The enemy within

On account of studying in a different state than my parents I have come to travel alone a lot. Which is great for me because travel stories make for good content (if you’ve read our posts you’ll know). By virtue of this, I’ve had the fortune only few have, of meeting new people and listening to some of their stories without having to put in effort to stay in touch later. (don’t judge me, I’m only human).

Each time the ice breaker seems to be “Oh you’re doing medicine? Third year? Oh okay. You know funny story actually a relative of mine…”And they proceed to tell me some medical problem their friend or relative has had in the past.

In this instance I speak about, the same sequence of events unfolded. However this time I had a problem which was twofold. 1) This lady by my side didn’t stop with narrating an incident. She went on to ask my opinion about it. Now I am but a third year med student, how can I be the second opinion to a cardiologist? So as she looked expectantly at me I struggled to put the scraps of my pharmac, path and medicine knowledge together and give her a satisfactory answer.

And 2) I was really sleepy. Anyway somewhere through the next hour she gave me a story that I am now writing about so I am not complaining.

Apparently, the lady in question, had a neighbour who recently passed. Her family is suspecting it to be a case of suicide because they now think she was under depression. I was sincerely nodding my head and sympathizing with her when she asked me “But dear tell me, do you think it could have been depression? I mean she seemed so normal.”

Yes aunty, she could have been depressed. Here is why.

Depression isn’t a disease where you can list out its signs and symptoms. It doesn’t have a face. It doesn’t come knocking on your door in the quiet of the night, it comes like the drop of a pin on a sunny beach morning. It doesn’t do shit to you in terms of altering your cholesterol levels or urine sugar levels. What it does instead is make you FEEL like shit. I have never been depressed medically. But I’ve been sad at some point or the other. Haven’t we all?

Now imagine having that feeling intensified plus your brain convincing you that you deserve the worthlessness you are feeling. Imagine there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You don’t know how long this tunnel is going to be or if the light will ever shine through. Imagine feeling you have no purpose here. That is what depression does to you.

The worst thing about depression though? Left untreated it can actually kill, if not your body, then your mind and soul. It is like a faceless dementor sucking the soul out of a living person who is still expected to live, smile and act normal only because people don’t believe or understand what is going on with them.

But how can we understand? It’s like explaining colour to a blind person.

To those of you who are reading this from a third person’s point of view, remember : Be kind. If a friend comes and tells you that they are feeling purposeless or sad, take them seriously. Talk to them. Be patient. Tell them how important they are to you. Lead them to the end of that tunnel. Your actions today can have an effect on somebody’s tomorrow.

To those of you who are reading this and relating to it, remember : Talk. Talk to a friend or family. Get help. Therapy isn’t taboo. It is brave. If you don’t think you can confide into someone, come talk to us. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Give yourself time to heal even though it may seem hard at present. Be patient and kind with yourself when you are healing, just like you would with anyone else. You are loved. You are wanted. You have a purpose here. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.

unknown

The beautiful picture above was captured by our dear friend Burj-Al-Arun. He captioned it “32 medical students, one journey” and aptly so. But when we saw this picture (Forgive us, we’re two old souls sometimes) we saw something more than just the colorful umbrellas. Each umbrella has a story to tell. Each one of us carries a burden, some of our’s larger than the rest and others’ so large that it’s almost debilitating.

And yet we wouldn’t know a thing because that’s the nature of this disease.

So be observant. Ask how someone’s doing if they seem down. Hell ask how someone is doing even if they seem fine, smile at everyone and be kind. It could make all the difference in the world.

Advertisements

It’s the outside that matters

A long time ago or to be precise 5 years ago, back when I was in the 12th grade, my English professor asked my class if we would take a pledge with her.It was just another casual day and I don’t know what prompted her to do this, nevertheless curious as we were about what it was, the 32 of us said we would. She told us to raise our right hands and recite after her.”From this day forward I will never judge another person, solely based on how he/she appears.”

