Tuesday, May 31, 2011

When You Don't Feel Like You're on Vacation...

...Santa Barbara is the cure.

I was feeling better about my Boards on Sunday, but today I finally really feel like I'm in the vacation groove. I really think it took getting out of town.

Last night I arrived safely in Santa Barbara after dropping Katie at LAX (she's headed to Kenya for break...lucky). Boyfriend took me out to dinner.

What else? Thai food. It's called Your Place. I got a pineapple red curry with brown rice and Boyfriend got pad thai. They were awesome, but we both now have leftovers in the fridge. I mean, look at these portions!

Today Boyfriend had to work, so that meant spending a little time with this lovely town on my own. I went to college here, so I've lived here before, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Thing 1: A long run from Boyfriend's apartment down past the bird refuge and along the beach past the wharf. I just ran until I felt like turning around. I now have a sweet tan line, and it ended up being 7.2 miles. That's the farthest I've run since the April half-marathon I think. I went back by car for some pictures along the route...

Thing 2: Lunch at Sojourner Cafe. I love this place. It appeared in the form of pie and hot chocolate for Valentine's Day Dessert, and again the next week for Mulligatawny Vegetable Stew.

Today though, it was a Tempeh Reuben Sandwich with Turkish Lentil Soup.

Sauerkraut, tempeh and vegan island dressing. What a combination. And this soup wasn't overly complicated, just a really flavorful yellow lentil stew. Exactly what I wanted. 

After lunch I spent some time walking around downtown, but all I bought was a pair of sunglasses at Forever 21 - I forgot mine. 

And now? Honestly all my fun has made me really tired. I might nap. Boyfriend's taking me out to dinner tonight, and I don't want to fall asleep in my plate.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Down the Highway

Remember this guy?

It's okay if you don't recognize him. It's been a while since we've seen him here. This is John, also known as my boyfriend. However, because of finals and Boards, I haven't seen him in 6 weeks. We've gone months at a time without seeing each other in the past, like when I lived in Madrid, but since he lives just a couple hours away now, it's really been quite a long time. 

This evening though, I'm getting on the road and going to Santa Barbara, and I'm really looking forward to seeing him and some of my other college friends again. I've been really blessed to have great classmates to go through these past couple months with, but studying is isolating no matter how many people are going through the same thing, and I'm glad to be on vacation. 


Detox Update

a. Caffeine: I'm definitely in withdrawal. I'm feeling tired and getting little headaches, but it will be worth it when I'm off of it. More pain meds and herbal tea for now. 

b. Food: I'm eating well. That said, there's actually no food in my cupboards right now, since I'm about to leave, so I'm eating well but not exactly cooking. Except for oatmeal. I always have oats. 

Breakfasts: Why are my oats so gray? Because they have frozen blueberries cooked into them. The second bowl was also made with chocolate milk. I would say it's a throwback to childhood, but I've been lactose intolerant my whole life and actually hated milk as a kid, so chocolate milk is a recent addition to my grocery list. Still, cooking it into your oats = awesome. 

Lunch/Dinner: Chipotle. These burritos are enormous and if you cut in half...two meals! If I don't want leftovers I usually get a burrito bol - also known as a salad. 

My toppings: Black beans, fajita veggies, guacamole, lettuce, fresh tomato and corn salsas. 

c. Exercise: I got up on time - 5 am - this morning and got in a 3 mile loop. I also updated my running playlist. It was definitely a great decision. My goals dictate 2 more runs and at least 2 strength workouts this week. I'm taking workout stuff with me to visit Santa Barbara. Run along the beach? Yes. 


Don't forget about the Virtual Summer Retreat starting today!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

It Finally Feels Like Vacation

Caffeine detox - herbal tea and pain meds.


This is what should have been my reaction 36 hours ago, but I was too emotionally drained to respond like this until this morning.

My stressful Boards experience is now a full 36 hours behind me and I'm starting to see the light here on the other side.

So what do you do when you realize you have a couple days to hang out in town, no real plans, and you're feeling all right again?

Dye your hair of course. My awesome classmate/friend Maria actually helped me with this yesterday. I use Clairol Nice N Easy Dark Auburn, about every 8-10 weeks. I first colored my hair red about a year ago and I love it. My natural color's kind of a mousy brown (used to be blonde, but it's darkened as I grew up), and I don't feel like it really fits my personality. I'm not saying I'll stay this hair color forever, but for the past year it's served me well.

