On dark skin affirmation

A playlist

woman below the gaze
woman below the gaze

It took an uncomfortably long time to come up with 5 songs that celebrate and affirm dark skin. But THANK YOU JESUS, after hours and days of searching, I found them! And they are beautiful. And they are glorious. And they are affirming!

Here are my top 5 songs that give a nod to the deep dark hues. The first two are love letters to dark skinned black people, the next two are a big middle finger to those who invalidate dark skinned beauty, and the last one – a personal mantra for self-love. Enjoy. With love

Brown Skin – India Arie

This song was the first ever art piece that told me I can love my brown skin. Up until that time, I didn’t even know that this was an option. A cultural reset this one. It is a honey-dipped love letter to brown skin.

“Skin so brown, lips so round
Baby how can I be down?
Beautiful mahogany, you make me feel like a queen
Tell me what’s that thing you do that makes me want to get next to you, yeah”

Brown Skin Girl – Beyoncé

The 2019 #BlackGirlMagic anthem. This gem needs no commentary.

“Have you looked in the mirror lately?
Wish you could trade eyes with me ’cause
There’s complexities in complexion
But your skin, it glows like diamonds
Dig me like the earth, you be giving birth
Took everything in life, baby, know your worth
I love everything about you, from your nappy curls
To every single curve, your body natural
Same skin that was broken be the same skin taking over
Most things out of focus, view
But when you’re in the room they notice you
Cause you’re beautiful, yeah you’re beautiful

Black Woman – Danielle Brooks

Danielle Brooks sings about the black female experience. The fetishizing, the appropriation, the gas-lighting, and the colorism. She also sings about the power that lies in our glistening skin and our refusal to ‘lose ourselves to prove ourselves’

“You want my thighs, you want my stride, but not this melanin
You want my hair, but you don’t care for this complexion
I’m a black woman, I’m a black woman
Corn bread fed, sweet tea sippin’
Nubian queen with the skin that glistens
I’m a black woman”

Faith in these brownskins – BiancaIsKing

Okay Bianca Bonnie is mad – she is TIRED. She’s not here for your “pretty for a dark skin” comments. The song is a wink to her dark skin and a middle finger to the guy who said ‘you bad for a black joint’
It is obscene, visceral, full of vulgarity that only a person with the lived experiences can relate to.

“Don’t let him give you a complex
Be a beautiful savage
In this world where they judge you if you dark you a wack chick
Nah I ain’t feeling that racist s***
All I got is faith in these brown skins”

My Skin – Lizzo

The self-love queen gave us this beautiful and personal letter

“I’m done with the struggle. I wanna – I just wanna enjoy my life now and maybe appreciate my skin…
I woke up in this, I woke up in this, in my skin
I can’t wash it away, so you can’t take it from me, my brown skin
This is something I was born with, you know?
You can’t buy this at a store, so hey…”

Friends, hook me up with more affirmation songs if you know any. Sharing is caring.

On dating and #NotAllMen


This is a story about the last date I went on.
This is a story about dating and drinking and butterflies.
This is a story about #NotAllMen.
This, dear friends, is a triggering story.

Once upon a time

I met J…let’s call him Alpheus. I met Alpheus online. When I say INSTANT CONNECTION!!! We spoke endlessly for hours, on nothing and everything. He was attentive, smart, hilarious, and he texted back in GIFS (I mean, marry me already, right?!?!?) I was intrigued. I was interested. I was attracted.

On dating – the date

We met up two days following the encounter. It was a dinner date (insert all the green flags here – a gentleman, a listener, a wonderful conversationalist), followed by a night cab at his place (friends, clothes were kept on the entire evening. This is NOT a story about sex on the first date).

Night cab

There was music (while we’re on the topic of music: mans had asked me on the drive down to his place what music I listen to. I said music by female artists, to which he responded with “isn’t that sexist?”
Fast forward to his place, he played music by ONLY male artists! I never called him out on it because, I get it – men relate more to male artists, and women to female artists [gross generalization]. He, however, neither understood that nor recognized his hypocrisy. I thought that was interesting. Anyway, I digress), there were humungous wine glasses and they were filled with tons of red poison. Now look, I am a wine lover, but also a conscious person. I recognize the spaces I occupy and the people with whom I share said spaces. So, while Alpheus gulped down his drink, I savoured mine with guarded enthusiasm.

