Fight or Flight?
Fear is regulated by a part of the brain within the temporal lobes known as the amygdala. When stress activates the amygdala, it temporarily overrides conscious thought so that the body can divert all of its energy to facing the threat — whatever that might be.
The release of neurotransmitters and hormones causes an increase in heart rate and breathing, shunts blood away from the intestines and sends more to the muscles, for running or fighting. It puts all the brain’s attention into ‘fight-or-flight.’
I’m scared of a lot of stuff. Bugs. Dolls. My house at night when I turn off the last light at the bottom of the stairs. Blood isn’t one of them, which is expected considering the field I want to pursue. However, recently, there’s been one thing that has the potential of scaring me to the point where I’ll pee. The MCAT.
This summer, I am a research assistant/intern for UT Southwestern’s Emergency Medicine Program, where I have the opportunity to be in direct contact with/ recruit patients, who are admitted into a Level I Trauma Center hospital: Parkland Hospital of Dallas, for the various clinical studies that UT Southwestern is conducting. I was warned not to interact with prisoners who may be admitted, and to stay away from aggressive psych patients who may or may not try to choke me on the job (no big deal). I am also continuing my amputation/prosthetics research project for Texas Vascular Associates, which I will get to be a co-presenter for, in San Diego, CA next Wednesday. On top of that I am working at Kumon Learning Center and am taking two summer courses. Last but not least, I’m on the brink of beginning my MCAT prep, every pre-med’s worst nightmare.
So this is where we get to the more nitty-gritty stuff about a pre-med student’s life. I made this blog not because I am Dr. Laura Lacquer or Dr. Pamela Wible. I know that there are more of you out there like me, ambitious and hard-working, but who may always have that particular uneasy feeling about the unknown. I made this blog because I want you to benefit from somebody who is almost always optimistic because let’s face it, there are way too many pre-medical students who either are borderline will-claw-your-eye-out-and-stab-you-in-the-back competitive, or depressed-but-will-still-try-hard. I realized that being more optimistic in this profession is harder to come by, so I made this blog mainly to push you with me. I also want to put out advice, yes, but let’s get real here. I am on the same boat as all of you pre-meds reading this. I’m only human. I am not some demi-god who thinks she knows all. Even with everything that I’m doing this summer, I’m scared and still feel somewhat behind. I get anxious every time I think about the monster that is the MCAT, hiding underneath my bed and waiting to attack me next January. I’m dreading the amount of effort I know I have to put in to only have the results possibly devour me. I have one shot at this. I don’t plan on fighting it twice. No way I’m putting myself through that torture more than once.
Trust me when I say, you’re not alone. All I want to do is binge watch shows on Netflix, while eating ice cream in the safe vicinity of my bed, too. But, someone I value once told me, “God puts the best things on the other side of fear.” And, that fear, we shall overcome. At the end of the day, this is still what I want to do. The other side of fear for me looks like an operating room with me at the head of the patient’s bed, wearing my favorite scrub cap and a heating blanket around me because it is always way too cold in OR 2, while administering Fentanyl at 2 mcg/kg/dose, and that same patient happily going home with his family two days later. This is one of the many times I have to remind myself that, although this journey is long, frightening, and arduous, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This is just one of the things every pre-medical student has to go through and that we just have to roll with the punches. Here’s the thing about fear: it’s nothing more than an obstacle that stands in the way of progress.
So bring on the late nights and long hours of studying. Bring on the stacks of Kaplan, Examkrackers, and Princeton MCAT prep material and old textbooks and battered notes. Finally, bring on the 8.5 hour monster that’s been hiding under my bed because what the AAMC doesn’t know, there’s an even bigger monster on the bed waiting to show the MCAT who’s boss.
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not the absence of fear.”