As you can see, before I had some rather faded color and roots. Now I look a little more put together.

Piece by piece I'm reconstructing my sanity.

I also have a pile of paperwork to finish so I can do clinical rotations at various medical centers this coming year.

Now off to do a little work and otherwise vacation-y things. Pool? Books? Knitting? Bike ride? I believe I will.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Virtual Summer Retreat and a Detox

So yesterday was stressful.

Boards is at out of my hands for now but I'm having a hard time letting it go. Between the uncertainty of my score actually counting and the uncertainty that I actually passed, I'm giving myself permission to take a couple days to go through the Stages of Grief gradually and not feel 100% on vacation right away.

That said, I'm so so ready for a vacation. These next two weeks I get to go to Santa Barbara, Irvine (Boyfriend's moving closer!), and home to Oregon for Emma's high school graduation (sister number 2).

And then...I start third year with a surgery rotation. It will be hard to stay relaxed through that, but I do have this to look forward to:

Sarah at theShuBox has planned a blog-led Virtual Summer Retreat that starts on Monday and goes for 6 weeks, through the first part of July. Check it out and follow along! We all need a little recouping and a chance to refocus.


All right, let's talk detox. I don't know why, but it always makes me think of smoothies:

No I'm not going on a smoothie diet. This is detox light. Some things to address:

a. I've been living with pretty much steady caffeine drip for the past month, and was completely okay with it through Boards. Now, however, it's time to break that habit. I hate being actually addicted to anything. 

b. I've been handling my poor food/stress relationship with good and bad days, but it's left me feeling just sort of beat up. Either I'm eating something that doesn't leave me feeling great, or I'm resisting the urge to eat something that won't leave me feeling great and either way it leaves me tired. 

c. Then there's exercise. Goodness gracious. Exercise has been a little bit built-in with Nora but I haven't been riding every day, and it doesn't really give the same endorphin rush as a good run. I just sacrificed a bit of working out for especially the last 2 weeks to maximize the study time. So I'm feeling the need to properly sweat. 

Conveniently the first week of the Virtual Summer Retreat focuses on the inside/out (self-care and body) - exactly what's missing here. 

So, while I'm excited to see what kinds of ideas and reflections Sarah will bring us, I'm also instating a couple of my own guidelines to get me back to feeling great. 


Post-Boards Detox/Feel Better Guidelines

a. Caffeine: No caffeine for a week. After that I'll reinstate black tea and 2x weekly coffee, because I love them, but that's my usual level that doesn't have me addicted.  

b. Food: In terms of food, I want to write a separate post, because I've been thinking a lot about intuitive eating, listening to my body, recognizing hunger signals etc. but I still have some more internal processing to do before it's ready for a post. For now I'll refer you over to Megan, who's been doing some great posts about her own intuitive eating journey, and tell you I'm just planning to eat well. The point is, there are no guidelines specific to the food I want to eat now , because it's a goal of cutting down the restrictions. 

Also, I know I crave much better things when I'm properly exercising and taking care of myself mentally, so this is a good time for me to consciously take a look at my eating intuition. 

c. Exercise: Run at least 3x a week and strength train at least 2x a week for the next 3 weeks. Once surgery rotation starts I'll set some exercise goals based on my actual rotation and time available. I'm expecting to mostly live in the hospital, so I'm putting off setting any concrete goals until I can evaluate their realisticality <-- not previously a word, but it ought to be. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

USMLE Step 1-pocalypse.

Or: The day medical Boards took 10 years off my life. 

I had a bad dream about this once. That the power shut down in the middle of my big exam.


I was 12 questions (twelve! of 322!) away from being completely done, that's 7.5 hours in, and the power went out. The room just went dark. We all looked around. Someone swore. I won't say it wasn't me. I mean, what do you do? We came out and just waited hoping it would come back on and we'd figure out what to do. The proctors were scrambling, but not really talking to us about what would happen. 

Questions were asked like, 
"What if we have to take it over again?" 
"What if our scores don't count?" 
"What am I going to do? I have to leave town tomorrow." 
"Does this mean we have to delay our third year?"

