"If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success"

Well, hot damn. I was half-way through this post and decided to delete it and start over.

I feel like lately I’ve been rambling too much on the blog about leave of absence or not leave of absence. Since I don’t want to bore you with the ins and outs of my confused little head at the time, I decided to re-write this post exactly 16 minutes past midnight. If by some chance you’re interested in what I had to say 16 minutes ago (before my mood suddenly changed), I’ve left if at the bottom of the post for your amusement.

When I was doing the partial hospitalization, one of the therapies was on forgiving. It was pretty much about what forgiving others entails, and how it makes you feel, and whether you’re good at forgiving or need to work on it. We did this little questionnaire that added up to a score in the end. The score then corresponded to an explanation on whether you didn’t forgive enough, were an average forgiver, or were too forgiving.

I thought I would end up being too much of a forgiver, since I tend to let things pass way too easily. Yet I scored on the average range, surprisingly enough.

However, exactly 16 minutes ago a thought crossed my mind…

I forgive others easily, but I never forgive myself.

Honestly, that’s a very sad realization, since the only person I have to live with my whole life is me. I’ve had M tell me this so many times I can’t count, in so many ways that make me admire just how creative she is with words. Still, I never really gave it much thought. I accepted it, I knew it was true, but I never really internalized it.

My initial intention with this post was just to explain why I feel like I’m wasting my time being outside of medical school. It’s something that bothers me constantly. However, it wasn’t until now that I realized that the reason I feel like this is precisely because I don’t know how to forgive myself and move on.

Since I was little, up until finishing my bachelor’s degree, I was the straight-A kid. And it wasn’t only grades, but somehow I always excelled at anything I did. When I danced as a kid, I was one of the best. When I did spelling bees, I always won first place. When I would paint, I got awards and attention. When I wrote, I got my short stories published. You get the gist of it. I never attributed it to talent, or intellect, but rather on how I was so demanding on myself and a freakish perfectionist. (As a side-note, this never extended to looks, but that’s a whole other post)

Since beginning med school, this whole framework upon which I had built my short life just started crumbling. My grades turned average. I stopped taking dance and painting classes. I got depressed and subsequently lost my artistic inspiration. Now I just feel like a blob. Finally, the epitome of this deconstruction-of-my-life’s-framework was getting hospitalized and subsequently taking a hiatus from my studies.

Right now I feel like I’m trying to rebuild that framework (albeit very slowly). I’m setting one little brick at a time. Some days it’s one brick, other days it’s half a brick, and yet other days I don’t get anything done.

But sometimes (and unfortunately “sometimes” means “a lot of times”), I instinctively remove a brick from that framework and set myself behind. These are the moments when I start thinking about what a failure I am. These are the moments when I don’t forgive myself for being any less than perfect.

The reason anything I do at the moment feels like a waste of time, is because staying on the highway to perfection (along with my med school peers) means finishing my medical degree in four years, then continuing on to residency, and then working. But, hey!, as it turns out, my lane was filled with some pretty deep potholes and I had to take a detour. Well, shit.

Why can’t I forgive myself for taking that detour? Why do I insist on getting back on the highway while the pavement used to cover the potholes is still fresh? (That’s just going to result in a sticky mess.) I mean, the detour is going to take me to the finish line all the same. Indeed, it’ll take a little bit more time than my peers, but heck, I’m going to get there anyway. Why, then, can’t I just keep moving at my own pace without thinking that I’m some kind of failure/freak?

Because I never learned how to forgive myself. That’s why.

But hopefully I’ll be able to change that, somehow. Hopefully, I’ll be able to “redefine success”.

***

I’m pretty out of it today. I was doing just fine in the morning, but then M canceled our appointment. I’ll be seeing her next Tuesday.

I feel kind of pissed I guess. I’ve been relying heavily on M lately to stay emotionally sound on this very delicate time of my life. I know I shouldn’t, that the strength should come from within, but I can’t do this on my own. At least not now.

Also, I couldn’t help but feel abandoned when she called to cancel. She sounded so…distant. I guess that sparked the borderline in me.

Spent the day doing one thing after another. Busy, busy, busy. Only stopped to take a long nap in the afternoon. I even painted a little while ago. But I really don’t like what I did.

However, there’s this lingering feeling within me and I can’t identify exactly what it is. I have a lot of trouble identifying my emotions (a lot of times M makes me give my emotions names during therapy). And right now I know I’m feeling A LOT of things, but I can’t identify what they are. It’s like a nameless emotion monster. I’m going to try and give this a shot…I feel: frustrated.

Why frustrated? There’s so many reasons, honestly, but right now the main one is that I constantly have this voice in my head telling me I’m wasting my time because I’m not studying or going to hospital.

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2 comments
  1. This post is great, for several reasons.
    One, the realisation about forgiving yourself, and accepting that you had some difficult times, is great. You point out things that are part of SO MANY med students' lives. We are not taught to forgive ourselves. We are taught to be HARD, unremitting, on ourselves. And realising that is our first step towards being more nurturing to ourselves.

    Two, you are identifying your emotions. That part about “sparking the borderline” – that part is good, because it means you are aware of yourself, and you are noticing things when they happen, and investigating why they happen, and not allowing your emotions to run away with you.

    So, I know you feel frustrated and pissed off, but despite that you are displaying a state of mind that is quite remarkable. You are displaying what is essentially known as mindfulness, and that's good. I don't know if that helps at all, but I hope that it will make you feel a little better.

    Like

  2. Hi Barefoot,

    Thank you for pointing out so many things in my post. I hadn't thought about any of the things you mentioned. It's great to be able to know what others like you think about what I write.

    And of course if made me feel better! Makes me feel there's a little ray of hope out there and that I might be making more progress than I give myself credit for 😉

    Take care,

    Like

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