Why I Don’t Feel Guilty About Not Writing

Why I Don’t Feel Guilty About Not Writing

BOOK UPDATE: I’m going to hold off on When Stars Die either until I feel comfortable during this summer term since it is supposed to be really difficult and where my cohort really hits the ground running, or right after when hopefully I will be completely, 100% comfortable with the physical therapy program. I just don’t want to add in trying to get a book ready for publication into the mix because I actually am having a very difficult time even re-outlining the third book. I have the time, but the problem is that I am so mentally drained that all I want to do is decompress and remove myself from anything stimulating. ADHD medication can only do so much, but I very much am neurodivergent when it comes to how often I need to decompress to prevent burnout and in turn succeed at my classes.

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Some writers believe you need to write a little bit every day, even if it’s just 100 words. Those writers neither understand that not everyone has the same 24 hours in a day nor do they understand that not everyone has the same mental faculties.

I wrote a whole novel last summer. I haven’t really written anything since, and I don’t feel bad for it. Do I miss it? Absolutely! I would love to get back to revisions on the novel I did last summer, but physical therapy school has to take priority. It’s a doctorate and as such demands an incredible amount of discipline and mental energy that no one who has ever done a doctorate will understand. Frankly, writing a novel cannot compare because with writing a novel, you are doing it because you want to, 100%. You might not like every part of the process, but you are doing it knowing you have all the time in the world. Earning a doctorate means taking a few classes you may not enjoy, doing assignments you may absolutely despise, enduring practicals that are emotionally taxing and intensely stressful because you can’t get anything less than a B, studying things you find mind-numbingly dull but are necessary to progress in your degree, prepping for back-to-back exams, and bearing the weight of knowing that as each term progresses, it only gets harder, and as such you don’t want to slip up and fail and have to redo a class, putting you behind–and then, of course, let’s not forget clinicals and the looming boards in order to be licensed as a physical therapist. Oh, you also don’t have all the time in the world because you’re only allowed to fail so many times before you’re kicked out. At least with writing a novel, you can mess up an infinite number of times.

The stress is just different.

I also have ADHD. That adds another layer of what I’m able to tolerate. People with ADHD don’t have as high of a stress threshold as those without, so decompressing is absolutely crucial for us. We burnout more easily than neurotypicals do.

When I am done with hours of studying, I am mentally drained. I don’t want to do anything that requires mental effort, which is why I play video games and watch TV in my spare time. That is how I decompress. I read books as well and have taken up painting again. Even my job is an escape because it doesn’t require much mental effort. However much I love writing, writing a novel is mentally taxing and requires mental effort I do not have and cannot force. I don’t care what that one author said about how if we only wrote when we wanted to, we never would. That, frankly, is absolute bullshit. When I outline the third novel of The Stars Trilogy, I want to be at my semi-best so that this outline is something I can actually work with. I’ve already outlined the novel once, after all, and I want to change it entirely. If I tried to outline after I just got done studying for pathophysiology, it would be half-hearted, rushed, and garbage, to be frank. I even had a hard time fitting in a workout I was so drained.

Perhaps once I get more comfortable with school in general, with the idea that I can pass all of my classes without failing, I can begin to compartmentalize my days more and squeeze in writing before my brain has lost all of its energy. For now, I am fine with the idea I may not pick up the proverbial pen again until I graduate.

My Thoughts On My First Term of Physical Therapy School As a Flex Student

My Thoughts On My First Term of Physical Therapy School As a Flex Student

This term was tumultuous, not because of COVID (although that played a part in it), but because life loves getting in the way so much that sometimes you wonder how you’re going to make it through four full years. It seems absolutely nothing can go wrong in your personal life. Nothing, lest you wind up slipping and failing a test or two or three.

You’re constantly studying for something once you reach a certain point–and it’s not just a little studying that you can get away with. It’s a lot of studying that you must do. And oftentimes you are studying for a test at what seems the last minute because you were too busy preparing for a practical or a previous test that you had to put off that test. All of my finals I only had about two to three days each to study for, although I did get a head start on my applied anatomy final because the professor released the study guide two weeks in advance. I’m just not used to that, not when I was able to get weeks ahead of everything in all of my prerequisites.

