Can I withdraw from life?

Wow, this week began on such a good note, but then things took a turn yesterday.

I received an email from the internal medicine rotation coordinator asking whether I would be repeating the internal medicine practical test on Monday 28th. I responded to her email with a ridiculously polite message explaining my current situation and that I would not be able to take the test on Monday because I would still be in the partial hospitalization program. She answered back with a stingy, insensitive email saying that to her knowledge there wasn’t any other date when I could repeat this test, and that would mean I probably had to wait until September to repeat it. However, she said, since I would have to wait until September, then I couldn’t begin my fourth year in August as scheduled because I wouldn’t have completed my third year rotations yet. She finished the email saying I had to take up the issue with the curriculum office.

I was so…pissed off, hurt, angry, frustrated, stressed, anxious….but mainly PISSED OFF. I was so triggered that by the end of the day I was having mild suicidal thoughts and wishing I could somehow die. I never mentioned the cause of my hospitalization in the email, however it was kind of obvious that it was psychiatric in nature because partial hospitalizations are psychiatric. I kept thinking that if my situation were that of having been diagnosed with cancer I’m sure she wouldn’t have been such an insensitive BITCH.

So that pretty much screwed up my day and screwed up today too, because every single question and worry I have about medical school at the moment exploded in my head and bloomed into a disgusting mutant monster. Am I going to be able to re-take this test before August? Will they single me out because I’m mentally ill? Should I take a leave of absence? Should I withdraw from the pediatrics rotation? Will I have the same problem when I try to repeat the ObGyn written exam in June? Will my medical school royally screw me up or will they be nice? I already paid the $580 for Step 2 CK, should I risk taking it after summer? Should I quit medical school altogether? Do I even want to be a doctor? 

Imagine that whole paragraph playing over and over in your head. That’s how I feel right now.

I got so desperate that I started researching alternative careers yet again. I went so far as to entertain the idea of joining the FBI, but then I realized that I’m too mentally ill for them (yeah, ’cause facing stigma due to cancer or HIV is called discrimination, but facing stigma due to mental illness is called security).

Then today I was in an overall shitty mood and irritable but things got a bit more manageable after group therapy. But then I saw the program psychiatrist and became wholly convinced that she’s not remotely interested in my life and in spite of being a doctor herself she does not understand what I’m going through. On top of that, I had to go to my med school after getting out of the partial hospitalization because I had to take a surgery class I had to excuse myself from back when I was doing the surgery rotation (or else they wouldn’t release my surgery grade…stupid, I know).

Really, today I felt as depressed and hopeless as I felt the day I was hospitalized. I felt slow, down in the dumps, teary-eyed, sensitive, irritable, wishing I were dead and wanting only to sleep forever. Except this time I didn’t have a concrete suicide plan (meaning my insurance couldn’t care less and probably won’t approve an extension of the partial hospitalization because they only care when you’re suicidal).

Things only got slightly better after getting home and forcing myself to interact with my parents and speak with my sister on the phone. But honestly I can’t get all the worry out of my head.

I feel terribly overwhelmed because they always say you shouldn’t make decisions when you’re going through emotionally difficult times; however, I HAVE to make these decisions regarding medical school within the next few days to weeks. So, I’m kind of trapped.

I’m sorry for this post/rant. I just…need answers.

  1. Tola said:

    hi, i just came across your blog today and i'm so happy i did. i'm so sorry about how you feel even though i'm just a first year medical student.. (i'm dealing with so much) cant you just go to the curriculum office, they might be able to help if they know your conditon. please can you give me your email address?


  2. Hey Tola,

    I'm glad you came across my blog. Each time a medical student winds up here I feel my message is getting through.

    Will be meeting up with the curriculum office director on Monday. Let's see how that goes and whether she can help me.

    You can contact me by comments here or by emailing me at borderlinemed(at)gmail(dot)com.


  3. Tola said:

    i dont mean to bother you but i kind feel like telling someone how i feel and my friends wont understand.
    i'm 17 year old. ist year medical student. i have an older brother 24years old ( he had a different dad.. who is practically useless.. God forgive me. but yeah my mum met my dad years later after my brother was born) my dad died when i was six, so now my mum is fending for us alone( she didnt remarry) my brother as diagnosed with depression when he was 19… he had it before then but my mum just thought he was being stubborn like teenagers. he's case was so bad… he wasnt interested in school any more because he continued changing school.. like 4 times, he wouldnt sleep at night and be insulting my mum, shouting at her, calling her irresponsible, wicked and all that stuff. he would threaten her with knife if she didnt give him the key to leave the house at night… once he was missing for about 3 days, when they found him and took him to the hospital, he didnt remember what he had done and just kept apologizing to my mum. he was always having relapse because he wont take his drugs( i was in boarding school throughout high school so i never witnessed most of these things, my mum used to tell me cos we are close like that. i hated him for making her spend so much, for stressing her and draining her of her strength.


