By Justyna Woodley
This is to all the families who have experienced interrupted dinners, paused movies, canceled plans that were much anticipated, and all of the above in the same week.
First of all, everything I am about to say is not a complaint. I chose to marry a doctor whom I love dearly. However, it is easy to have doubts. It is even easier to feel self-pity. I do, however, have some suggestions on what has helped me.
I married my husband one week before his residency started. We wanted to marry before life got too hectic. We had no idea what we were in for! He was preparing for residency while I was studying for the bar, which was three weeks after our wedding, and we were also in the middle of moving. We did not think it would be that big of a deal because of everything we had already gone through: we had been in different states for three years while I attended law school and prior to that, we were across the state from each other for two years. We thought after that we could do anything.
It only took a couple of weeks for me to start feeling frustrated and irate over residency. I knew I should not complain because what he was going through was much worse. We fell into a routine that I thought I could handle. We went to work, tried to cook dinner by 8 p.m., and then tried to spend an hour together chatting and maybe watching a little junk television. The problem was, there is no such thing as a normal routine with a resident.
For me, the effect of all of this left me feeling lonely and frustrated. The weird thing is that I was never frustrated with my husband, but instead so upset with the hospital. The hospital treated us like only he was being affected by all of the conferences, drug rep dinners, random meetings, etc. I understand how being on call works, but why did they get to tell my husband, two days before a meeting, that we would be eating dinner alone, again. He is always so sweet by apologizing to me, and texting me how he wishes he were with me. Regardless of how many texts I received, I still felt lonely. I had my own life going on, but I wanted to at least eat dinner with him. I wanted an evening for just us without distraction. I cannot tell you the last time he had off when he was not on his phone and computer.
All that said, here is my advice on how to deal with our residency. I have not been doing this for very long, but I can tell you what is working for me now. Besides working full time, I also try to keep myself busy during evenings and weekends. I try to have a ladies night once every two weeks. Having dinner with a girlfriend every couple of weeks is such a great distraction. I not only have someone to eat with, but I also can keep up with all the latest gossip. I know how this sounds, but it does work! It really is the perfect time in life to keep those old and present friendships strong.
Second, exercise has helped me keep my sanity. Why not focus on being healthy? This has always been a challenge for me, since I tend to eat when I am bored and it is not healthy food. Instead, if I go for a run I not only feel great but it is something that I can do when I have a little extra time. Since it’s now dark out, I signed up for a gym that has group classes. I’ve met new people who are very supportive and have a common interest in exercise. This really helps out when I am stressed out about work or my husband’s schedule. If you feel like you don’t have enough time, try to wake up 30 minutes earlier or cut 30 minutes of television/computer usage out of your life. Make time to make yourself feel better.
Besides keeping busy, it is so important to work on your relationship. It can become difficult when your resident is overworked and you are feeling lonely and frustrated. I try to make sure to tell my husband how I feel, but there is a fine line to balance. I do not want to put extra stress on him by complaining about something he has no control over. However, if I keep these feelings to myself, I might go nuts. We try to make sure whatever time he does get, even if it’s just a couple hours, we make the most of it. We go out for dinner, take a bike ride, or go for a hike at a scenic park. We make sure that any time we do have to eat dinner together, there are no distractions. If we do not focus on making time for each other, I know irreparable damage could occur. We started our marriage off with residency, and I sure do not want it to end our marriage.
If you are feeling lonely, frustrated, irritated, or even worried that your marriage is on the rocks, you are not alone. I have only been married a few short months and there have been times that have worried both of us. Residency has certainly made the beginning of our marriage interesting and we try to remember that this is only temporary. Things will get better, and we will get through this together. We have all of our lives to eat dinner, so right now we just have to keep our chins up!
Justyna Woodley grew up in Honesdale, Pennsylvania on a dairy farm. She went to Michigan for law school and currently works at a non-profit organization helping low-income people find representation. She first fell in love with her resident husband at the physical therapist’s office where they both worked and ate lunch together every day.