I kept my promise, I really did…for a WEEK.What?Its pretty hard and to this day every once in a while I remember my promise and try to renew my pledge.The thing is, in my opinion, its in our nature to judge someone based on how they look.I mean think about it, we dress up well because we want to make a good impression.People get tattoos, piercings, dye their hair so that other people notice right? Would we still do it if no-one else could see it ?Now I’m not generalising, there may be some of you saints out there who genuinely do not make snap judgments about people, but I’m speaking for the rest of us, mere mortals.

I think the first impression of an individual can be likened to a synopsis of a book.It gives you an insight, it might pique your interest or it might not impress you at all.However this assumption of yours can be changed after you read the book.This is why appearance matters, it is what you want others to see, it is that version of yourself that you want to project to the world.

Patients come to the hospital stressed and with potentially dangerous medical conditions, they obviously do not want to be burdened with dealing with a doctor who appears,well..queer. Not to mention that they could be two or three generations older than you.To put it plain and simply, a doctor will not be taken seriously if his attire his off, no matter the skill he possesses.Like the saying goes-Dress to attract not to distract.

Finally, as much a this hurts for me to admit, I think its justified for medical schools to frown upon students dyeing their hair in bright colours or getting large visible tattoos and piercings. Because although it doesn’t seem like it matters, it helps to ingrain the idea that a professional attire makes a patient feel respected and safe.I read a study on patients’ preferences for doctors appearance and apart from the usual, what I took away from the article was that if there is anything that a doctor should want to wear to impress a patient, it should be a smile.

Friday the 13th (the day after)

This is not a story of Friday the 13th. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of Saturday the 14th. The 14th of October that I was scheduled to go home for the long Diwali weekend and also my old man’s big 50. Needless to say I was buzzing with baseline excitement all day. But as the day progressed, my evening got curiouser and curiouser (Alice in Wonderland reference in case you were going to correct my grammar).

My train was at 22.20 hours. Being born to over anxious parents, by their constant nagging, I always end up at the station 2 hours prior to the scheduled departure. But I’m 21 now, I thought. Fully capable of making adult decisions all by myself. Or thats what I told them. Determined to not be there too soon or too late I booked a cab for 21.00 hours. Packed and ready to leave as soon as my driver called, I waited at the hostel gate excitedly, impressed with my pristine planning.

When at 21.15 hours he still hadn’t called, I opened the app to see that my booking was cancelled. Its okay, I booked another one and waited patiently. He called me 8 minutes later that he was at the gate. When I told him to come pick me up from the hostel, he said the gates were closed. “Its okay self, I’ll talk to the guard and get him to open the gates.” (I constantly keep having conversations with myself in my head). What I hadn’t realized  during this was that it had begin to rain. Yay.

So I walk up the slope and tell the guard to let my cab in. Much to my chagrin, he told me he had orders to not do so and that I should walk upto the main gate (which by the way is a good 8 minutes walk from my hostel). I lose my temper then, round 1 of the many to come. How did he expect me to walk in the rain with two heavy bags up the slope to the gate? Couldn’t he just open the one right in front of him. He asks me to buzz off, annoyed with me. (p.s take him some sweets, self and apologize for the bad behaviour. He was just doing his job.)

So now frustrated and tears welling down my cheeks I start the climb while i answer a call from my father asking me if I’ve left considering how it was 21.45hours by then. I reach the front gate fully drenched. The driver has called and confirmed that he will be there in 10. And like a bolt of lightening it hits me that I forgot my father’s gift on the table, the same gift I’d been making for over a week. Crying round 2, I call my friend. She makes the 8 minute walk to the gate and like a savior brings the gift. The driver is still not here, I cant call him because my phone is waterlogged and the touch wont work anymore and its still raining.

Just as I am about to take the auto with 3 minutes to 22.00, my cab appears. I dump my wet luggage and wet self in it and tell him to hurry. He takes a look at my flustered face and red eyes and probably some tear tracks along my cheek and starts to make conversation with me. I calm down. He tells me we’ll make it in time and if not, he’d book another cab and take me home. I laughed. And calmed down some more. (p.s. Um, borderline creepy?). It was 22.12 hours when I reached the station. I fumbled with the change and thanked him and got off.