  4. Tola said:

    i got admitted to study physiology when i was 16( i applied for medicine but i didnt get it, i was told to get 4.5 gpa to be able to cross over in my 2nd year) that wasnt a problem for me i was a brilliant girl(i had the 2nd best high school leaving certificate in my set) so i got a 4.65/5 and i was qualified to change but the school started giving excuses and they didnt let me change. my mum was not happy about that soo she decide to let me travel out to study medicine( i was so surprised because we are not exactly rich, but we are very comfortable and per year the total expense is like 21000 $) i am here now and its like hell. i have 6 exams for my first year, and i've successfully failed 3. i even had 0/100 in one, i sincerely dont know how its possible for someone to read and not even get 1 mark, but yeah, it happened to me. theres nothing i havent done to pass, i read my heart out but yet i didnt pass.

    At the beginning of the year,i had 3 close friends, one of them stopped talking to us after the 2nd failure, she passed the 3rd one while we still failed.. that made me feel stupid, useless, dumb because the fact that she passed when she stopped talking to me kinda makes me feel i caused the failure in the first place. i promise yo i have o distractions whatsoever… i've never had a boyfriend, not even my first kiss.. thats how devoted i am to my books. now, i feel like a failure, a loser, like i dont deserve to live…. i wont lie, i've thought of sucide a couple of times but then i think of my mum. i once googled signs of depression and i had almost all of them. i cried my heart out the day i found out because i cant afford to be like my brother an put mum through all that once again. i feel like god is punishig me for hating my brother during his serious crisis. now my other two friends are leaving and going to start over in a new school( their parents are very rich so its not a problem for them) now i'm all alone to face this. i cant even think of leaving, or starting AGAIN! or even wasting that huge amount of money.. now adays i just sit down and start crying, begging my dead dad and God to appear to me in a dream and tell me what to do, sometimes, i'll leave the lecture hall for about 10 mins, cry in the toilet, wipe my face and go back to class like nothing happened. i cant tell my mum all these, she wants me to be happy.. she'll be broken if i'm really diagnosed with depression. i cant tell my friends all these, they have rich parents to take them to other schools so they wont understand, i cant tell my close cousins… they've always looked up to me, i was the brilliant one in the family before i became this dumb, i'm suffering inside and i have no one to talk to. i know all hope is not lost but how do i even begin to read for the remaing three when i've tried so much for the others and i didnt pass? my friends in the former university are movind to third year while i'm still stuggling to pass 1st year.. i cant even afford to fail.

    everybody sees me now and asks whats wrong.. apparently i dont smile, my eyes are always swollen( they think i dont sleep enough, when i'm actually too busy crying) and i dont even talk anymore. i'm tired of life, tired of trying, tired of feeling helpless… i jut want t go home and abandon everything. i need a break from this struggling life of mine. PS: i'm so sorry its long, i just needed to tell someone who would understand and not judge me.


  5. Tola said:

    i'm so sorry i had to divide it, my story was too long… but i'm really unhappy 😦


  6. Anonymous said:

    Sorry to hear that things took a downturn. Can you just tell your insurance company you're suicidal so they'll approve partial hospitalization? It's not like they would know whether it's the truth or not.

    I hope things have been going a little better!



  7. Hey Tola,

    Don’t apologize for your story being long or complicated. Rest assured I had no qualms about reading your comment. I’m sorry this response is two (and possibly three) days late. Plus, I was almost done with my response just a few seconds ago but blogger decided to refresh the page out of nowhere.

    First off: I understand what you are going through.

    You seem to be at a very difficult time in your life, and are very desperate. The first thing I advise you to do is to seek help from a counselor, a psychologist, a psychiatrist…in other words, a person affiliated with mental health. You are currently facing problems in your life, and these people are there to help. Looking for help is not admitting to weakness, it is a strength in and of itself because you have the insight to recognize that you can’t manage on your own. Let’s forget about the words “depression” and “mental illness”…those are just labels. What’s important is that what you are feeling is far from normal and it’s making you miserable.

