Finding Empowerment Through Writing on a Tough Day
Last updated: September 2021
Today was really overwhelming.
Life as a med student
Being a med-student is hard. Not just because of the insane amount of material or the long days put into studying and even longer working hours, which aren’t paid. But because of the emotional burdens and the silent struggles we’re all carrying.
It can feel lonely, but we're not alone
Most of us stay silent. I’ve never been silent. But today I forgot my voice, my power. And I turned to sickle-cell.com. A space that has become an empowering platform for me to be heard but also feel understood and seen for once. I read Rhedd’s piece and I remembered. I’m not alone. I’m not the only one who feels the things I do. But sometimes I feel so incredibly alone and like no one else cares or could possibly understand, let alone relate to my struggles.
My escape through writing
So, I write. I write to release my feelings, free my thoughts and frustrations, but most importantly to connect. Because I never know how much my words may be affecting someone else. Like how Rhedd’s gave me a much-needed reminder of the power of writing.
The ongoing stress
They say stress is a trigger for sickle cell crises. Well, being a medical student is a very stressful lifestyle. It’s honestly surprising how well my health has been given that fact. But the stress creeps up and it catches up to me, usually around finals when I’ve been pushing myself a little harder. Or today, after spending over 14 hours in the hospital with few breaks throughout.
But it isn’t the physical space that’s getting to me. It’s the emotional space. This paradoxical idea that health providers are supposed to withhold all of their own feelings and neglect their own wellbeing for the sake of caring for their patients.
But that's backwards, how can we care for others if we don’t care for ourselves. I’ve always struggled with how invisible my pain with sickle cell is. I’ve been frustrated with my inability to adequately describe how painful a crisis can be or with having to fight for the most simple/basic accommodations that are easily rewarded to others with chronic illnesses or disabilities. I feel that same frustration in the hospital. We ignore so many of the big issues, put band-aids on what we can, and send people back to the environments that put them in the hospital in the first place. That doesn’t sit right with me.
A broken system
The system is broken but I’ve known that for a long time. I knew it as a little girl, having to prove my pain was real to be taken seriously. I knew it as an adolescent having to explain my disease to health care professionals or face the consequences of their ignorance. And I know it now as a student doctor wishing there was more I could do to advocate for my patients' wellbeing, in and outside of the hospital.
I don’t know what the solution is, but I write because it makes me feel better and because maybe someone out there can relate and they’ll feel better too. Maybe my story will connect the right people or inspire a solution from others. Like how all of my experiences being a fearless advocate have led me to Health Union where I now get to be surrounded by other advocates who get me.
Are you interested in connecting with other sickle cell warriors?