Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Dreams Change

This is a story of how I didn't become a doctor. So when I was younger, about 12, I wanted to go to Stanford and be a doctor. But I never applied, and I never even really tried. I was dealing with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder and was so overwhelmed and was paralyzed that I didn't know where to start. I was always shy and quiet as a young child. I read A LOT. A LOT. So much so that, I'd sneak read when I'd go to bed and I would wake up early to read. I'd carry my books everywhere, even to family parties. Now that I think about it, it makes sense now why it's hard for me to give a book away (something my husband has asked me to do in an effort to reduce "clutter" from our home). Looking back, being shy and reading books was probably just a way that I dealt with the social anxiety.

Anyhow, I decided to attend a college a out 500 miles from home. That exasperated my anxiety. While I didn't know I had anxiety, I went to see a counselor with the issue of procrastinating studying. I was doing well in my classes (not super well, but A/B average well), but it didn't come from a lot of studying, mostly just taking notes and listening (I'm very a visual/auditory learner). And for the entire school year, I went to see this therapist who tried to do a lot of study tactics like scheduling, planning, goal-setting, and rewards but it didn't work. Throughout the year, I called home crying, feeling like I was in a horrible situation. I didn't get more support from home or from school, but trudged along. At the end of the year, to my mother's disappointment I decided to not return, she thought it was because my boyfriend lived back home, but honestly I was just too anxious and traumatized to be away from my comfort zone. I didn't have any tools to deal with anxiety.

I decided to major in psychology, which must have helped, but even then I didn't know I had anxiety disorder. I had a super supportive boyfriend, and despite all of my insecurities, likely stemming from a lot of anxiety, he helped me out a lot by just listening and instilling a sense of confidence in me that I had never had before. Growing up I didn't get negative attention or put-downs, but I also didn't get a lot of mirroring or validation so I always felt unsure of whether what I felt was real or not and I finally had someone in my life who was so sure of me that I learned to be sure of me. I finished my BA in 3 years out of fear of burdening my parents with student loan debt (ironically enough, I only burdened myself in their divorce) and went straight into graduate school for my MPH. I was still having a difficult time with anxiety. I went to my doctor and was referred to a therapist. And while I think that helped a little, these therapists didn't diagnose me with anything, or at least they didn't tell me. I saw lots of therapists for years.

Then I went to nursing school and had a miserable time. I had a discrimination problem with the administration (a long story for another day) and spiraled into the worst depression ever. I was about 28, just getting diagnosed with anxiety when my therapist suggested medication. Unlike some people who get depressed though, I wasn't the kind of person to not do what I needed to do. I just didn't thrive or shine like one should. I guess I would say I have high functioning depression/anxiety. And then the psychiatric nurse who was my therapist suggested antidepressants. I thought about it for a few weeks before I said yes. I went to my doctor, took a PHQ-9 where I scored pretty high and was prescribed Celexa. It worked to push the anxiety from the front of my forehead to the back corner of my mind. And the side effects on libido on constipation were definitely there. I continued to see my therapists and my anxiety slowly got better. I went to a few anxiety support groups, one from church and one from Kaiser. After two years of work in therapy, graduating nursing school, and starting a new job, I was able to stop medication and work through it with just therapy alone, for now. I saw for now, because you never know at what moment things will change and require more support. I'm not afraid to restart medication, it helped me. And I was lucky that the first one I tried would be helpful because for some people it takes 7 or 8 types to find the right balance (HINT: I took the 23andme genetic test and it told me that I would have moderate success with certain medications).

I thought I wanted to go into medicine. And had I had better control of my anxiety and depression, maybe I would have. Now that I'm in nursing, I realize that nursing is perfect for me and that medicine is just not for me. It's a stressful job (and yes most nursing is stressful too, but in a different way), with a lot of responsibility, sacrifice, debt, and lifestyle that just wasn't authentically me. Could I have been happy as a physician? Probably, but I'd also be a different person, I think. I have a lot of admiration for my physician colleagues because that is the longest delayed gratification if there was any. And for all of the hard work, you get such little gratitude. My mother said I would have been a doctor if I didn't get a boyfriend (that boyfriend is now my husband of 6 years, one and only love, and number one supporter). Probably not, but I am honestly happy with what I have now (except the nursing school loan debt-- but even then it was worth it). Now I think about if I truly want to pursue this Nurse Practitioner thing or am happy with where I am now in nursing.

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