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April 10, 2014

So today was results day…unofficially.

Officially, we get our results some time in June, but today is the day when College subtly tap people on the shoulder, asking if they’d be interested in sitting another exam or two…why yes, they are very similar to those you sat last month. If you don’t receive that shoulder tap, you can rest easy knowing you’ve passed the exams and leave medical school. Let the prosecco flow!

Except, I got the tap. I failed one of the PACES exams.

I felt sick. I felt like the floor had been pulled out from under, dropping me in the middle of a vast and deep ocean. My mind has been running in overdrive, trying to think something sensible over the roaring sound in my ears. This is not familiar. This is not comfortable. I am adrift.

I first suspected something might be wrong when my tablet wasn’t showing the blessed email that my housemates had received, telling them they’d passed. Calmly, I retired to my room to check my inbox on my computer. Several minutes later, I received that tap on the shoulder. Eve joined me. I told her. She was struck dumb. Over her silence, I could hear my housemates celebrating with cheesecake. I could tolerate Eve but I passionately didn’t want to see them, let alone talk to them. Compounding my isolation, Facebook and Twitter were erupting with friends and colleagues calling themselves Doctor for the first time and congratulating each other.

Thinking back to the exam in question, I can’t understand, can’t comprehend why I failed. There were good stations and bad stations but I was certain the former outnumbered the latter. What’s more, my narrative for that exam was in line with everyone else’s. All my friends and enemies described the same rough scenario, some going better, some going worse. But it’s just me alone who failed.

What did I do so wrong?

My friends (outside my housemates) and parents are now asking how it went. Is it good news? Can we pop the champagne now? I don’t know what to tell them. I don’t want to tell them the truth – I am ashamed – and I don’t want to face the questions? Why? How? What now? I’m dealing with them myself at the moment. And the goddamn platitudes! I know my kith and kin will be very supportive and offer me many kind words but frankly, I am never more irritated, they whip me up into a storm of impotent rage. I can do without that. With just me, I can type away on obscure blogs and try to process all this.

Then again, I don’t want to lie either. For one thing, it’s the kiss of death on my eventual resit. Second, it would be a probity issue – we trust doctors to tell the truth, and I would like to be a doctor one day. Lastly, I know I’ve ranted against platitudes but mistaken congratulations would taste like bitter ashes.

This is how I tick. Despite the frequency and volume with which I chatter away on Twitter, I keep the big stuff quiet. I do not like talking about the big stuff, good or bad. Sometimes I talk. I know my own mind and I prefer to work away at thoughts and emotions in solitude. The fact that I can talk to Eve about nearly everything is actually nothing short of incredible. I should keep hold of her.

So what now. Today, I am expecting a call from someone big in College to talk about my error and I have also scheduled a meeting with another big College person on Monday to work out where I went wrong. There is a make-up clinical attachment in May to get me up to speed but that is optional. It may not the wise course of action, but I think I will continue with my elective instead. It is a unique opportunity to intern at the British Medical Journal, one I do not mean to give up lightly. Then, the resits come in June.

Part of me is waiting for College to admit they made a mistake, that actually I passed and can be a doctor. But that’s not going to happen. I’m the one who made all the mistakes this time.

Between this and SJT/FPAS, this has been quite a bumpy year so far! We found out on Tuesday where we will be working for the next two years. Despite my limp score, I still managed to get some good jobs in some good hospitals, and Eve and I will be working in the same NHS Trust. Dominic said my job combo would make me a “Super-Doc.” It didn’t feature paediatrics or psychiatry, which I’d really like to do, but I felt good. Then this happened.

In my last blog, I cried that I was taking arms against this outrageous fortune. Frankly, I don’t feel I have it in me to be so belligerently enthusiastic at the moment. This revelation has thrown a lot of my plans into disarray. This isn’t going to be OK if I just put a stupidly stupid grin.

Eve believes that everything happens for a reason. I snort. But I think it might be possible to find a reason, to find meaning, in everything that happens. Even if that reason is that the Universe is indifferent and uncaring towards my existence. This is going to mean something. I am going to learn something. I may not be OK but I swear to God, I’m going to come back.


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