I remember walking out of my Step 2 CK exam with one thought in my head. For the last time in medical school, I wouldn’t have to bust my butt grinding away for hours studying, stressing over every question, and worrying for a month if I failed and succeeded in my journey. The feeling was bliss. But this was back in June, and how naive of a thought this truly was. Here I sit on my porch, Moscow Mule in hand, watching the sunset with the only question in my mind being, why is this process so damn anxiety provoking? A recent article I wrote talked about letting go and I truly meant it. Once I submitted my ERAS application, I didn’t think about it. I accepted that there was nothing else I could do and simply waited patiently till September 15th. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the anxiety-fest that was about to ensue in my head.
September 15th came and went without any interviews, which is totally okay. I didn’t expect much at this time, so I kept waiting. But Monday rolled around and immediately upon waking up I could feel my pulse ticking at a slightly higher rate. For some reason, I was nervous about today. Would programs care enough about me to ask now? Would someone REALLY want to offer me a job? Today would truly be the day to find out. And boy did the day start off great. First thing in the morning before we even saw our first patient, I happened to glance at my phone. norepy@aamc (if you’re not a fourth year this email will become familiar once you get here)…could this be it?? Opening up it was my first interview, even if it was at the institution I was currently doing an away at, I would take it. And throughout the day I would collect two more interviews! I was truly so excited, it made me feel wanted, and it made me feel successful. On top of all of this, this was the exact same day I was offered my medical school interview, and it was also my birthday. What a great combo of things! I drove home that day with such a big smile on my face. The anxiety was gone, the sky was bright and beautiful. Life was good, and for the first time in a long time, I had an inner peace. But this peace would be short lived, for a beast lay sleeping in my very mind, waiting to wake up with a vengeance.
I failed to mention one thing that I had been doing over the previous day. A certain website contains a forum where people list the programs that they have been invited to, which I had come to check every few hours, waiting to see if a program was added to the list. I think this is pretty common practice for a lot of people. You know, its that curiosity of knowing if one of the places you applied to also sent them out without you hearing. Its a weird kind of torture, but for the first day I was on the right side of this equation and it felt great. But over the next few days, my phone went silent. Emails would pop up on my phone causing my heart to race. Great, another school email, or maybe JAMA’s article of the day (ugh). And as quickly as my courage and confidence rose, it slowly dwindled down to planet Earth. My anxiety slowly crept out and covered my mind like a dark blanket. Sure I had interviews but one of the places that really excited me invited other people but not me. It killed me inside. I really felt like I was a great applicant, but doubt began to shower over me. Would any place I really want invite me? Would I SOAP? Now if you have stuck with me this long, you know this is an absolutely absurd and stupid thought. I mean really, this was an overreaction. But I let me mind run and get to the best of me. My mind let me believe that I wasn’t good anymore, even if I had interviews. My worst enemy had come to life.
I thought about this whole cycle I had gotten myself into. Check my phone. No email? Okay, check the website and see if interviews. None? okay cool. What if someone got an invite? Anxiety rise. What if a program I had already applied to got added? Nothing changes. Really, when I thought about this overall, the equation added up the same each time. The benefit of me checking this website never did me any good. It didn’t ever make me feel good, it either only kept my anxiety at bay for a bit longer, and made me worry even more. It was a vicious dark cycle that I needed to end. And with that thought, I did. I told myself I needed to stop doing this, and that time would be the answer. It was too early to worry and to fret. Maybe I worry more than the average person, but let’s be honest. If you are a current fourth year (or were one), I’m sure you had this same thought at some point over the past few days. Sometimes, its the hardest battle to fight these thoughts of self-doubt.
The sun has slowly set on my porch, and my copper mug has run dry. But if one thing is different on this day, it is that my mind has returned to my side. I know that things won’t always work out the exact way I build them up in my head and that’s okay. In the end, I will be accepted to a great residency. Even more exciting, in less than a year I will achieve a life long dream of mine since I’ve been a kid. I will be a doctor, a real certified doctor. Now that’s something to be damn proud of. So remember folks, these are stressful and trying times, but everything will work out. I just have to be patient and keep my mind on the prize. I wish us all the best of luck on this road, now if you don’t mind me, I’m going to prop up my legs and dig into one of my new games on the Switch. I think I’ve earned it. I think we all have.