Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Turn On, Tune In, DROP OUT!

I was a little too young for Leary and granted, he didn't mean the last part literally but I have "dropped out" or left university level education a total of three times. How crazy is that?

No really. How "crazy" is that? In retrospect, I have to wonder just what my "problem" is-- psychologically and neurologically speaking in terms of my diagnoses.

The first time was fresh out of high school and I just couldn't deal with it. I had struggled during my final year to bring my average up to just barely an "A" after completely disintegrating a few years earlier. After always being at the top of my class, my grades had plummeted in my early years of high school and it was devastating. But I was determined to go to university because I knew that I was smart and that was just "what you did" after high school.

So off I went, terrified. I made no friends, hated the communal bathrooms and the cafeteria that served barely edible food. What to study? Hell if I knew?! I would stare vacantly at the course calendar and try to just pick something, anything. I finally did and in that day, with no advanced technology, you had to stand in long lineups, hoping that by the time you got to the front of the queue the course wouldn't be full. If so, you'd have fo race off to your second or third or fourth choice and try for that. I couldn't bear it. I even got my first and only bee sting while there signing up for those courses! I lasted a month. I couldn't concentrate, longed for home. I quit.

I worked for a year and saved some money, not giving up but trying to figure out another path. I knew I couldn't stay working in a retail job for the rest of my life. I was still determined to obtain a degree. But in what, I still had no clue. I was sorely in need of some guidance but there was no one to give it.

Attempt number two brought me to a satellite campus of a very large university and I liked it. In fact, I thrived. You want to know why? My little friend Bipolar Disorder had come to greet me! It's amazing how well one can do in school with the average(?) amount of effort when hypomanic. For the first time in a long time (since childhood!) I was getting A+'s as final marks! I even went to a couple of my final exams (not the A+ ones) drunk and in one case, it improved my final mark! In the other, I will assume I just stayed the same. No harm, no foul? Uh huh.

I was taking a rather eclectic mix of courses. Since I'd never fared well in sciences as a kid (that came a bit later?) I stuck with "Liberal Arts" or "Humanities" and my degree program was kind of a "build your own" with very few mandatory courses and a lot of electives. It was fun. But it lacked direction and I soon became "bored." In fine Bipolar/ADD fashion I dropped out yet again and decided that I wanted "real world" experience and that would come through working full time where I had been currently holding down part time employment. Not to mention (or maybe this was just further justifcation I used for my decision) the economy was shifting here and soon the workplace would be flooded with so many undergraduates with "useless" degrees such as mine. 'What was the point?' I thought. May as well get out now and ensure that job.

Well, "that job" didn't exactly pan out as I thought. I never thought I'd stay there forever but it actually turned out rather badly for me. It could be a whole other post but let's just say that I was basically "let go" for being "mentally ill." Even though they didn't use that as cause, everyone knew it was the real reason.

So on to attempt number three. A few years ago, I decided that it was time for a change. Yes, I wanted to go back to school and get my nursing degree. Some very kind (but deluded?) people actually suggested that I pursue a degree in medicine. I thanked them for their confidence in me but the thought of me actually being a doctor scares the hell out of me. My alma mater has a B.Sc.N program where they would accept all of my prior courses for credit. All I needed was a first year Anatomy and Physiology and a half course in Statistics to continue to study there. Fair enough.

The A&P was fabulous. A- final mark. The Statistics? I bombed. I don't even know my final mark. It was so bad that my first exam was about a 47% and I just kept dropping from there. It was a really fast and condensed summer course too and I worked really hard, had a friend who has a Masters Degree in Science tutor me but still, I just tanked. And with that, drop out number three...and a trip to the psych ward. I'm not kidding.

I'm intelligent, smart? My comprehension is excellent (well, except perhaps for Mathematics) but I can pretty much pick up most other things if I try hard enough (well, that Chemistry gets me too and I've never taken a Physics course in my life.) However my recall is poor. Hence the riotous laughter at being a doctor. Can you see me with the open textbook and/or laptop looking up surgical procedures as I'm going along in the operating room? Or heaven forbid, fucking up on scripts and killing someone--or any other number of ways I could kill someone! Absent-minded Professor is more like it and well, yes, perhaps a career an The Hallowed Halls of Academia may have suited me.

So this just sort of falls in line with some of the other ADD related items that I need to speak to my new psychiatrist about. Lack of focus and impulsive decision making, not feeling happy in career choices, wanting several career choices (even though nursing was the only path I actively pursued, there have been other things I've wanted to be but I've never done anything about), feeling like I should be further ahead in life...I could go on and on but those are some things that are directly related to this post anyway.

I've done the "checklists" and the self-reporting scales. Even though they don't provide you with a diagnosis proper they can give you a pretty good picture.

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