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Medical School: A Reflection

Feeding Rob

Welp, the time has come. MATCH DAY IS FRIDAY!! EEEEEEeeeeee!!!

I feel like I’m finally on the other side of this Med School crazy-fest. Things are smooth sailing and we’re so pumped for Match Day, so it seems fitting to reminisce on the journey we’ve had these last four years.

Get ready for some big realities, folks.

When you’re deep in the throes of medical school, you don’t really want to talk about how hard it really is. You just want to be around friends who are going through what you’re going through – friends who totally “get it” – and drink lots of wine.

Oh, and cookies. Seriously, hand over the cookies.

Everyone has different experiences, so not everyone may feel this way, but after going through it myself, and reading lots of med school blogs and forums, here are some collective thoughts on med school:

WHAT’S IT LIKE HAVING A PARTNER IN MEDICAL SCHOOL?

Well, it’s kinda like having a long distance relationship, except that you get to see them!

But don’t get too excited. That’s not always a good thing because…

When you do see them, most of the time they are not actually “there.”  Having your partner “around” but totally unavailable makes things, um…

Hard, stupid, annoying, frustrating, and emotions, emotions, emotions. Bleh.

You do your best to not really expect anything from them, but you love them and need them, so it’s hard to cut yourself off like that. This situation makes daily things and communication challenging.

WHAT’S DAILY LIFE LIKE?

A medical student works in 15-30 minute intervals. They have about a 15-30 minute break between things they’re supposed to be at or do before they have to run off and do something else.

During that 15 minutes, they are trying really hard not to think about the other stuff they need to be doing. They’re trying really hard to pay attention to you and hear what you’re saying.

But they’re really just freaking out.

But trying their best to hold it together and not freak out.

But they’re totally freaking out.

It’s like a ticking stress bomb.

You end up having the lovely task of taking care of everything that is non-medical school related – and sometimes – even medical school related like helping them study. You have all this stuff you need help with – like running the household, meal planning and preparing, remembering important dates and holidays, scheduling travel, finances, yadda, yadda, yadda. All while working and/or raising young children, and trying to take care of yourself by exercising and maintaining friendships.

No big deal.

Then there’s all this stuff you need to discuss with your med student, but they don’t have enough time (like ever) to address these things. If an opportunity does arise, you carefully evaluate the state of the stress bomb and gauge their status.

“They’re gonna blow” on a scale of 1-10? It’s usually about an 8, 8.5.

This often makes you a little hesitant to say anything or bring up any important or challenging topics.

“Um…just wanted to let you know that you’re being a total ass right now not being your best self right now, and I’d like you to be a bit nicer please. And I’m tired of picking up all your sh*t messes.”

Abort!!! HE’S GONNA BLOW!!!

You then become your own ticking stress bomb. It’s yikers-town.

“I’m the only one who cleans around here…grumble, grumble…I’m tired of feeling like a maid…grumble. I have a college degree (or two) for crying out loud. Give me some respect!!”

BUT REALLY, HOW MANY MORE YEARS OF THIS?

If you’ve been around me for the last 3+ years, you’ve probably heard me talking a lot about sustainability (and not just the environmental kind). My mind is on residency and Rob’s career in doctoring.

How will we be able to have the life we envision with this big commitment and responsibility? Rob contributing his gifts to the world, as well as me contributing mine? All while being the best parents we can be and being good examples for Pookie?

It’s a big job to take on.

This journey has been so different than I imagined. After we survived 7 years of submarine life, I thought medical school wouldn’t be that hard.

I greatly underestimated it.

As with all challenges I’ve been through though, I’m surprised with how much I’ve learned and grown along the way.

I don’t have an answer for this sustainability yet, and part of me knows that asking the question really isn’t the way to find an answer. All I know is the best thing both of us can do is to rely on support systems to help.

In order to have a healthy relationship, both members have to be healthy themselves. You can’t bring your best to a relationship when you are not well.

We’re always working on taking time to take care of ourselves, because when we do that, many relationship woes magically disappear. It’s hard, but important.

Too many med students eat horribly, barely work out, and live on a constant cocktail of caffeine, sugar, and cortisol (it’s the stress hormone – see, I’m practically a doctor myself!).

BUT, we try to see the bigger picture. We’re enjoying this wonderful break that 4th year provides and doing what we can to set up healthy systems and check-ins while things are smooth sailing.

Doctors are doing what they’re doing to help people be healthy (hopefully, unless you’re one of those people that are just in it for the money, in which case I send you a big sad face). If med students can find a way to keep themselves healthy and help their families stay healthy, imagine how much more they’ll be able to help their patients.

THE POSITIVE SIDE

Trust me, it won’t be all bad.

You’re with someone who cares about people. That’s pretty sweet in and of itself.

Medical school gives you such an amazing community of people that you’ll be able to call friends for the rest of your lives. I heart medspouses.

You’ll get to be with someone who can relieve people’s suffering, prolong people’s lives, make people’s lives better, and provide comfort when people need it most. That’s a pretty incredible service to humanity.

You’ll get to see your partner light up when they do their first procedure and feel like they’ve made a difference.

When there are bits of time to spend together, it will feel so precious and special. And not all med school years, and months, are the same. Sometimes they’ll be on a regular 9-5 with weekend offs, and you’ll never have seen a happier person. You’ll savor these moments.

THE BOTTOM LINE FOR THOSE WHO HAVE PARTNERS ENTERING OR IN MEDICAL SCHOOL

Med school is hard, but you both can do it.

Find friends and get support however you need it. Whether it’s paying someone to listen to you talk (hey, I’ll totally get a therapist just to have someone devote their full attention to me for an hour and listen to everything that I want to blurt out of my mouth) or meds (do what you gotta do, friend).

Work to be okay with taking time for yourself, especially if you’re a momma. Yeah, it totally sucks paying 10 bucks an hour for someone to watch your kid, and you feel really selfish if you pay that so you can go walk around Target by yourself and try on clothes, or read a book at the park. My thoughts? Best $30 you’ll ever spend.

Plus, your med student has just spent an inconceivable amount of money on med school. You can spend a bit on yourself.

So, there you have it. I’ll leave you with THIS ARTICLE – a crowd favorite for all those whose partner’s work long hours. Kuddos to everyone out there working hard and trying to balance it all. And Happy Match Day to all my med-peeps!! *Hugs*

 

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