I had a series of stressful things happen to me whilst I was in my third year at medical school. I became increasingly overwhelmed, exhausted and anxious. My friends tried to help but I think it was out of their league. There were quite a lot of unhelpful myths being perpetuated, such as that if you had a mental illness on your medical records you wouldn't be able to get good jobs as a doctor. I guess I'm writing this partly to say that that's rubbish.
I muddled on getting worse and worse for a few more weeks and had just got to the point of getting established with the college therapist and starting antidepressants, when a final stressor tipped me over the edge. I ended up being admitted to a psychiatric ward for a couple of weeks as I was suicidal. I think I needed to hit rock bottom in order to finally accept that I was actually unwell, was not attention seeking, couldn't just 'pull myself together' and needed to take time out and use the professional help available.
The first few months were really tough, but with the right help and a bit of time I was well enough to take a set of exams successfully 6 months later, and then start my clinical studies on time. I continued seeing the college psychiatrist and psychotherapist for the next two years. After that I didn't need them any more but it was helpful to know they were available if I had done so. I worked through a lot of things in therapy sessions which although challenging at the time, I think has paid off for me in the longer term.
My hospital admission was twelve years ago. At the time I thought the future was bleak, that I would face discrimination and would have episode after episode of depression. I really appreciated, though struggled to believe, the reassurances from others that that might not happen. As I got better I began to see little glimmers of hope, and could start to take things day by day rather than trying to cope hour by hour.
Twelve years on, I haven't had another significant episode of depression and I enjoy my life. I am an advanced trainee in Learning Disability Psychiatry which is exactly where I want to be right now. I do not tell my story to all my colleagues as it's not necessary, but those who do know have been interested and genuinely supportive. Many have also told me about their experiences. I detail everything on the occupational health forms each time I change trust, and again have not had any bad experiences, they tend to care more about my eczema! I have two lively children and did not have postnatal depression despite my concerns that the odds were higher for me. I teach and examine at the local medical school, and sadly still see stigmatising attitudes and myths about the impact of mental illness on medical careers. When I see people struggling with accepting that they have depression or anxiety, I want to convey to them that it isn't their fault, that they may not be able to fix things by themselves, and that things can get better even if they feel awful right now.