Med School is not as Glamorous as you may Think | August 20, 2016 National Day of Solidarity to Prevent Physician Suicide

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http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/12833146/instagram-account-university-pennsylvania-runner-showed-only-part-story

A nice reminder for all social media users. I first came across this news story three years ago and even wrote a blog post about it. Out of the blue, my research PI (who is a psychiatrist) sent me this article at the end of my senior year and it elicited even stronger emotions. I felt compelled to start a draft, which I didn’t finish until now. A lot has happened in my life since then, but I was reminded again of this story as I attended the National Day of Solidarity to Prevent Physician/Medical Student suicide at my medical school a couple weeks ago.

Since the era of sending mail through horseback and the advent of phone calls, we have always portrayed the positive parts of our lives, but the difference now is that Instagram and other social media has consumed more of our day as we endlessly scroll past people’s filtered accomplishments, happiness, and picture “perfect” moments.

All of Madison’s friends shared some form of struggle, yet she still felt alone because social media didn’t match up with what they were privately saying. This really urges me to be real with people I talk to. I’m not going to pretend like I live in a world of rainbows and butterflies. No one lives a perfect life. This is what it means to be human. We are all in this together.

‘People are also often encouraged to put filters on their sadness, to brighten their reality so as not to “drag down” those around them. The myth still exists that happiness is a choice, which perpetuates the notion of depression as weakness.

As a family, they had never talked about suicide. Jim never considered it a real possibility — just the dramatic ending to someone else’s story. Jim feared that speaking about suicide would make its likelihood greater.

Bill Schmitz Jr., former president of the American Association of Suicidology, points out that depression does not have a one-size-fits-all prognosis. “The course varies,” he says. “In a way, it’s the same as cancer. For some, we might prolong life for months, for years. For others, it can be very sudden.”‘

  • These three paragraphs summarize the myths of depression and gets at the very root of mental health stigma in our nation. Yes, happiness is a choice, but when a person is suffering from a mental handicap, their brain chemistry has changed to where you are not in full control anymore. With that being said, depression is a real disease and not a personal sign of weakness. A lot of us want to please those around us, but we also need to be in-tune with ourselves. Your body is all you’ve got in this world; love it and take time to nourish yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually. The quote, “Speaking about suicide would make its likelihood greater” is similar to the sexual education dilemma. I think it’s important to talk about taboo topics rather than sweeping it under the rug because the more open we are, the more opportunities we have to help ourselves and others.

“It’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK to show people you’re not OK.”

  • Most important message I took away.

“I run because it’s therapeutic for me. Because every time I run outside, around my home, I am reminded of the beauty of the world, of which I often forget. Yet at the same time, I am fully aware of beauty — it simply saddens me because of reasons I have not yet conjured up. I suppose I am sad. But at the same time I am happy; and miserable; and joyful; and stressed out; and calm, and everything in between. I am everything. Every emotion, rigged in every format, and developed through every machine. I am numb but I am not.”

  • I can totally relate to the first few sentences as a runner, but the latter half is where the message is. We are all bodies of emotions and feelings. This is a very beautiful thing. Never feel alone in your thoughts and feelings because somewhere in the world, someone else is or has already felt that way. When you need help from yourself – tell someone, ask someone. We are all in this together.

Revisit my first post about this news story: https://journeyoflifeandmeaning.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/what-if-we-car…ore-loved-more/

Excerpt: “Make sure that whoever you talk to or come in contact with, that you are okay with how you made them feel with your words and gestures if that was your last day on Earth. Try to develop that deep connection with people so that maybe you can save someone’s life. This is a powerful realization for me. You don’t need an MD to save people’s lives – just genuine care for one another’s well-being by opening up, being vulnerable, talking deeply and loving thy neighbor.”