Grad school is so difficult because you are learning far more information than you ever did in your undergrad, and it’s exceedingly so when you are working on a doctorate or a PhD. But I imagine things would be so much worse if I didn’t have my cohort; I know with a lot of other grad programs, you are very much working in isolation. We are all taking the same classes, doing the same assignments, striving for the same thing with no competition between us. We all chat on GroupMe, and we all feel the same things. It was never just me that felt like a test was too hard. It was never just me that was freaking out about a practical, not knowing if I’d pass or not.

Somehow I managed to come away with 4 A’s and a B+. How? I have no clue. I got a 70 on a midterm in soft tissue and didn’t think three A’s would be enough to pull that up to an A, but somehow it was enough. With gross anatomy, the second exam was tough as was the final–and I don’t guess well. But still, an A. Somehow. And I found the midterm and final for evidence informed practice to be a little challenging, so getting an A in that class was surprising. I also found the final for physical therapy practice to be a little challenging as well, even moreso because I threw luck to the wind and studied only quizlets I found online. But I wound up with an A in that class too. And applied anatomy? I think I got a B+ because all of my assignments were B’s. My very first practical I scraped by with an 84, and at the point of my testing, I had the highest score (don’t know if anyone who came after beat it, but I’m sure others did).

Despite these great grades, I am still very nervous for next term because I now know what’s in store. We were told our first term would be the hardest since it is a period of adjustment. You have to essentially learn how to study again. You have to get used to absorbing a great deal of information. You have to develop the mental stamina to be able to study all the time. My ocular muscles are so strong now that my eyes don’t jump around from studying anymore like they used to. And you have to make great sacrifices, sacrifices so great I had to center myself and figure out how to make my marriage work among all this as well as being able to keep my small part-time job because I just like making money.

It is so hard, and I’m just a flex student! I took five classes while the residential students took seven.

There were many times where I felt like I was crashing and burning out. There were many times where it was my anxiety keeping me going, even during the moments where my light had burned out. There were many times where I mulled over therapy, mulled over seeking a diagnosis for ADHD because my study habits are honestly crap despite my grades. It’s very possible I would not have needed to study all that time if I could just keep my butt down and study for two hours straight instead of being distracted by whatever flew into my mind. And I’m going to be honest and say I rarely did my readings.

Yet, somehow I did it.

We are told to not worry about grades, to learn the material. But the mindset that grades matter is frankly impossible to break when you’ve grown up being told that they are. After all, the only students who ever received actual awards during school were students with great grades. There were only ever A and A and B honor rolls, never B honor rolls or even a most improved honor roll or anything like that. And we all know that perfect attendance awards are classist/ableist jokes. So I want to keep the momentum going while ensuring I do learn the material so that I am the best physical therapist possible.

It’s so hard to separate proficient learning from that letter grade. Getting a C would make me feel like I haven’t learned the material at all. Getting a C would have me sailing into the arms of my success advisor. If I get a C next term, then I could fail the following term. Or so the thought process believes.

I know this sounds super bleak, but this is raw, this is honest. PT school is not for the faint of heart. You have to be truly passionate about this discipline to get through it despite the struggle. You have to understand that even when you’re being brought to your knees, you have to get back up and keep going. You also have to understand that PT school is hard. It is supposed to be. Even the smartest, even those who might have graduated valedictorian, are going to find it hard.

Despite being terrified of next term, I have hope that somehow I will cope better. Somehow I will manage my mind better. I will be used to it all.

I Want to Talk About Dysphoric Mania (or Mixed States)

I Want to Talk About Dysphoric Mania (or Mixed States)

Before I begin, I’m going to try to reel this blog back in and let it be a lifestyle blog, talking about whatever is going on in my life, whether that’s the writer side of things the student side of things or what have you. Put simply, I’m going to try and let this blog flow naturally from whatever I feel is relevant to talk about at the time so as not to alienate those who have been reading this blog for a little bit. I’d also like to try and blog a bit more regularly, but there are no promises.

