The Breakdown Chronicles Pt 2: Dear Medschool

Dear Medschool,

I am writing to you to let you know that I am absolutely done. I only have a few more weeks left and I’m towing that incredibly fine line between giving up because I cannot be bothered to even care and fighting until the end and I promise you that you’re not going to get the better of me. I plan on seeing you through, seeing this through and shooting down every demon of mine that you’ve fed for the last five years. I am better than you.

It’s a damn shame that my perfectionist personality fell right into your arms, like so many of us, such that you’ve let me be entirely consumed by feelings of low lying inadequacy that loiter in the background of every teaching session, manifesting as hesitancy to answer a question, whilst someone else comes out with the answer I was thinking of. That same inadequacy rises to the surface every single time I know I have to sit another fucking exam to get through the next loophole.

Your value system does not favour me despite the sweat, blood and tears that I’ve poured into you. I don’t have a fucking photographic memory, okay? I’m not a fact absorbing sponge that an OSCE examiner can squeeze in order to regurgitate everything he/she wants to hear. I’m not a walking-talking-Oxford Handbook. And don’t shit all over me and say it’s my ‘exam technique’, because that’s like saying my mind is reduced to something that is less than intelligent because it cannot distinguish between b and c on a multiple choice paper.

As far as this relationship goes between us, the thing I will take away from you is a scroll of paper that puts a ‘Dr’ in front of my name. Other than that I’m just another anonymous, insecure student, spewing away every single time her results have rocked up with another scrape through. Because according to your value system, all I am ever capable of is a scrape.

Let me present to you the saddest part of it all. Every time I actually sit down to learn something, I realise that I am utterly fascinated by Medicine. Any time I feel part of a team, any time I’m able to care for someone even a little, I’m filled with the utmost satisfaction. Sadly, those experiences have been so few and far between, although they are the ones that have pushed me through this course. The reason I get so nervous before the tired examiner in front of me is because I care so much and I get tongue tied, my brain feels like it’s wired differently. You might have forced me to read my way through textbooks and papers so that I know enough in theory but on a practical level, I’m still shit scared of being an FY1. I don’t even feel vaguely ready and I have no clue what I’m doing. I’m sick of ‘seeking learning opportunities’ because the reality is that when you’re a medical student, you’re not part of a team and no one really cares about you being there so you spend 3 years learning how to professionally not-get-in-the-way and that’s just so demotivating.

And the purpose of this letter is as follows. This feud between you and me is so close to being over. There are only a few more loopholes for me to get through and once it’s over… it’s over. I’m no longer going to be brought down by the toxicity of this environment. It won’t matter how much I know because by then I’ll know enough and I’ll learn the rest. I’m not stupid, Medschool, contrary to what you’ve often led me to believe. I realise that it isn’t you that has done this to me, but me. That these were pre-existing insecurities that have only grown because of my surroundings. You were merely the surroundings. The fertile soil that created a breeding ground to grow what was already there. I’m so over seeking approval and validation from exam results and consultant’s comments. I’m so over feeling a certain way about myself that’s dictated too much by you and not me. I’m so over this power struggle.

So let’s end with this thought. I might’ve scraped through, but I still fucking passed every time. I still did everything else I wanted to do outside of this degree. I’m leaving with new skills, new experiences, challenges that have shaped me and friends who have morphed into family. And as hard as you’ve made it for me to convince myself that I’m good enough, the final push is no longer about that. On Monday, I will find out where I’m going to be a doctor for the next two years (which is terrifying enough as it is). And then, for a few weeks only, I will go into focused hibernation and then all I have to do is pass. Exactly like I’ve done for the last four years and if I’ve done it before… I can absolutely 100% do it again. I’m not going to let you make me feel like I’m your little bitch anymore and I’m not going to lose motivation now.

It’s the final fucking hurdle. Watch me jump it.

Yours for not much longer,

Gowri

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