Its been two weeks since my last post about medical school or otherwise. There is a few reasons behind that, though I think a lot of it was about having to process the emotions I have been feeling over the last two weeks. It took me a while to describe what I am feeling and explain it to other people; eventually I got to one word…
I never truly believed that I would feel like this, especially this late into the term. There is just this constant feeling of fear and anxiety when trying to get up in the morning and simple daily tasks of adulting are becoming a stretch to my life and I don’t know what to do about the feelings other than put my head down and just keep going. I’ve done thirteen hour days of new content and revision before going home and struggling to decompress enough to sleep well, then getting up and doing it all over again. In the last two weeks three people I know of have dropped out of the course. Due to pressure, being unable to keep up with the demand or realising that the work we are expected to do in the future isn’t worth the strain to your physical and mental wellbeing. Its a question I am throughly ignoring for now…
It has been a struggle to write many blog posts recently as my life in the last few weeks have developed into the same monotonous pattern of going to uni for a day of lectures or bedside teaching and then heading back to the library or computer room to revise until 11 at night, then straight to bed and back at it again. I am aware that I have been driving myself to constant small burnouts but you get to the point where the pressure and stress is so much that you don’t know what else to do with yourself unless you do uni-work and there is no other option in sight that can lead to successful results.
When you work this intensely you are bound to experience a few cases of ‘med-school dementia’ diagnosed when you cram so much medical knowledge into your head you forget how to do normal things. The longest episode I experiences was getting into my car and being unable to remember how to start it. I was just sitting in the car park trying to figure out what to press and what I was supposed to do with the key for at least five minutes before my brain engaged and I continued on with my evening like nothing had ever happened. Its moments like that where you know your body is telling you to take a break.
So, last Friday night my housemates and I went out for cocktails; it was definitely needed. That agreement that we all needed time off and space but just be us and not medical students buried under the social and mental pressure that claiming that label gives you. With people dropping out and the pressure peaking to levels I am struggling to cope with or understand I really have been overwhelmed with the thoughts off what will I do if I fail? Or what do I say to people when I do?
When you go to medical school, you can’t do it quietly. You have to tell people you are about to socially disappear off the face of the planet, and you then have proud parents telling all their friends and soon you entire social and family circle know. Thats an immense amount of pressure to succeed, and a mountain’s load of disappointment when you fail. Combine that with 21 years worth of work to get to where I am right now, with the vast amount of debt that’s come with it. I am overwhelmed with the fear of failure and fear of what I will do with my life if I do fail… I still have no answer to that questions, which scared me more than anything.
Strategies to overcome this feeling is hard. You start questioning your revision methods when you don’t remember the same information from one day to the next. I’ve been condensing lecture notes, writing short answer guidelines, doing queue cards and ANKI decks; it all seems insignificant when you look at the task at hand. I’ve been working shifts at work, both to practise my clinical skills and to get some adrenaline and energy back into my revision load. Working event medic shifts reminds me why I am doing this degree and where I am aiming to go. It also allows me to prove to myself that I can do the simple clinical stuff and deal with patients.
With less than a month to go until my finals, its just about putting my head down and pushing past the barriers I am setting up for myself. I’ve been getting through it by finding motivation in small wonders I see every day. The blossom tree’s on route to the library always give me a smile and watching the air ambulances land from the hospital library remind me why I am putting myself through this stress and why it will all be worth it in the end.
Its okay to be overwhelmed… its just how you deal with it that matters.