Day 279: The long distance relationship [update]

Today’s inane image of the day:

One popular search phrase that lead people to my blog: “medical school books” — so I thought hey, why not post yet another image of medical school books?!  

It has been a little while since I touched upon the subject of long distance relationships [LDR]. As you might recall, I was struggling with my LDR back in October but by February, I doled out advice on maintaining [long distance] relationships. Tonight, as I was scrolling through my Google Reader feed [have you subscribed to my blog yet?], I noticed that the Thought Catalog had an entry entitled, “How to survive any long distance relationship.” After reading through it [and feeling rather unsatisfied with its content…] I decided to make this update about how things are going in my LDR.

Without a doubt, our relationship has taken a beating throughout the year. Mike has been exceedingly resilient [he’s totally smirking right now as he reads this] and supportive throughout all of my stressed out rants and panic attacks over exams. Sadly, I don’t feel like I’m reciprocating enough; because time is so limited and there’s always so much to do, I often catch myself taking our relationship for granted. [I’m slowly working on changing that.]

Maintaining a long distance relationship while in medical school is no easy feat. It requires a unique type of dedication, understanding and strength to pull through. I cannot claim to be an expert on the subject because it hasn’t even been a year since Mike left for California, but the first few months were the most difficult. There were a lot of factors to adjust to in those first few months: medical school, meeting new people, staying sane… adding an LDR only complicated things further. But then again, here we are more than nine months later.

In my earlier entry, I failed to mention how important it is to reach out to supportive friends. Admittedly, there were times when I thought the relationship wasn’t going to make it. Mike felt it, too. But then I called up one of my friends and she guided me toward a sound conclusion. Normally, it’s really hard for me to ask for help, but sometimes you just need to overcome your ego or whatever is preventing you from reaching out to someone because emotions tend to cloud logic — talking about it helps clear up the situation and leaves you open to ideas you probably would not have discovered on your own. I am so grateful for the wonderful individuals [yes, if you think I might be referencing you, I am] that have listened patiently to my redundant rants about this relationship. Thank you.

Despite my pragmatic and sometimes pessimistic view on life, I’m optimistic about making my long distance relationship work. After all, we’ve made it this far…

Are you in a long distance relationship? Are you considering one?

Day 181: 6 tips for maintaining [long distance] relationships during medical school

Today’s inane image of the day:

The front-side of a card Mike sent me. Isn’t it the sweetest thing ever?!

[I apologize that this was prematurely published last night… but here’s the full version of the post!]

Being in medical school really drives a huge stake into all of your relationships, not only your romantic ones. When you start the journey that we call medical education, suddenly you’re always preoccupied with studying [for that exam in 2 weeks], medically-related facts and just trying to get by. Because of this, all [or most] of your attention, focus and energy shifts away from everyone [and sometimes everything] else in your life. Even when you do find a moment [like the day after an exam] to turn your attention to family, a significant other or friends, it seems that you always end up bringing up how fascinating a patient with visual agnosia is [aside: I read “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” quite a number of years ago and didn’t quite get it — now, I understand the true weight of the novel’s narrative and plan on rereading it].

“REALLY?! Is medicine all you can talk about?!” Your family/significant other/friend exclaims. As you turn red with embarrassment at the outburst, you ask about that cruise ship that recently ran into trouble just to change the subject.

[Maybe this last part hasn’t happened to all of us, but it could happen.]

Anyway, as I mentioned in my post featuring advice from my first semester of medical school, it’s really important to keep in touch with your loved ones. I should have expanded on this and said that it’s important to maintain relationships because in the grand scheme of things, your family/significant other/friends make up a huge part of your support network. When times get tough, you will inevitably rely on these individuals to help you pull through. Moreover, if you don’t sustain the strength of this network then you’ll suddenly feel very lonely once you’re finally done with the training part of medical school and can enjoy your glamorous life as a physician [just kidding about the “glamorous” part — it’s still grueling but a different kind].

All of this begs the question, “What can I do to maintain my relationships?” As promised, this is a list of tips for long distance romantic relationships, but most of these tips also apply to maintaining relationships in general.

Effective communication
Everyone always harps on this whole communication thing and with good reason. Any interaction with  people requires effective communication, period. Otherwise, frustration and stress ensues. So what can you do to be effective?

  • Start with effective listening. Focus your attention 100% on the speaker and show that you’re actually interested in the subject. When you’re on the phone, don’t give into the lure of trying to multitask. Also, try not to interrupt the speaker or try to conjure up the next thing to say. Silence doesn’t have to be awkward, so let it slip in here and there.
  • Awareness. I do believe that women tend to be better at picking up and interpreting certain inflections of tone than men, but that men are very capable of learning how to pick these hints up. Sometimes, what is said in between the lines is actually more important than the lines themselves. Try to pick up on these little indications [but don’t look too deep! sometimes there really isn’t anything there…]
  • Consider what you’re saying before you say it. I’m very guilty of letting the words spill before processing what they may be processed to mean. Sometimes you get excited about something and the words tumble out before you had a moment to phrase it more tactfully and you find that it is received in a completely different manner than you had intended. While this can be overlooked if you are interacting often with your family/significant other/friend, it can be a lot harder to overlook once you’ve entered the busy realm of medical school.