I checked the board that displays the arrival and departure list and my train is scheduled to leave at 00.20 hours. Wait what? Was there a mistake? I put my hand in my pocket to check and couldn’t find my phone. Crying round 3. Right there in the middle of platform of number 3 with a myriad people surrounding me, I hunt for my phone while crying dramatically. False alarm, I found it in my bag buried under my clothes.

After enquiring at the kiosk, it turned out that my train was delayed by two hours. And also the platform was super crowded. Yay.

After scavenging for a very wet (from the rains) seat, near a group of oglers and a bunch of extremely loud humans I resigned to my fate. I put my feet up on the suitcase  (which during the course of the evening had somehow gotten sprained ), zipped up my hoodie and pulled it over my head (because akeli ladki khuli hui tijori jaisi hoti hai and all that) and settled in to get (not really) Watson upto speed. God bless her soul, she reacted with all the oohs and aahs in the right place.

Two hours later, way beyond my bedtime, when the train finally arrived, I couldnt wait to go to sleep. I entered and the stench of phenol and cockroach kill engulfed me. You’d think with that much disinfectant sprayed everywhere the cockroaches would be long dead but oh no. Hello superpowers who were ready to take over the world some day, and my berth for now. I brushed them off and fell on my seat and slept like a log.

I woke up to Sunday the 15th and the animated faces of my parents who came to pick their 21 year old very adult daughter up from the station. I hugged them, and everything in the world was right again. Image 15-10-17 at 4.56 PM

Pre- exam syndrome.

I have an exam tomorrow and I’m supposed to be at my table, with a cup of coffee trying to cram as much as I possibly can in the limited period of time. But here I am writing a new blog post. Current mental status : Super annoyed ; so bear with me as I give myself a liberty I seldom do, to divulge into a rant.

Here in our med school we have a system called “Block Postings” where my batch of 120 students is split into 4 groups comprising of 30 each. Each of the 30 students as a “block” get posted in a particular department for two months at a stretch and the staff cover as much syllabus as they can for the finals which we take at the end of that year. We study the theory aspects of the subject as well as the clinical.

Our time in the given department is split between  lectures, the opd, ot (operation theatre) if its a surgical branch and seminars. In the span of these two months we write three tests. We have finished two out of the three subjects that we have finals for this academic year. (Ophthalmology, preventive social medicine, otorhinolaryngology). At the end of the two months we switch.

For the following two months we are in the next department, so on and so forth. This is our second month into otorhinolaryngology and I’m exhausted. Studying the same subject all day for two months gets monotonous and boring. The tests are so many that we don’t take them seriously anymore. The doctors have to teach the same thing over and over again as each new batch comes to their department for two months. Besides, how the hell are we supposed to remember in December the subjects we studied in January?

What we had until last year was a set time table. Every day we had lectures on at least three out of the four subjects we had to take. And the portions would be completed a month before the exam which gave us ample time to brush up the first term portions and revise the rest. More importantly, we were in touch with all the subjects equally until the very end. Never did one subject monopolize our time.

Maybe this system is good in some sense which is clearly lost on me. Or maybe it’s just about the grass on the other side, I do not know.

But hey, I am not this whiny little kid who doesn’t appreciate a silver lining when she sees one. The sky was beautiful this evening while I sat outside the library, a cup of coffee in my hand, trying to cram as much as I possibly could.IMG-20170914-WA0005

Bruised hospital walls.

The once painted walls of the hospital are now enveloped in grimy stains and white flakes.

Numerous charcoal scratches from the multitude of stretchers that have grazed them.

These black stains you associate with fear and sickness.

The stagnant air around you toxic like the ashen fumes of a truck.

So you sit holding your breath, as the loud hacking coughs resonate in your ear, hoping not to catch a whiff of the contaminated air.

 

But to me these are the mighty walls which have held in numerous cries of pain.

The walls within which millions of sick have been cured since time immemorial.

The scars are ones of resilience for all those who survived and those who couldn’t.

Through these corridors walk angels in white and in blue who save lives.

In these rooms is where I learn the art of medicine.

 

So walk through these hallways not with impatience.