Developing a Healthy View of Social Media

Recently, I had a friend tell me that she didn’t want to take a picture because she was so concerned about being too fat and ugly. I hadn’t seen this friend in over a year, so I wanted some memories. This saddened me a lot and I tried sharing my perspective that you should never measure your self-worth based on numbers on the scale or what you see in the mirror. She wanted to be perfect. I said that’s not possible. She said “90% perfect then.” She even turned down entering in relationships because she said she didn’t want to disappoint them with her physical looks.

Let’s be honest. We are all affected by our outside looks to some regard. We can’t change this because our exterior is what others see first. I don’t want to sound like a perfect person because I am not. I still get very bad acne in my mid 20’s and I’ve been battling this since middle school. It’s been worse recently most likely due to medical school stress. My acne makes me feel less attractive, it takes me more time in the morning to make sure people won’t be staring at my acne rather than my eyes, and sometimes it prevents me from going out if I have a really bad breakout.

However, I think I am half way there to the wisdom of not caring what others think of you. As long as you are okay with the energy you give off to the world every day, it doesn’t matter what clothes you wear, what your face looks like, how fat or skinny you are, etc. I don’t untag photos of myself because “people might find me less attractive” and I don’t care if I’m laughing so hard in a picture that you can’t see my eyes. It’s all about the feelings of the picture – the happy emotions it elicits, not the way you look and the thoughts of what other people on your social media might think of it.

At the end of the day, I am happy with myself if I spread kindness, warmth, deep care for others, and positivity in the world. Think about the kind of energy you want to radiate from your soul.

National Day of Solidarity Lessons

  1. The osteopathic handshake is a hug. It was cute to see all the presenters hugging each other when they passed the mic and it reminded me of the hug fest we had during orientation week. As DO’s, we are known to be more hands-on and more open to expressing the caring touch. I really do believe in the healing power of touch and this is a huge reason why I enjoy learning OMM.
  2. Get enough sleep. Fun fact: 7.7 hours is the average hours we should be getting. I make this a priority and it’s been really helpful in keeping me awake and alert for school.
  3. Practice healthy selfishness. I love this phrase. Never ever forget to take care of yourself.

Med school is not as glamorous as you may think. I know I didn’t really think about what daily life was like for a medical student until I was one. I was just concerned about getting in, but the hurdles don’t stop there.

  1. You spend so much time staring at a screen studying that the next time you feel the sun’s warm rays or talk to a person about something non-medically related, you feel like a new person.
  2. All day, every day, even weekends and breaks, all you think about is studying. You feel guilty if you have too much free time. The material isn’t hard in and of itself, but there is so much content that it’s not humanly possible to master every detail. You keep striving to learn everything and fall short.
  3. You schedule to see your friends during the one free weekend after you take the block exam and before starting a new block the following week. You have less time to spend with family and friends outside of the medical world. You might miss important life events, like birthdays, weddings, reunions, graduations, etc. People might even move on without you… That’s one of the hardest things about this lifestyle. Non-medical people in your life might never understand what you go through and they move on because you can’t provide the kind of attention and time they seek. There are so many articles and videos out there about personal sacrifices people in the medical profession make (I do have something positive to say about this. See #6 in the “good things” list).
  4. You don’t get enough sleep because you are constantly wanting to study more and/or you have to get up early for another day of new lectures.
  5. If you’re away from family, you have to worry about managing life outside of school, such as cooking for yourself, expenses associated with eating out, cleaning, and other miscellaneous chores. You might experience being homesick.
  6. You put life on pause in a way. If you haven’t found your life companion, good luck dating and finding someone that puts up with your lifestyle. If you have found your life companion, wishing you the best during this challenging journey and may love endure, sincerely.
  7. Your apartment/room is a madhouse because you wait until exams are over to clean it.
  8. You spend your whole Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the library/study rooms before a big exam.
  9. You’re constantly accumulating $200k+ debt while in school.
  10. You often let go of a few hobbies and forget about what truly makes you feel alive.
  11. You end up double speeding YouTube videos you watch for fun because that’s what you do for lectures.
  12. While you may see your non-medical school friends traveling the world, making money in a job, going out every weekend, getting married, having children, buying houses, and settling down, you’re concerned about passing the first two years of didactic learning, then rotations, then applying for residencies where you work long hours with modest pay, then finally securing your first position as a board-certified physician. By this time, you’re in your 30’s (older if non-traditional). While I’m not saying these things can’t be done simultaneously, it’s just more to think about and juggle.
  13. Medical school takes a toll on you. Four of my fellow medical students developed strands of white hair halfway through the year. You might experience feelings of depression, anxiety, and inadequacy.

