We ask each other this question so often – and yet we really don’t expect anything other than “Great!” or “Busy!”
I know we can’t (and shouldn’t) share everything with everyone. That makes sense.
But in dental and medical school, there’s something else going on. Everyone is really smart and talented and gorgeous, and you can’t help but compare yourself – and your skills – with others. So to save face, there’s an implicit rule that you don’t show your real, vulnerable self. You laugh and bitch about tests being hard, but you don’t really talk about how scared and exhausted you really are.
So if you’re not doing well, and you look around and see everyone else laughing and and smiling, you might very well think that you’re the only one who is miserable.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, because I have had lots of conversations with students over the years, and one of the most common things I hear is some variation of “I just don’t think I belong here.” And I always say, “You most definitely DO belong here; you were chosen from many for a reason; and you are most definitely not alone.” Which may be reassuring to that particular student – but that’s as far as it goes; it doesn’t help the rest of the students who feel that way.
I think we need to talk more about these hidden things. I don’t want to take up a lot of your time, but I think it’s important that you know you are not alone, and that there are things you can do that will get you through tough times.
So from time to time, I’ll be sending out short surveys with questions about mental health/wellness. I’ll use Google forms, so that no emails or names are associated with the responses. That way, we can actually be real and say what we really feel.
Here is the first little survey. It only takes about 5 minutes to do. This whole thing is totally optional, of course – and as I mentioned, totally anonymous. I’ll briefly show you the results in class, and then I’ll post a bunch of resources, videos, and journal articles in case you want to know more.
If you want to participate, please respond by Sunday night (5/29), so I can have a few days to gather the data and make some sense out of it. I’ll send out a quick reminder email Sunday evening.
I’m really curious to see what we find, and really hopeful that you’ll get something useful out of it.