5 Ways to Cope with What Feels like a Huge Failure

Anyone who has been following me on my Instagram @medicineinmichigan knows that I recently had a hiccup in my third-year. I recently found out that I failed my first exam in medical school – my surgery shelf exam. I was incredibly disappointed when I saw my Christmas break crumble before me. After a few days of recuperating I’ve put together this post for anyone who is going through what feels like failure {emphasis on the feels} right now or maybe needs this in the future.

Anndddd I have no pictures for this post, so here’s another adorable picture of my puppy.



#1 – Talk to someone you love. When I first found out this news I called my fiancee and promptly started crying to him on the phone {maybe this is dramatic — but, at the time I was really upset}. After, I talked to my mom over the phone. There’s something so comforting in hearing things from those you love. My mom’s continuous pitch is that she is so proud that I’m getting out there and at least trying something that is SO difficult. She always tells me even if I made it to the day before graduation and then quit, she would still be so proud of me for giving it my all.

#2 – Let the emotions pour out. Sad? Mad? Downright angry? Let it all out. Emotional catharsis I think can be a good thing, but with a time limit of sorts. I told myself I’d be mad/upset/pissed for one day before I re-organized. I’m a believer in the fact that sooner or later it’s all going to come out and, personally, I’d rather have my mini-meltdown sooner, rather than later.

#3 – Reach out for support. There is NO shame in needing help. I met with several academic support folks at my school and they were nothing short of amazing and understanding. I also reached out to several friends and colleagues for advice. You don’t have to do things alone. In fact, medicine is about collaboration and sometimes we all forget that when we are in test mode.

#4 – Try to change your mentality. I told myself this was unfair, that my break was ruined, etc. One of my friends in college made me a sign that read, “You can’t have a positive life with a negative mind.” Positivity isn’t always easy — it definitely doesn’t come easy to me always. I’m trying my best to reframe this “negative” event into a positive one. Although I’ll have to work hard over break, studying now might give me an advantage down the line when it comes to overlapping material and step 2. This is also an opportunity for me to really show how hard I can work and my perseverance.

#5 – Lastly, remember why you started and what the end goal is. Between the studying and gruelling hours, there are the patients. The ones that make you laugh, the ones who make you cry and the ones who make you wonder how the hell they figured out how to become super-human. Those are the people that I started for and the people that I’ll finish for.