. It’s the worst emotion because there aren’t any actions that you can take to make things certain – the only thing that will resolve the bubbling anxiety is time. It’s impossible to stop thinking about an uncertain situation because there is no final answer to satiate the relentless questions in your mind.

Uncertainty.

To be: uncertain.

It’s how I’ve been feeling most of the year. It’s how my friends have been feeling most of the year. It’s how the entire student cohort of 2020 (not just med – EVERY STUDENT THIS YEAR) feels about their prospective careers.

Uncertainty.

To be: uncertain.

It’s a human emotion stemming from the inability to predict future events. As humans, and especially as type A’s, we reject uncertainty. We don’t like the idea of not being able to anticipate a future outcome, or the inability to change the natural progression of a situation unfolding.  The unknown.

The brilliance of the concept is in the absolute irony that the one thing we can be certain about in 2020, is, uncertainty. Worrying about our medical degree, from the finer details of our assessments to the end-outcome of our clinical capability, is a completely normal and natural response to what is happening around us. We may not all express it, but we’re all thinking it. It’s human emotion that stems from the sheer uncertainty of the situation in which we find ourselves.

I find that it helps to just sit with the emotion. Acknowledge that you feel uncertain. Remember that it’s a normal response to the current context of our world. But if you find it difficult, and you find you are being suffocated by the weight of it all, please tell someone.

Tell a friend

Tell a parent

Tell a GP or a counsellor

Phone counselling service @ Monash

Call 1300 788 336 [1300 STUDENT]

  • Telephone counselling open 24 hours.
    • From Malaysia: 1800 818 356 (toll free)
    • From Italy: 800 791 847 (toll free)
    • From elsewhere: Students +61 2 8295 2917 | Staff +61 2 8295 2292

More information can be found here.

MUMUS Community and Wellbeing

E: mher20@student.monash.edu

 

A Little Change

BY RADHIKA CHALIKAVADA

What do we know about change? How do we feel about change?

Imagine sitting at your favourite restaurant and ordering the same thing again and again. We all have our favourites that we excitedly relish a couple of time. But what if we don’t order anything but that, forever? How would we feel? The same can be applied to our lives.

Now more than ever, in self-isolation, the idea of change is very appealing. Something to break up our usual routine. When self-isolation began, there might have been many like me who were secretly glad to have a reason to be home. Hoping to get a “break” from studying and going to uni, and most of all, doing things that we have always wanted to do but never had the time. Now, a few months later, the same idea of wrapping up in a warm fluffy blanket binging Netflix doesn’t seem that appealing. Something that you looked forward to a couple of months ago isn’t something you look forward to anymore.

But thinking about it, I realised I was satisfied. I had moments where I was as exhilarated as I imagined. For example, during my first clinical skills class. Even during my first anatomy class. During my first week of self-isolation, when I binged a series I was hoping to get to for a while. However, this wasn’t a constant occurrence. It didn’t last to my week 15 anatomy class. It didn’t last to my holidays, when I finally had the opportunity for endless entertainment. Why was that?

Monotony. Or put another way, I was too used to it. And we may already know this. That such a turn of events is normal. That somewhere through the track, an exciting thing is not so exciting anymore. So, what does that mean for us?

For me I realised that the moments where I felt that excitement was when there was something new. Something I wasn’t used to. There was a change. Many of us may associate change with bigger and grand ideals. But for me it was simply something that breaks monotony. Little things that change up a routine. I realised giving up my free time or my course wasn’t the answer. Life-altering changes aren’t the answers. Rather it was the little things that mattered. Little things that spice up a normal thing.

Ever since this epiphany, I made several little changes to my usual routine – be it in my studies or my day-to-day life. Some changes were as simple as switching to group study sessions and swapping checking social media the first thing in the morning for an early morning walk to see the sunrise. In a few weeks, this might become a routine and I might not be as motivated for them as I was before. Not because I don’t like them, but because I might be too used to them and it might be time to find something new. As mentioned before, we may already know about this. The idea of little changes may be trivial. However, when noticed and appreciated, they go a long way. And we all need reminders. No matter how treasured something was, we need to recognise that if our present feelings do not match up to what we imagined, it’s not because there was something wrong. It is just because we are somehow attuned to it. A little change is all we need, and it is completely normal and human.