Hello, it’s me. I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet. That’s right, folks, I’m writing a new blog entry and if that ain’t a sign that 2017 is gonna be a good ol’ blast I don’t what is. Yep, I’m still full of myself.
Anyway, a lovely reader of this blog left me a sweet message back in September, asking me to update. I confess I saw the message but I wasn’t ready to talk again. I didn’t even know where to start.
I wrote a song a few years ago about being a twenty-something (very indie and hipster, right?) that had a lyric that said “Nothing changes but nothing stays the same”. If I had to describe my life ever since I last wrote in a sentence that would be it. So much has happened even though it still looks pretty much the same from the outside. I’m now in my last year of medical school. I still wanna be a psychiatrist. I’m STILL single. My cat Mr. Queen is as nasty as eva.
So, what made me want to write again today?, you guys ask (or not, maybe you don’t give a flying fuck and I surely don’t blame you). Well, my friends, when the clock striked 12 last night this horrifying fear washed over me. You see, I haven’t told you everything about my life yet. This year, 2017, is the year I take my Medical Specialty Exam and it is a FUCKING NIGHTMARE which will decide my entire life from now on. So, I’m scared. No, that doesn’t even cover it. I’m shitting myself with fear. You see, the thing in Med School is you always think that there will be a last exam, an end to your continuous nightmare of trying to prove you are enough and capable of being this weird creature, a doctor. You naively think that getting into med school was the hardest thing you had to do and now every effort will pale in comparison. Folks, I won’t hold your hand and tell you you’re right. There is no such thing as an end. It’s continuous hard work that will make you question your decisions and wreak havoc in your (inexistent?) personal life.
To be honest, Medicine is something that demands everything of you. My life is literally on hold because of it. Of course you can say that not every medical student’s life is like mine and I’m probably just a little pussy. You’re partially right. But my life has some peculiarities worth pointing out. I have a mental illness and it demands daily care. I can’t simply ignore my mind and I surely can’t escape it; in fact, I’m obliged to live in it. And it has consequences, especially when I push myself too hard.
This October I had a breakdown. It hurt like hell. I’d been progressively lowering my Paxil until I took no medication at all and it was working. It had been working for more than 6 months and I felt great. I’d finally done it and I was proud of what I’d achieved: I could finally control my disease with my own “sick” mind. I started my last year of medical school full of hope, but the fear of failure regarding that dreaded exam was there. And it grew, and it finally imploded. Of course I’d known this might happen in such a stress filled year ahead of me, but it was still a blow to my self-confidence. I experienced the panic attacks all over again. One of them was so strong that made me momentarily lose my sight. And they raged on; all the while I was doing clerkships and seeing patients every day. I’d fall apart at the end of the day, but in the hospital you’d never guess I was hurting. I’ve become a master at hiding these things, like every anxious psychiatric patient with years of experience. I scared my parents, and I scared myself. On a car ride on a particularly stressful day after a most unexpected death of a close uncle, I broke down crying and screaming. I was a mess.
I had to make the tough choice of going back to Paxil. And Xanax. But of course that didn’t magically solve my problems. I had to work to get back together again and with the help of the Christmas holidays I’m much better.
But today, I’m afraid again. Because this is the year and a 100 question exam purely based on memory will decide my fate, if I can become a psychiatrist or not. If I can have the “dream”, which was never my dream to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, I do seriously want to be a psychiatrist, but it wasn’t my child’s wish and if I could truly choose I’d do something else. Be somebody else. But I’m me and this is my life and I’m determined to live this life.
Ironically my memory is a bit more fucked up than usual because of the meds, which do make it harder to memorise. But if I don’t take the meds, I can’t study at all, so there’s that. Fuck.
I didn’t mean to depress with this shitty talk. In truth, my life is not as bad as it might sound. I have MANY things to be thankful for and the most amazing parents I could ever ask for. It’s just there’s a lot on my plate right now, and it isn’t going away anytime soon.
As a last thought, I’d like to address those of you who want to go to med school and are reading this. I won’t discourage you, but I will ask you to consider it very carefully. This is no picnic. You won’t make that much money and you’ll work long hours. You’ll have no days off, because sick people don’t get days off. You’ll leave your family alone in many occasions and you’ll miss a lot of important events. Your best friends will marry, buy their first house, have kids… And you aren’t even a doctor yet. Your mental health will deteriorate and the suffering around you will get to you. You’ll learn to partially ignore it, but you are a human being and you’ll feel for your patients. You’ll become short-sighted because of the long hours of studying. Some people will be grateful for your dedication, but most will say you haven’t done enough. Patients will insult you. Doctors and nurses will mistreat you. You’ll feel isolated. You just want to give up and the smallest of good gestures you witness may be the only thing giving you strength to wake up again the next morning.
Your road will be long and full of rocks. So you’ll really have to want it or you won’t get there. So make sure you truly want it. If not, choose another path that may fulfill you. This is a VERY HARD life.
I’m determined to wake up tomorrow and do my best. And that’s all anyone can ask of themselves. That’s my resolution for 2017. I hope you too remember that and be forgiving in this new year, especially to yourselves. We all need love and hope to keep going on. And I’m confident that, even though the times are tough, there’s always something good on our way.
Much love to you,
Miss Smoak, MD