End of 2020 STP reflections: Why the chaos of COVID-19 and the STP might just be the best thing for my ADHD brain…

Having unfortunately spent the majority of December in self-isolation and spending just 6 days at work this entire month, I have had a LOT of time to reflect on my experiences of the STP so far and the highs and lows. Whilst these weeks spent in isolation have been extremely difficult and have no doubt seen me reach some very low lows, it has also allowed me to reflect on and appreciate some of the real highs I have experienced so far so here goes…

I feel this warm fuzzy feeling in my stomach as I write this. That mixture of adrenaline and dopamine that my ADHD brain often so desperately craves and this need is finally being met. I feel a genuine sense of excitement as I go into work, not knowing what’s in store for the day ahead. I don’t just sit there all day clock watching, counting down the hours until I can go home. I arrive home from work and collapse on my bed, often exhausted, but with a real feeling of contentment. I feel like my brain has been thoroughly fed and nourished. I will often feel mentally exhausted when I get home in the evening but I liken this to that ‘food coma’ you get after a huge meal. You may not be able to move now and will most likely spend the next few hours laying on your bed/sofa, but you feel so happy and content. My brain seems to experience a similar thing. I arrive home from work, and my brain goes into its own form of ‘food coma’, but the ‘food’ is the excitement and stimulation of the day it’s had. So satisfied and content but it may have possibly slightly overindulged and now needs some time to rest and digest.

I feel like my brain is and always has been hungry for knowledge but being sat in a classroom/lecture hall was not an effective way for my brain to absorb this knowledge. Being talked at for hours simply sent my brain to sleep and did not allow it to absorb the knowledge it wanted to in an effective way. I thought maybe I just wasn’t interested enough in the subject and that was why I found it so hard to sit and learn about these things? But at the same time I was so sure that I did find these topics interesting, hence why I had chosen to study the degree I did at uni. I was so confused as to how in theory I felt so interested in the subject but in reality I would sit there bored, with no apparent motivation, and struggling to even stay awake for an entire lecture/seminar…

I now realise that it wasn’t the content that was wrong for me, it was the method of delivery. Long lectures that involved me being sat down and talked at for hours on end were not an effective method too feed me the knowledge I was so hungry for. It’s kinda like someone trying to eat soup with a fork (please hear me out lol). To an outsider simply looking at the bowl of soup and seeing it still almost completely full it may look like the person just wasn’t hungry and was choosing not to eat it. However, it’s not that they don’t want to eat the soup, it is simply that most the soup has slipped through the fork before it reaches the person’s mouth because they have not been given the correct tools with which to eat. I feel like this is what has happened with me and my learning. It wasn’t that i didn’t want to learn, it was simply I wasn’t given the correct tools to learn, However, I feel like this has changed now I am on the STP, learning hands on in a hospital environment by seeing and doing, rather than being sat down and talked at for hours on end. I arrive at work everyday hungry for knowledge and excited to learn more. I have the opportunities to see how things work, to put my knowledge into practice and understand how what I am learning is relevant to the job and real world applications. I get to see and hear a range of different perspectives from colleagues and patients. I get the opportunity to move around, rather than endlessly fidgeting in a lecture hall chair, and my brain feels like it can actually remain focussed without getting tired and falling asleep. It really does seem like some sort of miracle! I feel like a completely different person. Rather than being the ‘lazy’, ‘unmotivated’ person that I, and many other people, have always seen myself as, I now realise that this is not the case. I was simply trying to eat my soup with a fork, rather than a spoon, and wasting a lot of energy in the process!

I won’t lie, the anxious part of my brain definitely had (and still does have) worries about the lack of ‘structure‘ and the high levels of uncertainty with what will happen with my training, due to the chaos of COVID, and the wheres, whens, whos and hows of it all, but the ADHD side of my brain is kinda loving the excitement of it all and the surges of dopamine and adrenaline it brings. For example, one week last month I started off in cardiology, as I had been for the previous 2 weeks. However come Tuesday, I was being sent home within 30 minutes of getting to work, due to a COVID-19 outbreak amongst some of the staff, and told that my cardiology training was being temporarily suspended. At this point I did have a slight sense of disappointment and worry that I was would be stuck at home bored for weeks to come. However by the end of the day I had received a negative COVID swab and been invited to spend the rest of the week back in the respiratory department. My brain was kinda loving the excitement and chaos of it all!

One of my favourite things about the STP and working in the hospital is that every day is different! Such a cliché but it really is. Even if you are doing the same sets of tests each day, every patient is different and the experience of doing the same tests can be differ greatly. Whilst in respiratory I have seen patients with severe COPD, who struggle to walk even a few metres, but also fit and active people with very few limitations, as well as patients experiencing the effects of ‘long COVID’ six or seven months on from being infected. In cardiology I have seen patients ranging from six months old to those in their late 90s. Every patient and every day is different and I LOVE it!

Admittedly this post is a bit messy and all over the place (an accurate representation of the inside of my brain…) and is a bit of a stream of consciousness rather than a coherent, logical post. But hopefully you’ll at least partly understand what I am trying to get across and why the STP may be the perfect scheme for a person like me and why am I so grateful to have been given this opportunity.

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