In Which I Contemplate the Date... and Other Things

Friday, March 15, 2013

For those of you blissfully outside the medical school world, today is March 15th and nothing more.  Well, it's probably someone's birthday, and I guess it's also technically the Ides of March or whatever, but to most people, it's the 15th and we're all very excited that it's Friday. To 4th year medical students all over the country, it's Match Day. Today is the day that the doctors-to-be are told where they'll be spending their intern and residency years. It's pretty much the most important day in a medical student's career. The second most important day was Monday, March 11th, which was the day that everyone finds out whether they matched, and today is the day they found out where.  Obviously, not everyone matches, and that sucks... but this week is mostly a very exciting, joyous time for 4th year's everywhere.

This time last year was one of the worst days of my life. It would have been the day that I would have (hopefully) matched, had I not left medical school in 2009. As I watched some of my best friends in this world match into their residencies, I put on a brave face and congratulated them because seriously, what an accomplishment! I was so proud of them for getting to this place in their lives and I knew how happy they were. I was also filled with a heavy sadness, because I wasn't there with them, opening envelopes and celebrating. And I knew on some level that even if I had stayed, there was no guarantee that I would have matched... but the fact that all of these people were doing it and I was sitting in my office (at a job I hated where I made next to no money) was seriously disheartening. This was before I had even decided that I wanted to go back to med school, and actually, I was still in my delusion of "I never wanted to do that anyway" (ha ha, I am so funny sometimes). I didn't expect the feelings to be as bad this year, but guess what?

They're worse.

I guess part of it is because I'm still not over what happened in 2009. For those of you who are playing the home game and are unaware of the 2009 incident, here's the quick recap. I graduated from Drexel in June of 2008, and 6 weeks later, I moved to Fort Lauderdale, FL to start med school. I moved in with a guy I had been dating for a little under a year, even though I didn't really want to, but I was too scared to break up with him before I left and I figured it would work out (Spoiler alert: It didn't). I started classes in August, broke up with the guy that had moved down there with me, made some friends, and started dating a guy that I had no business dating (seriously, he was SO wrong for me). The anxiety and depression that had been previously pretty controlled spiraled out of control, and soon I was on 5 different psych meds just so I could function, and I wasn't even doing that very well. My test anxiety was so terrible that I was leaving the room to vomit in the middle of exams, and the night before an exam, I would be unable to sleep unless I knocked myself out. I had debilitating migraines, I was exhausted, and I hated my life. It got to the point where every day, when I walked to class from my apartment, I hoped that I would get hit by a car while crossing so I wouldn't have to deal with this anymore.

I ended up just barely failing both my Gross Anatomy and Physiology classes by 4 and 2 points, respectively, so I knew I would have to retake them that summer. As I started second semester, the guy I had no business dating unceremoniously broke up with me during lunch, and a few weeks later, the Dean of Students pulled me into her office to ask if I was okay. I tried to lie, but I'm sure they didn't make her the Dean of Students for no reason, and she could tell I was in trouble. I asked how one would take a leave of absence from the university and she said that it was really easy. I said I'd come back to do it, and she marched me out of her office, upstairs to the Dean's office so I could sign the paperwork. She told me to go home and rest, and to come back when I was well. She was my savior, because I don't think I could have made the decision without a strong push from someone who knew me and knew what they were talking about. Just like that, I signed away the life that I had put every ounce of my being into, and now I had no idea what to do.

At first, I just slept. It had been so long since I had any decent rest that it was all I could do. But without a need to go anywhere or do anything, I soon took to my bed all the time. I half-heartedly applied for secretarial jobs, because on some level, I wanted to stay in Florida. On the other hand, I wanted nothing more than to go home to New Jersey to hide and pretend this entire experience had never happened. Without a purpose, my depression became even worse. I cried all the time and felt like the world's biggest failure. I had no direction, no goals, and no idea what the hell I was doing with my life. One night when I was on the phone with my mom, I told her that I wanted to take all of the pills on my nightstand, and it was one of the scariest nights of my life. From 1,200 miles away, she convinced me to call my school's crisis line (and I only called because she threatened to call my father and the police if I didn't call the crisis line). As soon as someone says that they're suicidal, the crisis center sends the cops. I hadn't left my house in almost 2 weeks, I had barely eaten or showered, and I certainly hadn't gotten out of my pajamas. It's strange what goes through your head when you're that depressed, and I remember thinking, "I should really get dressed so when the cops get here, I'm at least wearing a bra". When they knocked on my door, it was about 10:30 at night, and they asked me if I had any weapons. I said, "No, but I have two cats," which I'm pretty sure confused them and also confirmed that I was in dire need of assistance. They came in, checked me out, looked at all of my pill bottles, and said that they were going to take me to the hospital. Sitting in the back of the cop car, I burst into tears and called my mom to let her know what was going on, and she called my dad and step-mom.

