Medical student isolated from her peers

The Silent Struggle: Isolation in Med School

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You’re Not Alone

This article is the third in a series by Dr. MJ, a graduate of an eastern US allopathic medical school who worked closely with STATMed Learning. Here, she shares her personal struggles and the steps she took to succeed in med school. This series aims to give a voice to what it’s like to struggle in med school and help share strategies to rebuild your self-esteem and regain your equilibrium. 

If someone were to ask me what one of the worst parts of struggling in medical school was, I would say it was the isolation that the struggle created.  Of course, the fear of failing out of school was massive, but the isolation that became so inherent in this struggle may have impacted me more. Personally, when I am in any type of challenging situation, I want the support of others. I want to discuss what I’m going through, especially with people who have walked a similar path. I guess it’s no surprise that I pursued a career in psychiatry. 

The Silent Struggle: Isolation in Med School 

But in this predicament, I felt that I had nowhere to turn. Med school had only recently begun. I was still getting to know my classmates. From what I could tell, they all seemed to be adjusting just fine to medical school.  Of course, some classmates would express concern before a test, but they usually would say afterward that they ended up doing really well.  Consequently, I didn’t even attempt to discuss my negative medical school experience with anyone in my class. 

There was another reason I didn’t want to talk to the students in my class — or even my school. In previous academic experiences, I had always performed well and took pride in that. As a result, a part of my personal identity revolved around being intelligent. I really did not want to be known as the class’s lone struggling student. 

Related: In Their Words: Former Students Share How STATMed Changed Their Entire Approach to Med School 

I tried to reach out to my friends and family, and while they were incredibly supportive, they didn’t really understand my struggle. No one in my family had ever attended medical school, so they didn’t have any frame of reference. Only one of my close friends went to med school, and she never had any problems. So as much as she tried to help, she ultimately didn’t know what to say.  So even the people who wanted to help me ended up unintentionally contributing to the sense of isolation that was consuming me. 

It was not until I attended the STATMed Study Skills Class after barely passing my first year that I finally met others who were struggling in med school and discovered that my situation was actually not unique.  At that moment, I felt like a weight was lifted off me, and I could finally share this burden with people who truly understood. Truthfully, I did not realize how much this isolation had weighed on me until it started to dissipate.

More than anything else, I want anyone reading this blog post to know that you are not alone.  You are not the first person to struggle in medical school, and I would bet anything that you are not the only person in your medical school that is currently struggling. 

I also want you to know that just because you are struggling now, it does not mean that you can’t become a physician.  Maybe the path to that goal will have some unexpected turns (mine certainly did), but that does not mean you won’t ultimately succeed. If you forget everything else I’ve written, please remember this: you are not alone.

 If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone!  Give us a call today to learn more about how we can help.

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