Winter Narratives: Marriage & Medical School

HealingKait MauroComment

There is a story I’ve been telling myself about when this photograph was taken.

“Edward, Lena & I traveled to Mobile, AL from our home in Saint Louis, MO so he could do an interview for a medical school there. It was a miserable trip. He was anxious & stressed the entire time & I was too. He was worried he would not get into medical school. I was worried about what it would mean for us if he did. I stayed in the motel room by myself all day while he was at the interview, lonely & waiting for him to come back for me so we could head home. He got accepted to multiple medical schools & it was clear to me that I could either move to his hometown of Birmingham with him (we were already engaged when he got accepted into UAB’s school of medicine) so he could go to medical school or we could go our separate ways. I resented the time medical school took away from our relationship & felt, on a regular basis, that he would choose medical school over our marriage if he had to choose. I often wondered about which came first in his loyalties: me or medicine, which was very painful for me.”

Here’s another story I could tell myself, with the benefits of hindsight & several years distance:

“Years ago, Edward, Lena & I traveled to Mobile, AL from our home in Saint Louis, MO so he could do an interview for a medical school there. I had Lena, my furry companion/baby/shadow since December of 2012, with me. Edward has always loved Lena - his big heart took her in the second she became a part of my previously party-of-one family - even when she peed in one of the AC vents in his new car on this very trip. She’s an amazing dog who has provided me with so much love, affection & companionship over the years. Edward, too, though we were still a fairly new couple when this photograph of Lena on the motel bed was taken, had already proven he would be someone who would provide me with love, affection & companionship under the best & the worst of circumstances - first as a friend, then as a partner.

It was an emotionally difficult trip for both of us. He was, understandably, quite worried he wouldn’t get the chance to become a psychiatrist - which had been a dream of his for a long time & he was tightly wound because medical school interviews are incredibly stressful. I was worried that, if/when he was accepted into medical school, our lives would change drastically. I assumed they would change for the worse. I assumed every adjustment would be a loss. I barely thought of his happiness or needs at all because I was so caught up in worrying about the future. It wasn’t my best self, my “wise self” (as they call it in DBT). I wasn’t a “Kait” that I can look back on proudly. I tried to pretend to be supportive of his dream at least some of the time, inside I was really, really terrified.

I can, however, look back with some understanding & compassion for this lost & frightened previous Kait. I did the best I could do with scary unknowns, a major life transition, an insecure attachment style, a future mother-in-law who made it very clear she did not approve of my engagement to her son, anxiety & depression dogging me & where I was emotionally at the time. I wish I could have done better. I wish there had been more of an “us” conversation in his decision to go to medical school. I hope to do better in the future when we are faced with more inevitable unknowns. I stayed terrified inside for a long time but then I started to write my way out of it, shortly after my 27th birthday, when Edward had been in medical school for almost 2.5 years and we would soon arrive at our 2nd wedding anniversary. I began to learn about mindfulness & set out on a journey to better understand & control my own mind & emotions. That day in the motel room wasn’t so bad. I was lonely & scared, yes, but I ordered Jimmy John’s delivery (including two large fountain diet cokes because treat yourself) & watched a tragic but mesmerizing movie, Factory Girl, about Edie Sedgwick & Andy Warhol.

Edward did get into medical school in Mobile, but also in Birmingham - which is where we ended up moving to from Saint Louis. Things did change. Some of the changes were easy, positive-even & some of the changes were hard. Some of the changes were really hard - especially on someone who struggled (sometimes still struggles) with being in her own company for long periods of time. Only recently have I decided that comparing Edward’s priorities in my mind (i.e. is med school more important to him than I am?) is an exercise in wasting time & emotional energy with no answer that will soothe or satisfy me. Only recently have I realized that I get to choose how I interpret experiences & events & circumstances & I am responsible for my own life. I am going to write myself into a meaning.”