*Trigger warning : rape

Dear friends, THIS is what the story is about. This is why I felt my date was worth writing about. The conversation that transpired – THAT is the story. In South Africawhere sexual assault and rape is rife – is it justifiable as a woman to be fearful of all men in intimate encounters? Is it justifiable as a man to be defensive of your good nature? I leave it to you to decide.

We need less wine

Alpheus pours himself a second glass of wine and the conversation begins:
Alpheus: Want more?
Me: Not now. I still have a bit left. Plus chuckles I have to be careful with my wine intake. It’s not safe for girls you know.
A: Hold on, wait a minute now. So, what you’re saying is I’m a potential enemy? A potential rapist?
Me: I mean, no. Not exactly what I’m saying. But you know that women aren’t safe.
A: But if you don’t feel safe then why are you here with me, alone, at night? You know I’ve noticed that women aren’t really…you probably haven’t had that (rape, sexual assault) happen to you. You probably don’t know anyone it has happened to. It has never happened to your friends. You only know it happened to some girl in the media. All these women who protest about these things [I assume he meant #MenAreTrash but cannot be sure – he was not explicit about said ‘protests’], it never happened to them. They are just doing it for clout.
Me: I don’t think the women you hang around would tell you if anything like this ever happened to them, because they wouldn’t trust you to be compassionate, if this is how you speak. I have in fact been assaulted; I know women who have been assaulted. Are we thus weary of men? Yes. Does it mean we won’t look for intimacy ever again? No. We want love, but it’s disingenuous to expect us not to be afraid.
A: Afraid of us because some Tom in Johannesburg took advantage of a situation? Look, Tupac said I can’t and shouldn’t be held responsible for another black man’s violence. I am not going to sit and listen to you bash me, and take it without defense just because I am a man. We have feelings too. I will defend myself and all black men because it is unfair that you all paint us with the same dirty brush.
Me: Okay getting up it is quite evident that we’re on two opposite sides of this and cannot find a middle ground so, this is my cue.

Cue to leave


I took a cab back to my place, blood boiling and cheeks aching, trying not to trigger myself with memories of my assault, and holding back tears because I had just been #NotAllMen’d and gaslit out of an otherwise incredibly beautiful evening.


Then I got home to this text:


Friends, how do we reach a middle ground in situations such as this? Is there a middle ground? Do we want a middle ground? Do men think that women cry wolf when they talk about rape? Let me know below.

On men and feminism 2

What is feminism?

woman below the gaze
woman below the gaze

When I asked 7 men what comes to their mind when the word ‘feminism’ comes up, there were certain responses I expected. Chats about respectability politics, angry black women, feminazi (I absolutely detest that term. Who thought that comparing an angry group of people fighting for equality with a group of genocidal f***s was a good idea? Anyway, I digress), and the likes are not new to the conversation about feminism. (There were concerns mentioned, but none of the rhetoric I thought would be spewed.) What I did not anticipate, however, was an entire gender studies dissertation.

Enter Vikar Singh

Dear friends, this is part 2 of the question: “What is feminism?” by V. Singh

Feminism, to an extent, is being pro-women.
It is a term, or a movement, that recognizes that women, probably since the beginning of time, [have] been exploited, disadvantaged and abused.
And it seeks to recognize that women are equal…to men and should enjoy freedom of expression, enjoyment and – IN OUR TIME – the same opportunities as men.

Photo by Maryia Plashchynskaya on Pexels.com

But we can dissect feminism further.

The experiences of white women and women of colour are very different. White women still enjoy certain privileges, and the plight of the Black Feminism movement should therefore be highlighted.
We know that white women are more favoured, generally speaking. And it is a similar thing [with men]. As a man, I can recognize and admit that there are certain privileges I have, just by having a penis.

