dealing with doubt

Hey folks,
I haven’t been posting much because with orgo + lab, phys + lab, bio + lab and volunteering, I’ve not much time to spare.
Perhaps it’s just the timing–right before finals, but right after a brief Thanksgiving respite but I’m saggin’ big-time. I’m feeling constantly torn between school and my personal life. When I’m studying, I’m acutely aware that I am missing out on time with the love of my life (much less the myriad other social relationships that have all but ceased to exist).
When I’m with the love of my life, I’m acutely aware that I should be studying.
Right now I feel like I don’t want to spend the next 6-10 years of my life feeling torn between two competing interests. But the alternative is spending the rest of my life doing something that feels like I’ve settled for less that I am capable of.
I took so long in making the decision to do this. I felt so confident in my ability to do so, and in my ability to juggle the competing demands. Suddenly, I’m not so sure. I thought that I’d be able to make short-term sacrifices to get to that long-term goal, yet I’m not happy with the short term sacrifices I have to make.
I’m afraid that I have intense, competing desires. And I’m unwilling to give up either one of them. But I don’t want to feel pulled in both directions. Nor do I want to settle.
What to do? I should be studying for a bio exam, but instead have spent the last hour questioning my desire and ability to succeed. sigh
Perhaps things will look better in the morning.
At least I can look out my window and see the most beautiful first snowflakes of the year blanketing the sky. There certainly is much comfort in the beauty and wonder of nature.

Vera - I totally know what you mean. I’ve been going thru the same thing myself. I had soo much to do over thanksgiving break and yet I didn’t do any of it…instead I played computer games all weekend lol. Then to make up for my lack of discipline over the weekend I had to cancel semi-plans that I had with my bf Tues nite to make up for it. Let’s just say I haven’t been a very happy camper the last week and a half lol.
Just remember that what you’re feeling is almost definitely a stress thing. It happens to me regularly at the end of semesters cuz we’re under crunch time to get stuff done by the end of the semester. Take a break, read a favorite book, watch a favorite movie, do something to inspire you again. Watching Gross Anatomy or Without Limits always helps knock the doubts outta me. Consciously reminding myself of how much I’d hate not doing what I’m doing helps too cuz despite the fact that I’ve been living on change for the last week (my paydays are set up weird from school…takes forever for them to process timesheets lol) and wish I could afford to go on vacation with my bf over spring break and afford a car and just go have fun whenever I want I’d hate to be back in my old life.
You will snap out of your doubts until the next time they come lol…I promise. My current bout disappeared over the last day or so thanks mostly to finding out that the cutoff mark for orgo II was lower than our catalog and schedule was saying (I figured it was the C that it is, but it was bugging me since they both said B), getting the schedule I wanted for the spring (thank god for being considered a senior when I still have 2.5 years left of ugrad), and acing my last orgo quiz today. Now I’ll be able to settle down and concentrate on stuff the last week or so of classes and hopefully do well on my finals.
Hang in there…you will survive and thrive, and you will regret it if you don’t stick with it.
Good luck!
–Jessica, UCCS

I think the doubt and confidence thing sort of ebbs and flows. I’ve had many times over the years where I’ve second-guessed myself and even quit. I worried about my marriage and my kids and so forth.
What it finally came down to was that I couldn’t give this up. The closer you get to actually applying to school, the more momentum you will gain. Hang in there with the doubting times, they should pass!

Yep. I think it is a syndrome of sorts. My two cents is that it is definitely a stress and overload issue.
I have to try to work through the doubting times, because I find that when I have had some rest or a chance to catch my breath, that I am always thankful that I moved myself closer to the goal…of applying.
It is really hard.
And the competing interest thing. I have five kids and husband and family businesses…the pull is so tremendous in both directions, not to mention the "I am a bad mother/wife/friend/citizen guilt."
I think that I would be an even worse…all of the things I mentioned…if I were not taking this path.
My advice, try to find a way to get through the bad days on automatic pilot and question your goals, etc. on the “ok” and the “good” days.
Hope that this makes soem sense.
Thanks for bringing this up, it is a part of the process.
Take care,

The doubt that Vera is going through and the guilt that Michelle sometimes feels are both something that I have worried about, especially when I first decided to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor. I have 2 young girls and a wonderful husband, and I knew my decision doesn’t just affect me . . . it will affect everyone and how our family will grow together. Being a stay at home mom now, I’m worried that I’m being too selfish in wanting to go back to school - will my girls think that? How is it going to affect my relationship with my husband because my focus has always been taking care of the family and home? From reading some of the posts on this site, it looks like finding time to study and having the discipline to study will be one of the toughest part about this whole process.
I’m worrying about this before I’ve even started - I start working on prereqs this spring. Something inside me keeps saying “Just try it and see how it goes.” Reading these posts about “dealing with doubt” at least helps me to realize that it will be normal to have the doubts but to not give up right away when I have them. (I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for this long, arduous journey.)
I hope you’re feeling better about your situation Vera, and good luck!

