A couple of weeks ago I went and met a whole load of people off the internet in a pub in Birmingham. I was initially wary because (and this is a story for another time) I’ve had some odd experiences with meeting internet folk and also because it was going to be a gang of medics and I’m very, um, un-medic-y. AND BAD WITH WORDS.

Do you know what though? I had a lovely time, confirmed that the people I thought were brilliant WERE indeed wonderful – people say you shouldn’t make snap judgments but I happen to be very good at them – and made some new friends along the way. All in all, a very good day and night during which I managed not to tell too many rude stories or let on that I can be a bit of a cow.

What was extra special for me was that I didn’t really have to explain myself. Because I had a little mental a year ago and decided to put my back-story on the internet, most of the people there understood my path into medicine and not having to come up with an unwieldy sentence for my mature student status every time I introduced myself to someone was a huge relief. What do you say? It’s something I get asked about on a daily basis on my course; in every new study group, in every clinic, on every ward (“What do you mean ‘I’m obviously a bit older’?!”, I say and then run to the mirror, crying). I am yet to come up with a handy set-piece which manages to convey that I didn’t just have some epiphany about wanting to be a doctor in my late twenties, that I didn’t go to uni at eighteen and find the studying a bit difficult, which is what most people assume when I say that I had a hard time first time around. Personally I’d find it easier to just tell the truth, but then this tends to make the person asking feel terrible and also seems ‘a bit much’ either when you’ve only just shaken hands in a bar or are looking at an x-ray together for the first time. So, answers on a postcard if you think you can crack it. (Seriously, I love postcards, DM for address etc)

This got me thinking about how glad I was to have got that little story off my chest a whole year ago now, how kind everyone had been about it, and how accepting most people are. I’ve had a really great year. When I wrote that story I was still reeling from a miscarriage and had honestly reached the point where I just didn’t think I was ever going to get pregnant again or that I’d have a successful pregnancy if I did. Looking at the date I’d posted it though, I must actually have been tinily, tentatively, itsy-bitsily pregnant, which perhaps explains the tidal wave of hormones that led me to sit down and type-cry my life to a bunch of strangers. At this very moment, my fat little rosebud of a baby sits next to me, laughing at a cushion and bashing my thighs with her spitty fist. In addition to this wondrousness, I’d had a good year at medical school where I’d actually made friends and, thanks to doing two days a week in hospital, got a bit of validation that I’d made the right choice in returning.

This validation is important to me because, in truth, I am a terrible medical student. My friends are almost entirely non-medics, I don’t spend any of the time when I’m not studying thinking about the subject, and my life outside of medicine is, and I suspect always will be, bigger than either the course or my job when I get there. It’s easy to feel quite guilty about this, like I’m not really ‘proper doctor material’. While I think the human body and the things that happen inside us are beautiful and miraculous, I’ll admit that I only learn about neuroanatomy or the bloody renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system because I have to; rather than just for the sheer love of the science behind it. I like people, I think I’m good at listening to people, being observant, playing ‘symptoms detective’ and communicating in a way that is useful and, where possible, makes them feel good. That is my pitiful skill set and I really hope it’s enough, especially as I already have moderate fear about returning to my course in September. My friends will all be a year ahead of me by then, and I’ll be with people another year younger. I’m not intrinsically ageist, and I hope I’ll meet some more great people but there’s something a little bit odd for me in being surrounded entirely by people born in the year I started getting off with boys and surreptitiously swigging Malibu at sleepovers. So, if I start to visibly wobble a bit when I return, I hope you’ll all shout at me IN CAPITALS to crack on with it and not get weighed down by what people might think of the haggard old crone in the corner. I think I’ll be quite good at it if I can just get there.

(This is a very odd PS. I’ve seen in various forums people referring a girl to my blog who has had a similarly shit time and is asking people for advice on re-applying to medical school. IF YOU WANT TO, WILL YOU CONTACT ME SO WE CAN TALK? I promise not to compare your story to mine or to offer advice, but I will listen, I will provide the facts that I know to be true in terms of re-applying as a failed student, and if you want I’ll try and help you with the process of doing so xxx)

  1. You are amazing. Don’t ever change. THAT’S what will make you a wonderful doctor.

    • Irregularly Irregular said:

      Heavens, you’re too kind. I really hope I’ll be good at it, I can’t wait to do my placements next year but I feel a bit scared by all the other stuff. Almost like starting again…

  2. I can’t tweet this out because I am only on day 2 of my 40 day hiatus but I very nearly broke my resolve for you here. I KNOW THAT WAS YOUR PLAN.

