I am my own first patient

These are the words that inspired me to begin my journey as a medical student blogger. Four years later and  I’m still at it!  The time has flown since I received my acceptance letter to now, only a few weeks away from my graduation.  And as graduation approaches and I make the transition from student to resident, I can’t help but ask myself, how am I doing?  How is my first patient really doing?

It’s a difficult question to answer.  I’m alive.  I’m breathing.  Somehow I made it through.  But how am I really doing?

The truth is, when I look in the mirror I see a girl who is a shadow of her former self.  In good ways and in bad.  I’m not the same girl who started this blog four years ago.  I’m a different person.  I have a different outlook on life, a different outlook on everything.  The things I’ve learned and the things I’ve seen and the patients I’ve met have changed me.

I feel more jaded.  More alone.  I feel like I care less about others and more about myself.  I feel like I’ve forgotten many of the reasons why I wanted to become a doctor.  I’m less empathetic.  I listen less and speak more.  I curse more.  I am quicker to judge and less inclined to give the benefit of the doubt.  I read between the lines and often skip the dialogue.  I’m more determined and put up with less.  I cry less but have more nightmares.  I get more headaches but have less time to notice.  I have little patience and no time to waste.  I almost never read, and find less and less comfort in books.  I forget to eat and get sick often.  I’m homesick.  I am harder on myself than I used to be.   I go longer and longer without showering.  I can’t remember the last time I wore makeup.  No amount of sleep ever seems to be enough.   I’m tired of training, but am only halfway done.  I’ve sacrificed more than I thought I would and realize that more sacrifice is needed.

When I look in the mirror, I want so badly to see the girl I used to be.  I want so badly to go back.  Just for a moment.  I want to meet that girl who thought she could conquer the world and save lives and have it all.  I want to ask her how to keep going, how to get back to that state of mind.  I want to be her again.  Or at least, to know that she is still in there somewhere.  That I’m the same person that I used to be, just different.

It kind of reminds me of one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost, so I will share it with you.  Enjoy.

Into my own

One of my wishes is that those dark trees,
So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,
Were not, as ’twere, the merest mask of gloom,
But stretched away unto the edge of doom.

I should not be withheld but that some day
Into their vastness I should steal away,
Fearless of ever finding open land,
Or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.

I do not see why I should e’er turn back,
Or those should not set forth upon my track
To overtake me, who should miss me here
And long to know if still I held them dear.

They would not find me changed from him they knew —
Only more sure of all I thought was true.

Emily Howard is a medical student who blogs at my first patient.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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