Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Psychic Dismemberment

In general, I've been well spoken throughout my life. And, as time went I found that I loved to write -- and eventually I thought I gained a master's apprentice level of proficiency concerning the English language. Now, however, I don't feel like this at all. There are times I fumble for "ordinary" words while speaking, and recently, my ability to write in a style and manner has devolved to being barely satisfactory, which is frustrating -- and, indicative of this is the few dozen blog posts I've started in the past year that have gone unfinished and unpublished simply because I can't articulate points or ideas well enough. Of course, I can spew horrible medical terminology rooted in Latin and Greek, words that I would've stumbled over only a couple of years ago. Learning medicine, at its foundation is learning a new language with which to communicate with other doctors and health professionals.

Over the Christmas break, I tried with earnest to try and complete an essay for a Global Health Organization -- it was a competition with a cash prize and subsequent publication (always good for da CV) and I thought I had a good attack strategy for the essay. I had sketched out a few outlines and was happy with the direction I was going to take it. However, when I sat down and tried to hammer out a few pages, I found that I basically was relaying facts from my trip to Israel this past summer (which was the basis for my Global Health essay) and that any ability to make my words, sentences and paragraphs more than plain and un-adorned vessels of information was met with silence -- translating to an informative piece of writing, but something that belonged in a medical record and not an interesting essay.

Cold and clinical -- this is what my writing style has become. Years of trying to find my own voice and style of writing has been destroyed with a couple of years of medical school. I'll take the trade-off -- for now, but that doesn't mean I plan on losing my voice and style completely, but instead a better integration of "cold and clinical" with my already established style is something I hope to be able to do.

This dynamic of losing parts of oneself while in this ultra-demanding graduate program that is medical school is, and should be obvious. And some aspects will be gone forever, but some will be lost but regained when we are able to normally interact with friends, family and the world in general. It was this aspect that was impressed upon me during a recent visit with friends and family, many who I hadn't seen in over ten years. Friendships forged during the formative, if not turbulent teenage years were rekindled and often, it seemed like we had not spent any time away at all. Of course, most of us have spouses and or kids who we had not met but this just adds to the joy of getting to know each other again.

If medical students do not take time away from studies and the world of medicine as a whole, parts of self will crumble and fall away at a faster rate than they may otherwise. This is one reason why I was so thankful for the ten days with a community of friends and family that, despite long standing neglect, were still warm and welcoming as if we had been hanging out on a weekly basis. As I recently heard from a residency director giving a talk just yesterday: you cannot let yourself be defined by being a doctor, but instead it must be just a part of who you are as a whole. At times this is hard to remember while in school, especially with Board Certification exams looming large, but I try to do what I can.

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