For those of you who read my posts, such as my rant about how much it sucks to work weekends and how the bright light at the end of the tunnel is a big fat lie, probably think I'm incredibly bitter and unhappy. That I'm some kind of cranky old doctor who sits on my porch confiscating the wayward baseballs of little children. Some of you have suggested that I switch fields.
Well, really, you don't need to worry so much about Fizzy. The truth is, I kind of like my job. It's not perfect. You're not going to catch me and my job alone in a closet doing unspeakable things (I worry about some of you, really), but I'm quite satisfied. For starters, I don't work weekends. I sometimes really help people. I have a lot of flexibility. I can eat lunch or go to the bathroom any time I want. (I'm not joking. This is huge.) There's a lot of room for career growth and research. If someone told me I'd still be working at the same place 20 years from now, I'd be pretty happy. Like they say in Office Space, it would be nice to have that kind of job security.
So your next question is undoubtedly, "But Fizzy, you're always whining and moaning. If you're happy, why don't you just shut the hell up already?"
Well, that's a good question, although quite rudely phrased. It's sort of like this: say you spent the whole day cleaning your giant house. It sucks but then when it's done, maybe you can finally relax. Except you can't relax because you pulled a muscle in your back and have excruciating pain for the next several weeks. It's sort of like that.
I wish I could say that my training sucked and now it's over, thank god. Except it's not so simple.
All right, my pre-clinical years were not great. My school had a failure rate of something like 10%, which meant that 10% of the class actually had to repeat an entire year. That puts a lot of pressure on you, especially when you're in the midst of a bad break-up and some family medical issues. But I was used to studying hard, so while it was bad, it wasn't that bad. The clinical years were when I started to fall apart. Some people simply don't like waking up at 4AM and working 27 days of the month. Some people start to physically deteriorate. I was in the latter category. I've always had a pretty low energy level (which would explain my impending obesity) and I really struggled with the physical demands of clinical work (e.g. sleep deprivation, standing in place for eight hours, etc.). It was pretty bad, but I got through it.
It was intern year that really got me though. It changed my conception of myself, and not in a particularly positive way.
For starters, my first resident as an intern was a cruel bitch who tore me down on my first day and continued to bat me down every time I tried to recover. (You can read more about her cruelty here.) People like her over the course of my training really brought down my confidence in myself. But it wasn't just that.
I'm a typical oldest child in that I always feel this compulsive need to be responsible. I'm not Type A, but when you ask me to get something done, you can bet it will get done and at least a day early. In school during group projects, I was always the one who quietly did everyone else's work while they slacked off. I am extremely reliable and organized and always have been. Except I discovered during my intern year that after 2AM on a call night, I wasn't particularly reliable. I'm not going to elaborate further, except to say that I'm not proud of my behavior on some of my call nights. (I will at least say that absolutely no harm whatsoever came to any patients.)
That was part of why I switched residencies, in order to have a more regular schedule. Leaving my residency was the most drastic thing I'd ever done in my life, very unlike me, but I was horrified that I couldn't trust myself during call-heavy ward months. I don't think of myself as prone to depression, but I became desperately miserable that year. I was recently reading a journal I kept during intern year, and I wrote one very serious-sounding entry where I said that I wished a car would run me down on my walk to work the next day.
So that's my story. Years later, I still have negative thoughts about myself due to those early years of training. I have trouble thinking of myself as the old reliable person I always was, despite three extremely successful subsequent years of residency. And some of the physical ailments I developed under the extreme stress of my early training still haunt me. But I guess in some ways, I got off easy. One of my colleagues attempted suicide during intern year.
Some of you have applauded me for my honesty and this about as honest as I can get. I don't know how common my experience was, but I've learned it's more common than I thought. I was, after all, a very average intern, as my shocked program director told me when I informed him I couldn't take anymore. I suspect there are people reading this now who feel the same way I did, have in the past, or will in the future.