The last time I blogged was at the beginning of April, probably a week or two before I started slipping into a little bit of depression; however, it was relatively mild compared to what I was used to. I still had some motivation to do things, even though it was less than it usually was (so I had zero motivation for work, just for school), my appetite was unchanged, and I didn’t have the usual fervent desire to sleep in really late and go to bed as soon as I could. (But I was binge drinking on the weekends, so there’s that.) It was just feeling down and grouchy and irritable and a little bit burnt out. A busy work day made me more irritable than it usually would–I railed against it, in fact, screaming in my mind, “I don’t want to do this! I can’t stand this,” but being able to do it anyway, so could it have really been depression?

In fact, I thought it was all just mere burnout. Once the semester ends, I told myself, and I get some breathing room, I’ll be back to normal.

Of course, that didn’t exactly happen. Even when I started precalculus I still had some of the depression, but it was starting to dip more into anxiety at that point, so I thought of speaking with my psychiatrist about getting put on an anti-anxiety medication. And, no, I didn’t call her right away. I didn’t feel it urgent enough and told myself I could wait until August to have it taken care of. I simply thought I just needed a chill pill so the pressures of getting into a DPT program didn’t seem so much.

Then, out of nowhere, I started feeling good. Really good. Things were falling into place. I was doing great in precalculus and doing much better than I expected. Things at work were going great–my clients were building back up again, my Pilates class was building up since it was moved from Friday to Wednesday. Observation hours were going great. I started at a skilled nursing facility, so three settings in the bag. I was able to fit in more physical activity.

I thought I was just gaining a new lease on life and finally accepting that I was not a fraud and that I really am an awesome person capable of doing awesome things so there is absolutely no reason for me to feel insecure or worry about how intelligent I am to handle the hard sciences and so on and so forth.

After four good days though, four days that felt perfect, I began journaling my thoughts, and I realized what it was: hypomania. It makes rational sense since such an episode can precede or even proceed depression. And so it was then I had to admit my depression was bipolar depression. It also explained my ability to suddenly be on the AMT for a lot longer than 30 minutes and then following it up with a session of resistance training and still having energy left over to do more and more things.

Prior to this, I’d been stable for a little over three years. I thought I had put bipolar disorder behind me. I thought I had finally developed the strength to be able to overcome any ensuing episodes. Turns out I was really just in remission and was tipped over the edge from all the stress in my life. I’d argue it’s positive stress, but even good stress is still stress.

So I’m on week six of this roller coaster of hypomania/mania/dysphoric mania, and I’m not going to lie and say it’s all awful–some parts are just really freaking awesome. I’m almost done with a rough draft of a contemporary YA novel, and I’ve been on a hiatus for over two years! Granted, I’m on medical leave, but even if I weren’t, I still likely would have started writing a novel. Even when I was at work I wrote enough poetry to make an anthology. You’ve gotta do something with the manic energy, after all. You can’t just let it get pent up.

So the jarring reality that I’m a bipolarite for life is daunting when the future, that is me being in PT school, will allow for no slip-ups.

But I don’t want to talk about depression or hypomania or even mania. I want to talk about dysphoric mania because I don’t think it gets spoken about enough. I’m going through a little bit of dysphoric mania right now, luckily without any suicidality–but I feel down and want to cry but with the energy to do things (I didn’t want to come home from biking and would have biked all day if it weren’t for the fact that I’m married and have a husband who needs me. And if it weren’t biking, I would have wandered off somewhere else, likely blowing more money from my savings or going to bars or something. I really did not want to come home).

Depression gets enough attention. I believe most people have experienced some sort of depression throughout their lives, whether it’s situational or clinical. The percentage of people with bipolar disorder, however, is small (2.6%) and may be bigger since a lot of people don’t seek diagnosis for it or are often misdiagnosed because they are unable to grasp when they’re manic. In contrast, 6.7% of people experience a major depressive episode at least once in their lifetimes. But 15% of people will experience some form of depression. So while there are those out there who believe you need to suck it up, pull yourself by your bootstraps and move on, no one really talks about dysphoric mania because it is so unlike depression.

It is the type of mixture of mania and depression that can get you typecast as crazy.

It is the type of state that made me attempt suicide by trying to drink myself to death (I didn’t even get to the point of throwing up since you can drink so much more and be fine when you’re manic, but not like I knew that!) and being absolutely ambivalent that I failed. I did wind up, for the fifth time, in a psychiatric ward convinced I’d be healed of the mania by the time I got out. I’m so used to being more depressive than manic, but when I think about it, there was a time when I was hypomanic for three months when I was on Abilify, but it never ping-ponged because I was blissfully unaware. I simply thought I had developed a hyperthymic temperament. If I had been aware, my mood likely would have started undulating the way it has been.

