Monday, January 6, 2020

Phoenix: My 2019 year in review

I don't know how many of you are familiar with the legend of the Phoenix. For those of you who aren't, the Phoenix is a giant, immortal bird that recreates itself cyclically from ashes. That was me this year. Like Nuclear fission, I was split into my most elemental form. The basics. The fundamentals. I had to figure out who I was and what made me, me, all over again. This needs a bit of a back story into my journey into medical school in September 2017.

A young, excited Martyne got accepted into medical school with the government subsidy, just about a week before classes were expected to start.  Scrambling to get everything in order, I highly anticipated what the journey would be like following in my father's and my aunt's footsteps. I was on my way to becoming the third Dr Montrope. It felt surreal. Then the anxiety hit. I didn't even know what it was at first. Shaking hands while writing notes, shaking myself to sleep, waking up in a pool of sweat. The fact of the matter was, it was just TOO MUCH! There was just too much to know, anatomical terms, the blood and nerve supplies, the drug contraindications and mechanisms of actions. I wouldn't know it before exams and I was going to fail. This became my mantra. Day in, day out. I'm going to fail. I can't pass. I worked myself into panic attacks daily, hourly.  Because failing a course in medical school when my father is a doctor is THE WORST thing in the world. Martyne who was always one of the smartest, captain of the quiz team, failing? Oh, the shame! Anyway, to make a long story short, I didn't fail. Not one thing. To date its probably my best semester in medical school. But it went downhill from there. Because I had a fear of being anxious, and that anxiety came from school. So I started to go less, I studied less and initially I was less anxious.  However, that semester failed several courses but they were within the credit amount to continue so I did.

Semester two of the second year proved to be marginally better albeit me dealing with the deterioration of valuable friendships and a few other personal problems that I thought I was actually just avoiding dealing with so I could focus on school.  That Christmas is when it all came crashing down. The facade had been ruined, the "jig" was up. I spent the entire holiday I spent locked up in my room ruminating on things I couldn't change and crying....all under the pretence that the semester had drained me and I was burnt out. Then came the isolation, friends would call and I would ignore them. There came a point where several persons had to call my mother to find out if I was ok and still alive. I told her to tell them that this semester was just really hard and that I wasn't coming to class because I studied better at home. This behaviour continued into semester two of second year. I spent days, weeks and months just staring at a wall. Not wanting to kill myself, but not really wanting to exist. Panic attacks rocked my body every time I attempted to pick up a book to study. I slowly just got sick of myself. There was no pleasure in my existence. It got to the point where I said that I was either going to kill myself or do something about it because things could not continue as they were. As Elizabeth Gilbert said, " I've never seen any life transformation that didn't begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bullshit". Now I'm not saying poor mental health is your own fault, but YOU are responsible for getting help and actively trying to get better. And that's the hardest thing to hear when you're in the depths of depression and even showering and replying to a text seem like huge tasks. But you have to do it. There is no other option.

And so, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and went to the psychologist at the Western Jamaica Campus ( who I HIGHLY recommend btw her name is Dr.Stewart-Dixon). And things started to get better, little by little. I slowly started falling back in love with life again. Unfortunately, I started this process a little too late and I failed out the second semester. Which means I'd have either have to do an entire semester's courses(18 credits) in 3 weeks or repeat. After speaking with my psychologist and higher-ups in the medical faculty, I decided to do the latter.

 The very fear I'd had from the beginning of medical school had now come to pass. The course is already 5 years long and now I had an extra year. All my friends from Western Campus would move to Kingston and be in white coats and bush jackets without me. They'd ask " Where is Martyne?" and I'd have to explain I was a failure. I had a 2022 class jersey and now I was in 2023. Not to mention the backlash from family. The first person ever to fail anything much less an entire year, in a family where 99% of people went to university. The money wasted. I definitely heard it all. And I almost fell back into that deep dark pit, I can only say it was the grace of God why I didn't. I didn't tell my family about my mental health issues because of how it was handled when I told them about it in first year. So I let them think it was just a case me slacking off.

I decided to ask to be transferred to the Mona campus in Kingston since I did not think that the facilities were conducive to my academic success as well as I wanted to be close to my Western Jamaica 2k22 family. I went up to Kingston with them in the summer so I could do extra classes to prepare for my resits. Then came the hard part. Telling my class family of two years that I would not be continuing with them. It broke my heart every time I uttered the words but I was overwhelmed by the support that I got. I had passed my summer resit with an A grade despite several challenges like not being given the override to do the resit until the day before and the axe hanging over my head that if I failed this exam again, I would be kicked from medical school permanently. I also didn't get back a room on Irvine Hall and had to scramble to find a place to live just days before the exam. Things were beginning to look up.

I was now on the Rex Nettlefford Hall and decided to throw myself into everything I could possibly do. Dance society, CEAC committee, EAC committee, Carnival committee. I was planning to dominate. THEN came the roadblocks. Issues with a flatmate escalated into several meetings with Rex administration. A physical altercation with a partner at the time that resulted in the police being called and admin getting involved again. I was frustrated and tired. I had come to Mona to have a clean slate and as soon as things started getting better academically they were getting worse in other aspects. The weekend after the physical altercation happened, due to threats being made, it was not safe for me to be on Hall so I went to my aunt's house. I sat in the bathtub and bawled my eyes out. I was sick of it. To the best of my ability, I always tried to be a good person. I'm honest maybe to a fault, kind and considerate. I may have a sharp tongue when I'm upset but we all I have our vices. I felt like God was punishing me, I kept getting the short end of the stick. I fell asleep that night with tears staining my cheeks but I woke up a new woman, a stronger woman. A woman who had some of her worst fears come true and was no longer scared of anything. The world was ready for my taking. I had been burnt, again and again, and again but I rose from the ashes each time, stronger than the last, a more beautiful Phoenix than the time before.

I can not claim to have been able to get up each time by myself. They were always hands there ready to help lift me up from the grey ash. Hands in the form of my close friends Koy, Monifa and Rachael to name a few who stuck by the friendship through ignored calls and texts and the distance. Hands in the form of kind words of encouragement from family and friends. I was never particularly close to my father even though we lived together but after all the cussing and quarrelling he drove to Kingston every Wednesday to help me study and was willing to pay whatever price to make sure I got the extra help I needed to pass. Though we may not get along, I definitely felt loved in those moments.

And so I'm sharing this with you, dear reader, not to seek clout or pity but to show you that you can do it. You can push through. One of the reasons I so badly want to win Miss UWI (which I'm super proud of myself for entering and to be chosen as one of 12 contestants from over 50 applicants) is not just for the title, but to show you that so much can change if you don't give up. You can be shaking with fear and be unable to present in front of a class of 17 people and be standing on stage performing 12 months later. Anything really is possible. So if you were burnt to cinders in 2019, 2020 is your Phoenix year. The year you rise to the greatness God intended you to. And it SHALL come to pass. Inshallah.

Phoenix: My 2019 year in review

I don't know how many of you are familiar with the legend of the Phoenix. For those of you who aren't, the Phoenix is a giant, immor...