Good things!

  1. You become close with your medical school classmates because of the shared struggle. With a small class size, you truly become a supportive family.
  2. You get to be a sponge as you soak in all this new information. You’ll look back and think “how in the world did I gain all this knowledge in four short years.” Learning is fun!
  3. What kind of career allows you to learn something new every single day for the rest of your life?? When I feel bogged down about studying, I step back and think how awesome it is that we have a wealth of information at our finger tips.
  4. Making new and exciting memories (e.g. unintentional twinning with my classmates and end of block gatherings with the whole class).
  5. I look forward to working out now because it’s the main release of my day. It feels so good to lift or run off all the stress you felt during the day. You just have to schedule it like you’re going to lecture. Hopefully this will prevent the med school 15 haha.
  6. I have a lot of classmates that have supportive significant others, even a few starting families. It’s not impossible. If you are privileged to have already found your person while in medical school and your relationship withstands the hardships, you know they are a keeper. Count your blessings for finding someone so understanding and patient.
  7. Medical school is a unique and special time. You only get to do this once. It’s four years where you really don’t have real responsibilities. Your job is to learn as much as you can. These four years will pass by fast, so make the most of it and slow down to be grateful for your daily opportunities.
  8. A long line of people would die to have your seat in medical school. In the 2016-2017 application cycle, 21,030 out of 53,042 applicants matriculated into medical school. That’s 39.6% acceptance rate. If you’re a medical student right now, be very grateful for this life-changing opportunity. Source: https://www.aamc.org/download/321442/data/factstablea1.pdf
  9. How lucky are we, as medical students and beyond, to have such a wide array of activities to experience and accomplish that’s worth documenting? Seeing your first standardized patient, volunteering at the free clinic, studying, OMM, taking Step 1, student organization events, conferences, presenting research, leading a health careers exploration camp for high schoolers, welcoming new students on campus, new friendships, field trips, wearing scrubs, holding human hearts and brains, learning new clinical skills, rotations, graduating, starting residency, etc. Follow my medical journey on Instagram: ghrellen where I explore what it means to be a strong female physician humanitarian 🙂
  10. When you learn about diseases that people in your personal life have and you start thinking about how it’s affecting them and possible treatment options: cystic fibrosis, immune thrombocytopenia purpura, GERD, lymphoma, Wilson’s disease.
  11. You become happy with very little. Sometimes, we go through such low points in this journey that we become more appreciative of the little things in life, such as having a free weekend off to spend with friends, breaking up the studying routine to get lunch with classmates, or taking a few minutes to be appreciative of nature outside the window.
  12. I normally go on a long run shortly after noon on Wednesdays, weather permitting. As 1st and 2nd year medical students, we have a lot of flexibility and decision-making power to choose how we spend our day. Of course, this changes in 3rd and 4th year, so I’m trying to be consciously grateful for this freedom while we still have it.
  13. At the end of this journey, we are in one of the most meaningful professions. In what other capacity do you get the chance to become so intimately involved in all spheres of another human’s life? We have the unique opportunity to save lives, reduce suffering, and love humanity every day.
  14. Remember, it’s not solely about the destination, it’s the journey – not only the journey of medicine, but the journey of life. We are in this space and time only once. Step back and be grateful for everything you have.