And statements made like,
"I'm not doing this again."
"I'll sue." 
"I'll drop out of med school."
"I haven't seen my son in days. I cannot study anymore."

And from me, "I think I'm going to be sick."

When it came back everything was saved and we were able to finish from where we started, but I'm running so high on norepinephrine and other various panic signals right now - I'm beyond drained. 

We're reasonably certain our scores will still count, though I think it does register with the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) as an "aberration." I feel sick thinking about the possibility of not really being done, but it should work out. Our administration and the NBME have both been notified, and I'm sure they'll work it out the best they can. 

Suffice it to say I'm a major stress case right now. 

Add to the technical problems, I also felt just not that good about it. 

It's a hard test. It's supposed to be, and I made some smart guesses I'm sure, but it felt hard. Very. 

So yes. I ate well at least. Unfortunately with all the nervousness this breakfast didn't exactly stay with me, if you know what I mean. 

Banana Almond Butter Oats

Here's what I had for snack-meals on breaks. It's definitely a good idea to eat a little bit more often as opposed to a big meal during a full-day test. And it was 2 of those thermoses of coffee. Got to titrate that caffeine and keep it at a steady level. 

English muffin PBJ, 2 apples, 2 carrots, Odwalla protein bar, Coke Vanilla Zero. 

And now, although I don't exactly feel relieved, I'm going to take a little time to let it all go, be with some friends, and celebrate the end of this saga. 

No matter what, I'm on vacation for the next 2 weeks. Pretty soon I'll start to enjoy that fact. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Day Before the USMLE Step 1

Or: How I spent the day before Boards.

Edit: If Googling "The Day Before the USMLE Step 1" brought you here, welcome. Maybe you're wondering what other people do the day before Boards. Or maybe wondering what you should do the day before Boards. I studied a bit - but lots of people don't. I think I got a couple questions from my day-before review, and it was calming to just review things I already knew. Definitely NOT a time to learn something you've never understood. I sincerely recommend avoiding anything that isn't already familiar - you want to cultivate some confidence for your test day.

To see how it turned out (plus what I ate to keep my brain fueled) see here

And thoughts about scores once I got them are here.


Yes, tomorrow is "P-D-E-M-M-D-T-A Day." 
(That's "Please Don't Ever Make Me Do This Again Day.")

I started medical school 2 years ago. I've studied hard. I've studied really hard. I've passed all my classes. I've dealt with a lot of self-doubt and not a couple failures.

However, I'm still here and although these have been the most depressing 6 weeks of my life, between finals and the constant studying, I made it to this, test day, and I will go on afterwards no matter what.

So tomorrow we'll see if I learned anything.

8 hours. 322 questions.

I studied for a good chunk of the day, and around 6 I quit because I found lots of topics I didn't feel I knew well, and I started getting anxious, and that is exactly the opposite of what I need the day before my exam.

So, what does one eat the day before a big test? Just some deliciousness:

Breakfast: Strawberry Colada Oatmeal

Lunch: I went on a great lunch date to Ranu Thai with classmates Eric and Andrew (who took their tests on Monday and have become rays of sunshine and freedom). Ranu has a $6.50 lunch special. Tofu hot and sour soup, salad, yellow curry and a piece of tempura. 

Snacktime: A lovely fuji. Side of studying with Molly and Gennaya, my quizzing angels full of encouragement and also lots of knowledge. They take it on Monday, and they will rock.

Oh hey Molly!

Dinner: It's just about corn season, and this was so delicious. Side of balsamic/oil salad with raisins. And what's in the cup? Mineral water of course, but in a champagne glass, because we're celebrating making it to test day. 

Dessert: Hot Chocolate soymilk.

The carton looks a little speckled from some aggressive pouring when I first opened it. 

And now?

Well, the night before my MCAT, (the big test you take to apply to medical school - almost exactly 3 years ago) I watched the season finale of Grey's Anatomy, and it went pretty well. 

So now before I get a hopefully great night's rest, I'm watching some House and turning this into a tradition. The USMLE Step 1 is a completely different beast to the MCAT, but I feel relaxed, sort of. A little. As much as can be.  

I'm well-organized for tomorrow, I've worked hard, there's nothing to do now but go kill it. 

Do you have any night-before-a-test traditions?