Medical School Update: Passing Classes, Stress, and Inner Demons

Wow. Just one day ago, I took the last exam of the most stressful class of my life. This past module was a transition into what the rest of medical school (or at least the first two years) will actually be like. The structure of the class changed from being very structured and hands-on to a much more independent and self-driven model. And I have to say, it was not an easy transition.

Coming back from Fall break I struggled to get refocused to the point that I needed to in order to do really well in the class. I still did fine on the first exam, but I really hit a rut at that point. I was hoping to change up how I was studying in order to raise my average exam score, but my new technique back-fired, and I did a whole lot worse on the second exam. To be honest though, my study technique wasn’t the only thing to be blamed, as I continued that method and did a lot closer to my normal performance on the third exam. The real issue I faced this class was more personal.

Like anyone, I have a few major character flaws. I have always been a people-pleaser, which makes me think about what people will think of me if I do one thing or another, or if I’ll be disappointing them in some way (maybe that’s just narcissism; I don’t know). I also have a tendency to worry about things that are pretty far in the future and that I have no real control over, instead of focusing on the present moment. These terrible powers combined to take my mind away from what I needed to be focused on (which was my studies), and drew them to worrying about decisions that I’ve made and the future consequences they could possibly have.

The center of my internal struggle centered around how I will (eventually) deal with being a full-time working mom, as well as talking about the “right” or “best” time to have kids. I might have mentioned this in a previous article, but due to my people-pleasing nature, I do wonder sometimes if I’m keeping happiness from David and I by holding off on having kids in order to pursue this career in medicine. Basically, I was wondering if me choosing a career as busy as medicine was selfish, and if it’s what I was really meant to do, or if I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. This was also brought on by the sheer number of people in my life (family and otherwise) that have had kids in the past year. I don’t feel like I’m behind, but I just see the joy that they have from having a child, and I hate to think that I might be denying us that joy by stubbornly pursuing a career instead.

Once I got over my slight baby fever (which is definitely a first for me), and I became more content with our decision to wait to have children, the next worry appeared, which was how to make it work. David and I had a few rather serious conversations about how we want to raise our kids someday, and how to care for them as far as staying home, or putting them in daycare from the beginning. I think what had made it more difficult for us is that we were both lucky enough to be raised by stay-at-home moms for (at least) the first few years of our lives, and so we don’t know any different. And it’s not that that isn’t an option for me; it’s just something that we will have to navigate and find peace with as we get closer to that bridge.

Now, even I can see a month removed from all of these thoughts that there was absolutely no reason for me to get so worried about all of that at this point, but for some reason it consumed me way more than it should have in the moment. However, because those thoughts were on my mind, I became unfocused, couldn’t get refocused, and did terrible on the second exam (which didn’t help my mindset).

It was at that low point that I realized just how much I wanted to be a doctor. I have been working towards medical school since I was in junior high, and the thought that I might have just ruined my dreams worrying about things that were not under my control was maddening to me. So for the last few weeks I just put my head down, worked really really hard, cried a lot from the overwhelming stress of keeping my grade up, and got the job done.

And today, a message came to me clear as day, which really summed up the issue I’ve had since I started medical school (and probably before then). My friend Morgan came over to study with me this morning before our exam, and as she left to go have lunch, she said that God would provide, and not to worry. But I doubted. As soon as I had that doubting thought, I felt this gut-level of disbelief that I had just doubted the power of God. I don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to justify my lack of faith, but I will say this: I think that God absolutely provides, so that He might be glorified through us. If He is going to be brought more glory in my failing this exam, then I was going to fail the exam. However, if He is ultimately going to be brought more glory by my passing the exam, then I was going to pass the exam (which I did). I believe that God does have a plan for our lives, if we can only be obedient to that plan. We may not reach the fulfillment of that plan in the most straight-forward manner, but we will get there eventually if we remain obedient to Him and mindful of why we are doing what we’re doing (and whom we are doing it for).

So on the car ride to my final exam, I prayed and apologized to God and asked forgiveness for doubting all semester that He was ultimately in control, and that I absolutely could not do this on my own. When I got to the building, another girl in my class came and sat outside the exam room with me, and reviewed some of the material with me, which ended up being directly tested on the exam, as was the material I studied with Morgan. I don’t know if this was God’s direct intervention, but I am more grateful than I can say for those conversations, and for the moment of humility and shock that I had with myself and God at how far I have strayed in my true faith in Him.

All of this to say, my first semester of medical school is over. I am exhausted, relieved, and so unbelievably grateful. I have been surrounded by a fantastic church family, an amazing lab group and team-based learning group, and some truly brilliant friends in medical school. I have been encouraged and lifted up by all of them, as well as my family. David deserves a whole blog post to say thank-you, but suffice it to say that I have the absolute best husband in the world, bar none, and I would dare anyone to challenge me on that.

Now I plan on spending the next couple of weeks de-stressing, and spending some time with family. Happy Holidays everyone!

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