I was crying really ugly, extremely ugly. I was in my car alone driving back to Galveston so you know it was bad. You would think that after two months of meditation, mindfulness training, and practicing living in the present with the unpleasant would have prepared this anxious ridden upcoming MS2.
I was hysterical.
I’m not quite sure what brought the meltdown. Perhaps it was the fact that I had a great summer with wonderful friends and family, and I had so much time to enjoy to myself that the thought of shutting myself in my room to study was eating at my soul. That might have been it. It also didn’t help that right before I left home, a close family friend told me horror stories about students who went insane before STEP or worse, failed STEP. I eventually drowned out the rest of the conversation but I couldn’t keep the word “STEP” from bouncing around in my head. I swear I could feel my temporal artery pulsate every time I heard that word.
There I was in my car completely afraid of this inevitable, impending doom called school. I thought because I survived the first year of medical school, the second year would be the exact same. But, I had a heightened sense of awareness of what second year meant (which I sometimes blame on the meditation), and all I could think of was “Don’t screw this up”.
Throughout my first year, I thought I was a fluke. Everything I was doing was a lie. All the hours I studied were imaginary and somehow the medical school didn’t catch me. Now I had to do it all over again, but this time it really mattered. What I studied and how well I did were absolutely crucial. I felt the need to prove to everyone, especially myself, that I deserved to be in medical school, but I had no idea where to start. Not only am I struck with doubt about my capabilities, I’m feeling uneasy about spending my young years looking at books.
Social media presents a facade of what people want their lives to look like; rarely does it help my search for my place in the world. It was June and my eyes scrolled through everyone’s photos of their amazing backpacking trips or incredible life changing experiences. I was jealous. I wanted to do those things, but instead I was lying in bed trying to go to sleep so I could wake up in time for lecture the next day. I was planning my day on how I was going to start studying for the new course and how I desperately needed to do well so I could feel an inkling of confidence since I clearly didn’t have the nice Instagram pictures to show people how cool I am.
I’m sure everyone feels this way at some point (or at least I hope so) and it’s extremely discouraging. It makes you doubt why you chose this arduous path to “help society” and “do good”. These little bumps along the way make you wonder if you made the right decision, especially after every test. What makes it worse is that you then feel even worse because you’re complaining about being one of the lucky few fortunate enough to get into medical school. Not only am I dumb while having a quarter life crisis, but I’m also an ungrateful brat.
But the reality is, I come to this mindset sometimes when times are tough and I want to let other people know that they’re not alone. Medical school is difficult mentally, and surprisingly, emotionally. It took time getting used to, and eventually, I got out of that funk and back into routine. I took it day-by-day. Don’t get me wrong. I still cried once a week while ranting to my poor mom and boyfriend about my first world problems. I still get stressed and nervous for exams. The feeling never goes away, but you can change the way you think about the stress and how you react to it. I surround myself with good friends who take my mind off of school. I make sure to take some time to care for myself and exercise and eat well. Sometimes it feels like the stress or anxiety never ends, but speaking from personal experience, you will be okay. Now I look forward not to STEP, but the simple end goal of treating my patients to the best of my ability. If you’re feeling down, frustrated, or bitter, try not to lose sight of why you’re in medical school or else you’ll find yourself derailed by the little bumps along the way.
Don’t forget that you went through the entire process of applying to medical school, spending months at interviews hoping that interviewers saw something more in you besides test scores and edited words on a page. You perfected the way you answered “Why medicine?” and that answer still holds true.
It can be scary at times. It most definitely will be hard. Take a couple of deep breaths. It’s a marathon, but I’m optimistic it’ll be worth it in the end.
Compartment C, Car 293 (1938)