Monday, May 23, 2011

Two Years. The scars remind me that the past is real.

I started writing a blog post last week about finishing my first year of medical school, but stopped writing after about half a page. I looked at the date and my mind got distracted.

It has now been two full years since my accident. Two years. Wow, it’s hard to believe. It’s hard to believe I’ve come this far. I never thought I’d make it.

Things have become routine now. I sometimes forget about the way I used to do things before my accident.

When I look in the mirror, I still see a scar.

The scars remind me that the past is real.

I have several scars that have faded with time—some not fully, though. I had two prominent scars on my face that were not a direct result of my accident, but were due to the hospital staff in Augusta strapping my face mask on extra tight because I deliriously kept trying to rip it off. It left two deep, dark scars on each side of my nose. The one on my right side faded within the first year after much scar cream, but the one on my left side is still slightly visible.

The gnarly scar on my neck is still there. I believe the back scar is also still there, although it has probably faded significantly, as indicated by this photo from one year ago:

Why am I talking about scars? Sometimes I forget about my situation until I see them, and then I remember. The scars hide a lot.

I finished off a year of medical school! It’s been a long year, but it has also gone by so incredibly quick.

When I think back to one year ago, all I remember is apprehensiveness surrounding the whole thing. My parents were still trying to convince me to not live by myself. They were worried about how I’d live on my own and how I’d do in school with everything I have to balance. Other people were concerned about the same thing. I felt like people looked at me with doubt. I was concerned about how my classmates would treat me and look at me.

Throughout the year, I doubted myself many times. I came in very confident and almost immediately got shot down.

There was about a one month period when a certain medication I started put me into severe depression. Once I discovered what was making me feel like that, I immediately stopped it. That was not a bright time. I wrote about it, but did not post it. I will post it here now ("Bulletproof"). I’m glad that only lasted a short while.

I had a few meetings with some faculty members at school. I told them that I was frustrated with things, and they told me how they were all impressed at how I was dealing with things, progressing, and how far I was going. That was certainly encouraging.

Living alone and going to medical school a year after everything I have known for +22 years was turned upside-down really made me “grow up”, so to speak.

During year one post-injury, I was coping more with my physical situation. Over year two, I dealt with my mental situation. I’ve never worked so hard in my life and I can confidently say I worked harder than any of my classmates and anyone that I know.

There were times when I told myself I was in over my head. There were times when I wanted to quit. I became so frustrated with things because everything was different. I wasn’t the same person. I spent a long, long time studying things. On our weekly quizzes and on our exams, my grades were definitely not reflecting my effort at all.

Or perhaps they were reflecting my effort, considering certain circumstances. I was pulling my hair out because I really wasn’t the same person at all. I did not have the same mind. The scar on my neck reminds me of my traumatic brain injury; it reminds me of the time I spent on the brain injury floor; it reminds me of all the times I was told to reconsider professions; it reminds me of why I had to work so hard to keep my dream alive of becoming a physician.

Thankfully, I made it through alive.

I’ve decided to live in the present as much as I can. These past two years have gone by faster than I have ever thought, and two more years will go by just as quick. No doubt, though, I am surrounded by constant reminders of how different I am, and I am also grateful because I feel like they have given me a new outlook on things. I’ve always liked challenges.


[This was written in December 2010. This is not how I currently feel! I explained why I was feeling this way in my most recent blog post, "Two Years. The scars remind me that the past is real."]

Many of my blog posts have titles that are references to song titles or lyrics. People don’t usually catch them. I thought I would post a fan-made video of the song that is referred to in this title. Watch and listen to it afterwards if you like.
Almost every week in medical school, we come across a topic that reminds me of something. Occasionally, I’ll write about it, but I usually never finish the entry so I don’t post it. This past week we discussed something that I feel is important because I’ve seen it affect others.
Our case this past week was about a patient presenting with clinical depression. Depression is not being just bummed out about something. It’s not about listening to emo music and whining that nobody understands what it’s like to be a privileged middleclass adolescent.
Well, I don’t think I need to go into a full medical description of every single presenting symptom of depression. But as I sat in my small-group sessions listening and talking about this patient’s case, I realized the extent of the problem I had.
Bulletproof… I wish I was.
After my accident, there was a period when I was in denial. Just like everyone who has a spinal cord injury, I wanted to be that person who walks out of the hospital. As the days passed by, I grew weary.
Just like the patient in our case, I did not want to wake up in the mornings. In the case, the patient described it as she felt like she “should not wake up”. There was a neuropsychologist in the hospital that would perform assessments on me because of my brain injury. He would often ask me how I was managing, and I remember telling him every time that the mornings were the worst. I would wake up every morning not wanting to face the day. As the day progressed, things would brighten up and I would look forward to the afternoon and evening, because I always had friends coming by.
“Anniversary phenomenon” is when a rush of feelings is experienced on the anniversary of a traumatic experience. At the one year anniversary of my accident this past May, I really didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary. I felt like I should have felt more—felt anything—but that wasn’t really the case. I experienced anniversary phenomenon this past fall, just within the past several months.
Fall of 2009 is when reality set in for me. I saw the effects that this injury had upon who I was, my relationships with others, and my future. I had no joy in eating. Once again, whenever I went to sleep, I did not want to ever wake up. My closest friends saw this change in me. I usually love being around people, so one friend went out of his way to take me out and meet some of his friends. I got through it.
So, in fall of 2010, I started becoming restless again. Nothing I did made me happy. I did not find pleasure in eating or being around people. I hardly slept at night and I was losing weight again. At school, I did my best to look normal and smile. I was fully aware of my state, and I actively did my best to

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Why are you driving that?

Little kid runs up to me, smiling and waving...

Little kid: [pointing to my wheelchair] Why are you driving that?
Me: Because I can't walk.
Little kid: Oh, are you tired?
Me: No, I hurt my back.
Little kid: Huh?
Me: It's because I hurt my--
[Little kid loses attention span and runs away]