    I like your words, I wish you’d blog more. It’s not like you’ve got anything better to do. xx

    • Irregularly Irregular said:

      *rolls eyes* *rolls eyes again*. Thank you. It’s a quiet life, but I do try to fill my days *gazes out of window, picks fluff off cat* xxx

  3. Michelle S. said:

    I love your blogs, both how you write and the thoughts and feelings you convey. You will be just fine in September, I am certain. X

    • Irregularly Irregular said:

      Thank you, how kind! Please do remind me of this in September when I will probably have another ‘meltdown on the internet’ type moment x

  4. xalix said:

    I don’t know if your ps is referring to me (or heavens forbid there are more people in med school who have suffered in similar circumstances). Just the other day someone referred me to your blog in one of the student forums. I was assaulted by another med student and am seriously struggling with depression and anxiety. I have been given chances to retake but I know i’ve failed my retakes (get results next wk). Its mental torture having to see him around the uni/hospital and the fact that even though they know he did it have never said anything to him as they thought it best. My only hope is to pray I’m allowed to transfer to nursing and even though I know I will enjoy the course, I also know I will never get over having this amazing chance at being a DR taken away from me and not being strong enough to prove myself academically.
    Weirdly I was looking at how to contact you but wasn’t sure how so am leaving a comment here. Thank you in advance for offering to help, I appreciate it soo much! x

    • Irregularly Irregular said:

      Thank you so much for getting in touch. I’m really sorry that this has happened to you and you’re having a bad time, it’s totally unfair and not surprising that you are struggling with things. I’m about to take the liberty of emailing you so you have my address and then if you want to talk more, we can xxx

  5. thescribbl3r said:

    Has it only been a year? Blimey, feels longer. In a really good way, though – like I’ve known you for ages. Anyway, this is going to be a bit of a long one – sorry about that.

    You are an amazing woman. Not only are you obviously very clever (the whole doctoring thing doesn’t really work if you’re not, of course) but you’re human as well. I think this, above all else, will make you a bloody brilliant doctor. You see people. You care about *people*, and that, plus the other stuff you mentioned, is by no means a “pitiful skillset”. You will help heal people and people will be grateful to you for doing so. You will make the quality of their lives *better*.

    My GP makes me think of you. I’d been seeing all sorts of people for all sorts of things ranging from TMJ disorder to a stupid arthritic toe and there was all this stuff causing me physical pain and it, plus depression, just made me crumble. So I went to see her and told her about all the stuff that was going on and cried a lot and was generally not very articulate at all. I left with a prescription for anti-depressants and the leaflet to self-refer for CBT, having done scored a winning 23/27 on a PHQ-9. But she also told me I could feel lifted by seeing her and that we were a team now and would sort this out and made me an appointment for about a week’s time. And after that she phoned me one day at home to see if I was OK. I’ve never had a GP do that before. Anyway, now the depression’s much better and I’ve finished CBT and she’s helping me sort out some of the other stuff, like the pain I get from the TMJ. It has all improved my life enormously. You are going to do that for someone one day – because you’re different and just generally rather awesome.

    I am not the sort of person who would generally give someone the label of being ‘inspirational’. I don’t have photos of Ghandi kicking about or avidly read about one particular person who makes me want to aspire to be more like them. Except I kind of do. It’s a Twitter avatar and I’ve never met the person behind it so I probably imagine you differently to quite how you are, but you do inspire me. Your blog post one year ago today helped me. It made me want to get past the enormous ball of pain that was inside me, making me wonder how I could face the rest of my life feeling like that. And I read your story and it was awful and it made me cry (bit weepy now, tbh, sorry about that) but it also made me think how brave you were to have rebuilt your life. Not in a patronising, “Oh, that Lelly, she’s so … *whispers* … brave” but in a bloody hell, it must have been terrifying to go to Uni as a mature student and take on something so big as medicine after such a break and all the bad stuff that happened sort of brave. I admire you. I decided I wanted to be brave like you, and I kind of am now. I’ve achieved more in the last 10 months in terms of doing stuff that scares the hell out of me but then makes me feel really good, than in the rest of my 39 years put together. Thank you for that.

    *shuffles awkwardly and gives you a shoulder punch*

    As September gets closer and you feel apprehensive, just remember that in addition to the people in your real life who will hug you and get you drunk and tell you that it’s going to be OK, you have quite the army of online friends who will remind you, when you need it, of how brave you are and how you can absolutely do this thing. You are Lelly_Mo – you’re bloody badass. 🙂

    • Irregularly Irregular said:

      I don’t know what to say, I’m both completely embarrassed and over the moon because being told nice things until you get all teary feels lovely. I’m so very, very glad that the last year has been a good one for you, I’m enjoying all this opening up that’s been going on for some of us, feels like lots of people are in a better place for doing so.

      I sort of had a giggle there about your ‘winning’ score, because I *love* passing tests, and I remember that sort of competitive ‘yay high score’ thing kicking in along with the realisation of ‘oh god I’m a mess’. Your doctor sounds simply amazing, how great would it be to do that sort of thing for someone? I hope I get to one day, that’s a new ambition right there.

      I can’t say more now because I’ve gone all sniffly on account of your niceness and need to go and have a little lie-down underneath a table to gather my thoughts, but thank you, I am preposterously glad we met, circumstances notwithstanding. You’re a really good friend to me, and I’m grateful xxx

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