First term medical students have been having a whale of a time with the intense, scheduled reflection sessions during the last couple of weeks. At first I (coming from the UK where reflection is not our strongest area) thought it was ridiculous! Honestly, two ten-minute reflections with your tutor, one twenty-minute session with another tutor, a self-reflection essay, a feedback form, and a daylong seminar, really did feel like overkill.
Upon reflection (…ha-ha…) I have actually grown quite a bit as a person during the last week. I’m one who is prone to 24/7 self-reflection, and I thought PLEASE no more! Yet, hearing honest external feedback as well as learning some key skills made me realise that my self-reflection was more like self-torture.
One moment stood out the most to me though, and that was in the twenty-minute reflection.
“Is there anything else you are wondering about?” She asks me sincerely from the other side of the table in a small, square room in HSC.
“No” I replied by reflex because I already knew the answer to it. Then, I chanced it and explained that I have previously suffered from mental health problems, and I was worried that they might come back with a vengeance due to the increased stress of studies. I wondered if there was any support system for this potentially hypochondriac-like question.
Without even letting her take a breath I answered my own question with a bit of bluster and faff, because it’s hard enough talking about existing mental health problems, let alone the potential of them coming back!
“Of course, there likely isn’t anything out there for me because I’m thinking preventatively and there are surely not enough resources for that…” I paused as she grabbed her notebook and ripped out a piece of paper and vigorously wrote down an email address. She slid it across the table with certainty and purpose.
“You definitely can contact these people, who are there for exactly this. Preventative is good and they will listen to you and help. There are a lot of people in this situation, and you are not alone. Please send an email straight away.”
I looked at that torn piece of paper wondering if it was some kind of misunderstanding (especially as the conversation happened in Swedish). Yet, the confidence with which she urged me to reach out really stuck with me for the rest of the day. We need more people like this. It’s been a long journey for me to get here, and I would have loved to have heard this earlier.
So, for those of you who don’t have the kindest self-reflection voice in your heads, I will tell you what she told me just before I left. You are more than you give yourself credit for.
Be kind, be wise and reach out, even if it’s for preventative reasons.