For me, it always starts behind my eyes. It’s the end of the day, and there’s a weight behind my eyes, pulling the rest of my face down, creating a painful point in the center of my forehead. I force myself to push through the last few pages of my notes, and then I go home. It starts earlier the next day. Eventually, I wake up with it there, the weight accompanied by a soreness in my neck, and my emotions going from balanced to that of a spark in a powder keg. When my mom asks how I’m feeling, I tell her “I’m fine, just tired,” but I don’t think there’s a word that truly describes the expanse of this exhaustion and the crippling knowledge that it will only continue through tomorrow.
When we start medical school, we are told it will be hard, that our days will be consumed with studying figures, memorizing drugs, and the occasional body part. I was prepared for this. I just don’t think I realized how tired I would feel at times, how stretched thin, how outside of myself I would become. We chose to become doctors to help people, to better our communities, and to save lives. I don’t remember signing a form that allowed medical school to give me new wrinkles, a caffeine addiction, and a stronger prescription for my glasses! But here we are, and here I am, absolutely exhausted. I would be lying if I said I had never had a moment in that exhaustion, when the weight behind my eyes spread down to my feet and dampened my drive for this dream, that I wondered if this was truly worth it. I could help people without spending my days studying. I could do something else to better my community and still have time to go out with my friends for drinks, maybe even have a hobby! And I would probably be able to do it without complaining to my friends about my workload, disgusting them with my knowledge of the lower bowel, or impressing upon them the full expanse of my exhaustion. It could be great; it could be easy. But I wouldn’t be in love with it like I am with medicine.
I know that the stories we like to share about how much we love medicine tend to involve a sweet patient, a hug from a child, or an academic epiphany, but I think I have found my love story here, in the moments when I am so tired that the dishes pile high in my sink and there is never quite enough coffee to bring the pep back in my step. Love is not always a perfect moment; sometimes it is the instances when we feel so far removed from our dreams that we nearly forget why we started pursuing them in the first place, because, in those instances, we make the choice to keep going anyway. I may not always be the happy, bubbly, high-energy doctor for my patients, but they will always have the doctor that will never stop working hard, even when her shine has worn away for a moment. In my fatigue, I have found the true depth of my love for this profession, and an indomitable strength and drive to keep pursuing and protecting this love in spite of the difficulty.
…sometimes it is the instances when we feel so far removed from our dreams that we nearly forget why we started pursuing them in the first place, because, in those instances, we make the choice to keep going anyway.
This is a love story I am so proud to be a part of, and it’s a story that I will continue to live for the rest of my career. If you’re feeling tired too, I promise you’re not alone. Maybe we can meet up for coffee and talk about it, but we should probably both take a nap first. I’m sure we both need it.