Getting Through January

With a little joy along the way...

It’s that time of year: January.  Maybe you’re a third year medical student on an inpatient rotation never seeing the sun, or an intern that is worn out from doing too many discharge summaries. Or maybe, you’re a senior resident or an attending or anyone for that matter and the cold weather is getting you down.


Let me tell you, we’ve all be there.  Or at least I have.  Although I’ve always felt winters can be tough, the January of my intern year took things to a whole new level. I was rotating on trauma surgery, which was notorious for being exhausting both physically and emotionally.  The patient census could triple overnight and as the intern you were expected to be in at least three places at any given time (OR, traumas, clinic, morning rounds, afternoon rounds, discharge rounds), and did I mention there was a lot of rounding?  To top it off, less than one week into this challenging rotation, my boyfriend broke up with me.  All of the precious hours of sleep, eating, and exercise that I had sacrificed to invest in this relationship apparently were not enough, and I  found myself questioning whether I would ever have the emotional energy as a resident to be in a romantic relationship. I also did not feel like I had many friends since most of the people I knew in my ward I had known through association with the person I was dating. Not that this mattered since I was spending so many hours at the hospital I didn't have time to hang out with anyone.  To make it even worse, the day after the break up, I received an email informing me that I would be covering the surgical oncology service for 3 days that week to cover for my coresident who had a conference.  The only thing harder than the trauma service was the surgical oncology service.  These patients were sick and extremely complicated.  It took days to begin to understand their stories and surgical anatomy let alone get through an endless list of progress notes, discharge summaries, and pages while simultaneously being expected to operate. As much as I loved scrubbing cases, I would cringe every time my pager (frequently) alarmed from the desk. The workload was immense, and I knew going into these three days that I could look forward to coming in before 6 am and leaving sometime after 8pm, walking home in the dark bitter cold and never seeing the sun.


Have I painted a nice picture of intern year (apologies to all of the premeds and medical students reading this post)? This was truly the low point: me taking a break between trauma rounds to shed a few quick tears in a bathroom before returning to reality.  However, over the course of the day, I made the decision to embrace all of these turns life had given me. Seriously, how could this get any worse?  I decided to tell January to “bring it on!”  No one at work needed to know I was struggling.  And hey, since I wasn’t dating anyone anymore, who cared if I had to stay late every day? I was going to put my best effort into covering this other service.


Truth be told the next three days were objectively terrible.  I had to discharge patients I barely knew, stay late to do procedures, stay late to finish notes, and in general just stay late. My saving grace was a third year medical student rotating on the service, and I threw all remaining energy into being the best teaching resident I possibly could.  I remember going down to the basement of the basement of the basement (yes three levels down) in the hospital with her to return some surgical tools to sterile processing after we had done a bedside I and D at 8PM. Ironic how although I was in the lowest point of the hospital, things were looking up for me again. I was happy knowing I was doing something good, for patients and this medical student, and at the end of each of those three days I signed my pass off email with “thanks for a great day!” and I made it through the week.


And you know what? I made it through the rest of January.  I scrubbed into some great cases and had a blast teaching some medical students. I realized that the girls in my visiting teaching circle had become true friends to me and am so grateful for their listening ears.  I went to church and was overwhelmed with the friendship and love extended to me by ward members. I took tons of notes from those sacrament meetings that month.  I read my scriptures. My sister and I went shopping and I found a great dress on major sale that I wear all the time (had to throw that in there), along with her reliable, steadfast shoulder to cry on.


So life got better. The coresident I had covered for later asked me, “How are you so resilient?” He knew it must have been tough for me to cover for him while I was gone and was impressed with how I had signed my pass off emails: “thanks for a great day!” It opened the door for us to have a discussion about how my faith and beliefs help me keep a big picture perspective on life.


I love the story of Enos. Enos is a seeker of joy.  We read in Enos: 3-4, “Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart. And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.”  Enos was going about his daily life, and realized that something was missing: joy. He prays and he finds the answer. His sins are forgiven and his guilt is swept away and when Enos asks how, the response is “Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.”  Enos finds joy through Jesus Christ.


I know that if we keep our lives centered on Christ we can make it through all of the Januaries and all the other tough spots in life. So if this is your low point, you CAN do it. Stay warm out there :).

Written by AirwayBreathingChurch