Ever have one of those days?
You wake up late, you can’t find any clean clothes, there’s no food in the fridge, your unread emails number in the hundreds and every logistical thing that can go wrong, is going spectacularly wrong right in front of your eyes.
Yea…I have those days too.
It can be hard to come back from a bad day without the help of your friends. And in medical school, where it can often seem as though everyone has it more together than you do, admitting that you’re having a bad day (or a bad week) can seem more like revealing your inner most fears and failures than a way back to normalcy.
Maybe we don’t give each other enough permission to well and truly embrace a bad day—for I believe that the only way to truly put a bad day to rest is to embrace it. Yes I spilled coffee all over myself, broke my computer charger and oh, is that cereal stuck in my hair? Excellent.
The only sane thing to do would be to crawl back in bed and try again tomorrow, but its just not possible with our schedules as demanding as they are. We have to show up—and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. As we are thrust further and further into adulthood (when did that happen and how do we make it stop?), I am starting to realize that adults have to do things, we have responsibilities and demands for our time. And yet as medical students we do not yet have the MD behind our names nor the paycheck that comes with a degree like that, to be able to leverage it when things don’t go our way. Let's be honest, shopping makes everything better.
We can’t escape for a blissful vacation to the Cinque Terre- because we lack both time and money. But I promise you that all is not lost Gentle Reader. You can come back from what ails you, to fight the good fight with renewed strength. You just can’t do it alone.
I recently watched an Australian horror flick called The Babadook. Frankly, its hard to be scared in a movie where everyone has such a delightful Australian accent. This film also got a lot of criticism for not having very good special effects of the monster plaguing a single mother and her son. But I don’t think it really matters, because what makes the movie so creepy is its truth.
The mother in the film refuses any help or support from friends or family and succumbs to possession by the monster who grows stronger as she refuses to admit that she can’t do it alone--as if single mothers didn’t have it hard enough. She is ultimately able to fight off the monster by accepting help from others and they go on with their lives by acknowledging the beast, but not letting it terrorize them anymore. We too must acknowledge our inner Babadook—our fear that we are inadequate and that we have no option but to solider on alone. The only way to conquer it is to let other people in. Trust the people around you enough to let them show you what it means and feels like to be loved.
In turn it is our responsibility to show up for other people. To take time to listen and to empathize. Together we can deal with bad days, snarky comments, traffic, deadlines and all of the other annoying things that life contains. It can be really difficult, but aren’t we lucky that we get to come to school each day, surrounded by people who can show us that life is a swirling together of the annoying and terrible with the amazingly beautiful and good.
We must acknowledge our bad days, our short comings and embrace the fact that we need help (and no—we don’t have it together all of the time) if we don’t--we lose the ability to deal when things don’t go our way, when we feel hopeless or angry or not enough or ugly.
Remember the good things in life when the going gets rough. Let other people remind you and show you the best of this earth when you forget. Take your cynical, overburdened self to the beach or some other beautiful place. Share a meal with people you love, pet a dog, read a good book (not one for school), pour yourself a drink of something cold. Didn't your mother tell you there'd be days like this? And just like everything else, she was right. Lucky for us, we have each other to get through this maze of chaos and crazy.
I'm not saying you'll never have another bad day again-- although I really wish I could. Rather I implore you to try to embrace that sometimes things don't work as they should and reach out to others for strength and support.
Acknowledge your Babadook—and then lock that fucker in the basement.