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I challenge you to live a #lifeunfiltered

~lntan

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I Live for Failures

Assignment 2 158“Ellen please move your pin from green to red. You will go to detention at recess today.” I cried when my 5th grade teacher told me this because I left my spelling contract in my cubby overnight and failed to get it signed by a parent.

I felt ashamed and loathed my 4th grade teacher for a couple hours because she reprimanded me to be quiet when a classmate had asked me a question in the middle of class.

I angrily drew all over and ripped my 6th grade math test that I got a B on and didn’t talk to my friends at lunch that day.

I nearly quit my first job in high school because my boss sat me aside to tell me that I need to start being a better employee by not only scooping gelato but engaging with the customers as well.

I would like to share how I changed my mindset about failing.

Remember: Everyone fails at something at some point in their lives. We are all human. Do not be ashamed. Keep on keepin on. Always keep this in mind.

I grew up learning that I always had to do everything right in order to catch up to everyone else because I was economically, socially and linguistically disadvantaged when I started school. This afforded me a vulnerable mindset as witnessed by the examples above. I was so afraid of failing, of being ridiculed and being called out.

You never know until you try.
First year of college was when I learned a great deal about failure and what to do about it. I applied for three different positions and organizations to be a part of for the following year, but I ended up being declined for all of them. I remember in one of those interviews, the interviewer prompted “tell me about a time you’ve failed”. I let a minute-long moment of silence pass, and the best answer I came up with was getting straight B’s in Gen Chem. Now, I hope for that question in every interview because I am so passionate about the topic.

I recently conjured up this quote for a study abroad scholarship essay: “Failure should never be the last stop in one’s journey, just a pit stop to re-energize and reflect.” I have learned there is value in all failures and mistakes as they can be learning experiences for future endeavors. It’s such a valuable gift to yourself.

Today, I learned from a past homecoming court member/fellow Stater that I was not selected to serve on the 2014-2015 homecoming court. She graciously made sure that I was okay and didn’t want to cry or need some alone time, and I was taken aback by such condolences. This is not how I choose to react to failures. If you take too much time dwelling about the past and sulking, you’ll miss the beautiful moments of life that are unraveling in front of your eyes. Several hours later, I am still smiling and still blessed to be a Buckeye. It’s not because I didn’t care for homecoming court or knew that I blew the interview. I thought the whole process went very well actually – going into how I knew about homecoming court even before the first day of classes as a freshman because of a role model whom I had in high school and then seeing her on court when I came to college (I still have a to-do list I made during freshman year welcome week detailing all the things I should do and get involved in for the next four years if I were to apply for homecoming court), my gratitude for this university and nearly endless opportunities given to me here as a first generation college student and how I wish to pay it forward and give back to the community and future students. I was really looking forward to being in a position to inspire future students to make the Buckeye education their own by getting involved, being open to new experiences and really cherishing every day spent here. This was a picture taken right before the interview with a good and long-time friend.

HCI never want to lose the overwhelming enthusiasm I felt that day. It was an absolute pleasure looking back on the three years I have had at OSU as I was preparing for the interview. I had such a great time with the interviewers, and it’ll be a memory that I will keep with me forever. I still very much look forward to coming back as an alumni with my time, support or monetary donations. I have so much love for this place that has given me so many opportunities – a life that I could not even imagine in my wildest dreams.

Reflecting, the only thing I regretted not doing was to ask the interviewers how they are affiliated with OSU. I was genuinely curious to hear a little bit about them, but wanted to be respectful for the next interviewee as we only had 20 total minutes. Other than that, I don’t really know what the main problem with my performance was… I guess the lesson here is: there will always be people better than you. But do not fret. Compete with the person you were yesterday instead of others around you. Be the best person you can be.

