I’ve mentioned a couple times on here that I’m a college student. I already have a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, but I didn’t spend too much time using that. I can tell myself a lot of crap about why I didn’t use it, but it’s mostly because the type of people that are drawn to the field of human services are the exact type of people that remind me of my sociopathic parents and thus inspire homicidal urges in me. No, not every person that works in the field is a narcissistic douchebag with a savior complex and a strong impulsive need to constantly be involved in some form of crisis, but let’s be honest – isn’t one person like that plenty? Yes. Yes, it really really is.
So I decided to change careers entirely. Which meant going back to school. When I started looking for PTA programs I realized there was one literally a neighborhood away from me. I can actually walk there (which I would probably do more frequently if I hadn’t experienced an attempted mugging-by-bicyclist the last time I tried that). It’s a very good program that was super competitive to get into. I worked my booty off to get in and was beyond stoked when I got that acceptance letter. In fact, it’s been magnetized to my fridge since the day I got it, 10 months ago.
Except now that I’m actually in the clinical program and, you know, learning how to practice physical therapy, I’m freaking out.
Part of the freaking out comes from how difficult the program is. I have a 4.0 and consider myself to be pretty damn smart, but this is some next level shit. Then there’s the sheer volume of physical contact I have to have with my peers. I certainly assumed I’d have to do lots of hands-on stuff with patients. And I guess I assumed I’d eventually be one of the “patients” – since we don’t have licenses yet (or even basic clinical skills at this point) we need to practice on each other so we don’t each get sued 400 times for malpractice. What I legit did NOT expect, however, was for my very first lab class to start with my professor saying,
“Okay, guys, choose a partner – someone you haven’t worked with yet – and pair up. Your first task is to properly drape your “patient”, remove their pants and shirt, and then put them back on, all while protecting your “patient’s” modesty and remaining professional with your touch.”
Guys. Omg. I literally stopped breathing. Pretty sure my heart stopped working as well. I was in full “freeze” mode for a good 2-3 minutes. I was panicking. But then I remembered that I know how to completely detach from my bodily sensations so I just floated up out of my body and went through the motions of being the “patient” all while this man I barely know literally reached under a sheet and pulled off my clothing in a crowded room with 23 other people I barely know. SO MUCH FUN.
I managed to get through that absolutely horrific experience with enough normalcy that no one seemed to notice I was internally exploding. I’m kinda sad that I used so much dissociation to get through that moment, but honestly – it seemed like a better option than finding myself in a full-blown flashback or switching out a traumatized kid part who would probably start screaming.
But then I felt kinda pissed off…
Why didn’t my professor take time before beginning the activity to have a conversation with us about how to appropriately touch each other? It was more like a “go figure it out” type of activity. Why didn’t he open a dialogue about how this might be a really fucking distressing situation for some people? In a class of 22 students, I cannot possibly be the only person with a history of trauma! Plus, once we are sent out to begin our clinical rotations (in five short months), we’ll be dealing with actual patients…some of whom may have a history of trauma as well. And they might not float away from their bodies like I did. They might actually re-experience their trauma and have a flashback or become otherwise seriously distressed by being touched in certain ways. Shouldn’t we be equipped to prepare for this and be taught how to communicate with our patients in a manner that allows them to disclose certain triggers? I mean, am I insane here?!
WHY are we not getting training on this?! I wanted to go to my director and ask him that exact question!
But you know what I did? Nothing. Nothing at all. Why? Because I felt so much shame. Not only because of my own trauma, but because I assumed my director would just say, “Well if you don’t like to be touched, why did you apply to a program in physical therapy?!” Which, to be totes honest, is probably exactly what he would say. He’s not a very “gray area” kind of man.
Which then got me thinking about this whole asinine project of beginning an entirely new profession after a fairly unsuccessful attempt at my previous profession. Most of which consisted of crap jobs interspersed with long periods of disabling mental illness. I have an atrocious record of contributions to society. I am a classic example of what people refer to when they talk about “entitlements”
So then I was thinking,
“What the fuck do I think I am doing here?! I am not the person who can just change careers and then live a normal life, working the 9-5. I am the sick person. The crazy person. The person who’s been hospitalized 12 times and attempted suicide twice. I mean, my personality is spliced up into 15 fucking pieces for christ’s sake! Who am I kidding?!?!?!”
I mean, really though. Where do I get the audacity to think I could ever have a stable career with a decent income and benefits and colleagues and a retirement party when I turn 65? Who am I kidding here?!