On Happiness {Old Post}

Medical students are FULL of imperfections. Doctors are FULL of imperfections. I follow quite a few other medical bloggers, and sometimes it seems like they have the perfect lives. They have glamorous clothes, their hair looks super cute and life seems to be just going perfectly.

Some days medical school is just awful, other days it is truly the biggest blessing in my life. The good days are the ones that we post photos on Instagram or tell our friends about. The bad ones, not so much. I wrote a post a while back on staying sane, and this one is about a similar topic. How can we stay truly happy through medical school?

Medical school is an incredibly grueling time and I’ve seen countless friends become depressed. It’s easy to brush them off and say, “Oh, this is a blessing to be in medical school. You should be grateful!” It’s a lot harder to work through things with them and realize that it’s NORMAL to have really crappy days and even weeks in medical school.

Personally, I remember first semester of my M1 year being so down sometimes. I would cry to B and think of giving up. Medical school seemed awful, studying all the time and basically having no time to do things that made me happy seemed not worth it. Even though M2 year has been significantly better, I still have my days where I wonder am I giving up my happiness to pursue this career?

I’m here to tell you that studying and grueling hours obviously is not going to end when you graduate medical school. So, instead of quitting or giving up, I learned how to be happy in medical school. Yes, I said LEARN. Here are a few things that I think are important on your journey:

Enjoy the day to day.

I used to always think of things in a very segmented fashion. I was going to take my MCAT and graduate college to get to medical school. I’m going to go to medical school to get to residency, and so on. Even though having goals is great, this kind of thinking can make you forget your day to day happiness. You’ll always be fighting for that goal, instead of being happy about where you are. If you are pre-med give yourself a pat on the back. I know it’s really, really tough, but you are doing it! Right now, you are doing it! Enjoy being in undergrad, making (some) mistakes, and having less responsibility. I’m trying to be present in my day to day routine more often. Instead of seeing these four years as something I have to “get through,” I’m trying to really soak it all in. My goal is just to be a sponge and learn as much as I can. I’m even trying to be positive this year about winter and enjoy the cold weather (this is actually proving to be very difficult). So, my point is don’t see things as a means to an end, that’ll only make you unhappy and unsatisfied. Rather, enjoy the journey. Take pictures with friends, laugh, make new connections, fail and triumph.

Take care of yourself.

I’ve said this before in my staying sane post…but really, take care of yourself. This doesn’t have to mean just exercise and good nutrition. As conceited as this may sound, for me, I want to feel beautiful every day. Sometimes buying the sweater I’ve been dying to get my hands on or putting on extra mascara is what makes me feel beautiful. Other times it’s cooking an awesome meal and laughing with B that makes me feel beautiful. Sometimes it’s going on a walk by myself and taking horrible quality iphone pictures of fall trees. I used to feel bad that I’d want to shop or spend money on myself, like it was irresponsible or something. The more I got to thinking about it, I just said screw that! If getting something new for yourself or treating yourself to a massage is what is going to make you feel good, then do it! Moral of the story is just give yourself what you need, whatever that is.

Remember why you started.

When I feel really down, I try to remember why I started this whole journey. When I say this I mean sure you can ponder in your room, but don’t ponder too long. Get out there! Go volunteer or go shadow in a clinic. Especially during first and second year where you have little patient interaction, it’s important to remember what you wanted from this whole thing. Seeing patients or interacting with others in the community always reenergizes me and helps me put things into perspective.

 Don’t forget that medical school isn’t it.

I know some people say they were born for medicine, or that this is their life. Maybe some of those people do truly exist. I was put here to pursue my own happiness. Medical school and medicine does make me happy and makes me feel very fulfilled. But, I also care about a whole lot of other things. My relationship with my boyfriend makes me so incredibly happy. My family and support system makes me smile. Being able to read a book in a warm home makes me thankful. Even writing this blog makes life worth living. Medical school is important, but it can’t be the only thing you draw meaning from. If you can remember that life outside of the classroom exists and is important, you will always have something to draw happiness from.

 Don’t expect happiness, work for it.

There is nothing wrong with being unhappy sometimes. It is a normal emotion. So is anger, sadness, being so mad you want to punch a pillow, and laughing so hard you think you’re actually going to die. Allow yourself to have all of the emotions and be okay with experiencing them. We are emotional creatures, and I’d say it’s a lot weirder to be constantly happy than to experience all emotions. That being said, happiness isn’t just going to be there waiting for you at your front door. We all have challenges, regardless of where we are in life. Some days happiness will be easy, like the day you honor a class or the day that you have the best hair day ever without even trying. Other days you are going to have to constantly remind yourself that life is good and that you DESERVE happiness, no matter how badly you screwed up.

Ask for help if you need it.

This whole life thing really isn’t the easiest. It’s okay to need and ask for help. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called on friends or family to get through the struggle. Sometimes it feels like you aren’t winning at anything. Your relationship is failing or non-existant, you just did awful on an exam and on top of that your best friend is mad at you. Don’t feel like you have to go through everything alone. Even though at times it may feel like a lonely journey, we are all going through similar struggles. We may try to hide them, but in reality we all have our own issues. If you don’t feel comfortable seeking the advice of a friend or classmate, find help within the administration of your school or even from a therapist. Wouldn’t you rather get back up on your feet than spiral into something worse?

In my life…

I delivered a baby this week! Just kidding, only an iBaby, but it was really fun! I also had my OSCE yesterday, hoping I passed! I made a few mistakes, but I’m hoping they don’t hurt me too much. Today is also my birthday! I’m starting to feel pretty old — the big 24 😉

Well, look out for an upcoming post on advice on how to make big decisions (where to go to college, medical school, etc). Have a great week everyone!