This experience made me more appreciative of the things I am already involved with – Ohio Staters Inc, Buckeye Leadership Fellows, a research opportunity this summer, Helping Hands Free Clinic, and getting ready to start a new chapter in life as I am preparing to apply for medical school. My goal for next year is to put in more time and effort into these activities rather than trying to look for more. Quality over quantity. These are some amazing opportunities right in front of my face, and I feel that I have been taking them for granted this whole year.

A question I prompted to myself while preparing for the homecoming interview is “what is the most important thing you’ve learned at OSU?” This is my response:

A leadership title or degree should not stand in the way of who you want to be, what you want to do or what visions you have for the world.

I used to think I NEEDED to become the president of something in order to be a good leader. This is far from the truth. Anyone, regardless of rank, position or credentials can be a leader with the right vision, mindset and attitude. Just this morning on the radio, 104.9 shared a story about how a 13-year-old girl started her own business with a facebook page saving stray dogs, paying to get them cleaned up and finding each one a home. This is such a powerful message. If you are really passionate about something, never let that fire burn out and pursue it until it becomes a reality. You cannot be afraid of failure(s).

Relating this to medicine, I made an earlier post about how you don’t need an MD degree to care more about humanity. Simply be there for people around you and listen. I am trying to live this every single day.

This was a hodge-podge of thoughts I have about failure, but I hope that something resonated with you and that you can keep a healthier mindset about failing and life.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”
(one of my all-time favorite quotes and life mantra).

Video

The Meaning of Life

“Life only goes around once but never again”

I was bawling at two minutes. I’m always a sucker for love stories.

This made me really think: our time here on Earth is limited. When you’re young (invincible 20’s), you feel like you have your whole life ahead. But time is ticking by the second. I’m not trying to take this in a pessimistic direction; instead, I am reminding myself and sharing with you all to cherish every day, experience and people you interact with. In the midst of college, examinations, career preparation, and future planning I lose sight of this and it makes me really sad. To me, building relationships with other people is the meaning of life. Whether this is with your significant other, family, best friends, coworkers, acquaintances, neighbors, professors, teachers, mentors.. every one you get to interact with. I think this is the meaning of life because when I imagine asking myself at age 75 what is worth living for, I would answer ‘all the people that you get to meet and interact with’.

Fred described losing Lorraine as “like a dream”. I don’t think this feeling is inescapable once we lose someone… but taking the time and effort to cherish your relationship with others will surely eliminate any regrets that you may get about life and love.

I am fortunate to be a part of a group called Buckeye Leadership Fellows. We took a day trip to Cary, North Carolina to present to a company called SAS (Statistical Analysis System). An Ohio State alumnus (& former Stater!), Kirk Warner spearheaded the effort to bring the junior cohort down there. He gave a little speech about leadership. A quote he shared spoke volumes to me. “Princess Diana cared, but Mother Teresa took them home.” Effective leadership includes the principle of caring. You know you’re a good leader when other people do stuff for you not because you demand them to, but because they do not want to disappoint you. This starts with caring and building a genuine relationship with people. SAS’s company culture believes in this principle and you can clearly tell.

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(Not everyone is pictured. Aka all the boys)

Warner also encouraged us to find some like-minded people and have deep conversations about big ideas. I have so much love for everyone in this group and cannot wait to see what lies ahead.

Life mantras to follow:
Don’t make enemies.
Love every one.
Always be positive and happy.
Care.

Life is too short to be anything but happy and grateful

https://evbdn.eventbrite.com/s3-s3/eventlogos/92304/gratitudeandhappinesszigziglarquote.jpg

“Please use Cameron’s story as an inspiration to set goals, overcome obstacles and fight the good fight. She did that every day.”

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/virginia-teen-16-dies-moments-finishing-marathon-article-1.1725562#ixzz2wdp5u0ac

This story touched my heart as I could relate to her enthusiasm in completing a half marathon. I couldn’t help to place myself in her shoes and imagine collapsing moments after finishing surrounded by my parents and best friend. Truly a sad story, but I am glad her parents have a positive outlook and chose to let others know about their daughter’s determination and motivation in life. Made me think about how life is short… and that we should always remember to stay positive and build meaningful relationships with others.

