After you pass your specialty exams and that initial “I’m so elated I can literally not feel pain or heat or cold or anything other than epic joy” feeling wears off, you inevitably go through the stages of post-examhood. There’s the part where you promise yourself you’re always going to have this amazing level of knowledge and spout facts to anyone who’ll listen – your boss, your intern, the ward clerk, the nice coffee lady and sometimes the endlessly giving patient fridge. Then there’s the part where you make up for all the time lost not-exercising, so you sign up to a gym and start working out maniacally as if there’s some way you can cram all that lost time into a week. Then you overhaul your hair, your makeup, start wearing nice dresses and heels to work to prove to everyone you were only just a thrown-together massive slob while you were going through exams. You stuff your fridge full of healthy stuff and start banging on about how much energy you have now that you exercise and eat well and brush your hair…
And then you crash. You crash so hard you can barely drag yourself to work, your clothes look like you’ve been travelling for weeks, and your hair, it just can’t be spoken about. That awesome amazing flawless human that you became for oh, about a week evaporates and you start lurking in the corners, hoping no one will notice how terrible you look and feel only you don’t know why because you should be feeling great right? You’re through! Through all the exams forever! So you keep schlepping to work hoping that whatever this is, hormones?, not enough food? wears off only it doesn’t. It doesn’t because for two years you haven’t stopped. Exams are over but the job where you don’t sit down and walk all day and people fight over getting to sit in a chair (actually it’s a polite “no you sit in the chair!” type of argument) and some days it’s sad story after sad story, or worse, death after death, and those 15 hour weekend shifts are still there. They are still there and you haven’t stopped. And suddenly you’ve called in sick, feeling horribly guilty at the scared tone in your interns voice despite all your reassurances that the bosses wont eat them if they call them, with horrible bronchitis.
And then you do what any sane rational person feeling completely out of control does. You spend way too much money online. “Bras? I haven’t bought any how long? CLICK! Ooh Philosophy does a peppermint body wash? I need body wash! CLICK! ” and suddenly you’re stacking coupon codes and having a big box of Benefit products with more free samples than there is product coming your way. Then you go and do all these pop psychology quizzes about what makes you feel out of control and then you think that if you just ate better then you wouldn’t get sick so much, so back onto overhauling your diet it is and suddenly your grocery cart is full of raw cacao, which as far as I can tell is a higher calorie version of cocoa, chia seeds, and Medjool dates because in some way, these must be superior since all the raw/Paleo/wholefoods people use them in everything.
No matter how many times you sit an exam in medicine, this happens every single time. You cannot prepare for it, and you forget about it every single time. The worst or best part, I can’t tell, is that it feels great. And then you crash from that and get your credit card bill. Mainly it’s that the whole wide world, that you’ve been denying yourself for two years is suddenly wide open and you want it all. Now. And at once. This is probably why doctors wind up in the media doing stupid stuff sometimes. That juggernaut of delayed gratification gets us in the end.