It is generational thinking and these are ways that have been passed down for generations.
It is so difficult to change because it is [systemic], in the way we have been [conditioned] to think.

‘The men of the house should sit down and eat first or should be served first in a household, or at a function.’ OR that women should take their husbands’ last names.
It is something that has been engraved in our way of life and infiltrates almost every aspect of our lives.

Recognizing privilege

When you read about white people saying “All lives matter” instead of “Black lives matter” [it is as though they are using their privilege to silence the voice of ‘the other’]. We must first recognize that there are some privileges that are just bestowed on specific people just because of their gender or the colour of their skin.

Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels.com

And of course, don’t think the feminist movement is saying that women are superior, or do not recognize the role of men in our society. But it is about bringing women and their struggles to the forefront, because the male privilege will always be there (because, unfortunately, it is the way we have been programmed to think.)

Not just heterosexual cis-gender

And we should not forget that feminism does not only include XX women, but trans women, intersex [persons], non-binary feminine-appearing people. Their struggles are even worse.

Final word.

As Vikar alluded to, feminism is complex, it is inter-sectional, it is a movement that strives for the recognition of women as valuable members of society. It is about politics, finances, sexual agency, identity agency, and, above all, women being recognized as human beings. It is not without its issues, as was described in Part one, and the conversation is a long, non-linear one.

Let me know what you think about this conversation.

On men and feminism

What does feminism look like to men?

woman below the gaze
woman below the gaze

I have been genuinely curious about this question lately. What does feminism look like to men? In my opinion, equality between men and women is synonymous with racial equality – on the surface, we have the same rights, opportunities, and responsibilities as white people. However, the world as we know it has been designed to systemically favour the white person over the non-white. And to correct for this, movements have been started to disrupt and dismantle this system (cue Affirmative Action, Inclusivity and Diversity laws, etc).

Why feminism

I believe the same can be said for men and the system of patriarchy. Enter feminism – a movement initiated to correct for the systemic privilege of maleness at the expense of womanhood. Makes enough sense, right?

However, as I have come to realize, people aren’t as quick to equate the two. I, being curious, had to ask. So, I did. I asked a number of men what comes to mind when they think of feminism.

Men, what is feminism?

I asked, not to debate or argue, but to temporarily exit my very fixed feminist bubble and enter the minds of those not as emotionally invested in the movement.
Many of the comments (not unlike those usually found within discussions about race relations) were centred around respectability politics.

“It is women fighting to be able to express themselves the way they want to. [Initially] it seemed to be centred around men, being better than man, or not needing men. And that bothered me because, you cannot push a movement that is supposed to make a certain group feel good about itself by putting down another group.
“Being feminist didn’t mean you didn’t need a man. It just meant you want to be who you are, the way you choose. And that could’ve been a wrong perception but there’s been a lot of clarity around the topic lately. And it has long deviated from being a campaign shading men”

Ndina Lithole

“Brilliant, absolutely necessary, well intention-ed at its foundation…misrepresented by those who’ve used its power to bring change, to push their own agendas (in the same way [religious folk] have twisted the Bible to suit their personal needs”

Sechaba Motseki

“Women’s equality. I don’t have actual statistics, {translated} but there are talks, and we can see, that key strategic positions in corporate are still dominated by men (this is also evident in clinical work).
“Secondly, it’s still a bit relevant in rural areas, where there are still gender roles and stereotypes.”

Mmakwata Lesudi

“Honestly, whenever that word [feminism] comes up, I see a woman who primarily has good intentions and fights for a good cause but got carried away and is rudely vocal about feminism.
“Similar to LGBTQ movements, *ba lwa, a ba boleli* [they fight, they don’t communicate].
“We just need to talk. I really understand where the feminism and LGBTQ angry community is coming from. But not everyone should be paying for the hate – we are not all against them. So we need to be mature about it.”

