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Posts Tagged ‘graduate school’

Still a student…although not the type I want to be right now. ¬†I didn’t get into medical school off the waitlist. In fact, I never moved from 5. Instead I’m still an MPH student because I managed to screw up my graduation.

In my last post I was given relatively few options. Four days after that I was at student health for an follow-up appointment for my IUD. I hadn’t been there for an appointment in a long time and my weight was significantly down. The nurse (who sees me much too frequently) noticed the weight and mentioned it to the doctor. Who freaked out and, because my regular eating disorder doctor was out of town, took bloodwork and contacted my doctor the next day. I went to see my doctor the next day (Tuesday) who told me I needed treatment. Then on Wednesday I went to see E and she told me that I would be going inpatient–no questions, no excuses, no delays. I cried all evening and spent all of Thursday trying to figure out how to get out of it. Unfortunately, the only treatment program my insurance would cover is at the hospital I work at. Friday I took a genetics exam in the morning and was admitted on the inpatient unit that afternoon.

On the unit with people I work with. My resident doctor had worked with me when she rotated through my unit. My nurses had floated through my unit. The aides either floated through my unit or went to “violent patient” incidents with me when called. I had taken care of several other patients. This hospital has a very strict eating disorder program. My days were nearly all the same and went something like this:

6:30 a.m.–get woken up for daily weights

7:30 a.m.–breakfast in the dining room

9 a.m.–activity

10:30 a.m.–psych ed group with a nurse

11:30 a.m.–lunch

1:30 p.m.–activity

2:45 p.m.–afternoon snack

3 p.m.–group with a therapist

5:30 p.m.–supper

8 p.m.–evening snack

10 p.m.–bedtime

As part of the eating disorder protocol we are required to be supervised continually from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. This means when we aren’t at activity or in groups we have to stay in the dayroom with a staff member dedicated solely to watching us (up to 8 patients, although no more than 5 when I was there). We are not allowed to go to the bathroom on our own. We have to show the toilet to a staff member before flushing. We are “redirected” for standing, walking, crossing our legs, or jiggling our feet. We are not to discuss food, calories, weight, exercise, or other potentially triggering topics. Because it is a general psychiatry unit with non-eating disorder patients we cannot have anything with metal and our makeup/personal care items must be checked out from the nurse’s station. We cannot have cell phones or laptops.

26 days and too many pounds later, I discharged to the partial program. Where I’ve been for the past 4 weeks. Gaining more weight. Weight that makes me sick at the sight of my own body. Weight I can feel every night when I walk my dog.

But I’m done with the partial next Friday. Done whether I’m at target or not (and I am fervently hoping that I will not be there yet). I haven’t set up any follow-up therapy appointments. I’m hoping that no one will notice and I can go through the rest of my life without people bothering me about my weight and wielding the threat of inpatient or partial over my head.

The only requirements I have to finish for my MPH degree are 60 hours of work on my practicum, a paper on what I did, and a poster presentation. The work will in less than 3 weeks. The paper and presentation can’t be done until December, unfortunately so I cannot get my diploma until then.

However, student health has offered me a part-time (20 hours/week) position to do one-on-one counseling with students who are at risk for problems with alcohol. I will begin that the week after I finish partial and continue working my 20 hour weekend job at the hospital.

And because I didn’t get into medical school I have to begin forcing myself through that laborious process yet again and now I am also considering PhD programs in clinical psychology.

I don’t know how many more rejections I can take.

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I feel like I am entering a new phase in my life. It might be short lived (as in only lasting until I start my next degree) but it’s both exciting and scary. This week I started my final practicum for my MPH degree. I am working at the student health service at my university.

It’s exciting to be doing actual professional work. It’s taking me some time to get used to it though. My weekend job is as a clerk at the hospital where I just do basic tasks people need: ordering, making phone calls, helping patients, etc. At student health there are undergraduate students hired to do that. This week I have created a social media presentation, written fitness video scripts, made a strength training handout, began a literature review on sleep awareness campaigns, answered anonymous medical questions from students, and began a review of self-care data on the website. Next week I’m learning SPSS- a statistics software that I haven’t used before. I will also be working information fairs for new student orientation throughout the summer.

It’s scary because the medical doctor that oversees my eating disorder works there. I haven’t gone for a couple months and I’m scared to go see here again as a patient. I see her as a coworker every day and I put on a face like things are going well, but I’ve lost weight since I last saw her. My weight has been pretty consistently low this semester anyway. I’m just scared for her to know that I’m not doing well and still see me working there every day. It’s a difficult situation. Especially since right now I’m doing some work on exercise and nutrition.

In other news I’m up to 9 on the medical school waitlist. Hard to tell if I will get in or not but I’m a whole lot closer than where I began.

Also…I knew I forgot something when I clicked publish.

