Neuro, Ich Liebe Dich
We’re finishing our first block of the semester: Neuroanatomy. This was the most interesting material to me (very clinical), which makes it my favorite med school class so far. I was initially a little wary about Neuro because I had heard it’s a tough class and “you won’t know anything until you know everything.” Thankfully, we had 2 snow days before we actually started the class, so that gave me a little extra time to prepare. Just kidding, I did nothing in those 2 extra days of Christmas break…except play in the snow, make ice bubbles, take pictures of my dog, play cards, and watch TV. So, I’d say it was a successful 2 days ;)
After our extended break, we quickly got back to routine. We covered all of neuroanatomy in less than a month. We had an exam every week, 2 exams the last week, and the shelf.
Anyway, I’ll give a more detailed recap of Neuro at the end of the semester in my “MS1 Semester 2 recap” (I’ll try to come up with a more creative name). For now, I’ll give you an example of a question from a Neuro practice quiz. And fyi, the answer is right below the picture under the answer choices (just looking out for those of you who are like me and want to arrive at an answer before seeing the real one).
A 76-year-old woman sees her doctor to complain of insomnia. She rarely sleeps all of the way through the night. Her husband reports that her eyes frequently show rhythmic back-and-forth movements while she looks out of the window of a moving car. Upon examination, she shows signs of presbycusis. During a Rinne test, she hears the tuning fork longer when placed next to her ear than when placed directly on her head. She also shows flexor plantar responses for both feet when tested. When visually following a finger that approaches her nose, her pupils constrict. Which of the following is likely to be damaged?
A. the anterior hypothalamus
B. the pyramids
C. the inferior colliculus
D. vestibulocochlear nerve
E. none of the above
The answer is E. The insomnia is just a normal sign of aging and the other signs are normal. In fact, if she didn’t show those signs, that would be reason for concern. This question/answer has a larger application than just warning you about what’s to come ;)
Over the past few months, I’ve seen classmates lose loved ones unexpectedly, gain new family members, get sick, feel discouraged, feel on top of the world, and feel every emotion in between. None of us are exempt from these ups and downs. And all of this is happening while we’re expected to learn massive amounts of information. Since our campus is on a block schedule (read here if you’re unsure what that means), we don’t have too much time for sick days. You don’t have much time to give in to the “bad days” because if you do, tomorrow could be worse when you realize how behind you are.
As a result, it’s very easy to get discouraged and feel like something is wrong with you. Read here to see how changing my perspective made all the difference…and made med school fun!
But sometimes changing your perspective is easier said than done. So this is for all medical students, all my friends, and for anyone else reading this blog who has felt discouraged lately:
1) If you feel stressed, that’s normal. Life can be stressful sometimes. My advice? Go exercise or listen to happy music (I suggest Ben Rector or One Direction) or dance or hang out with your friends. Stress can be a healthy motivator, but it can also be an overwhelming burden. Don’t let it become the latter. Make time to live.
2) If you aren’t getting enough sleep, that’s normal. Besides babies and people who hibernate (shout out to me), most people don’t get enough sleep. But I’m passionate about sleep…never underestimate the power of a 20 minute nap. And if you’re like me and “nap” means at least 3 hours of sleep, tell a friend/family member to call you and wake you up on time. Or set an alarm, unless you’re like me and have the unique (and charming?) ability to sleep through 3 alarms. Do what you need to do to get some sleep. Your body and mind will thank you (and thank me, since I’m the one suggesting it…you’re welcome in advance).
3) If you’ve recently lost a loved one and still miss them so much it hurts, that’s normal. I’m so sorry for your loss. I won’t attempt to understand what you’re going through. I recently lost someone that I had grown up with: he was hit and killed in a car accident on Dec. 30. It’s a shocking thing to find out that you’ll never see that person on earth again. You think about all the good times, all the things you wish you would have said and done. You remember their life–all the memories that included them. All the future memories that won’t include them. That’s hard and it sucks and I’m sorry you’re going through that pain. But just know that it’s normal to feel this way. You’re not alone. Hopefully you have people in your life willing to talk and–even better–willing to listen. I’ll be blogging more about this topic at my personal blog. Feel free to check out that post here if you’re interested in why I have hope in the midst of trials.
4) If you feel sick, that’s normal. The world is full of germs and you’re bound to get sick every now and then! It’s kinda job security for all medical professionals. Just kidding. But really, be thankful if you just have a cold or a virus and have been healthy long enough to notice the difference when you’re sick. Be thankful if you have a bed to sleep in and food to eat. Be thankful if you have friends and family willing to help. Be thankful that your body is responding appropriately to the germs and doing everything possible to get rid of them. Be thankful that your immune system is intact. Be thankful if you have access to medical care. Even when you’re sick–especially when you’re sick–you can count your blessings. Because if you’re anything like me, you have a lot to be thankful for…even on the sick days.
5) If you’ve felt emotional (aka if you’re a human being with an intact limbic system), that’s normal. The highs, the lows, and everything in between: it’s all normal. I hope you have people to rejoice with you when something exciting happens and sit with you when life is tough. A hug can do wonders. Congrats on the new relationship, the new baby, the awesome test score. Be as happy as you can be about it :) Savor every good moment and see the good even in the bad moments.
So I just want to encourage y’all to keep pressing on…there’s a light at the end of the tunnel! And if any of the above feelings get overwhelming to the point where it’s not normal, please seek out help! Medical students: talk to your peers, professors, dean, office ladies, etc. They’re all there to help you succeed. Just know you’re not alone (cue High School Musical’s “We’re All in this Together”)…we’re all in this together ;) And remember that life is short. So live like you’re living. One of my favorite quotes is from Jim Elliot:
“When the time comes to die, make sure that all you have to do is die!”
Live, live, live. If you need extra motivation, “I Lived” by OneRepublic always works for me! Don’t let work, school, or daily tasks pull you away from enjoying your life. Make an effort to call your family. They love you–don’t forget about them. Make an effort to hang out with friends. Never take a friendship for granted. Most of us got into this profession to help people, but don’t forget about the people who helped you. Another favorite quote:
“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you‘ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.“
And on that note, February just happens to be a very special month for love. If you didn’t know, Valentine’s Day is Feb. 14…and even better, my birthday is Feb. 11. You guys should be impressed by how I brought this around full circle.
So for those of you who hate Valentine’s Day because you don’t have a special someone, I’m here for ya. Feel free to get me a present. I’ll accept it as a birthday present, but you can tell your friends and mom that you gave a gift to someone special. Naturally, they’ll assume it was for V-Day. I’m just trying to help.
In all seriousness though, you really can help spread the love by donating to Muncie Mission. My birthday is 3 days before Valentine’s Day, but 3 days before my birthday is the Muncie Mission “Walk a Mile.” Some of my classmates and I will be walking a mile outside in the cold to raise awareness and funds for the homeless in our community. If you have any love left to give, consider donating to a great cause. All the money will go straight to Muncie Mission. According to their website:
“When you raise $25 you will provide 10 meals for homeless men and/or women and children; $50 -22 meals. Twenty walkers each raising $50 each will provide 487 meals.“
To donate, click here: I’m awesome and loving, so I’m going to donate to Walk a Mile. Any and all amounts are appreciated!
After you donate, go tell someone you love them (but don’t be creepy about it)…Adios!
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.