I began this post from an airport somewhere in the world, which tells you three things: I am on vacation yet again, I successfully finished my second posting in internal medicine, and everything worked out in the end. But how, given the rubbish circumstances I landed in? Let me recapitulate, in bullet points.
How it all turned out
- As I was falling apart in the hallway, one of my favourite nurses saw me on her way out, and hugged me. She just hugged me. This is the appropriate response towards the crying house officer. She hugged me, got me to explain what the matter was, and told me two things I absolutely needed to hear. One, that my mentor was being a sour puss because they were on-call, stressed, and lashed out against the first person they could that wasn't a patient. Two, that I am stronger and smarter than I believe myself to be in this moment, and that I would get through this. She told me to go home, and forget about it. But I did no such thing.
- Anchored by blind determination to finish what I started, I was already typing the angry text to the physician in charge of house officers to lodge a complaint against my mentor who abandoned their responsibility to assess me. Did they think I was going to grovel, and apologize for my "mistake"? To hell with that! However, before I could even finish my rant...
- My mentor themselves texted me a curt "Dr X will assess you." I promptly texted my replacement mentor asking for a time to meet today to conclude my final task before submitting my logbook, before I responded them with a "Thank you Dr." Then, I heaved a few deep breaths of gratitude that they came to their senses to not completely botch my efforts.
- I waited for two hours before my replacement mentor finally gave me their time of day. I presented the same case, and answered to the best of my knowledge every question they fired at me. Funnily enough, I knew the answers based on what I experience in the time I practiced medicine, not necessarily the jargon we used to memorize from textbooks in medical school.
- They passed me.
- It was too late to submit my logbook because it was already after five, but I still weathered tolerable traffic towards my favourite bar, listened to Glorious, met my partner, and drank to celebrate that I did what had to be done, against all the adversity, to be that much closer to being one thirds through the madness that is Housemanship.
And they all lived happily ever after.
Except it's not the end, is it?
I started writing this post two weeks ago, and a lot has happened since. Obviously, I didn't die, despite the plummet into darkness after how my initial assessment went, and not only because I was fortunate to have supportive peers around me, but because I am deeply committed to what I am doing here in the first place. I know my 'why'. You can Google 'why power' to get a much deeper insight as to what it entails, but it is pretty self-explanatory in itself. Everything I live and breathe for now is tethered to what I believe my purpose is, which is a complex mixture of my love for people, living life to the fullest (how cheesy, I know, but it doesn't make it less true), and the glue that holds it all together: telling stories.
If I die, my 'why' dies with me, and I didn't spend my entire life searching for the answer just to squander it after having had yet another bad day at work.
Don't we all know by now that stress is an inevitable part of life, and that in most conditions, is actually essential to our growth as an individual? Don't we all know that happiness alone is overrated, and that it is just a mere feeling after all? Don't we all know that there is so much more to life that giving all the attention to our worst selves? Maybe my journey finally allows me to retreat into a safe space within myself where no one can hurt me. I don't believe everyone is so fortunate. I also believe that sometimes, even the best of us forgets, which is why we should make it a point to reach out to anyone we see is struggling.
I think that people on the edge show signs that they're toying with the idea long before it happens. I could be wrong. I don't know anyone that's killed themselves, but I think about all the times I've been dismissed during my worst moments, and cries for help, yet somehow always find a reason to hold on a little longer. Maybe I found alternate sources of support, or fell in love with life in a way that makes it impossible for me to part with it, or found something worth living for, or a mix of all of those things.
The thing is, there are always going to be ups and downs, because life is cyclical like that, but there is a world of difference we can make by being there for people to remind them of their worth and their 'why' when they cannot see it for themselves, just like that nurse did for me. Her hug brought me back to myself, and for that I am eternally grateful. Have a good weekend everyone.
Couple your reading with some live musings