In my normal depressive episodes, I wouldn’t have even had the energy to do something like that. Or it’s more like I wouldn’t have had the motivation. I could think about it, even make plans, but I never would have followed through with any of them because dying itself takes a certain amount of energy. But with dysphoric mania? All those dangerous impulses you’ve had cycling in your head are suddenly a manic hamster on a wheel, and you just choose the most appealing way of hurting yourself to stop the insanity.

Your flights of thoughts are not fun anymore. My flights of thoughts include biking, writing, studying, reading, writing, writing, writing, more reading, wanting to go out biking but it’s too late, listening to music on full volume pretty much all day, occasionally coloring, cooking, cleaning–there’s always so much to do, do, do, and never enough hours in the day. I don’t want to slow down. What is slowing down anyway? It’s all about speed! Also, sometimes impulsive spending. My bike was an impulsive purchase, but one I made knowing I still had plenty of money in my savings.

Yet, during dysphoric mania, the thoughts darken to slitting your wrists, drowning yourself, jumping from a tall building, drinking yourself into a stupor, doing something absolutely reckless that makes you high but also has the potential to kill you, speeding really fast while raging against all that is slow and crying that you’re like this and why do you have to be like this and wishing you were just plain-old depressed because when you’re down it’s actually burdensome to be full of energy and you wanna claw off your skin and cry while exclaiming everything is so wonderful and jump of a cliff while realizing you have a book to finish and–

My dysphoria today makes me feel down and sad, but it doesn’t preclude me from wanting to do something about the energy. That can be a blessing and a curse, but I made it a blessing because I went out and biked for several hours instead of hopping on over to a bar and drinking myself into a blissful slumber. I cried a little bit (tears mostly leaking from my eyes) when I found myself at a creek and started wading through it because the sadness is just so profound, but I got back on my bike and continued on a journey that was still thrilling. There were times throughout this little trek that Iwished I could bike so fast I’d go flying, so I took a few calculated risks to get that rush, but there were times that I did temper it when I came upon an especially rocky area that could damage both me and my bike.

I have been very fearless as of late. I know I’m still at it when I wake up in the morning and ask myself if I’d still like to go skydiving, and if the answer is yes, then I know I haven’t found my way back to the rational world.

Sometimes dysphoric mania, however, can leave you not wanting to do anything, so the energy is a winding buzz of caffeine x100 that makes you want to scream–so you sometimes do–and tear your skin off because all you want to do is sleep but you can’t without downing a higher prescription of your sleep medication than what you normally would take. It was this type of dysphoria that made me try exceedingly hard to die by overconsumption of alcohol.

It’s not fun. It’s moments like these that make me want to reestablish some semblance of normalcy. I’m going to be honest: Hypomania is absolutely fun, even with the rage and irritability. Mania itself isn’t so much because the energy is too much, and when you’re in a situation where you have to temper it (it’s much easier to control when hypomanic) you might appear bizarre to the people who know you: you cannot stay still so you pace or rock on your heels or snap your fingers, you’re not controlling your rapid speech, you’re an excess of you (my morbid sense of humor was slightly out of control when I was observing at the VA), you scream in your car to release some energy, you sing really loud to release some more, and when you are in a situation where you can indulge the energy, you’re looking for thrills that will tear the most out of you, even if you are aware you will look absolutely absurd.

You can also survive on much, much less sleep. I nearly went the entire night without sleeping but decided I should probably try because the energy was starting to become unbearable; however, I survived on roughly four hours of sleep without any issues. Even hypomanic I still have some sense to try and get in at least six or seven hours. Normally, I need more than that because the Seroquel takes longer to drain from my system, but it drains from my system within 30 minutes to an hour upon waking versus the three hours it normally takes so that I stop feeling groggy.

I get mixed at least once a week, sometimes more depending. Last Wednesday threatened to do me in with a mixed state, but I biked like a maniac and was able to ward it off. I even brought myself down to hypomania the next day from having done so. So of course I went out and bought my own bike. What a great coping mechanism!

