October 10, 2018, by studentcontributor
Coping with anxiety at medical school
People often ask me what anxiety feels like and I normally respond with something like this: “You know that feeling in your stomach when you are going down stairs and miss a step? It’s that, all the time.”
Then they tend to ask me: “But… you do medicine? Isn’t that a really stressful course?”
Truth be told, I rarely get severe anxiety episodes now, I’ve had a lot of treatment – such as talking therapies such as CBT to help me deal with the issues, and have been under the care of many a mental health team, from both the NHS, and more recently at the University.
Since starting at the medical school a year ago, I have really learnt about myself as a person, what I can and cannot cope with, and have worked with the University to make adjustments to help me make the most of my course.
First, I attended a uni occupational health appointment, where I was able to prove I was fit to practise due to the effectiveness of the coping strategies I use. This means I can study medicine, as long as my health doesn’t decide to take a journey down Niagara Falls. However, if this happens, I can make use of such a huge support network within the University.
The Mental Health Advisory Team have been a saving grace for me — putting me in touch with people who are just there to help, and not judge me, both within the medical school and the wider university. For instance, Student Services help me to decide whether I need special arrangements for my exams to make sure I perform at my best.
What I have is a disability, and I am entitled to support where I need it.
In addition to this, my personal tutor provides welfare support, and is always a friendly face to talk to and monitor my progress – making sure I am staying on track and my health isn’t taking over, and there are also senior tutors available to discuss more urgent matters, which is useful as our tutors are often very busy with their own work!
I’m also really sporty – but can find it difficult to pluck up the courage to go to the gym by myself – it’s quite intimidating for me, despite being very strong compared to my peers! I recently found out that the University has a buddy scheme for those referred by disability support who want to do sport with someone else to remove that barrier, which is such a great thing for those of us who need it.
And, answering that question I’m always asked – why on earth did I choose medicine when I have anxiety? It’s simple. I don’t think you should let mental health stigmatise you and restrict your life – I’ve always wanted to pursue this career path, and am proud of myself for having achieved my goal despite the hurdles, and if I ever trip up, the support available at the University and medical school is there to catch me when I fall. When I am in lectures, or on placement, I feel no anxiety – it’s so clearly meant to be.
Contributor: Isobel, Year 2 medical student