Friday, February 26, 2016

Block 3 Week 5: Don't care how, I want it NOW!

So a couple of weeks back, I talked about the future, and having something to look forward to. This post might be a little confusing in the light of that one, but I think I can pull it together by the end and it will make sense.

I suggested creating little things in everyday life to look forward to, in order to get you through to the big goals you have. I think that having something to look forward to helps keep your head in the game, and it might also make whatever distasteful thing you are holding your nose through just a little bit easier. But there is also the danger of looking forward so hard that you forget to live in the now and appreciate what is going on around you. It's like a "Happily Ever After" syndrome, where you get so busy planning and looking forward to a future that is picture perfect that you aren't present in the current moment. Sometimes things don't work out like you plan, or even when they do, you may not feel like you had always imagined when "all your dreams come true." I hear of people all the time who reach a goal that they worked really hard to get, and they feel a little let down once they mark it off the list.

So this week, I want to talk about living in the now. Happiness is not a far-off feeling you spend your entire life chasing. It's the thing that sneaks up on you when you're in your car and your favorite song comes on, or that little flutter in your stomach when your sweetie comes to your study date and sits next to you and plays on his computer just because he wants to be in the same room with you even though you're busy. It's the little pack of banana Laffy Taffy that comes in a package from the music store your hubby ordered equipment from, and he texts you all the jokes from the wrapper and then gives you the candy when he gets home. It's getting your hair cut the way you want it and feeling fly. It's the satisfaction you feel when your head hits the pillow at night, and you know you experienced another day where you worked hard towards something huge. The point is, if you're constantly putting off feeling happy for some big accomplishment in the future, you might get burned out. I talk to people all the time that reflect on their time in medical school, and then their face changes and they say, you know, I look back on all that, and I was actually happy. I wish I could go back and tell myself that I was happy and to enjoy the process. So I guess I'm telling you to enjoy the process.

I've made some amazing friends in this foxhole. My HB has been SOLID in this with me, and he deserves a standing ovation for all the support he gives me. I could not do this without him. My study buddies are nothing short of outstanding, and they have dragged me through all this when I was SERIOUSLY thinking about giving up. I have been pleasantly surprised at how helpful the faculty at school can be when things get crazy. I've had some weirdo health stuff kick me in the butt the last few weeks, and my instructors have not only been accommodating, they have taken time with me to help me get better and educate me on how to improve my health.

So one of the things I try to do when stuff gets overwhelming is to remind myself that this experience has been mostly positive, and most of the time, I'm supremely happy. Just being in the moment every day and letting myself feel happy reminds me that happily ever after isn't some far off goal, but I can have it NOW. I can separate sucky circumstances from how I feel, and still just be happy living in the present. Being present helps to keep you from getting overwhelmed and burned out. So right now, in this moment, take a breath and feel the happy. Isn't that nice?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Block 3 Week 4: Nobody thinks it will work, do they? No. You just described every great success story.

General update: Things are clipping along at a pace that is slightly faster than I think my feet can keep up. Medical school has been described often as drinking from a firehose. I get tired of that description, mostly because everyone says it -- all the time. I feel more like on day one, I was tethered to the back of an out of control careening 18-wheeler wearing only one roller blade that may be coming untied. With a firehose, I feel like you can close your mouth and turn your head. The kind of constant fight-or-flight activation that might occur flying along behind a speeding vehicle is more in line with what's going on with me pretty much all the time. I can't let go, I can't tie my shoe, and there's no time for any extra side business such as getting sick or family issues. I guess when things are constantly flying at you, it keeps you engaged for sure. I also kinda feel like once I think I'm getting the hang of things, they throw in another wheelbarrow full of crap I have to do. But currently, I feel like I'm surviving. But don't tell them.

We are getting ready for another clinical skills day for this block. This one involves the proper way to put on sterile gloves in such a manner as to keep them sterile. Oh, and lumbar puncture. I just wonder if anyone in charge up there wondered whether 3/4 through the first year of medical school was the best time to learn how to stick a NEEDLE in a person's SPINE. Of course, we are using mannikins, so there will be no real spines harmed in this training exercise. The video I watched last night kept saying over and over that lumbar puncture is one of the easiest techniques to learn. I guess the steps are simple, but the overwhelming weight of the potential horrible things you could do poking needles around in there is just a little scary.

Then there was the baby. The last part of the video showed an actual LP on an infant. The doctor performing the procedure did a great job. He was very confident, and his technique was perfect. I'm sure he has a lot of experience performing this procedure on babies, so he just jumps in there and handles it. I can't imagine doing something like that to a baby. I know I'm going to have to, but the idea is just extremely off-putting. One of my children had to have an LP when he was 2 weeks old, and I couldn't stay in the room. I'm definitely squigged out by lumbar puncture, but with a baby it's like triple-squigged. Stay tuned...

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Block 3 Week 3: Since when can weathermen predict the weather, let alone the future?

So it's all the rage with blogs to have some kind of fancy naming scheme for blog titles. I've seen people use song names, movie names, rip-offs on Friends episode names, and all kinds of stuff. Since I'm a connoisseur of random obscure movie quotes, I'm going to start tossing little gems I've collected over the years up there in the title box. If you guess which movie, there's no prize, but you'll feel awful good about yourself for being so smart. If you google it, you'll get it, but you won't have such a deep feeling of satisfaction. But that's OK too.