Last week on the unit an eating disorder patient was making comments about how people looked and commented on how skinny I was. And I sort of freaked out about it. I mean, I should have expected it. I am constantly comparing myself to others in terms of body size. I couldn’t leave work with a clean conscience and have her think that I was just naturally (and healthily) thin. So I told her about my own eating disorder. I really don’t like to do that with patients but I didn’t see any other option at the time. However, it got me thinking. I want to work in mental health, ergo I will probably be coming across other eating disorder patients and this is likely to come up again. Do I want to spend the rest of my life either having to tell patients about this or having to lie about it? Telling patients now isn’t quite as bad because I am just a clerk/nursing assistant. I am more on their level than say a doctor or therapist. If I were a patient who thought the doctors just wanted to make me fat (as most of us think) and my doctor had an eating disorder, I would be pissed and think that he/she was just trying to make me fat to make themselves look thinner or that they had impaired judgement in regards to my treatment in other ways. I need to realize that this issue isn’t going to go away for me. In fact, as I get closer to my ultimate educational/career goals it will simply get bigger.

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So much has changed in my life recently! Or if it hasn’t changed yet, it has recently gained large potential for a near-future change.

1. I cut back my work hours at the hospital.

This was a really hard choice. One one hand I was spending 40 hours/week at work and only 10 hours (or less) on school. I was making it, but since the discovery that I really love grad school and love what I am doing, I want to get the most out of the experience and that wasn’t happening with all the work I was doing. My supervisor was really good about the decision and I am down to 24 hrs/week starting next week!

I tend to count my worth by how many hours of work I do in a given week (and I typically don’t count school work) so I equated cutting back work hours with being a failure at life. And there are always financial considerations–but the job really didn’t make a huge difference there. I already had to take out some student loans to cover tuition because I didn’t earn enough for that in addition to my living expenses. (yes, considering the job requires absolutely no degree, it pays decently, but I could get a better paying job that better utilizes my knowledge) Now the job will cover living expenses and that’s it.

And although I love my job, it is physically and emotionally demanding. Even with a healthy degree of separation from the patients (which happens to be one of my few talents), psychiatric work takes a toll on a person. Although I never take the beatings (verbal or physical) personally, one can only take so much abuse. After a while of cursing, and accusations, and manipulations, and altered perceptions, and hitting, and biting, it becomes rather difficult for me to bite my tongue and turn the other cheek. And yet, I have to. Plus, working with people who are also medically sick means I have to put forth quite a bit of physical effort and that is not ideal at this time either.

Basically some work=good for keeping a healthy balance with school. Too little work=an unhealthy obsession with school. Too much work=way too much stress.

2. I was invited for a medical school interview at the university I am currently attending.

Not much to say about that. It’s a good thing. It’s happening at the end of October.

3. I am in conversation with a research team about a different job.

With a psychiatric researcher with a lot of neat projects going on.

The initial offer was hourly (read: no benefits) so my initial desire was to just pick up some hours in addition to my hospital work. But it’s possible that it could be made into a graduate assistantship….which means it could include benefits and a tuition scholarship. I’m meeting with the research team Thursday. Stay tuned.

Oh, and at the end of the email she wrote “with your background and experience we would love to have you involved.” A compliment! It did make me rather happy.

In other news:

I have cut back on exercise. I am dealing with it moderately well, Zephyr is not. He is becoming neurotic. He has always had this obsession with lights (and I mean that in clinical, not colloquial terms). Every shadow or ray of sunlight prompts him into his “light hunting” stance and he stares at it intently and then dances around pouncing on it, wiggling his tail, and sometimes escalating into barking. Within the past week it has become unbearable. I can’t open a three-ring binder, turn a lamp on, read my book before bed, open the door to an unlit room, keep the blinds open at night, keep the blinds open during the day….and more. Last night I completely darkened my room, with the blackout curtains I use to sleep after night shifts, and he was still up until 3 ¬†dancing around on the bed chasing some invisible light on the wall. He awoke at 6:30 to start it again and is still at it 3 hours later. This means I got 3 1/2 hours of sleep. And I seriously want to strangle the dog…but I can’t, because I know it’s not his fault. It’s definitely gotten worse since he’s getting less exercise with me. So I have a few things to work on here. I need to wear him down somehow: whether it is running with him (despite the ban from my therapist), making frequent trips to the grassy space outside for tennis balls and frisbees, or going to the dog park. I need to get him some more mental stimulation–with all the work I’ve been doing this has fallen by the wayside and I will start scheduling training in our days. And we just need to deal with the anxiety issues more.

I am still freaking out about weight.

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Before writing this–I love grad school. I love my public health degree. I love learning about public health, the healthcare system, and all the other stuff we talk about. Even the class I was sure would be boring and stuffy (Healthcare Organization and Policy) is fascinating. I was enthralled through an entire lecture about the history of the healthcare system. And for those who don’t know…I don’t particularly like history. In fact I rather dislike general history (I don’t dislike the concept per say, but it isn’t for me to study), I never even really enjoyed music history. But this history….this history I love.

However I am starting to see the different world graduate school resides in.

For example: the following picture shows a sampling of slides that I was expected to understand.

I am proud to say that I understand them all now. After some long stares, and lots of reading, and a couple hours of lecture, and occasionally using my fingers to keep track of different places on the diagrams.

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