Tag Archives: medical school

Changes to be Made

A question was posed to me, “Name one thing you wish you could go back and change during your education.” One thing, out of all those years of medical school. The hours spent studying alone, hunched over a three-volume set of neurosurgical textbooks. The stress of each day during my first surgical rotation and the anxiety that came with prerounding. As an introvert (INTJ), I was torn between my need to assert my dominance over the rest of my cohort and the paralyzing social anxiety I have dealt with my entire life. It was this common occurrence that I settled on as the one thing I would change. My social anxiety. The social awkwardness and antisocial behavior that has been both helpful and harmful, but ultimately reared its ugly head during my years at university.

Throughout medical school, I was an exemplary student. I rarely missed class (save for the complete mental breakdown that occurred during my second year), turned in perfect work and spent the majority of my free time studying. Since I had so recently graduated high school, I didn’t realize that I should be using some of my free time at university to socialize and instead spent it travelling down the proverbial rabbit hole that is medical education. 

The further I tunneled, the less time I spent in the “outside world.” My friends saw me less and made frequent comments regarding my absence. As my time was limited, I started distancing myself from those around me and only saw my friends once a month. When I did spend time being social, it felt so awkward and I was filled with anxiety. I started to withdraw, spending the vast majority of my time doing solitary activities. My mornings were spent running solo, followed by studying, then class. When my classes were over, I immediately started studying again. This went on for the entirety of medical school, save for the odd trip to see family or time spent in ballet.

I began to notice changes in my behavior around year three. During a group project in medical microbiology, I suddenly became aware of how uncomfortable I was around the rest of my group. Looking around, I saw how happy the majority of my peers were while conversing with each other and yet I was miserable. I excused myself from the group (I had already finished my part of the project) and went for a long walk. The walk allowed me to collect my thoughts and return to the group where I hurriedly helped them finish their work and left.

That evening, while I was alone in my room studying, I realized that I might just do my best work alone. Having other people around was distracting and I never quite felt myself around other people. In a weird way, I felt like my body was doing what it thought was best for me, protecting me in a way.

To this day I feel awkward around other people. Though I have ultimately gotten better about how I deal with those I interact with, I still prefer to be alone. For the longest time I tried to change, to become something I’m not. I put myself out there, forcibly building relationships that were doomed from the beginning. Now that I’m older I realize that all the energy I spent trying to change myself would have been better spend focusing on making myself happy. I no longer force myself to be social if I’m not feeling up to it and I make sure that I’m comfortable in situations before I commit to anything.

It’s hard for me to admit things like this publicly. Letting anyone, even random strangers know a weakness makes me feel terribly vulnerable. Try as I might, I don’t think I will ever be truly comfortable letting others into my life and that is something I need to work on. Going forward  my hope for myself is that I can learn to let down my guard and allow a few people to get to really know me. One of these days I suppose. Until then I just have to continue to throw myself into my work and keep myself busy in other ways.

Question(s): How do you deal with social anxiety?

How to Procrastinate Like a Pro

Even though I’m a very driven person, I am also a top-notch procrastinator. In high school I would wait until the last-minute to write all of my research papers. Often I was up early in the morning, finishing an article review or journal entry for an 8:00 a.m. class. I would stand around, clutching a Pop-Tart, cursing our printer as it slowly spit out my last-minute project. I always received high marks for the work, but I’m sure it wasn’t the best I could do. My procrastinating never really hurt me, so I assumed that it would be the same throughout college.

Must...get...paper...done...

In college I started to become obsessively organized. I developed a system that allowed me to highlight, mark and find notes easier. I had a massive collection of Sharpie highlighters and Post-It flags for the sole purpose of note taking. I would read all the assigned chapters well in advance, again the day before and then highlight the important parts discussed in lecture. During lecture I would take notes using the Cornell method, highlight those notes in ROYGBIV. I gave sections highlighted in RED the highest priority (and so on down the spectrum).  I would then flag the paragraphs in the book with a corresponding Post-It flag colour, so I could easily find the page when studying my notes. Then I would re-type my notes in an outline format. Every class had its own folder which I tabbed and colour coded. It was a little embarrassing.