Lesetja Malatji

“It’s a movement aimed at empowering women, to enable society to view them as equals.
“It is still important [in our generation]. Equality has not yet been reached.
“Personally, I feel it is really important, especially for black women. But there’s also a bit of conflict between ‘traditional’ vs ‘modern’ when it comes to perceived gender roles. There would be issues with modern women trying to do both. As a man, I want to see my future partner as an equal. But the idea my mom has is that she [wife] sort of has to assume the traditional role too. That may be confusing.”

Thuto Kalipa

“It is a movement against toxic masculinity and support for women and their basic rights.
“It tends to go overboard sometimes with dislike towards men. Most feminists actually don’t like men.
“But in my opinion, it is a movement where women’s rights are advocated, which is a good thing, but perhaps some women take it a bit too far.”

Frank Achampong

I asked 7 men (very small cohort obviously) and above are the responses from 6. The seventh response was so all-encompassing (and 2 pages long) that I have decided to make a part two, all on this seventh response. Watch for this second post, coming soon. Thank you to all these men, who were honest in their answers and have brought me a few steps closer to understanding the other side of the coin. Lots of love to you guys.

Friends, what is the first thing that comes to mind when the word “feminism” comes up? And do you agree with the above statements? Let me know below.

If your heart’s not in it – my journey through medicine

So, you don’t like your career…

Some time in the middle of my fifth year of varsity, I had a heart to heart with myself about my career choice – Medicine. I realized I didn’t particularly like it, and didn’t see myself being happy in the field. However, I felt I had given it too much of my time already, to give up so close to the end. So I continued with my studies. My heart was not in it anymore, but I kept going, had to keep going because, for one, I had one year left of my undergraduate studies and two, no other viable option presented itself.

…now what?

In my sixth year, for the first time in my life, I failed. I repeated the year and, although the second time was markedly better than the first, I had already closed my heart off. The love for Medicine, for studying, for helping others, was gone.

You keep pushing

In my second (current) year of internship, particularly through the Anaesthetics rotation, I struggled to get up for work. I hung onto scraps of sanity while forcing myself to show up everyday. My job, I felt, took away my humanity, my creativity, my soul. And to add salt to the wound, I was dealing with an unnecessarily painful breakup.

breakup-thoughts

As a student, the Anaesthetics rotation was part of our fifth year rotations. And it was precisely this rotation that made me question Medicine as a career.
As an intern, rotating in Anaesthetics, I recalled those student times. I went back to those times. I went back to trying to fight the idea that I have no choice but to be stuck in this career I dislike.
And seeing my seniors, very evidently unhappy and weary (and never letting an opportunity to tell us internship is the best time of our lives) reinforced the idea that it genuinely does not get better in this career (dear God, how much more so, if your heart is not in it?).

You keep showing up

Even now, halfway through my internship, I wake up anxious for work, everyday. I go to sleep anxious, everyday. I am exhausted. Mentally from all the anxiety. Physically, from the insomnia, from the everyday running around required by the job, from chronic fatigue. Emotionally because it has been three plus years since I tapped out of this career, but haven’t found a reasonable alternative, and likely won’t for the next year or so. Hashtag front-liners, or something like that.

if your heart's not in it
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Friends, what do you do when you realize the path you’re on is not the right path for you?
What is the way forward, or backward? Let me know below

On impostor syndrome and the pandemic – my journey through medicine

Recognizing my privilege

Before I begin. I acknowledge the privilege from which I can speak, being afforded a somewhat comfortable and secure career in these uncertain times. The economy is in a state, people are starving, people don’t have secure jobs, people don’t have jobs, period. The pandemic has slapped poverty in many people’s faces. I truly empathize with the many affected. I am privileged, lucky, blessed. That said…

I hate medicine. I hate this job. I despise this career. It truly is not for me. I’ve given it nine years of my life and it in turn has given me respect, comfort, and security. But not much else. And alas, the ‘all else’ is what I truly seek.

