Everyone loves Katniss Everdeen. What’s not to love about the strong, independent, bad-ass woman? Given that exams and Step 1 are looming closer and closer, I’ve been feeling less and less sure of myself and wishing that I could channel my inner Katniss Everdeen and emerge victorious against the Capitol–and by the Capitol, I mean exams). When sharing these thoughts with a friend, it occurred to me that I could step into Katniss’s shoes for a day by taking archery lessons. So, my friend and I gathered a group to see if any of us could hypothetically be the next winner of the Hunger Games.
With the increased awareness surrounding mental health that has come over the course of the 21st century, many more people are aware of PTSD. Our understanding of it has come a long way from the earliest accounts of “soldier’s heart” during the Civil War era, or even what was termed “shell shock” during World War 1. However, there are still some common misconceptions surrounding PTSD, which I hope to debunk here.
In November, I hated medicine. The gray clouds that watched from the sky followed me day after day — to my car, into the hospital, to my car again, and back inside my home. At times the haze was tolerable; an inconvenience, a bother, but no real trouble. Other times, it was suffocating.
Whenever I go to the hospital, I wear my grandpa’s socks. They looked distinguished on an older man, but a little childish on a me, a 25-year-old medical student. I’m okay with that. Feeling like an overdressed kid on Easter helps to balance the overwhelming pressure of becoming a physician.
As a medical student, I always carry naloxone in my backpack. Naloxone is the antidote for opioid overdoses, and is readily available at most pharmacies in Boston. My medical school, Boston University School of Medicine, is located near the epicenter of the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts.
Mental health has been on my mind lately, but not only because of the “Physician Mental Health” and “Resiliency Training” lectures we’ve been receiving during this block. A few weeks ago, one of my best friends from home texted me to say one of her medical school classmates had committed suicide a few days ago.
What happened to his smile? / Minutes ago, he was beaming. / Now the patient’s face contorted as he yelled. / Fury filled every crevice and crack of his face.
Black hellebore, a flower of the deepest black and with petals the sinister shape of blunted arrowheads, grows wild in the cool, mountainous regions of the Balkans. Despite its unintimidating label as the “Christmas rose,” the hellebore has a much darker history, one bespoken more by the flower’s ebony hue than by its innocuous nickname.
My struggle began around nine months before my eventual diagnosis. This was on a background of an entire lifetime governed by this haunting feeling that something was different. Or that something was not right. Yet being the overachiever that I was, no one noticed. I was always left to question whether my reactions were just a disproportionate reaction to certain life events. And I was repeatedly told the same thing.
An addict in detox, again. / Chief complaint of “at his wits’ end” / Manipulation, his malicious game.
A Silver Bullet / The tiny guns held by my little action figures / still remind me of that god forsaken trigger.
As physicians, it is our responsibility to understand these serious implications and to help these patients live as fully as possible. A patient is not just his or her numbers — their vitals or their lab values. A patient is not just an MRI reading or a CT scan finding. Every individual has a mind, and we must take into account mental health when treating these patients because if left untreated, they can have dire consequences. More importantly as people — as humans of society — we must not stigmatize these illnesses.