by DANIEL XUE

This isn’t an article about statistics. This isn’t an article about tips or advice. This is an article about what it’s like to struggle. 

Med students have this tendency to be a bit ambitious.

Both my parents are academics. Growing up, I didn’t have much to pride myself on. I wasn’t a genius, but I could hold my own quite well in a selective school background. Now, even in uni, I can’t bear to let myself fall from those steadfast standards. Medicine, however, only brings greater content and smarter minds to pit yourself against. For me, that just meant more time spent studying. Much more time. 

I played the violin growing up. I wasn’t anything amazing, but it was one of the few things that made up who I was. I kept up lessons years after leaving high school, much longer than any of my friends, because dropping it felt like dropping a part of me. 

I was overweight and unfit for most of my life. I hated it. It took a lot of running and gymming and watching what I ate to fix that, but I’m still not quite happy with it. 

After entering uni, my world was blown wide open. I found new friends, a new environment, hobbies, clubs, subcomms, events. I had the potential to build the life I’d always wanted, and I was determined to do it all right. But as the list of things I wanted got longer, the amount of time I had left just…kept getting shorter. 

Thing is, no one schedules time for a breakdown. 

If I’ve got a gap at uni, I do my best to fill that time with something productive. More often than not, I’ll be sitting in a booth in the Pavillion with some friends, laptops out. I’ll have my earphones in, trying to hold onto that fleeting flicker of focus I’ve somehow found. 

But then I’ll hear some words I don’t wanna hear. Or I’ll see someone laugh and smile, and that nothingness I’ve bundled up inside begins to spill. I’ll turn up my music, but I’m not listening to the words anymore. I’ll stare back at my screen, but I’m not reading those words anymore. 

Or maybe I’ll talk a little louder, or I’ll laugh a little harder. Maybe I’ll slip out a weak smile, or plaster on a grin. Anything that’ll make me look okay to everyone else. Moments like these just make me want to shut down. 

That’s the truth about being a med student here at UNSW. If you want company, then you’ll never be alone. But when everything’s breaking down, that company can make you feel more alone than ever. 

I stopped going to lectures. I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house as much, and the last thing I wanted was to have to pretend that everything was okay to everyone else. It was hard to pay attention in tutes or SG, and I’d find myself apologising to my group mates for falling behind in progress. Some days were better than others. But try as I could, there was no way to distract myself from well, myself. Those times would come where all I wanted to do was shut down. It wasn’t something I could fight. All I could do was let it happen. 

Studying was difficult, and my grades suffered. When I’d practice my violin, the pieces became a little sadder, and the notes a little clearer. I stopped caring as much about what I ate. It was harder to pull myself out of the house to run or gym. I didn’t have the energy to socialise anymore, but I’d still force myself to stay out late. I’d try to distract myself with whoever or whatever was around. 

I look at the things I have to do and the time I have to do it and, I just don’t have time to be sad. 

It’s not part of my schedule.

For those of you who feel like life just isn’t working out right now, I hope this makes you feel like you’re a little less alone. And for those of you that don’t, I hope this makes you think about the people around you. A quick glance around our cohort shows nothing less than happy faces. Everybody has their own friends, their own hobbies, their own passions. On the outside, the lives of us meddies are nothing short of flourishing. But no one ever talks about what lies beneath the surface. 

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