Currently on LOA-Want to return but hesitant-Advice, Success Stories, Discouragement? All welcome

tristatenontrad

2+ Year Member
Sep 10, 2015
28
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Medical Student
Long time lurker, first time poster. I'll try to be as brief as possible without omitting relevant details but this will probably end up being a really long post. Thanks in advance for reading it and offering any input. I began MS-1 at an allopathic school last August (August 2014). I ended up taking a leave of absence from school in March 2015 about halfway through the second semester of MS-1. I burned myself out pretty bad and got to the point where I felt that it was necessary to take a step back and re-evaluate if I could really hack this med school thing. It wasn't a decision I took lightly, it certainly is not my proudest moment but at the time it felt necessary.

To give a little background I am a non-traditional student in my late 20's. All was well until anatomy started. I scored higher on my MCAT than I did on both my first Anatomy lecture exam and cadaver practical! I had no idea how to study and brute-force memorize in that way and spent the first few weeks accomplishing nothing. After the first unit I started getting tutored by an upper classmen, brought Netters and things turned around immediately. I pulled off the comeback of a lifetime and aced everything for the rest of the block and managed to pass the block.

Then the next block started which was double the work in half the time. I was already exhausted from my anatomy adventure. By that point in MS-1 we started doing actual clinical classes and we started preceptorship and physical exam (i.e. learn everything in big Bates in 5 weeks). Combined with the concurrent basic science this meant A LOT of time away from my desk studying, not ideal for a slow-learner such as myself. I quickly fell behind and never quite caught up. I never quite got into a groove with the block and gradually lost motivation. My last few weeks I couldn't even get through a lecture, I would start it and within 10 minutes I'd be "tired" and end up lying around depressed. This happened for close to 2 weeks. It was as if my brain quit on me and refused to absorb any more information. I had no strategy whatsoever, wasn't able to make myself study and was basically waiting to fail so I took it as a sign that I need to step back and figure out whats going on with me. I took a leave of absence in march and quickly got a full-time job. Not a career but a suitable place-holder gig that could pay the bills until I figure out my next move if there is one. Looking back I don't think it was necessarily the material of that last block that was the problem, I think you could've given me 8th grade math at that point and I wouldn't have been able to study it, I just had nothing left.

6 months later and I'm starting to feel like myself again. Not an hour has gone by since March that I don't think about school and coming back and what I can do differently to be more successful
I know everyone pays lip service to the idea of 'staying balanced', eating healthy, exercising regularly, sleeping enough, socializing occasionally etc. but while in school it did not feel like there was ever adequate time built into the schedule to allow for much of anything but studying. I know I may be in the minority here on SDN but I felt like I could literally spend every waking minute studying and it would still not be enough to get through all of the material. The evening after an exam would be the only time spent not studying and even that wasn't always the case. I now know that thats the recipe for burnout but I really don't know how else to do it. Clearly I need to learn to study more efficiently and pay a little more attention to my physical/mental health if I'm gonna get back on this train.

Over these months I've given a lot of thought to what I can do differently but haven't come up with anything too concrete or actionable.

I'm sure I'm not the first person to get their butt kicked by med school and have to go back to the drawing board. I was wondering if any of you guys had any suggestions for a burnt-out MS1 on how to get back in the game and not be completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material to be memorized?

I don't have aspergers and was never much of a memorizer and when I glance at first aid, all of the drugs, microbiology, and laundry lists of seemingly loosely connected disease symptoms, I get terrified and wonder how any human being could possibly memorize all of it. A lot of my classmates used Adderall, I don't want to go down that route but I suspect that would probably help me through some of the tough points. Any input, both encouraging or discouraging would be greatly appreciated, particularly if any of you have had similar struggles and overcame them.
 
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Donald Juan

7+ Year Member
May 22, 2011
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Jesus, you're lucky I'm really procrastinating on board studying and actually read the whole thing.

So, just to be clear about one thing right off the bat: You're in your late 20's, "nontraditional," but it sounds like all you did was get an undergraduate degree for 8-10 years and didn't work on the side? Cause if so, tommy boy, you might have trouble adjusting to a lot of things, and it's not surprising that med school hit you like a ton of bricks.

But, in all honesty, the first two years are the worst. They are a grind to get through for the majority of students. I've been dedicated step 2 studying for 2 weeks and I already feel depressed and want to blow my brains out; I'm not sure how I did it for two years.

It sounds like you have the ability. If you feel like you could spend every waking minute studying and still not have it all down, welcome to the crowd. Med school studying is about figuring out how to do enough to get by at a level that will get you where your career needs. That feeling you had in undergrad where you walked out of a test feeling like you studied way too much doesn't happen for 95% of us EVER in med school. When you went wrong it was because you lost discipline and stopped studying after 10 minutes and got depressed and gave up, not because you studied 18 hours a day and still couldn't hack it.

Also, adderall can end up being counter productive even for some people who feel like it helps. You end up being too geeked out of your mind to properly focus and mess up your sleeping habits too much to be productive. If you really do need it, go see your doctor and if it gets you through then more power to you, but you made it through a lot without it and I'm not convinced you have a true need. I recommend stick to coffee when you need some pep, and drink a beer when you need to relax--be a grown up when you want to get high.
 
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tristatenontrad

2+ Year Member
Sep 10, 2015
28
16
Status
Medical Student
Thanks for taking the time to read my sob story. So much for keeping it brief, I had no idea I wrote that much until I posted it and read it again.

To clarify I worked full time after undergrad for a few years doing what was essentially mindless paper-pushing
After starting my post bacc I quickly realized that working full time and doing premed wld probably not result in me getting the grades I needed to get my GPA up to speed so I left my job and moved back home. Looking back working full-time while doing premed would have much more closely mimicked the time constraints of med school and better prepared me but I likely would not have gotten the grades I needed to get in so there's that.

What I'm still uncertain of is how to study effectively. I have no idea how to best approach memorizing columns of random facts at the volume and pace expected and how to not burn myself out in the process. Thanks again for the response though. I will probably talk with administration at school soon and see what they suggest.