For the first time since I started medical school 12 months ago, I got sick. I got sick, and it was so, so awful. I’m not talking about your average cold, sore throat, and cough. This was a hard core stomach bug that stayed in my system for 5 whole days! And under normal circumstances, those 5 days would be spent alone in bed and fast asleep. However, according to Murphy’s law, or whatever intergalactic rule that presides over this existence, no one apparently is ever allowed to come down with a stomach flu at a convenient time. This bug hit me right, before, exams.
It was a Wednesday morning when I first felt my stomach twirl, two days prior to the semester’s first round of shelf exams in Pathology, Epidemiology, & Physical Lab. And while I knew I’d be able to study during a good ole stomach twirl, the next day I was hit with…well…what felt like a truck (if I’m being honest). I woke up sore, confused, weak, and hungry but unable to eat. Walking hurt me, the light felt like daggers in my eyeballs, and any noise…even the breath sounds of my oblivious boyfriend later on rang like sirens in my ears.
There’s a point to my whining, I swear. Let me get to it. The sad/funny part to this story is the reason for my blog post. My initial thought at 7am in the morning wasn’t, “I should go back to sleep” or “I should pick up some drugs,” but rather, “time to study!”
Looking back on this thought, I started reflecting on medical school and it’s impact on my life. I knew that school had, essentially, taken over my life. Socially, spiritually, physically, and so on. But what I hadn’t fully realized was the impact it has had on my overall health. Was I really so obsessed with my GPA that I would push through the sickest sickness I had felt in years, all so I could cram that little extra amount of information into my throbbing brain? Well, the answer was undoubtedly…yes!!!!!
The thing about med school is that once you’re in it long enough, nothing else matters. Grades matter, attendance matters, and anything that isn’t helping you get to that 250 on the USMLE may as well be forgotten. I try to not embrace this mindset, but here and there I find myself falling back into what I identify as the Step 1 vortex. The whirlpool of obsessive study habits that are all consuming, and ultimately damaging to one’s overall performance both in school and life in general. And in that moment, when I told myself my crippling illness wasn’t an excuse to not study, I realized that I had been sucked back in. That’s med school for you.
Now that I’ve gotten better and made it through exams, I’ve taken a step back from the obsession and given myself room to breath. I’ve given myself a minute to remember that while yes, studying is important, and the score I get on that 1 USMLE exam determines my entire future, it is not everything. I remembered to listen to my body, my consciousness, my gut, and to put myself before my studies. The irony of studying medicine is that it can turn you into the unhealthiest version of yourself that has ever existed. I’ve seen it in my colleagues, in my friends, and last week, I saw it in myself. Thankfully, I’m a pretty mellow person, and definitely do not have a type A personality (as useful as that would sometimes be), which means that I can push and push, but I will still never get to the point where I’m running on absolute fumes. (Detrimentally, or maybe to my benefit, I think I will always value sleep over grades). But what I realized is that it’s so important to monitor the level of consumed one feels by that vortex. I feel like a lot of medical students could benefit from an epiphany like mine. Now, I am taking the next few days to chill, tan, and blog ^_^ I hope you all do the same!
That’s it for today’s word vomit, I’ll see you in the next post!