If you don’t like your set-up now and the thought of many more years of it really depresses you, then you owe it to yourself to really think it through before you get yourself to the point of no return.
It is possible that this is not the route for you and you are feeling the warning signs. It can’t make you happy if it makes you miserable. For me, being a math major is out of the question. Doing algebra and pre-calculus for extended periods of time makes me very cranky. Very cranky. I can do it, I am competent at that level of math, but it really makes me miserable. I don’t want to leave my family for that. Conclusion - though I know I could achieve more mathematically, it’s just not for me. I do know people who just don’t like medicine’s demands after all and wish they would have done something else with their lives. It happens both ways. Let yourself explore this truth within.
If you still are sure medicine is the only thing for you, but you’re having some school burnout,
Perhaps there are changes you can make to your living arrangements to feel more in touch with the love of your life while you are studying. Maybe limit volunteer work to semester break times, or lunch hours or something less intrusive.
I don’t study at school except for the time between classes. I study at home. I often study on the couch with my husband - he reads, does computer work, or watches tv that I am totally uninterested in. I only do volunteer work when I can fit it in my schedule - but I have a long history and don’t need to pad my resume in this area. A few times, I combined school work with volunteer work. Not a few semester projects or papers turned into a handout for an organization I volunteer at. I “donated” all the hours of research for the handout. Kill 2 proverbial birds with one stone.
My kids each have an assignment of chores, so I don’t spend my time doing dishes and vacuuming and such. Anyway, see if arrangements can help make the most of your time.

Vanessa ~ As a daughter of a mom who went back to school while I was relatively young (8-13 or so) I can honestly say that I never ever ever thought my mom was being selfish. She had been a stay at home mom up til that point too. I thought it was the coolest thing that my mom was in college (cuz college wasn’t something that was expected you do after hs back then). She even brought me with her to class occasionally which was even cooler to me cuz I got to hang out in this college class and whatever class it was the prof actually asked me questions too lol. We had homework time…she’d study while I was doing my homework…or she’d study while I was skating. I think it actually brought us closer cuz it was something we had in common…it was something we did together (albeit at very different levels obviously). I’m sure occasionally there are brat kids that do think their parents that go back to school are being selfish but I think those are far and few between so try not to let that particular worry bother you too much. Good luck!
–Jessica, UCCS

I think everyone goes through the “doubt” phase. Is it all worth it? Am I crazy? What did I even hope to accoplish? My answers were yes, yes and everything. Your answers may be different. The one thing that got me through the muck of u-grad pre-reqs was my volunteer work as a doula. Everytime I do a birth it re-energizes me and reminds me why I am doing all of this. I can get through today because I know what I’ll be doing in the future every day. Hang in there!! It’s ALL worth it!!

Wmkayak hit on a good point. This is a life changing experience, one that should not be taken lightly.
Yes, it is normal to have doubts. Mine still surface from time to time, even now after I have been accepted. Also, it does not help when people around you constantly ask why you want to give up a great career, give up tons of money, give up security, and why give up what promises to be a very nice retirement, and that an early one. For me the doubts intensified when interview letters did not come, when rejection letters did come, when I was banging my head against the organic chemistry brick wall - my past life was so much easier and so much cozier – why oh why am I doing this!
Doubts for me do not last long, as there has been some deep desire that wells up and always brings me back on the track to medicine. Inside, somewhere that is undefined, I know it is the right thing for me.
You owe it to yourself and your family to ask the hard questions of yourself. What brings you back from the doubts? Is it something ingrained in you such that it is a part of you, or is it more superficial, something along the lines of, “it would be neat to be a doctor?” Only you can perform that hard, difficult, but necessary introspection.
You can get encouragement from people, which is great, but only if the goal is truly yours – otherwise the encouragement may just help push you somewhere that you really don’t want to go. You need to be certain. Try starting with your feelings, the longing for your family when you’re studying. Then when your with them, analyze your feelings for studying – is the guilt for not studying due to knowing you need to do it to pas the next test, or is it because there is a strong desire to learn, and the knowledge that it will lead you to deeper levels of understanding and learning. From there, all kinds of questions can pop up, and you will find yourself brainstorming. Life is too short – be sure of what you want – then let nothing stop you in achieving it.
Good luck Vera - the answer is within you.

