The Fear



The phrase, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” is going through my head as a potential intro to this long overdue entry. But to say I’m in the best of times is definitely not true. And the fact is, it’s not the worst either. What is true is that I’m living through some fairly polar extremes these days and it’s often confusing, even to me, which end of the spectrum I find myself at.

Stress can make your emotions do funny things. When I start laughing uproariously at things that aren’t all that funny and then find myself sobbing (I mean really, truly sobbing) a couple minutes later, I know things are a little off. (I live my life emotionally, but not quite to that extreme!) I think the reason my emotions are so volatile has to do with the fact that I feel as if I’m being tugged in too many directions. We’re towards the end of two separate blocks (twice as many exams to study for in the same amount of time), Step 1 studying is always nagging at the back of my mind, I’m trying to stay healthy with food and exercise, while also working to maintain healthy relationships with the people I love most.

I should be a little more forthcoming here: I’m working hardest at just one relationship in particular since I figure my family probably won’t abandon me (we’ve come this far, we’re probably good). Out of respect for my partner’s privacy, I’ve never mentioned my romantic relationship and how it affects my medical school experience. But the fact of the matter is: IT DOES. Being in medical school and being in love are very exciting and interesting and stressful things in and of themselves; make them happen at the same time and that’s a whole new thing. Or, even better, make your romantic partner your classmate, someone dealing with med school too, and good crap you’ve got a lot to deal with. But that subject could keep me here writing for way more hours than I can spare at the moment, so let’s get back to what I really wanted to talk about.

I’m stressed. We all are and it’s scary. It’s scary to even acknowledge how scared I am. I don’t want to admit how afraid I am of not doing well, not just because it may limit me in my choices of where I will go to residency in the future, but also because people’s lives could be affected by my shortcomings. It’s a lot of fear and anxiety that saturates nearly every moment of my day (and my nights, too. I’ve been having some bizarre dreams, let me tell you.)

That fear mainly manifests itself as pervasive self-doubt. Every study resource I see a classmate using, I wonder if I should be using it too, if it will prepare me better than what I already have at home. Every study break I take, whether it’s ten minutes to eat something or an evening to watch geeky movies when my brother’s in town, I feel as if I should be doing something more productive. Even the time I spend studying, I worry I’m doing it inefficiently. I second-guess almost every decision I make these days and it is emotionally draining.

When I feel like I have so little control over everything and that I’m being inefficient with 90% of my life, I get a little over-protective of that 10% I do feel good about. When my study plans get compared to others’ (specifically my partner’s), I get surprisingly aggressive about asserting why it is better for me than other options. Simple discussions about my plans for an afternoon of trying to be productive somehow escalate into awkward confrontations about things I didn’t even know I cared that much about. Usually, I don’t actually care, certainly not enough to get defensive, but when I have so little to commend myself for because my life is clouded by insecurity, I cling to whatever I can.

Realizing that that’s what is happening has certainly helped, but there’s still a lot to work through in the next couple months. Just because I recognize I’m insecure doesn’t magically make me less so. Even now, I feel the urge to try and end this entry with some uplifting tidbit about how I’m going to charge forward with renewed vigor and self-worth, but the truth is that I have to keep going with what I’ve got. I’m okay with being scared as long as I can still function. And sometimes when I can’t function, I’m okay with being a mess as long as I have people who love me and don’t mind me blubbering from time to time. Kind of like I am right now. But more snot and stuff on my face :)



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