The beginning

I brushed it off first in medical school. Convinced myself that I’d fall in love with it when I finally get to save lives, I’ll find the passion when I’m no longer burdened with studying, with ward marks, with six-weekly anxiety-provoking exams. I’ll be a doctor and I’ll love it.

journey through medicine
Graduation
Impostor syndrome

When I started working, waking up anxious and with a heavy heart everyday was explained by claiming I had impostor syndrome. “You don’t believe in yourself, is the problem. You are too tough on yourself. Just shift your thinking. You’re going to get it as soon as you get rid of the debilitating idea that you do not deserve to be a physician” These are the thoughts I forced myself to think, in order to get me out of bed. They only worked to get me out of bed. They did not persuade me that I made the right career choice. I still do not believe I should be a doctor.
One chooses to be a doctor for a myriad of reasons. None of them should be ‘to impress my father, to show him I’m worthy of his approval.’

The pandemic

The emotional tax of this job alone, without the addition of an unexpected pandemic, was enough to make me consider a different path. Now with COVID, emotional and mental health is basically non-existent. As I write this here piece, I just spent about two hours crying. A five month old baby boy, cared for probably more, in the nearly 2 weeks he was with us in hospital, than in his entire life, has demised. This, after fighting AIDS, severe malnutrition, TB, neglect (ABUSE!), and corona virus.

He spent his last days alone, with nursing staff in scary PPE coming in only to feed, give medication and wipe off his bloody diarrhoea, with interns (like myself) in monstrous PPE coming in only to poke and prod to put up intravenous lines and draw blood. He had family by name only, and had not had any visitors since admission. When I tell you, dear friends, I have not cried for a person passing like this, ever, not even family. What level of emotional health is that? May the little nunukins have rest, wherever he is. May his soul rest in peace.

pandemic
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

We have absolutely no idea how long this pandemic will dwell within our spaces. Or even how deleterious its effects will be on us, mentally, emotionally, financially, socially. Personally, I’ve taken this time to fully reflect on my hatred of this career. I’m not entirely sure where the road leads from here. The series, the invitation into my journey, the story, ends here. However, because of the current state of the world, the pandemic, the love of security, respect and comfort, my journey through medicine, and consequent reflections, continues.

Friends, what have you been reflecting on during the pandemic? What things have you found out about yourself, the world in this time period? Let me know down in the comments.

Thank you all for engaging with me through this journey. The series ends here. Watch for my next series through the month of September 🙂

Three in the morning

On 3am grievances

Wounds not given air to breathe
Wounds suffocating under the guise of being okay;
They scream for life, they scream at me
Won’t heal until I look their way,
Expose them, undress them, dissect them.

Photo by omar alnahi on Pexels.com

Hidden behind a million smiles and
burning inside contagious laughs,
the wounds die, necrose, and leave behind
                foul-smelling nothingness

Yes, nothingness
The nothingness that consumes you at three in the morning
when all you hear is the sound of your heart,
your broken heart, beating against your ample chest.

Not like a treasure chest filled with gold
but like that made with glitter;
That which shines bright as the stars of old
but the truth is it’s just bitter.

Bitter like the taste of the wounds you left hidden
when you exclaimed “I’m okay!”
Okay with the thoughts that wake you at three in the morning
when all you hear is the sound of your heart,
your broken heart, beating against your ample chest.

Photo by David Bartus on Pexels.com

Not like a treasure chest filled with riches
but the chest of drawers harbouring shame;

Yes, shame
The shame that fuels your desire to be left alone
because all you want is for everyone to feel your pain.

The pain, the relentless pain
caused by the wounds you kept hidden;
The wounds that wake you at three in the morning
when all you hear is the sound of your heart,
your broken heart, beating against your ample chest.

On anxiety and positive thoughts – my journey through medicine

On the fear of redundancy

I was humbled to realize just how much more there always is to learn, this in the first few weeks of my second final year. My worry, prior to starting the year over, was that I would drown in the redundancy of repeating the year. That the same lame jokes and boring tutorials would send me over the edge and I would succumb to anxiety. The worry soon faded when the first rotation started, and I found myself learning new material daily. This reminded me of one of the reasons I chose to study medicine. It is dynamic, ever-changing and anything but redundant. It is life in a microcosm. It grows, hurts, and moves like all of us.