The cops dropped me off at the general ER, which was the wrong ER because apparently, there is a psych ER for these kinds of things. I was so dazed at that point that I couldn't even understand the directions that the nurse was giving me for where I had to go, and I'm pretty sure you're also not supposed to send suicidal individuals off by themselves, so I asked for someone to escort me over there. At the psych ER, they took all of my things (including my bra) and drew blood (I guess to make sure I wasn't on illegal drugs or dying of an overdose) and then an older nurse from the islands talked to me for a really long time. His accent was so thick that I could barely understand him, but it's kind of like when you talk to a puppy. They have no idea what you're saying, but as long as it sounds nice, they're pretty happy. My dad and step-mom arrived and I still couldn't stop crying. The nurses admitted me and took me up to the behavioral health floor, which locks from the outside (not unnerving at all, ha ha). They didn't have a regular bed for me, so I slept in one of the solitary rooms that they put people in when they're a danger to themselves (it also locked from the outside, but they left it open for me). I cried all night until I fell asleep, and then spent basically the next 4 days doing nothing but crying. The next day,I moved into a regular room with another girl, and I started going to the group therapy sessions (which were useless). I was one of the youngest people on the ward, and also, someone, one of the sanest. My dad came to visit me every day and brought me tons of magazines to read, as well as sweat pants, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt, because the only things I had (jeans, etc) were taken from me and I didn't want to wear a hospital gown forever. I had a horrible psychiatrist who didn't listen to me, and he took me off of all of my meds without weaning me, which led to withdrawl symptoms that were so bad I felt like I wanted to die. I shook like a Parkinson's patient and had horrible headaches and brain zaps, and the medication they put me on made me throw up all the time. I lost 12 pounds in 4 days (this is not a diet I recommend). Constance and some of my other friends came to visit me, as well, and my friend Michelle brought her therapy dog, Byron, to see me. I felt bad because I hadn't told any of my friends what had happened or where I was going, and I wasn't allowed to have my cell phone. My car was still in front of my apartment, so Constance assumed the worst and was about 3 seconds away from breaking down my apartment door to see if I was dead. Luckily, someone had seen a vet bill with my mom's phone number on it in my car, so they called her and she told them what was up.

After 4 days, they let me go home. I spent the first night out at my dad's house, still incredibly nauseated from the meds (that I immediately stopped taking once I left the hospital). I flew two days later, still mostly dazed and unable to make any decisions whatsoever about my life. My mom and my Aunt Kathy devised a plan to get my apartment packed up and moved back to NJ, so I flew back to FL and a day or two later, my mom flew down. She basically packed my entire apartment and flew home with one of the cats. My aunt flew down from Baltimore, helped me pack my car with stuff and the other cat, and we drove back to the northeast over 2 days. The only good thing out of all of this was that my aunt and I really had a good time in the car and connected on a really deep level, and we remain really close. When I got home, I basically hid from the world for a couple of weeks. Eventually, I got a job as a unit secretary again, I started dating Ken (and we all know how that ended up) and got into my MPH program. It seems like I got a happy ending to most people, and in some ways, they're right.

So... that wasn't a very quick recap, but it's a lot quicker than the time it actually took to happen, so just be glad that you didn't have to live it (seriously). Anyway, it's been 4 years since that mess and it still feels like only yesterday that I walked out of the Dean's office and away from my life's dream. For a very long time (almost 4 years) I lied to myself and said that I didn't want to go back to med school, and that I never wanted to go in the first place, and clearly, the entire thing had been a giant mistake. As it turns out, I'm a terrible liar, even to myself, so this year, the truth finally emerged and poof, I'm attempting to return to med school. I should be ecstatic! Instead, I want to hide under my kitchen table or in bed (my go-to spots when I feel as though the world is ending). Fortunately, I haven't given in to those whims and desires, and instead threw myself into applying for post-bac programs, retaking the GRE (ugh), and planning to retake the MCAT (I should seriously schedule that... double ugh). So, the second part of why Match Day is so hard this year (to connect back to the original purpose of this post) is because I am now so ready to go back. Now that I've identified that yes, this is what I want to do, the fact that I have to wait another year (at least) is actually painful.

The plan is to reapply to DO schools this June/July, because my GPA isn't SO terrible (it's a 3.1) that I couldn't get in, probably. I'll also retake my MCAT at that point. Hopefully, I'll be starting post-bac classes then as well, so my GPA will continue to go up as I'm waiting for med school stuff to get figured out. If I don't get in for Fall 2014 (which is entirely possible), then I'll finish my post-bac in the summer of 2014 and have to find a job for the year while applying to med school AGAIN for the fall of 2015. I know, it's all very confusing. Basically, I am praying that I get into med school for Fall 2014 because otherwise, I have to find something to do with myself for a year in between when I finish my post-bac and when I can (hopefully) go to med school. And then there's the question of WHERE will I be doing the post-bac?