You would assume that this kind of obsessive organizing meant that I was always prepared for every course. This was, however, not the case. I was constantly waiting until the last-minute because I used the organization as a crutch. I assumed that if I was organized and I understood it to the nth degree, I would never have problems. Throughout medical school I was constantly waking up in the middle of the night because I had a case study review or lab write-up due in a matter of hours. My repeated procrastination lead to me walking around like a zombie, a ridiculously organized zombie, but a zombie nonetheless.

That was me, sans the cannibalism.

As medical school wore on, I continued to let things wait until the last-minute. My procrastination branched out from academia and eventually started affecting my relationships. I was often buying ridiculously expensive presents for people I barely knew because I had forgotten to buy their gifts in advance. While I was in NYC for my residency, I remembered that I had a party for a relatively new friend in 20 minutes. As I was on Canal Street, I literally walked into the first shop with a dress in the window and bought a purse for the birthday girl. The store was Derek Lam and the purse was something like $700. Needless to say, the girl was thrilled. I however, was less than thrilled that my procrastination had set me back $700.

Even after graduating from medical school I continue to wait until the very last second to do anything. Asking for time off work, purchasing plane tickets, having dinner with friends, the list goes on and on. I’m not really sure why I always wait so long to do anything. Some people have said that it’s a control issue, and others view it has one of those things that makes me, me. Regardless of why I do it, I wish it was something I would outgrow. I don’t see the point in being insanely organized if it doesn’t seem to do me any good!

Maybe this post is like an introduction at an AA meeting. Perhaps I am crying out for help or some sort of intervention.  In that case:

My name is RO and I am a procrastinator.

I will get addicted tomorrow..

Questions: How did you stop  procrastinating? What tips/tricks would you suggest I try?

Baking my way through medical school

Medical School: Learn to Live Like a Zombie

Medical school is stressful. Not the “busy schedule,” kind of stressful either. It’s the “life-consuming, soul-destroying, completely overwhelming,” kind of stressful. There were days when I just didn’t want to deal with life in general. In the mornings, my alarm would go off and I would plan my run. Part way through my run, I would consider not going back to my apartment and contemplate skipping my classes for the day. This happened every day for almost six years.

I had always attributed my lack of interest in medical school to my

My room was much less depressing....

parents. They had forced me to go to medical school, even though I told them I would be miserable. Of course I had been right, I disliked medicine intensely. It was easy enough, I found that I was good at it and I continued to drag myself to class everyday. By third year, I was so depressed that I had (what I would now classify as) a nervous breakdown. I stopped running, eating and only left the apartment for class. I spent an entire break from school in bed, leaving only to use the restroom or shower (sometimes). It was awful. I kept visualizing my life and in my head it was the most depressing future I could ever imagine. I pictured myself going to work everyday, dealing with patients and never being happy. It was too much to bear, so I just shut down.

At the end of several weeks, I finally decided enough was enough. I drove to see my parents, I was going to tell them I was done with

My grandmother is so much cuter

medical school once and for all. When I arrived home my grandmother was there. She was in the process of baking babka wielkanocna for the holiday so I asked if I could help while I waited for my parents to return. Perhaps it was speaking Polish with my grandmother or maybe it was licking delicious gooey batter off my fingers, but by the time my parents arrived home I had completely forgotten that I was there to tell them my life-changing news. Baking has always been an important aspect of my life, but at that moment I realized that I could take out my frustrations on cupcakes. It was a game changer.