On the contrast, I hate that I had to distance myself from life these past two weeks to prepare to take the MCAT tomorrow – but I hope it is all worth it in the end. Eeek. I am excited and worried at the same time. I am such a nerd, but I actually enjoy taking the test… especially the verbal section. You learn something new every single time (learner is one of my top 5 on Strengthsquest if you could guess)! The problem I have is recalling everything I have learned in General Chemistry and Physics, which I should be looking over right now. For any aspiring med students/doctors reading this: make sure you pay closer attention in your freshman and sophomore science classes. Don’t take them for granted no matter how much you dread it. Your hard work will pay off.

This is a good tip that I need to remember also.

“If you’re really committed to doing well on the MCAT, you may cut out things like exercise, proper meals and full nights of sleep so that you can spend as much time as possible studying. But test-taking authorities warn that if you follow that approach, you’re setting yourself up for failure on the big day.”

http://money.howstuffworks.com/personal-finance/college-planning/admissions/5-tips-mcat.htm#page=5

15 Ways to be Positive and Happy in Life :)

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What you think and how you think has a large influence on your outlook on life and affects how you show up to places and how others perceive you. For me, I have found that by focusing on the positive side of every situation you find yourself in, you’ll be a more happy and purposeful person.

I hope this list will give you some ideas on how to train your mind and change your actions to achieve an overall happier, satisfying, purposeful and meaningful life. This is an ongoing list that I am compiling whenever inspiration strikes me.

We’re all humans – of course we’ll still have our down days, but I find myself coming back to this list on those days to see how I can get myself out. Feel free to share some of your tips 🙂

1. Post only positivity on all your social media accounts.

2. Don’t be afraid to laugh out loud until your sides hurt, rolling on the floor dying and almost peeing your pants (my favorite kind of laughter) – especially at yourself.

3. Listen to upbeat music! Sing and dance it out. To de-stress, I enjoy one person dance parties before bed. Try it 😛

4. Count your blessings. Be grateful for all that you have. Even simple things like: sunshine, family, friends, the ability to wake up every day and live.

5. Be authentic in all parts of your life. Be honest. Be true.

6. Perform random acts of kindness, all day every day. Some of my favorites: smiling at people, informing people there’s no toilet paper in a stall, helping people that look lost and telling people you appreciate them. You have the ability to make someone’s day, and this in turn can make your day.

7. Be altruistic. Help others. Give without expecting something back.

8. Don’t focus too much on the end goal. Cherish the journey to get there.

9. Catch up with friends. Be present. Put away your phone and relish pure human connections. Talk to people like they’re the only ones on earth.

10. Love is quite possibly one of the greatest human feelings. Give love to everyone – with hugs, kisses, words, gifts, gestures, compliments, a smile, a listening ear. Remind people how much they mean to you because you might not get a chance to if you wait too long.

11. Exercise. For health. For social interaction. For good mentality – with friends is even better. Trigger those endorphins that give you a pleasurable feeling. For me, I enjoy the long runs where deep thinking occurs.

12. Welcome deep meaningful dialogues. Be open and honest with yourself and others within reason. Don’t play games and beat around the bush. I guarantee you’ll find this a liberating feeling.

13. As a human race, we are more alike than we think. I often go on a meta-thinking tangent and picture ourselves as one big human family on a revolving blue sphere somewhere in the vast universe.

14. Keep a smile file 🙂 Write down anything that happens to you that makes you smile. Revisit it on your bad days. Also use it for reflection and the expression of gratitude.

15. There is no such thing as “too late” in life (this one is inspired by the book, Tuesdays with Morrie). If you want to achieve a healthier mindset and a happier life, you can begin any time 🙂