Wayfaring MD

I am a family medicine resident who likes to highlight the hilarious in medicine as I write about patients, medical school, residency, medical missions, and whatever else strikes my fancy.

HIPAA is for reals, folks. All of my "patient stories" have been changed to protect patient privacy. I will change any or all identifiers, including age, location, race/ethnicity, sex, medical history, and quotes. Also, I am an anonymous internet person. Why should you trust an anonymous internet person to give you medical advice? Don't ask me, ask your doctor!
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Can you give me tips on dealing with depression? I’m a second year med student (on a international university, so is second year of six) who really loves medicine, especially surgery, but feels that does not have what it takes to be successful, to be a good doctor. I’m constantly thinking, “I’m not good enough, not that smart, I don’t have the abilities…” :S (can you please answer this on anon?)

I once told my mentor (and imo the best freaking doctor in the history of ever) that I didn’t feel like I was smart enough to be a doctor. This was like late in my fourth year of medical school, so I should have felt more confident, right?

Her (very wise) response? 

"I wake up every day and think I’m not smart enough for this job. That’s what keeps me reading and learning."


The point is, none of us feel good enough, smart enough, compassionate enough, competent enough, etc, at least at some point in time, if not all the time. The people who claim they do have everything under control are the ones most in danger of hurting someone because of their arrogance. Shoot, I have the “I’m not smart enough to be a doctor" thoughts at least weekly, and I’m already a doctor. 


There’s billions of cells in the human body, and they all interact with each other in multiple complex ways. There’s no possible way for us to understand it all. But we try to at least understand our patients’ problems (and refer them out for ones we can’t handle), and that’s what keeps us constantly learning, growing, and becoming better doctors. 


So anon, part of this is totally normal for a med student. However, it’s also common for your mind to make sort of accusatory or self-deprecating statements when you’re depressed. So which came first, the chicken or the egg? It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you deal with it. 

My suggestions for dealing with depression as a med student:

1. Counseling - from peers who may have dealt with the same issues

2. Counseling - from professors or mentors or a school support organization that can help you deal with the stress

3. Counseling- from a professional who can give you insight into your issues and give you tools to help manage your feelings and stress.


**Notice that counseling is half of my suggestions. It is this way for a reason. It is that important. It has been tremendously helpful in my own life, and I promise you, good things come from it if you find the right counselor.**

4. Prayer - if you are so inclined. It has always been a huge help to me to let God carry the weight for me. 

5. Get out. Get some exercise, some sunshine, a break from studying. It can work wonders.

6. Talk to your doctor. Let’s not forget depression is a disease like any other, and like diabetes, it can sometimes be treated with lifestyle changes, but it sometimes requires medicine. If you need medicine, TAKE IT, and don’t be ashamed of it. It is not a personal failure to take Zoloft. 

For more posts on dealing with depression, check here

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    So that anxiety I have about not being smart enough, good enough etc. To care for people in some capacity, whether that...
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    "I wake up every day and think I’m not smart enough for this job. That’s what keeps me reading and learning." this quote...
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