I spent the weekend at my parents, planning my baking shopping list. My mind was finally off of medical school and instead it was thinking about how many Meyer lemon’s I needed for tarts. When I got back to the city I headed straight to the store, I bought over $300 worth of

The best kind of mess.

random ingredients and then stopped by a kitchen supply store for extra accessories. Back at my apartment, I baked for hours. My counters that had once been covered in nothing but medicine, were now covered in flour. I kneaded dough until my fingers cramped and rolled it until my arms were sore. It was wonderful. After I took the last cake out of the oven, exhaustion took hold and I slept for twelve hours straight. I woke up feeling oddly refreshed, went for a long run and then delivered the baked goods to my classmates.

For the rest of my time in medical school, I took plenty of time out to work in the kitchen. My friends and classmates loved it, so much so that they began to request certain recipes more than others. The favourite ended up being my Black Forest Cupcakes, which were requested on a weekly basis. It quite literally got me through medical school and made me realize that I would ultimately survive the experience.

It seems like a silly thing, to think that baking cupcakes could really have such a profound impact on a person. To me, it has always been the act of baking more than the finished product. Even though I enjoy tasting my creations, it is ultimately the pleasure they bring others that makes me so content. Once I found that I enjoyed baking, it became an outlet for my anxiety which helped me through medical school.

So, would I have still been a physician if I had not discovered my love of baking? Probably. My parents would have forced me to finish school and if I had decided to drop out, they would have pushed me toward engineering. Baking didn’t save medical school for me, but it did help me find some sort of balance in my hectic life. To this day I continue to bake for my family and friends. I think they are glad I had a nervous breakdown, because without it they never would have been able to taste what they consider “the most amazing cupcakes ever.”

June does not need to be abbreviated.

I have seen “Jun 1, 2011” everywhere today and even though I know it is the proper abbreviation for June, it seems so wrong. Why can’t we just write out “June”? Jun feels like some sort of illiterate lolspeak or part of a thirteen year old’s text message to her best friend, “OMG, Jun iz my fav month, yo!”

On another note, I have purchased enough furniture to outfit my new master bedroom! That means I only have 5-6 more rooms to go and since the house has that ridiculous elevator, I have to figure out some way to utilize that. Why would anyone put an elevator in a 3 story house? It makes me feel lazy just thinking about it. I have yet to find the appropriate couch for the “great room,” which I am considering calling the “incredible room.” Every single couch I have looked at seems to have some glaring flaw (mostly that I don’t like them) and I’m becoming frustrated with my search. I haven’t lived in Los Angeles long enough to know where to go for custom furniture and I don’t have the time to really meet with designers to figure out what I want. Dilemma.

Monday was also the first day of my cleanse. I have been trying to stay away from this massive plate of cookies I baked for my cousin. I wish she would just come and pick them up so that the temptation would be out of the house. After going to Von’s, Whole Food’s and Oliovera I feel ready to begin what my body will ultimately decide is me punishing it for not properly fitting into an Alberta Ferretti dress a few weeks ago. I say this even though I wore the dress anyway. The slight bit of snugness around my middle caused me to panic and I immediately searched my computer for the detox rules.

Work was incredibly hectic today and I relished the 15 minutes I had to myself in my office. After P came back with my lunch I locked out the world and tried to focus on enjoying what little break I was given. It was definitely one of those days when I wondered why I decided not to pursue my passion and instead chose to appease everyone else. These days it seems like I have begun to question not only my commitment to the hospital, but also my commitment to medicine. Why did I spend so many years pouring over texts in medical school, only to be dissatisfied with the end result?

Finally, I am considering purchasing an eReader. I have been told to buy a Kindle, a Nook and an iPad which has left me all the more confused. I have ruled out the Kindle (I think) and it seems to be down to a Nook Color, a ‘Next Gen’ Nook or an iPad. I can not see myself using all of the features of an iPad and keep leaning towards the Nook Color, but I wonder if I wouldn’t use the iPad more once I discovered how useful it really is. This all came about after I finished A Game of Thrones and did not have A Clash of Kings on hand to read afterward. I have been forced to wait by the Hermosa Beach Public Library and so I am currently reading Embassytown and The Tragedy of Arthur, though they both seem to be fairly interesting.