Establishing a routine
This is especially important for sustaining long distance relationships with significant others — if you establish a time of the day that is set aside especially for video chatting or a phone conversation, then you will have something to look forward to each day and you will maintain the regular contact/communication necessary for keeping the relationship strong. Mike and I usually chat during my commute and right before bed [and because of the 3 hour time change, sometimes he’ll be up late and serve as my alarm clock — this is especially helpful for the mornings that I opt to wake up at 4AM].

Plans & realistic goals for the future
Prior to embarking on my long distance relationship, Mike and I sat down and discussed how often we will realistically be able to see each other and identified an end point for the long distance. We discussed how we could ensure that we are together at that specified point [will he follow me? will I follow him?]. Although I realize that the “best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” it’s settling to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Furthermore, our open lines of communication allow for adjustments to these plans as we see fit.

Little surprises
The image for this post is of the front of a card Mike sent me as a surprise. It was such a sweet gesture and it still makes me smile to see it each day. Just little handwritten notes or sweet emails with photos can really go a long way in keeping a relationship strong. This also applies to relationships in general — if you haven’t heard from someone in a while, why not give them a call and catch up or send them an email?

Reminiscing on good memories
I love when my best friend comes back into town and we catch up on what’s going on in our lives [usually my end of the conversation is “we have another exam coming up” or “ugh, I didn’t do well on that last exam”… heh]. But it’s especially fun to reminisce about how we used to spend all of our time in Robotics after school [yes, we were quite nerdy… and probably still are] or the adventures we had in college. This also works really well for diffusing an argument with your significant other — I’ve found that if I’m annoyed about something Mike said or did [or didn’t do], I can’t stay angry for very long when I think about how we met or how supportive he was through my medical school application process.

Knowing when to let go
Long distance relationships and relationships [in general] during medical school requires recognition of when it may no longer be healthy to maintain. Sometimes a great relationship in one setting is just not sustainable outside of it. I don’t think that this applies to most relationships, but it’s always important to realize that it might be a valid possibility.

Did I miss anything? Do you have any additional tips?

Day 145: Things are moving along

Today’s inane image of the day:

MSG [Medical Student Government] got all of our white coats embroidered over the break! Now we look official. Thanks, MSG [really hard not to read that as monosodium glutamate…]!

Things this week have been relatively hectic…

I took my remediation exam on Tuesday and… passed BFCP1! Woohoo! Interestingly, I thought studying for the remediation exam was more difficult than the original exam, primarily because all of the material was already at least familiar. It was hard to gauge what I actually still remember [S. aureus = gram positive cocci in clusters!] and what I only sort of remember [Turner syndrome = 45X — for some reason this fact was more difficult for me to drill into my head]. Regardless, that hurdle has been surpassed and I was able to spend all of Wednesday not staring at books or lecture notes!

At the time that I realized I had to remediate, I was definitely frustrated with the idea that my entire winter break would be spent with this dark cloud over my head. Furthermore, the remediation exam is, in a way, a higher-stakes exam than the original because failure automatically requires course remediation over the summer and that is the last thing I want to be doing. But looking back, I do see the utility in the process and appreciate the extra push to review the material that I was weak on. I still wish I had passed the exam the first time around so I could have focused on all of my weak spots instead of just specific sections from one exam, but I guess that’s what the summer is for.

Lovely company
Mike has been home since mid-December and it has been absolutely wonderful. Although the LDR thing has been rough, things have settled down a bit and I’ve adjusted [somewhat]. Of course I would much rather just have him around, but I can’t change our current situation and in the end there are pros to the distance that I’ve come to appreciate. I plan on writing up an entry [at some point…] with tips for long distance relationships between medical and non-medical students.

Start of a new semester
We delved right into class again yesterday — it felt like an eon had passed since we last had class, but it was nice to see everyone again and catch up. There were a couple of bumps with getting the semester started, but administration is right on top of smoothing things out.

I’m not sure I’m ready to delve into the extremely deep depths of Neuroscience yet…  but there’s no turning back time at this point. Hopefully I’ll get back into my studying [and regular blog updating] routine relatively quickly since I won’t have any time to spare.

[Many of us discovered our unofficial transcripts and realized that last semester’s courses totaled to 36 credits and this upcoming one is 40 credits… I’d say that this sounds about right.]

Day 100: Pause

Today’s inane image of the day:

Challenge: Can you guess what we’re modeling here? [Leave comments with what you think this is — no OUWB students, please!]

I apologize for the lack of updates lately — Mike flew into town late Friday and I have been busy relishing his presence since then [I even took him to school with me yesterday and today!]. Since things are still pretty hectic around here, I’ll just leave you with my PRISM reflective writing piece [fictional, about anatomy lab, not my best work but still something!]:

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