So many good offerings from everyone…
One thing I just want to reiterate… one of the reasons that a lot of us go into the field is passion… passion for what we’re doing, passion for what we’re going to do…
I know you’re not alone. There have been MANY times lately when I’ve wanted to do anything BUT studying… usually this is when there’s something “special” going on… some type of holiday festivity (pick the holiday) or some type of show or event that I am missing because I am studying…
I do miss those things… sometimes I could easily accomplish the studying and the event if I plan ahead and organize a bit more… and sometimes the workload is just too high.
The point is… we do it… we do it because we WANT to, not because we have to… many of us could go back to that other life that we had… some couldn’t… but many could go on to a different life, one that doesn’t include medicine… but then there are those of us that could do that… and a part would be missing… a part of who we are… and that passion would be unfulfilled. We’d be at a loss…
I think what it comes down to is… would you be one of those people?
The reality of it is that our kids probably won’t remember that we didn’t help them carve pumpkins one year… or that the house was a little messy… or that we didn’t go out on the usual Wednesday trip to Pizza or whatever… and while we may miss those things… chances are they won’t miss us.
Family and friends are important… but passion and goals… those are important too…
From what it sounds, all of these things are important to you… Accomplishing those things will happen, not because you made yourself crazy trying to do everything… but because it’s who you are…and what you want… that’s why it will happen. If you want it… it will happen…

I thought I posted a thank you here a few days ago, but evidently I did not do something right!!!
At any rate, thanks so much for the support. It helps tremendously to receive your encouragement and to see that other people have their ups and downs.
Part of the problem most certainly is temporal–some times are simply more trying than others and I was feeling overwhelmed when I expressed my frustration.
I think part of it is due to the problems in my group right now. We have some personality conflicts which have caused problems with some professors. We also have a lot of grade-grabbing going on, with 22 and 23-year olds challenging professors about (a) the appropriateness of their exams, and (b) their grading mechanisms. It’s resulted in a blow-up with one professor, and, IMHO, extreme disrespect to another professor.
My post-bac class is a lot younger than most classes usually are, which I believe contributes to some of the problems we’ve been having. At the same time, I fear that they are a more accurate representation of the ages and attitudes of my med school cohort–which scares the bloody hell out of me. I know I have no right to judge what are “right” or “wrong” motivations for becoming a doctor, but when I hear classmates talking about what they can make the most money in, or making fun of AIDS, I just want to run screaming.
So I worry that I will have to be around people who I don’t like and don’t agree with for another 6 six years.
Fortunately, I have a friend who is on the “other side” of this journey–she’s interviewing for residency positions. Fortunately, she keeps reminding me about how pre-med and med school are nothing like what being a doctor is about. She keeps stressing that working with patients in a clinic is so far removed from learning Physics. I just need to slog through the $*&%, because what’s on the other side is so worth it.
Thanks again for your perspectives. I can’t tell you how much it helps to get such angst out. Suddenly your fears aren’t so daunting anymore…

Hi Vera,
I am always amazed at the “curriculum experts” that seem to emerge among students who are taking exams. One of the fundamental things that you must learn at some point in your academic career is that the amount of time that you put into your studying has no correlation with the grade that you end up with in the class. The professor can’t figure out what is in your head if you don’t put it on the paper. Sure you can mis-mark your test paper (Scan-Tron sheets have to be carefully marked and re-checked) but it is up to you as the exam taker to make sure that you have filled out the test correctly. Some of your younger colleagues are going to have to get some maturity at some point.
Your friend is correct in some ways but you have to have a fundamental LOVE of learning to truly enjoy medicine. It is a day in and out learning process. Every patient teaches you something and with every experience comes a growth in your practice. I find myself constantly mastering more little nuances every time I perform a surgery or treat a patient. Sure your physics may seem pretty removed from patient care but it is exactly your knowledge of the physics that will help you get that Dobhoff tube (thin, flexible weighted feeding tube) post-pyloric at 3AM so your patient can eat without worry of aspiration. It is your education that puts you into this business rather the number of procedures that you can do. I can take a trained monkey and teach them to do a hernia repair. The surgical skills are not that difficult but I can’t make a surgeon out of that trained monkey. It is your educational background that enables you to fine-tune your judgement. That is the fundamental difference between you and the mid-level practictioners that really believe that they can do your job cheaper.
Dig into that physics class with zeal because it may provide a key that might get you out of trouble one day. Sure the classwork is drudgery at times. I wasn’t the happiest person sitting in class during first and second year of medicine but it’s coming together now. All of of your experiences and education wil make you a better physician. Once you start residency, you start to realize that money is not why you came to medical school in the first place and it’s pretty far off.