What does this post have in common with a chest x-ray of atypical pneumonia?*

The last two weeks I’ve felt like I was on a boat.  A really nice, fancy boat in the middle of the ocean  – and I’ve looked down at my feet and realized there’s water halfway up to my ankles.

I haven’t felt horrified, or panicked, or like I’m going to have a nervous breakdown – I’ve just felt quietly alarmed.   Although I believe the captain probably has it under control, I have taken a sudden academic interest in whether we have enough lifeboats on-board for all the passengers.

See, I’ve been studying a lot.  Not the worst thing in the world – I like the material.  But I’m beginning to get a picture of how bad things could theoretically get.

For example, I left  class early today.  I was being short with a friend and taking things too personally – and I guess it’s my philosophy that if I start acting like a toddler, I have to treat myself like one and just put myself in time-out.

So I’m in my room, trying to recharge and relax – and it’s better.  But the underlying problem’s still there, somewhere.

It’s weird, because I have so many good things going for me in school right now:  I’m actually caught up – I’m ahead in psych, I trust myself with antibiotics (in a classroom, case-based way) when almost no one else does right now.  I’m ahead, relative to other people.  This is as good as it’s gonna get.

But if I’m being honest?  I still feel behind.  And I’m disturbed by that.  I’m caught up and I’m stressed.  It’s not a “whoa there, go to student health right now” level of stress – but it’s like, even after the immuno final, even after getting caught up – the water in the boat is still there.  It subsided a little, true:

… but I was sort of hoping it would be gone.

I’ve always been great at stress management.  But objectively, I have to admit something isn’t working right now.  I have cellulitis.  I have canker sores.  I have my 2nd ever headache. For crying out loud, I couldn’t move my neck last week.   My immune system has left the building.

It’s like I’m  the cliched opening example for a cliched women’s magazine article – “Pay Attention To Your Body: Simple Ways to Solve Stress” where they spend three pages gushing about tactics like “try relaxing with this luxurious $750 bubble bath whilst playing New Age music.

I’m so used to making fun of those suggestions that I don’t even know where to start with taking one seriously.

But if I’m being totally honest here, I don’t think “not taking care of myself” is really the problem.  I think the problem might be “having abnormally high expectations” (this semester is clinically relevant material!  So I SHALL LEARN IT ALL) and falling just short of them, again and again.

If I was falling way short of my goals, I’d admit they’re unrealistic.  But I don’t see that yet.  If I want a 90, I get an 80.  An 85, I get an 80.  I am so sick of 80s.

I am consistently falling just short enough that each time, it doesn’t bother me much – but put it all together, and it means I need to re-evaluate my definition of  “good enough” –  but I don’t want to define it as being ‘meh, okay, but not going to remember things in the long term’ – which is where I felt I was last semester.

I want to define it as ‘being a total bad-ass.’

… Maybe I should buy some expensive bubble bath and New Age music.

*  I think it looks worse than I really feel.  Also, after taking some “antibiotics” (read: wine night with my friends), I will probably get over it.

12 thoughts on “What does this post have in common with a chest x-ray of atypical pneumonia?*

  1. Dx: Medical student. Rx: Wine night.
    ‘Fraid you’ve got a decent slug of stress there. As a med student, you are an over achiever… (insert long spiel about how every med student wants to be at the top, but that cannot mathematically happen).
    Realise a few things, and then adjust accordingly:
    1) 80s are brilliant scores.
    2) feeling caught up probably means you are way ahead of most of your peers.
    3) The ones that you aren’t ahead of, will become suicidal, addicted to narcotics/amphetamines/both very soon.
    4) You have been working really hard for a very long time (as evidenced by your blog). You NEED to take some time out.

    Now I’m British, so this may seem stereotypical, but a big night out, drinking WAY more than the recommended female limit of 2 units (come on, please) and not feeling guilty about the hangover the next day.
    Arrange with some friends to go to a local comedy night, laugh till your abs hurt, and drink till your head hurts.

    Trust me, I’m (almost) a doctor!

  2. hang in there. the greatest career awaits you. with unrealistic goals and stresses and expectations. semper fi could be our motto, but perhaps settle for primum non nocere.

  3. Oh my. This is exactly how I have been feeling lately. Granted, it is our cardio block, and I sort of suck at cardio, but yeah. It is very hard juggling the realization that boards are coming, 3rd year is coming, and I am on the path to my forever-career. Oy! It is good to just take a few deep breaths every now and again though…or breaths with wine!

  4. I keep changing what I want to say in this comment, but I think the heart of it is: this just happens. It sucks and it feels awful, but it will pass and you will feel good about life and about being a medical student again. And then someday this will happen again, and you’ll come out of it again.

    Things that have recently cheered me up: Long talks with my boyfriend, really funny tv shows, hanging out with my friends, and dancing (we have a med student run ballroom dance club, I don’t know why more people don’t join).

  5. Thank you for being honest. The expectations, the ‘non-stress but actually stress’, the weight of it all. A lot of us feel it but are too afraid *read too worried about what other people would think of us* to admit it. Now that you have, take a deep breath and get some bubble bath.

  6. Kristen, Claire, MR – Wow, I’m glad *I’m* not the only one. I mean, not that I realistically think nobody else gets stressed out by med school… but it’s good to hear, so thank you! 🙂

    Dr, Grumpy & Old – Light at the end of the tunnel. You’re right. “Just keep swimming..” comes to mind.

  7. The feeling never really goes away, to be honest. But that’s the kind of people who get into medical school usually, though, the kinds of people who aren’t satisfied with being “kind of caught up” or “sorta there”. I won’t repeat what has already been better said above, but echo the sentiment that you should NEVER feel guilty about taking some time for yourself or going out and cutting loose.

    Textbooks will always be there; work will always be there; youth is fleeting and will not always be there, so it should be enjoyed right now!

  8. Pingback: You could cut the irony with a knife | Action Potential

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