So I was trying to sift through my brain for a good quote about the future, because that's what's been on my mind for the last few days. I know I've been on a bit of a depression bend lately, because I can only write about what's going on with me, but bear with me. There's a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. What I've come to realize about depression is you have to keep something in front of you to look forward to. If you get so bogged down with the present state of crappiness, you can forget that life won't always look the way it does just now. That's why I like to inject small pleasures into everyday life so I don't get so under it. I mean, I do have the big "When I get out of medical school, I'll be a doctor and will achieve the pinnacle of all happiness" to look forward to, but sometimes that's just not a close enough target to keep the happy juices flowing. I've found that having some things to look forward to on a more consistent basis does help me stay ahead of the fog that can descend.

There are little things that I look forward to, like brunch on Sunday morning with my HB. We try to make it a habit every week to carve out some time and find the perfect brunch. This little town has some heavyweight contenders in that department, let me tell you. I also go to church every Sunday and catch up with my support system there. Some of you were at the White Coat Ceremony back in October and got a sample of my awesome cheering section. That's pretty much my church fam. I get a huge dose of get-up-on-Monday-and-make-stuff-happen from going to church every week. Another thing that I started a few months back is Birchbox. I have a subscription every month for me and the HB to get this cute little box with fun samples. His is really cool, because it includes some kind of cool extra thing like headphones or cool underwear or some really awesome socks. We've discovered some really great products, and even if it's not something we'd ever use, it's fun to give yourself a facial and slather on a hair mask on a Saturday night. I'm not trying to sell anyone on Birchbox, it's just an example of one of the things that I like to look forward to every month. You might find you'd like to join a Cheese of the Month Club or something like that. Wow, that actually sounds interesting, I might check into that...

I'm sure that if you are suffering from depression, a monthly sample subscription will not be enough to convince you to stick it out. If this is you, please get some help. Talk to someone about what you are going through. I have an appointment to talk to someone every week, and it has made a HUGE difference in how I feel. This is another thing that I have to look forward to. We sit for an hour and talk about the week and anything that is on my mind. Sometimes getting an outside perspective on things is just what I need. It's also really cool because she is an outside party that isn't affected by any decisions I choose to make, so she can be completely objective. I have to say our conversations are definitely something I look forward to every week.

So, The Future. It's this big looming thing that if you dwell on it too long, it can become overwhelming. I've gotten some good advice about that lately, and it's totally changed how I look at things. Just deal with what's on your plate, and don't borrow trouble from tomorrow. If what's on your plate is too big to swallow, try smaller bites. Still having trouble? Get help! Just knowing that there is a process in place to be able to deal makes it all a little easier I think.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Block 3, Week 2: It's not pain, it's pressure

"It's not pain, it's pressure." This is one of the hilarious things I've heard health care providers say, and I've heard it said A LOT. It's like one of those dumb things that falls out of your mouth when you're confronted with something awkward -- like pain or discomfort or bad news. The first time I heard it was when I was in labor with my second kid. I had been in labor only a few hours, which was somehow a HUGE inconvenience to the nurse and the obstetrician. I was pretty sure he was about to be born any minute, but they told me that was impossible because it should take a lot longer since my first delivery was a cesarean, and everyone knows your first natural birth takes FOREVER. So ten minutes later when I was holding my newborn son, I felt a lot of justified smugness at how much they didn't know about my body and how much I did. But before he was born, the nurse told me not to push because they weren't ready, despite how I had insisted it was going to be VERY SOON and oh by the way, OW. This is when she looked at me and said, "Oh, it's not pain, it's just PRESSURE." WHAT?!?!?! I think I said something about come here, let me set YOUR nether regions on fire and add a little lava for good measure, or something like that. But by that point, I had decided they knew nothing about having babies because everything they had told me up to that point had been at least questionable.
So it seems this phrasing is pretty popular to use in labor and delivery, because I've heard it many times since. I used to snort and roll my eyes, but it has become quite the mantra for me lately. No, I'm not having a baby, and I'm not about to make this another Medical School is Hard post, because we've established that quite firmly I'm sure. The problem with slogging through something difficult is translating difficulty into something painful. I can't point to any part of my body and say that I am experiencing pain. So I guess, it's NOT pain, it's just pressure. I guess if pressure becomes too difficult, you might start experiencing some physical manifestations of the stress response that can become painful. So the goal then is to deal with the pressure in a way that doesn't create a physically painful situation.
This week has been difficult, as pretty much any other week has been really. However, I noticed that I was not dealing with the pressure very well, which led to insomnia, headaches, and other health issues that I'd rather not discuss here. The problem is not the pressure so much as it is trying to carry all the pressure internally and probably the salty rage that starts building as a result. So I made an appointment to talk about it, and while it didn't fix everything, I feel like I'm on the path to recovery. I sat down yesterday and made a plan to get through the rest of this block. I have a planner, and I've actually mapped out what I need to do to stay on top of things.
So, I guess if you're having trouble balancing all the things, and you're starting to crack under the pressure, find someone to share it with. Sometimes just talking about it can put it back into perspective. Be careful about who you talk to, though. Sometimes you can talk to someone about your struggles, and they aren't equipped to be sympathetic and they can actually burn you down further. That isn't helpful, and if you experience that, be more selective about whom you turn to for comfort and advice. Not everyone is helpful. You can probably figure that out without too much trouble.
Anyway, hopefully my mental health post is helpful for anyone who is struggling. If what I'm going through helps anyone else avoid some of the pitfalls I've fallen into, it will be worth the struggle. Party on, dudes. And be excellent to each other. *air guitar*