Here is a recap: I am exactly 12 days into my dedicated Step 1 Study schedule. The days are long and even lonelier. My mental status oscillates between stressed, tired and panic. I have tremendous anxiety about whether or not any of the studying I am doing is actually “sticking.” I wake up, start studying, and before I know it, it’s 4 or 5pm and I am wondering where has the day gone? Some days I forget about lunch. Other days my brain starts its own mini-revolt and I am forced to walk away from my desk and do something, anything other than what I have been doing for days. That’s when I run. Exercise seems to help.
Before I embarked on this task I thought to myself: hey, you’ve done really well throughout medical school, just relax, put in the work and everything will go fine. It can’t be as bad as everyone says. I would hear stories of 15 lb. weight loss, gray hair, ulcers and serious physical illness all from the process of studying and taking the Step 1 board exam. I never imagined that it actually is that bad. Sitting in a room for 12 hours a day, every day for 6 weeks, with nothing but practice questions and review material is agonizing torture. As positive as you try to remain a certain amount of self-doubt inevitably creeps in. Your mind wanders and begins to reflect on the sheer amount of material you need to know and you start getting a deep sinking feeling. Until you snap out of it and do another block of study questions. Yes, I am teetering on some edge.
I am taking my first full length practice exam (8 hours) on Saturday, so I guess I’ll see how the studying is going. At least if I am terribly on the wrong track with my methods I have time to re-group and adjust with enough time before the exam.
I like to end my blog posts with some wonderful revelation and advice. All I can say about where I am right now is that this process is the first time I have truly felt the sacrifice required of my profession. Maybe because all the other sacrifices were so spread out, a weekend lost here or there, a birthday celebration postponed. But right now as I am chained not just to studying, but the anxiety of it all, the process has made me feel very viscerally how hard it is to become a doctor. I know I’ll look back on this time and think, that was nothing, but being right in the middle of it, it feels–dare I say–like the hardest thing medical school has put before me.