TO: The Others (“Med Student +1”)

Part of being the “+1” of a med student is learning to cope while life, as you know it, changes. It doesn’t matter if you’re dating, married, or married with kids. Life changes. A lot. And it’s not pretty at all. I try hard to stay smiling and keep my head up for hubs, after all, he’s in the thick of it. It’s best if he has one less thing to worry about. However, I am human. I started blogging as one outlet, but it tends to be a one sided conversation so that’s not always therapeutic.

Towards the end of last school year a professor at the med school asked hubs if I would be interested in starting a spouse/partner support group for the undergraduate medical students. I decided it was worth a shot. I’m not a group leader of anything so I wasn’t really sure what to do. I really wanted to hear what others expected out of the group. I thought, based on how I was feeling, it didn’t seem to make sense to do some big, extravagant get together and act like everything is perfect. It’s not. Life is chaotic on a good day and more often than not, I feel like I’m sharing hubs with 179 other people. It seems a little Facebookish to pretend it’s fine when it’s not. I really wanted to hear what others had in mind. So I brought lots of food and hoped it would cover the fact I had no set plan. Of course I had a small panic attack while I was heading to the meeting. What if I’m really the happiest person there and everyone else is on the brink of disaster? Or, what if I’m Debbie Downer? Or what if I’m the only one who shows up?! I’m happy to say that none of the above happened. We had about 7 or 8 people attend and they’re all incredible! They have good days and bad ones. It’s been challenging and every single frustration or story that was shared was wholeheartedly agreed upon by other group members. It was amazing!

So, for those that have a person in med school (or any other similar situation), here are some words of advice as stated by folks in the group.

  • You are NOT ALONE! If you’re person is not alone in their situation, you’re not the only person in yours. Find your peers and vent together, smile together or just know you have each other when needed.
  • It’s always changing. Each semester changes and new challenges are introduced while old ones (if we’re lucky) go away. Be prepared for change and embrace it as an opportunity to see what you are capable of.
  • Share the good, bad, and ugly of what you’re going through and expect that almost everyone (outside of your group of peers) will not understand. It’s okay to be human and no one should expect you to be perfect all of the time.
  • Take it one step at a time. Don’t look at all of the different tasks over the next several years. Handle it a task at a time. For example, don’t stress about where you will match for residency your first year. You have a few years before that comes up.
  • COMMUNICATE!!! I cannot stress this enough! Everyone in the group said this too- talking about things makes it easier when tough stuff comes up- which will happen. Even if it takes them 2 days to text you back, keep trying, don’t give up!

For those of you who are friends or family to the “+1”, here are a few bits of advice:

  • Be kind. We know that this was a choice. It’s not like our person woke up one day and was required to go to med school. They chose to go. But when we’re having a bad day, we don’t need you to remind us that “you chose this, deal with it”. Sometimes we just need to vent.
  • This ties into the first point of being kind. Allow us to be grumpy, depressed, have a bad day, or whatever we need. There are periods of time where things really are crappy- and that is putting it really nice. Sometimes we need a moment to have a pity party and then move on. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows here people!
  • Stop acting like med school takes 3 decades to complete. It’s only 4 years and then residency. Most people agree that when you have kids, you blink your eyes and they go from a baby to elementary school. The same applies to our med school person. I can hardly believe that hubs is half way through his second year. It doesn’t seem possible!
  • Please don’t assume that just because hubs will be a doctor that I no longer want to work and I will be a “Doctor’s Wife” (said with my best snooty enthusiasm). He was a teacher when we married so I clearly didn’t marry him for his money. I built up my own career and enjoy it. Not to mention we will have a ba-zillion dollars of med school loans to pay off so I’m pretty sure I’ll be working until I’m 110.
  • Don’t be offended if you do not get first dibs at the med student. As a “+1” we wait patiently day after day, text after text, waiting to hear back from our person, daydreaming of an extravagant date night watching DVR reruns of The Blacklist and eating old takeout. We’ve dealt with their roller coaster of emotions during these different blocks of classes and have earned that alone time. Don’t worry, you’ll get your time, just be patient.

I’m sure there is a lot more- which I would love to hear. But most of all, don’t give up. Know you’re not alone and that the end of this grueling process is not far away. It’s worth it.

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