If You're Reading This...
As I near the end of my psych rotation, I take note of one simple, seemingly obvious thing that we all have in common: we are all human.
We are all afraid of something. We all have things that make us cry or laugh. We all share this intense physical bond of feeling emotion.
Yet emotion is often the thing that isolates us.
Each person steps into the clinic worried that they are the sole person in the world to feel a certain way or behave a certain way. Sitting as an outside observer, blessed with the opportunity to peer into another person’s life, I see that if ten people show up for their appointments, all ten share the bond of being humans full of emotion. Each beautiful individual is filled with a unique, twisted amount of emotion that is capable of spinning their world into turmoil. That turmoil was often responsible for their arrival in the office I sat in every day.
I was surrounded by people who had conquered their fear; individuals who overcame the greatest dread that existed in their lives: asking for help when dealing with an overwhelming emotion. Those experiences revealed to me the most valuable lesson medical students, or any person in any situation, can learn.
It is okay to seek help.
There are so many people waiting with open doors, willing to listen and guide you. There are so many mechanisms of coping that are just at our fingertips. However, instead of seeking help, I have noticed that medical students often choose to suffer in silence for the fear that they are disappointing everybody.
We are all on the journey of learning to take care of others. However, I’ve often seen classmates lose sight of one of the necessary habits required to do that successfully: taking care of themselves.
Each and every person has a unique fear that overlaps at times with many others. It is a fear that is not brought to light; a fear that is sometimes only exposed anonymously or when times are at their worst.
Everybody has something they are hoping for, something they are working towards, something that scares them.
You are not alone.
You have to conquer your fear so that you have your full ability to achieve beautiful things. It is okay for us to admit that we are scared of something. What is not okay is letting it stop you from conquering what you fear or allowing it to blind you from your passions and dreams.
To the first year medical student: I know you are scared. You were surrounded by the warmth of your home at one point. Now you are surrounded by the walls of medical school and the everlasting pages of your notes. Instead of fearing sitting in class, hearing another lecture that sounds like nonsense to you at first, I hope you are excited to conquer everything. I hope you can focus on things that make you happy in the moment; things that make everything easier to conquer. Those small moments of peace — moments when you forget that you are cutting up a cadaver and laugh at a joke your classmate says — moments where you wave to your friend in the tenth row that you have not seen for a few days — those are the things you should focus on. Those are the things that will make your fear subside.
When you stop being scared, you begin to realize that we are all in this together. We recognized the undeniable fact that many before us have conquered this same path. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but you can make the hard moments easier by enjoying the little things.
To the second year medical student: I know you are scared. You are worried about the impending boards. Don’t be. Your fear will only hold you back from working to your full capability. It will stop you from learning in the best way that you can. Don’t let your mind be fogged by the fear that you are the odd one out; that everyone else will make it and you will be left behind. You can do anything you set your mind to. Please do not fear that you only have two months left to study and that is not enough time; all of the moments in that time are moments of opportunity.
For me, I learned to enjoy studying because the fear of hating it and not succeeding prevented me from being my best. I learned to focus on things that brought me joy, like having five minute conversations as we all headed off to sleep, or taking a study break to have dinner with friends. Again, we are all in this together, and many before us have traveled this same winding, seemingly treacherous and impassible path.
We can do it too.
I am not saying anything is easy, but you can change your mindset to focus on better things. And if you cannot do it on your own, we are here for you. Please know that you are not alone. You can ask for help, no matter how many times it takes.
If you are reading this, I want to say that it is okay to ask for help; it is okay to say that you are struggling. Together, as a group, we can achieve beautiful things. We don’t have to do it alone.
Osteopathic Medical Student - 3rd Year (OMS III)
Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences