Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Descent Continues

My medication change, my talk with the Site Director, my realization that if I just kept getting up in the morning, going to the hospital, coming home, taking Ambien, going to sleep, and getting up again, I could go on indefinitely. And that's what I did- I slogged back and forth between the student housing and the hospital. I ate, I slept, I did all the things and ordinary human being is supposed to do during his or her time on earth. And I fell into an equilibrium.

Realizing that things were better, but not great, I again called Dean Stewart to ask about taking time off. “Now that you’re psychiatrically stabilized, I don’t see that there’s any benefit to you taking time off…” I wanted her to understand that while I felt my feet were becoming more firmly planted beneath me, that things weren’t right. I was functioning in the hospital, puttering about, writing notes, presenting on topics; and while I wasn’t excelling, I was now certainly up to standards. She advocated self care, telling me that perhaps I should take a day off on the weekends as opposed to voluntarily going in to the hospital to see my patients.

I eventually finished my 5 weeks of internal medicine at Glendale and returned to my home hospital at [] medical school for the final five weeks of the rotation. When I arrived I’d been branded as a “student in trouble,” a distinction which awarded me “extra help” in the form of constant suggestions during my presentations. Were I not to have been branded, I believe, a lot of those little mistakes would have gone unnoticed, or would have appeared in my evaluation as qualifications to my otherwise stellar performance. But instead, my preceptor, desiring to “help” me decided to do so by bringing our preceptor sessions to a screeching halt when he sensed that I did not understand something. The other 3 people in the sessions politely waited as my presentations were drawn out and picked apart. Did I understand the difference between infection, and vasculitis? Yes, I stammered, turning red; the preceptor was doubtful that my response reflected true understanding and launched into a long explanation.


2cool2care said...

hmmmm... hey!
I'm a pre-med! like the blog check out mine if you have the time

Anonymous said...

emily, greetings from another medical student, 4th year, who has struggled with a lot of the same issues you have. i have to say i'm impressed that you are so open about having bipolar. i remember a psychiatrist telling me i should go on lithium when i was 19. took me another six years and some hard living before i started to try medicating my bipolar. all the usual issues with compliance, maniac episodes, med side effects, med no effects, deep depressions, self-destructive behavior etc., but it still took another four years longer before i began to accept i'm bipolar. and i'm loathe to ever admit it to anyone, to talk about it with my parents, to even acknowledge it is still difficult. medical school has been especially tough, for many of the same reasons it has for you. the administration has been incredibly unhelpful and bias towards me. the messed-up schedules and stress make my efforts to have some mood stability all the more difficult, and then there's the crazy stuff that's happened when i've been manic. it's less tolerated in this environment than anywhere else i've been. anyway, just wanted to say we'll both get through this and we're so much tougher for it, having fought uphill the entire way. of course, i live in fear of having all this hard work disappear if i do something stupid when manic or something negligent and dangerous when depressed. i think that alone helps keep me on meds and off drugs and alcohol. this profession is just worth it and i think we'll be more humane doctors because of what we've been through. if nothing else, this illness makes us caring and sensitive. anyway, i'm rambling on. just wanted to reach out to you. i haven't met any other bipolar med students, although god knows they're out there! be well.