Crammed with wheelchairs, strained relatives, worried parents and some alone.

Everyone has a destination.

You are not in peril here, within these four walls you are safe.

Kill them with kindness.

 

As rituals go, as soon as it was 10 o’clock, my phone showed “home calling”. And almost every day it’s the same old spiel, “How was college?” “Did you see anything interesting?” “Eat properly. Drink water. You’re a growing kid, you don’t need to diet.” Needless to say the latter is most often than not from my mother. Today however, my dad narrated this incident involving my Uncle VJ. Now uncle VJ lives in Bangalore and owing to the crazy traffic there, he has come to detest driving his car through the city. Hence he has a driver (lets call him Matt) to take him to work, run any errands, pick his kids up, so on and so forth.

Uncle VJ being the workaholic he is leaves for work pretty early and comes home just as late. This gives Matt an equally long workday leaving him no time to go back to his family who live in the outskirts of the city. My uncle, being the good guy he is, always makes sure that Matt gets Sunday’s off no matter what, even braving the mad roads of Bangalore himself if he had to. Now this particular Sunday, it so happened that due to circumstances that could not be avoided, Uncle VJ with my aunt and cousins had to go out for a bit while his mother had a function to attend in another part of the city at the same time. His mother needed to be dropped so, much to his chagrin, he just had to call Matt.

Having to deprive Matt of the one day in the week he got to spend with his wife and kids greatly bothered my uncle, so here’s what he did: he told Matt to bring his family along with him on his way to my uncle’s house. So in the time between dropping uncle VJ’s mother and picking her up, Matt could take uncle VJ’s car around the city and make sure his family had a good time! He gave Matt the keys to his brand new car, with a tank full of gas and told him to have a great Sunday with his family in the city!

Maybe it’s not that a big deal. Maybe people do this sort of thing all the time. But in my head, where opinions are still forming, where I’m learning new things everyday: it was a big deal. I could think up a whole bunch of reasons why this decision could have taken a turn for the worse! I’m sure my uncle, being certainly better well versed with the world than me, would have been able to think of the same reasons. Yet still, he pushed aside all those doubts, put all his faith in Matt and just wished for the happiness of his driver and nothing else.

It was such a small gesture on his part as Matt’s employer, yet to Matt who didn’t get to see his family as often as most of us, I’m sure the drive through the bustling city would have brought warm smiles to his wife and little ones and given them yet another happy memory they had made together to add to their life as a family.

Being someone who gets to see her family only once every few months, I completely understand the joy and importance of being able to physically be there with your family, have fun together, create, relive memories together and simply just be together. Uncle VJ understood that too and out of the goodness of his heart, the gratitude for his driver, he decided to take just a little extra step and give his driver an invaluable gift.

My main motivation to become a doctor has always been to be able to make a difference in someone’s life. What I’ve realised from my uncle’s act is that it’s not the grandiosity of what you do to help someone. There is no definite scale to measure kindness and the impact of that said kindness on someone’s life. As long as you try to be kind, in whatever little way possible, that kindness will go out and make some sort of difference, big or small depending on how you look at it. In today’s world full of strife and sorrow, I think any little difference we can make in the every day of the circle of people around us is a great thing and these little differences can eventually come together and, as cheesy as it may sound, make the world a happier place!

Maybe we need to stop thinking so much in terms of profit and loss, pros and cons. Maybe we just need to tap into our innate desire to be kind and just give. Little by little, through acts of kindness like my uncle’s, maybe someday our faith in humanity will be restored for good.

 

Halcyon

The heat of the blazing sun above
scorched down on my fatigued eyes
My tired feet scurry toward the library
Time was fast moving and the test not too far.
Alas the silence of the library was unnerving, my eyes remained fixed on the book but my mind wandered, as I read the same line over and over
My fidgeting left foot nervously shook.
Tick tock tick tock.

And so with my book, my jumpy self left the noiseless room.
Greeted with a breath of fresh air I took in my surroundings.The expansive quads, lush green as the rain flooded them.So much rain was falling that the sound blurred into one whirring sound.
At ease,I opened my book and studied.

P.S: This is actually where we study on campus