For once, I'm not concerned that I won't get into a program (at least, not really concerned... there's a part of me that is a spaz and will always worry about not being accepted), but the where is still up in the air. I applied to Drexel and Temple, and as soon as I finish this last essay, I'll be applying to Penn. All three of these programs are certificate programs, so there isn't a degree attached to their completion. The one at Temple is attractive because it's only ten months and if I hit the marks for their GPA and MCAT, I can go to Temple Med in 2014. I applied to Johns Hopkins University's MS in Biotechnology - Health Science Intensive program, which is a 1 year MS degree. I also applied to 3 programs in FL that are similar, including one at FAU, one at Barry University, and one at the University of Southern FL. Every program still has some outstanding requirement for it... but they're mostly letters of recommendation, which I'm politely harassing people about today. The only other thing that's missing are my GRE scores, but that's because I have to retake the damn things on April 6th.

But yes, the fact that we could either be staying in this area, moving to MD, or moving to FL is all kind of terrifying. Drexel and Temple start their programs in the fall, and at Penn I could start in the summer or the fall. JHU starts in early June, I think that FAU and USF start in the summer as well, and Barry starts in August. So... it's all kind of soon. And between now and whenever I start, we'd have to move and Ken needs to make sure he's certified to teach and then holy crap, he needs to get a job and... yeah, it's kind of all terrifying. I wouldn't mind staying here (at least, not too terribly) except that I'd rather be in a program that grants the MS degree, rather than a certificate. Sigh... so much to think about!

Anyway... I am going to try not to worry about it too much (which will probably be next to impossible) and this weekend, I am going to try and relax. Tonight, Ken, Levi, and I are going to an Irish pub in Center City b/c my friend Liz (of APW and Happy Sighs) is shaving her head tonight for the St. Baldrick's Foundation. Then tomorrow... cleaning, GRE studying, laundry-ing, and possibly seeing a movie. Sunday, Lindsey and her boyfriend John are going to come over and we're going to hang out and watch Cabin in the Woods (hysterical!) and it should be a good time.  For now... I am getting the heck out of here because it's Friday and my brain feels like it's going to melt out my ears. Have a good weekend, all!

- A


  1. *hugs* I miss you, friend. I hope you have some fun this weekend that takes your mind off of all the waiting and uncertainty. I know how stressful those can be.

  2. First, the Liz you've been discussing on facebook? Yeah, I had no idea it was *that* Liz. I forward many of her "Ask Liz" articles to John and friends in the midst of this wedding planning craziness.

    Second: It's been years since we lived across the hall from each other in good old South (RIP, you smelly old building) and I know we were never best friends even then, but at this moment, I feel so incredibly familiar with you. When I (half-jokingly) commented on your facebook post that you and I are too similar, I meant only about that specific topic. Today, I come to find out that, no, it's this life that we are very similar in.

    Reading this post (because I, too, am a creepy stalker), I found I relate more to you than some of my closest friends. I found myself tearing up, quite literally. Yes, your plight was awful and heart wrenching, but that wasn't why. I was nearly crying because your life, your experiences, are mine just a few years later. I had my melt downs in 2006, yours was 2009. And, while I managed to stay out of the hospital by the skin of my teeth (and a little lying on my part, not proud), they are so very similar in every other way.

    I want to reach through my computer and hug you. Is that creepy? Yeah, probably, but oh well. I mean, seriously.

    I can sympathize and empathize (jazzercize, =P) and all with your current situation. It's so hard watching people doing what you thought you'd be doing right now too. When my peers graduated Wittenberg, I was happy for them but miserable for me. As they went off to graduate school or medical school or found amazing jobs, I congratulated them but hated myself. It's a tough place to be in.

    It's even harder when you realize that some of these people are your closest friends and you really are happy for them but also know that, no matter how hard they try and want to, they can't quite relate to you the way you wish someone else could. And that's why I felt compelled to leave a comment (and a long-winded one at that). It's nice to know that someone I actually know, that I've actually met, not some random stranger on the internet, has been through what I've been through and come out the other side happier and more determined. This gives me hope.

    Thank you for sharing.

  3. i had forgotten about parts of this timeline.

    i know this week has been rough on you, and it's totally ok to let yourself feel that. but you WILL have your own match day some day because you've decided you want to go back, and i have no doubt that you will :) and at least now when you have Match Day, you'll also have Ken :)

    ps i laughed at the "no but i have 2 cats" thing. i pictured you using your cats in defense, it was an interesting visual

  4. First off, I applaud you for how far you've come since 2009. Without a doubt it has not been easy, but here you are, perhaps a little bruised, but still standing tall. What you've done takes a lot of strength and courage that not many people would necessarily have. I also admire you for staying true to yourself and pursuing your goal of becoming a doctor no matter how twisty-turny the road has been to get there...on some level it motivates me to want to try and do the same. In short, you rock and I wish you every bit of success in the pursuit of your dreams!


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