Posts Tagged ‘medical school’

It is the third year of my medical school and I am in a psychiatric ER, against my will, and on the phone with my course director who states the dean promises that they will treat this incident just like any other acute illness requiring hospitalization.

How did I get there? I think it was a perfect storm. Sure, almost every month I have times where I am actively planning every little detail of my death, but this time was different. It was Ramadan thus I was fasting from food/liquid and because of this I had not taken my Ritalin for 2 weeks or so. At first it wasn’t going so bad but suddenly, or so it seems to me, I started crying at the slightest thing. People would make tiny criticisms and I’d just fall apart.

It was also the anniversary of my grandmothers death, who you know was very close to me. I could feel the fear and apprehension of actually having to face it start to mount.

My wife was also pregnant and in her last weeks. I did not feel prepared, I did not feel like I should be a father.

Autism- the beginning

Posted: June 19, 2011 in autism, medicine
Tags: ,

For years I was told by members of my family, my wife, and a few friends that I had aspergers or high-functioning autism but I brushed them off because I thought they were just too eager to fit me into a nice explained box. My odd behaviors and “special” way of communicating with people felt like a bunch of quirks that bundled together made my personality

This all changed one day in medical school during a psychiatry lecture on some non-specific topic. I was sitting there bored so I started randomly reading articles that were stuck in our notes and landed on one from a NY times author about how he discovered he had high functioning autism (HFA) by the time he was an adult. Much to my surprise, the article made me very upset, so much so that there were tears coming down my face because of how much I identified with the writer. I was upset that all these features that I once thought were unique ended fitting nicely into a diagnosis. It wasn’t the typical medical student neurosis of “OH NO I’M COUGHING I HAVE PNEUMOCYSTIS PNEUMONIA”, it was more than that. All these quirks, not just one but ALL, fit nicely into a little autistic box. My great ability with numbers/computers, my severe speech delay, my clumsiness, lack of tact, and my social ineptness all lined up with this diagnosis.

To help sort things out I made an appointment to talk to one of our psychiatrist professors. After a talk of why I thought I may be autistic and my troubled past she agreed that I had a form of aspergers or high functioning autism. This was a little surprising as I have seen psychiatrists for 18 years pretty much constantly, been diagnosed as Major depression(duh), OCD, Bipolar(oh come on-wheres the manic part in my life?), schizotypal(not even close) but never autism. There is a footnote to this though: As mentioned in a previous post a “case report” was written on me when I was younger, could that have labeled me as autism? No one remembers, so it is lost in the past.

After months of struggling to come to term with it (I thought I was unique?) I accepted the diagnosis and allowed myself to be at peace with this one part of my life.  I have even become comfortable to the point that on a whim I tell people I have aspergers. Because of my pretty much non-selective way of sharing this information I have had a very wide range of reactions, from good: “ooh that’s why you act like that/said that” to bad: from a med school evaluation “Cannot keep a professional distance from clinical staff”. I have also had different experiences from my fellow classmates and have been shaped in different ways
because of my mind structure. It seems because of my outside experience of the “group conscious” that I escape many of the unspoken social pressures that change many neurotypicals.

Oddly enough, this same psychiatrist ended up involuntarily committing me to the hospital and later  suggested I write an article about Aspergers and medical school. But, sadly, my writing skills don’t really trap and interest readers as you have most likely experienced here.

Warning: As someone with high functioning autism, my writing can be very dry and be filled with facts and information. Consider this a warning for all of my posts.

Never let your past stop you from moving ahead with your life. Although you may have made mistakes or taken a bad path in the past you can *always* return to the path of success, it just will be a little more complicated and may take longer. To support this I will describe my story, the factors against me, and the bad choices I made.

In the beginning: As a small child I was developmentally delayed and had a very severe speech problem.  It was to the point that my “educators” thought I averbal (lacking verbal skills, unable to communicate verbally) and was put in a special education class. My mother even signed a release for a researcher to publish a “Case review” (Case reviews are medical articles focusing on a specific patient with a rare or unique presentation of a disease or disorder) about my condition(my mom doesn’t remember what I was diagnosed as: I wonder if it was autism? Aspergers? A genetic condition?).  After standardized testing I was allowed to re-enter the general student population but had to take speech therapy for 6 years. Then in high school we had standardized testing(yet again) and I was placed a year ahead in some classes (math, English, science). Problem was when I became 12 I suddenly felt overwhelmingly depressed. I began cutting myself nonstop in discrete places on my body.  I didn’t put an effort in anything and had no interests or hobbies. I struggled with even getting out of bed and my longest school attendance streak was 4 days in a row.  It got to the point of being hospitalized for psychiatric reasons several times which in turn made school even more difficult. So, logically, I dropped out in 11th grade to wallow in my depression. But I was lucky enough that there was an “alternative highschool” near me and there were people to push and get things done in my name. The school allowed me to graduate with a highschool diploma, were very lax with time restrictions (which I struggle with), and worked around my mental illness.

After highschool I had a very hard time mentally. I attempted suicide multiple times and was in and out of psychiatric hospitals. I thought everything was hopeless and I was convinced I would die by suicide or some other violent means before I was 21.  I even started receiving shock treatments (electroconvulsive therapy, ECT or EST) because of the crippling effect of my depression. But thanks to my psychiatrist, wife, and family I was pushed into going into community college.  I started in computers but switched to liberal arts aiming to go to an ivy league college. I still battled depression and there were multiple times I almost committed myself to the hospital. Yet, despite all this, I ended up being accepted to an ivy league school.

At this prestigious school, my depression got worse and I felt alone on a campus of +10,000 students.  I became jaded with medicine and didn’t apply to medical school at the time most students did. Instead I moved to a different city, quit my psych meds and started cutting myself profusely again. Eventually I applied to medical schools and was accepted even though I am perhaps one of the worst interviewees there can be.

While in med school I was told repeatedly that I “didn’t have a doctors personality” and I would “never last”. They were right in some part, as I did have some trouble with social aspects and intercommunication skills. My depression also hit a low and I was involuntary committed to the hospital my 3rd year of medical school. I then had a wonderful time as my lovely dean tried to block me from being reinstated as a student after finding out it was a mental hospital that I had spent time in.

Yet, despite all of this: the speech problem, the supposed mental delay, the overwhelming specific obsessions, dropping out highschool, the multiple forced hospital admissions, the 100 plus procedures that fried my brain, and all the people telling me it’s impossible and I can never do it, I am a full-fledged doctor. Not only that, this supposed mental handicapped, mentally ill, socially inept person scored higher than at least 50% of his healthy, normal, non-mentally ill fellow students.

Point is: We all have challenges and no matter how large they seem or how everyone is yelling “you can’t do that”, you CAN achieve your goals and there IS a way. You just have to search for it, press HARD, and
don’t give in.