I become a completely different person when I’m mixed.

Right now I am sad and want to cry and am silent and when I do speak it’s in bursts of short chatter, but I am also thinking about how much I freaking love mountain biking and my mind is obsessively fixated on practicing on the mountain biking trail at the Augusta Canal so I can then go mountain biking at Bartram Trail of Clark’s Hill and I desperately want to do it tomorrow but I also want to mark out the path I’m going to take to work and need to bike that so that way there are no screw-ups that make me late for work or put me in any kind of danger and I bought myself a mountain biking outfit that I’m really thrilled to get and really want to start a mountain biking club and–

And that is the state of my mind right now.

Some days I simply feel crazy.

 

 

Why I Have Chosen Physical Therapy

Why I Have Chosen Physical Therapy

I have decided to change the direction of this blog a little bit to match more with how my life currently is. I haven’t had much time to write the third book of The Stars Trilogy¬†because I always find I’m having to prioritize studying–and I perceive my life being this way for quite some time. (I knowing I’m pulling a George R.R. Martin with the last book in the trilogy.) So I’d like to start documenting my experiences as a pre-PT, non-traditional student who has a Bachelor’s in English and just needs to complete pre-requisites in order to apply. I was thinking of documenting things after being accepted but figured it’d be much more beneficial for future pre-PT students to understand just what they’re going to have to do to make their dreams work for them.

I plan to start applying the fall of 2019 so that way I can hopefully start either the summer or fall of 2020 at University of St. Augustine. My plan is to take the GRE this summer, so I’ll definitely be able to write about that and document what I’m doing to prepare for it–and hopefully my preparation gives me a decent score.

Currently I’m taking anatomy and physiology II and medical terminology, and I foresee A’s in both of them when the semester is through…which is soon. I’m not taking a full course load, mostly because I’m able to pay for school out of pocket with my job as a personal trainer–and trying to do a full course load would not be at all friendly with the type of schedule I’d like to keep to train my current set of clients. I don’t want to take out a loan until PT school, as I know that’s when the debt will start building up.

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I’ve thought for quite some time about why I’d like to do physical therapy. It’s likely a question that’s going to pop up in a PT school interview. Hopefully by then I’ll have the reason down to three concise sentences, but I’d like to use this post to really put out there why I’m pursuing PT.

Back when I was a trainer at the Y and in desperate need of a second income, I applied for a PT rehab aide position, got the interview, and had to get an immediate answer about whether or not I’d gotten the job, or else I would have been stuck working Walmart (the hiring manager was going to hire me the same day since he saw my customer service skills at the Y). So thank goodness I received a reply and got the job as a rehab aide, or else thing would likely be very different right now, and probably not in a good way. Not to put down Walmart workers, but a lifelong career there is not an aspiration of mine.

I worked there for about three months until I had to go where the money was, but it was being a rehab aide that launched me on this journey of self-discovery. As a rehab aide, I was toying with the idea of PT school but was terrified of having to take chemistry as a prerequisite. But I loved the rehab side of the human body more than the personal training side. I knew I wanted to rehab people. I fell in love with the way patients would express a deep sense of gratitude because the PTs either rid them of their pain or greatly decreased it. It’s not the gratitude that I’m after, of course. It’s the knowledge that I would be part of a profession that aims to improve someone’s quality of life.

As a personal trainer who trains many clients going through rehab, I love how physical therapy has improved many of their conditions that otherwise make my job a little bit harder; I have to rack my brain for a way to work around the pain. Oftentimes that is not easy. In reality, I want to be the person who one day treats that pain. I want to be a part of that since pain can severely decrease a person’s quality of life. I would know, having dealt with fibromylagia, a bone spur in my left ankle, and a jammed hip.

Pain can be an all-consuming force, the only thing your mind can fixate on throughout the day. It can prevent you from doing the things you want to do, from doing the things you need to do. It causes disability world wide.

Physical therapists aren’t magicians, but they are on the front line in pain management since they take a holistic approach that involves neither surgery nor medication. Surgery can be costly, and while there is no shame in needing to take medications, physical therapy provides a long-term solution to pain management. Medication for pain simply masks the symptoms–they generally don’t target the cause.

