It's been a few weeks since I officially received my medical license and swore the Hippocratic oath. At our graduation ceremony, we were each asked to prepare a short speech detailing something about our time as a med student that stood out for us personally.
I don't do well with preparing speeches, I prefer to be spontaneous. But in the days leading up to my ceremony I spent a lot of time wondering. Would it be appropriate for me to mention my depression? Am I going to mention being on the spectrum? At first, I decided not to. It didn't feel appropriate for a moment of celebration. But as I was sitting at my graduation ceremony, waiting my turn, I knew I was going to.
So, in a room filled with hundreds of people, some of which my future colleagues, some of which my friends and family, I stood up, took the mic, and talked. I told the story of how I had passed all of my tests easily, got great reviews at my internships and did well with patients, yet ended up dropping out because I couldn't crack the code, could not figure out how to interact with my fellow students, and became insecure and eventually depressed as a result. I told the room that I found out I have Aspergers and spent the better of two years learning my own manual. And then, I came back to med school, and life was so much easier for it. I told them how, in order to be a good doctor, I needed to find out who I was first. I needed to know my own strengths and weaknesses, and needed to accept myself.
When my speech was over, I noticed that a lot of my family members were crying. Happy tears, obviously. Proud as well. And I got compliments from people I didn't even know on how incredibly strong I seemed in my speech and my manner. My future colleagues just introduced themselves and said they looked forward to working with me. The word was out, and nobody seemed to be judging me. I felt free.
As I started my new job, I decided to be as open as I had been in my speech. So when my boss asked me about my recent years, I told him about how I had taken some time off because of depression. And then something unexpected happened: My boss told me about his own lifelong struggle with depression, told me not to be ashamed of anything, and to give him a call if I ever feel like I need someone to talk to. And so did my new coworkers. It feels very liberating to have the people I spent ~60 hours a week with know who I am. Not who I portray myself to be, but the actual person behind the NT mask. I haven't mentioned being on the spectrum to them, because it feels weird to blurt it out, but I'm sure I will, at some point in the future.
That is all, for now. Next time: my reflections on my first month as a doctor.
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