    Is there a counselor at your medical school who you can go to? When I first had my brush with depression in first year I went to my medical school’s psychologist because she was the most accessible person I had (and of course, it was free). In addition, these people are usually more receptive and willing to understand your situation, as their job is precisely to help students like yourself. You are not the first, nor the last medical student to seek help.

    You mention you don’t want your mother to know how you are feeling because you are afraid it will break her. However, you also mention that your mother wants you to be happy. If that is true, then she will understand why you looked for help. I’m not saying this will happen instantly, it could possibly take some time, but time heals all wounds, and if your mother genuinely wants you to be happy then she will understand why you needed help. From what you write I gather you have a positive relationship with your mother. Use that to your advantage.

    Also, don’t compare yourself to your brother. Just becuase he went through certain problems with depression doesn’t mean you will encounter those problems too. Don’t make his hardships your own. You and your brother are different people, different lives, what he went through is not necessarily what you will go through.

    As for medical school…try to think back to why you chose medicine as a career. Does that feeling persist? Or do you envision yourself doing something different now that you are experiencing medicine firsthand? Is it something you still want to do? Did you choose medicine because you genuinely wanted to be a doctor, or did you choose it because you thought any other career would be a waste of your talent? I’m not trying to overwhelm you with questions, take each one separately and try to answer them. The key here is to be honest with yourself. Don’t answer something just because you think it’s the best answer, or because it’s the best answer for you mother, friends, or family. It’s not a test, it’s YOU we are talking about. It’s important that you ask yourself these things because as medical students we tend to just go on auto-pilot and not STOP and think what’s best for us.

    Also, keep in mind that you are a brilliant, talented person. Just because you have failed exams in medical school does not mean you are “stupid”. There are many reasons why you could have failed those exams. Maybe it was test-related anxiety, maybe you felt overwhelmed, you were mentally blocked, etc. etc. I can tell you firsthand that the more you focus on those failed exams, the more difficult it will be to progress in medical school. It’s a vicious cycle. So, try to focus on the positives: you are smart, you made it into medical school, etc.


  8. If medicine is genuinely what you want to do, and you want to keep at it, have you considered taking some time off? A year or maybe a few months? It would be a great time to breath, stop, and think about what you really want. There is no point in “sucking it up” (I despise that phrase). “Sucking it up” and keeping at a strategy that is obviously not working for you is only going to result in feeling miserable and eventually arriving at a dead end. BUT, and this is a big but, don’t decide taking some time off without first looking for help and thinking through what your options are. You are at an emotionally delicate time in your life, and some outside input will work in your favor. Making a decision on your own, without looking for help, could result in later regrets. And trust me, I know how all of this feels, because at this very moment I’m trying to decide whether I’ll take some time off.

    Something I learned in my recent hospitalization was that we are still young, we can afford to take time off or to change careers entirely. It might not seem like it right now, but there is a whole life ahead of you. Allow yourself to make changes if the way you are living right now is not making you happy.

    Also, you mention you are very devoted to studying…do you take some time off to breath? Some time to do a hobby you might have? I can tell you from experience that not taking time off and only studying will result in feeling burnt out…and burn out will only cause you to fail more exams and not perform to your full potential. It doesn’t have to be anything overly elaborate…just taking an hour every other day to read, watch TV, or take a walk in the park…anything that takes your mind off studying to give your mind a break.

    Another tidbit of advice: don’t compare yourself to others. You will only see the positives in others and the negatives in you. Remember that everyone is a box full of surprises, everyone has their own story. Just because they are succeeding in medical school does not mean they are happy.

    Finally, remember: you are NOT alone. There will always be someone there to help you, it’s just that sometimes it’s not so obvious.

    I’m sorry this was so long. Hopefully I didn’t overwhelm you or confuse you further. Take one thing, one issue, one question, one day… at a time. Let me know what you think, here or by email,
    <br /

    PS: There’s a lot of advice here that I myself have to take. I hope I don’t come off as a hypocrite!


  9. Hey Azure,

    On Friday I was going to tell the psychiatrist in the program that I was suicidal (which wasn't entirely true) in the hopes that my insurance would approve an extension, but I completely forgot. However, today I went to the program and they told me to go tomorrow too and that I would finish tomorrow, so apparently my insurance did not say they didn't approve it. Let's just hope I don't get a nasty hospital bill out of nowhere.


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