My local community college was supposed to get a PTA program, and I was absolutely set on this, had already signed up for it, only to be told that they, in fact, failed in getting the program. I was then going to settle for either OT or OTA. I’ll admit to feeling a little bit lackluster about having to settle for this. After all, the biomechanics of the human body is what draws me toward physical therapy. The only draw toward OT is the idea that it’s still rehab and it still helps people, but I don’t have a true, concrete reason for wanting to do OT the way I do with PT.

Frustrated with my CC’s inability to get the PTA program, I began to look in to other PTA programs. There’s one about an hour from where I live, so it’d be an hour commute to and back, possibly either 4 or 5 days a week. My dad didn’t think it was such a good idea considering the wear and tear I’d put on my car. He told me to just stick with OT. At the time I agreed.

What ultimately pushed me toward PT was a stroller workout instructor who casually dropped she was in PT school. I was taken aback by this information considering it was roughly 10 AM on a weekday when I was speaking to her, and so I was wondering why she wasn’t in class. Most DPT programs are full time, Monday through Friday. Later she explained to me she was doing a flex program through the University of St. Augustine. As you can guess, I immediately began doing my research.

As I looked into the program, I settled on switching from OT to PT. The program would still allow me to work until clinicals, as it’s a 4 year instead of a 3 year program, meaning you’re usually not taking more than 12 credit hours a semester. It’s flex in that most of the material is online, and you go on campus twice a month on the weekends for about 16 hours at a time. The university is 5 hours from where I live, so I can drive there on a Friday afternoon and spend the weekend there.

Things are very different when you’re married. My husband makes decent money, but I don’t want him to feel financially burdened while I’m in school. This flex program will keep the burden off him, at least until clinicals. I also know he strongly disapproves of me going away for college and living in a dormitory. When you’re married, that marriage does have to take some sort of priority in your life. College can’t override it, or else the marriage won’t survive.

Maybe you’re wondering why I don’t look into a local program. It’d be much cheaper, for sure. For one, the university doesn’t take anatomy from a CC, so I’d have to take out a loan to take their anatomy class–it is much pricier! Another reason is that their program is 3 years, and I’d have to quit my job to survive. A final reason is they highly suggest the rest of the prerequisites be taken at a 4-year university, so I have a strong suspicion they look more favorably upon people who have taken those classes there. This doesn’t mean I’m ruling them out as an option, but they are going to be my last option when I’ve exhausted all others.

I’m at the point where I refuse to settle for less. It’s PT or, as a final option, PTA. I’ll suffer through the hour commute, but only after I’ve applied to my program of choice 2 or 3 times and still can’t get in. Yet, if I can’t get into that program, then I’d likely stand no chance at getting into the local program here. US of A is known as the school of second chances for those who have been kicked out of their university’s previous programs. I’ve heard great things about this program, and I truly believe online learning is where things are going to be headed, especially as more working adults return to school and do not have the luxury of quitting their jobs. But that’s a post for another time.

I’ve had a chance to see what OT is like since I’ve been doing observation hours at the VA. I am absolutely certain I don’t want to have to settle. Perhaps I’d enjoy it. I don’t know. What I do know is that because I can’t find my ‘why’ behind wanting to do that instead of PT, then OT certainly isn’t for me.

You need a ‘why.’ You can’t go lightly into the medical field with a vague reason for why you want to do whatever it is you want to do. Money isn’t a good reason. You’ll burn out fast, grow bitter, and probably end up treating your patients poorly. Ideally you’ll be in the medical field for most of your working life, so you need to make sure it’s a career you absolutely want to do. Not to mention you’ll have loans to pay back if you’ve had to take some out. So make sure you’re taking out those loans for a career you’ll know you’ll stick with for a while.

I decided all of this back in October, so I’ve had some time to chew on it. My feelings for this haven’t lessened any. If anything, they’ve only strengthened my resolve as the days have passed. I want to get into DPT school more than anything else right now. I can’t see myself wanting to do anything else now that my mind is much more open to possibilities beyond what I was searching for within my English major.

I’m a dreamer. I’ll do whatever I have to do to make my dreams work. I’ve made most of the dreams I’ve ever had come true, so I know I’ll make this one happen.