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One medical student shares how writing poetry can help us embrace our creativity and cope with life’s challenges.
POETRY FOR INCLUSIVITY
I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease in 2015. At the time, I was grateful to receive a label for everything I had been feeling for the past months and relieved I had the opportunity to treat it. Ultimately, Graves was the disease that led me to a love for medicine and guided me to medical school.
Over the years, however, with medical bill after medical bill and one endocrinology appointment after the other, the gratitude I had for this label that changed my life slowly morphed into frustration. Trips to the pharmacy to fill my prescription for methimazole and the time I spent managing this disease felt wasted. There were life decisions I would not let myself consider because I was on a medication that could have devastating effects in certain situations. Then there were the times when I would feel hypothyroid: I thought, maybe my Graves was finally burning out this time—only to find my antibody level result higher than previously. Hope became devastation. I felt like Graves was controlling my life and emotions, just as it had prior to my diagnosis.
During my psychiatry rotation, I was fortunate to work with a wonderful psychiatrist: Frank A. Clark, MD. His love of poetry inspired me to try my hand at my own. Throughout my third year, I have found that writing about my experiences has helped me embrace my creativity and cope with challenging cases I see, as well as document the joys in my life, such as this: In the 6 years since my diagnosis, my thyroid antibodies dipped into normal range, and my endocrinologist talked to me about coming off methimazole. This poem is about the hope I feel knowing this disease will finally come to an end.
Slowly burning out
Inner furnace running low
Once engulfed all things
Smoke unfurls, tapers away
Rain falls down to earth
Crystal drops meet leaves
Bright green vessels shine below
New beginnings rise
Mx Mendelow is a third-year medical student at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville. She received her BA in Romance Languages and Literatures and International Studies from the University of Michigan and practiced as a licensed esthetician prior to medical school. She hopes to pursue OBGYN and incorporate her love of psychiatry into her practice.