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The Ugly Truth about Med School

By Hithin Noble

An interesting icebreaker to ask anyone would be if you could put anything into Room 101, what would it be? If you don’t know what Room 101 is then, here’s a wiki article to it:

Essentially, what thing do you dislike most in the world? Certainly, cauliflower and Katie Hopkins are easy choices for me, but if I had to answer seriously it would be this.

Social media puts a haze on what is actual reality, and medical school bares no exception to its wrath. The bucket loads of medical school instagrammers and youtubers, a lot of whom undoubtedly spread immense amounts of positivity, and served as inspiration to myself when applying. Nevertheless, without naming names because we don’t want drama (btw any medic that says that is lying out their cerebellum, as many may know medical school gossip spreads fast), there are also many spreading the farce lifestyle of perfect schedules, and constant state of mental bliss. I find these individuals a little up their backside, and essentially just adding to the already, at times, toxic environment that is medical school. And this Ladies and Gentlemen, is what I would put in Room 101.

I am really glad more people are talking about Imposter’s Syndrome, but not enough people talk about just the general feeling of being in the dumps at medical school. As we are coming out the pandemic, I couldn’t be happier. Restaurants are opening up, and let me tell you, none of this Manchester rain is stopping me eating a blooming bao bun outside. Finally, being able to see friends and family and swap awkward zoom silences, with ACTUAL conversations. Despite all this, it’s been a difficult few months and we’ve all had our individual struggles, from losing loved ones to missing important festivals and celebrations. To those who struggled at medical school: it’s okay to have felt like this. Also let me tell you to the absolute troopers doing their A-levels and GCSEs and handling the whirlwind of journey that is the applying to med-school without stepping foot in your schools and colleges, I have the upmost respect. But people have struggled before the pandemic, and this isn’t going to change after the pandemic. Struggling doesn’t have to be bursting into tears, but just not feeling motivated or up to doing stuff on a particular day. Struggling can be not wanting to talk to people and wanting space from others. Struggling can also simply mean not feeling adequate compared to others. This struggle is what makes you human, and it should not for one second ever make you doubt your own self-worth.

Whatever your struggles maybe, because at times it can be hard to quantify or put into words what they maybe: I sometimes find it frustrating when the topic of mental health is treated quite brashly. What I mean by this is your struggles don’t vanish into thin air by speaking to someone or taking your mind off it by doing a hobby. Medical school is 5-6 years long, just as inevitable as Arsenal bottling another premier league season, you’re also bound to be faced with struggles along the journey to becoming a doctor: however big or small.

What really helps for me is just taking a step back, switching off from the real world, and reflecting upon your core values and what’s important to you. As sometimes, the hustle and bustle of deadlines, social commitments and general university life can make you forget at times. By doing so, it allows me to reboot, rewind and allows me to manage these struggles with a clearer mind set. I’m also fortunate to have a really loving set of family and friends, who also inspire me to become a better me. I’m sure I’ve taken that straight out of some sixth form prospectus. But I want to add, by no means am I sat on my high horse, giving advice about how people should deal with their struggles. Everyone has their own individual ways to deal with what they find most difficult: some people might shout it from the rooftop whilst others would prefer their own privacy.

The whole point of this article is to showcase that I, like I'm sure many, don’t live the perfect idealistic medical student life. But you know what that’s okay! The struggles that you are faced with never define you as a person, but in the future will lead you become a stronger, resilient individual and medical professional. Nevertheless, you can never predict how you are going to feel in the future, or how you felt in the past, but you can have an influence on the way you are feeling in the present. Don’t put yourself under pressure to be Mr/ Mrs Perfect 24/7 or ever feel ashamed that you may be struggling on the inside. Let’s encourage an environment, where mental health is spoken about in the open: not for the sake for a few likes but ACTUALLY spoken about. Spoken about, as a generation of medical students not afraid to brush their struggles under the carpet. Spoken about, so we can build a future generation of doctors, whom are not only resilient but are also honest to themselves and their patients. And spoken about, so we can prevent the tragic losses of life to suicide amongst the student community. This isn’t unachievable at all. By keeping your feet on the ground, staying true to yourself, and being kind towards your fellow colleagues: these collective actions are certainly steps in the right direction.

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