On anxiety and insomnia

Speaking of, anxiety taught me a few things during the rotation. She is hard to get rid of. She creeps in during the early morning hours, and, once she gets in your head, fighting to get rid of her is a struggle like no other. I had moments, weeks before the exam period, when sleep would evade me. I would battle with heart palpitations and my restless mind would not surrender to my obviously fatigued body. I would wrestle against thoughts of failing and be reminded of my wars even in my dreams. My mantra, hard as I tried to meditate on anything else, quickly became ‘do not fail.’

positive thoughts
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

On re-wiring thinking

However, I had to quickly learn to kill the anxious thoughts and replace them with thoughts of excelling. I had to force myself to believe I could achieve what I never managed. I had to tell myself that it was not good enough to ‘not fail’ – I had to push to exceed my own expectations. I had to show myself that I indeed was smart, and my failure was a lapse in my character, not a core feature in it. The anxiety never quite went away (does it really ever?), but speaking and meditating on positive thoughts went a long way in helping me survive, and thrive in, my year of redundancy.

Check out this post on not letting anxiety get the best of you: https://www.manrepeller.com/2018/05/anxiety-tips-for-getting-stuff-done.html

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

On lessons

I cannot imagine life going any other way than it had in medical school. The lessons I missed in my first attempt became clearer with the second try, and, people I met in my latter year became some of the most important human beings in my life. I learnt to (read: I was forced to) switch negative ideas with positive thoughts to keep anxiety at bay.
I am thus compelled to believe that my life story was not meant to be written any other way. It was humbling, provoked anxiety, and oftentimes repetitive. Nonetheless, I left medical school wiser, more courageous, and more self-compassionate than I would have, had I been the author of my own story.

See my post on being affirmative and self-compassionate during my repetitive journey:https://blackandgoldblog.com/2020/07/20/a-letter-to-me-my-journey-through-medicine/

Exams again – my journey through medicine

Exams are stressful. Exams that must be retaken – a thousand times more so. I could have asked a hundred people who went through the same thing before me, and none of them would have adequately prepared me for the Internal Medicine examination in my second final year. I prepared well for it, learning all the theory I could and practicing my postures for the oral exam. What I did not prepare for, however, was the panic attack that would hit during the examination.

Internal Medicine

 My patient was not co-operative; he had requested to NOT be in the exams as he felt too sickly but, as he was in an academic hospital, he found himself nonetheless being prodded and poked by students. He was furious at the doctors and, at me. As I tried desperately to remind him that my future was in his hands and I needed his co-operation to pass the exams, flashbacks from the last Internal Medicine exam intruded, and I started hyperventilating. “This cannot seriously be happening again! I cannot fail this God-forsaken block again!” Such were my thoughts while sweat dripped down my forehead and time moved.

In that moment, try as I did, I could not empathize with the patient whose wishes were being disregarded for the sake of learning and exams, whose pain meant less than the signs his illness produced. I could not empathize with him because my survival instinct had taken over. I had listened to my patient despite my better judgement the previous year and failed as a result. I used this reasoning as an excuse to continue my evaluation, despite the patient’s protests and my own panicking.

See my previous post: how I failed my final year of Medicine https://blackandgoldblog.com/2020/07/06/failed-the-year-my-journey-through-medicine/

I was not ready after the 20 minutes had lapsed. When the specialist examiners entered the consultation room, I had barely come up with a diagnosis. The patient was even more indignant, my anxiety had now reached intolerable levels, and the examiners waited on me to blow them away. I did not. For some reason though, I made it. Call it a miracle or a mistake, whatever it was, I passed my exams. When the wise say God works in mysterious ways, perhaps this is what they mean.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Integrated Primary Care (IPC)

The IPC exam was markedly less stressful. Perhaps I was better prepared – both emotionally and knowledge-wise. Perhaps the long-term stakes were not as high, or perhaps I just knew I would make it. Where the previous year it had given me the more anxiety of the two, this time I knew it would not be my downfall. That counts for something, doesn’t it? After all, this is the block that shredded my self-esteem as a black student.

Sunday Times article on racial/political issues surrounding IPC exams https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/news/2017-12-02-wits-medical-students-cry-racism-over-failure-rate2/

MG article on racial/political issues surrounding IPC exams https://mg.co.za/article/2017-12-01-00-wits-med-school-hit-by-racism-claim/

What I learnt from both exams

It took a while to get over failing and to believe in myself again, the process was long and ugly, and there are still days of self-doubt. However, here we are, not wallowing in our inadequacies, living the life of victors every day, irrespective of our continued struggles. What I learnt the most from this is, let the negative experiences fuel you to do and be better. They will affect you, even more than the positive experiences, but use them to grow, and to believe in yourself even more.

Other exams

Another experience I hadn’t anticipated, was retaking exams I had previously done well in (because the university still believes that failing two modules renders you an unsafe doctor and you must start over, to get the basic principles). Some of the exams went by smoothly, because I enjoyed them the first time. Others, however, reminded me of the ease with which one can fail a block one had previously passed.
The Paediatric module, for instance, was a nightmare. It was work-intensive, with calls every four days, working as interns while still being expected to study and work on research assignments. The exam itself was no child’s play. The one child cried from the moment I entered the consultation room to the end of my examination. I somehow still passed that exam, albeit barely. The idea, however, that I could have failed that exam when I passed it the previous year with a B symbol, scares me to this day.

Perhaps the rule that people who fail two exams should repeat the whole year is something to be re-assessed, or perhaps my fear and bias prevent me from being objective in this topic. Irrespective, this year has left a permanent mark on my life – the PTSD, the anxieties, the panic attacks, the fear, will forever be remembered. However, they will not always be remembered negatively. I will remember how I struggled and panicked through exams, and still made it to graduation that year.

Photo by Stanley Morales on Pexels.com

Victory

Exams will forever remain stressful and evoke anxiety. Nevertheless, we come out of the experience stronger and better, and the fruit of our labour is sweet as honey. I will never fully understand why I had to repeat the year after a relatively smooth ride through medical school, and the scars of failure do not magically disappear when the results finally say ‘completed requirements for degree’ at the end of the year. However, victory tastes a little sweeter and you savor it a little longer after a fall. 

A letter to me – my journey through medicine

To survive repeating final year, I knew I had to be kind to myself. I could not afford to beat myself up and be self-hating in 2018. I had to tell myself that I was capable, that I could move any mountain I set my eyes on.

So, I wrote myself letters. Letters of admiration and support and letters of endearment. I wrote these letters during tutorials, in hospital operation theatres, at home on my desk, in the study room, everywhere. I mostly wrote them when I had a good day and was feeling particularly good in that moment. This was so I could read them when I had a bad day and didn’t feel good about life. They helped, and I will advise anyone going through a rough period to adopt this.

The letter below was my first ever letter of 2018, written during a tutorial in the Gynaecology block, my first block of the year:

“I told you that you would survive this. Look at you, flourishing like you did not suffer from depression just last year. Look at you, thriving where you thought you would wither. Look at God, keeping you sane when you thought you would be admitted to a psychiatric institution. Look at life, handing you flowers instead of the lemons you got so accustomed to. Look at you, waking up each day, breathing and being when you thought you were done for. I told you that you would survive this.

Now listen, it won’t always be easy, it won’t always be fun, you will have the nervousness, the sweating, the anxious waiting. But you got this. Always know that you got this. You’ve done this before. It is doing it with experience this time that will give you an edge. You know what to do, what not to do, when to give and when to take apart what you learn and give purpose to this opportunity to relive final year. See it for what it is, not for what it could or should have been. Learn all the lessons you possibly can but know that you will survive, and you will thrive. Oh, the light that so shines on you, the radiance that is waiting to brighten the paths of others from your ember, you have absolutely no idea my dear. What I want you to do now, is open yourself up to the experience sweetheart. See what you missed last year, or who you missed, or check that you did not miss an important step that can only be climbed in medical school. But whatever happens, remember this – I told you that you would survive this. You can survive anything. Look at you, flourishing even.”
                                                                                                                                    13/02/18