Audacity

you-have-the-audacityI’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.

images

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?!

Advertisements

23 thoughts on “Audacity

  1. Sam Ruck says:

    Andi,

    you are not crazy. D.I.D. makes total sense. I was so happy the day my wife finally gave me a reasonable explanation for her previously irrational (in my ignorant opinion) behavior and told me she had d.i.d.

    Anyway, you have a great point. Sadly those who have never been deeply traumatized rarely seem to have empathy for those who have. It took me a long time to learn to see the world thru my wife’s eyes. I wish there were someone to teach your professor and others in his position exactly what you suggested.

    Sam

    Liked by 2 people

  2. kat says:

    im soo sorry for how upsetting this touching was for you. and youre absolutely right, there are bound to be patients who are not comfortable with it either. there should be some teaching for you in how to calm and make patients comfortable. I would want that if i was in physical therapy!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Anxious Mom says:

    How on earth does enrollment not drop by like 90 percent on that day? There’s just no fucking way. *shudders*

    As someone who knows absolutely nothing about physical therapy as far as training and all that goes, seems like they could pay people to volunteer like they do for doctors to learn how to check colons and stuff. If nothing, you should be able to do it with someone you’re actually comfortable with.

    BTW, you’re Andi. No matter what your history or diagnosis, just because of your nature and authenticity, you’ll still have more of a profound effect on the lives of the people you encounter through whatever it is that you do than the vast majority of the other 9-5 people.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Boost Connection says:

    Your honesty takes my breath away sometimes. This is exactly what’s going to make you an EXCEPTIONAL physical therapy assistant. Your willingness to reflect on who you are and what your patients will need makes you an amazing, insightful human. You will end up being the best, most sought after PTA because of your emotional sensitivities in addition to the legit skills and knowledge you are developing.

    You can certainly think about broaching the subject of trauma-informed patient care, as I bet you are definitely not the only one worrying about it. Try to remember you will be done with classes soon. There’s an end in sight. Only a few months more and you’re out in the field. But perhaps practicing some of your grounding techniques with the therapist would be a good refresher for you?

    You are not the person you were yesterday, much less 5 or 10 years ago. And non traditional career paths are much more common than not anymore. I certainly understand career shame and crippling doubt in a culture that emphasizes what you do over who you are. But far better to start over now than forge ahead with a career you hate though. And even if you don’t end up in a traditional job with this career (working part-time, per diem, having kids, etc.), you may find out you’re living the exact life you’re supposed to anyway. We can only plan so much for the future.

    You have every right to be where you are and you’ve fought hard for it. But there is only one guarantee in life- that things will change. There will always be unexpected challenges, but there will also be unexpected opportunities. I’m so proud of you for continuing to move forward in every aspect of your life. You are my role model in countless ways.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      I’d like to think that I have a considerable set of “soft skills” that will make my career soar. I’m not sure I’d be comfortable bringing it up now because I don’t want to create unnecessary vulnerability and create a target on my own back. But it’s something I’d consider bringing up further along into the program or even once I graduate.

      Thanks for reminding me that it’s not THAT crazy to be changing careers or to not have my shit 100% figured out at 32 years old.

      You = best ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Zoe says:

    Wow. You are absolutely right; there should have been some lecture, some speech… something to precede that exercise that could have been triggering for so many people. I mean… I would have been paralyzed by fear. Mostly because I probably wouldn’t have shaven my legs (I get lazy in the winter, sue me) and that would have been utterly embarrassing.

    I do think the director would have said that too. But I think people fail to realize that for some (of us) there is a difference between touching someone and being touched.

    I also want to add that you can aspire and have the life you want. It may not be how it is for the “normal” person next door, but you can have it and enjoy the hell out of it. You are an amazing person. You deserve happiness and a career (or various careers why not) in whatever you want.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Andi says:

      Right?! I think that some conversation should have been had, even if only minimally. I’d have appreciated it even if they had done something small because it would demonstrate that they’re TRYING to be more informed on this issue.

      Thanks for the supportive mushy stuff, too. You’re an amazing cheerleader for me and I really appreciate it! xo

      Like

  6. Bourbon says:

    Maybe you will, maybe you won’t, but I can safely say that whatever happens you did the best you can doing what YOU want to do and THAT is what matters, imo.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. borderlinefunctional says:

    I completely agree that more forethought and care should have been put into an exercise which frankly exceeds everyone’s rights to personal space and privacy!
    Sure, you may have to be that close to patients in the future but your training period should be a time that eases you into such interactions and you should have been afforded the courtesy of time to prepare and understand what was going to happen!
    You’re also completely right that the teacher should be educating the class about what a patient may feel with during this kind of experience, especially if they have a history of trauma!
    I’m shocked that you were put in such a thoughtless position Andi! I’m so sorry! I’m glad you managed to get through it but it should not have happened! :/
    Please don’t let this derail you from the courageous and fantastic strength you display every day in seeking out a new career and working so hard to create a future for yourself. I am certain that your experiences, while terribly difficult and unfair, have given you great insight and compassion that can only help you in the new role you are trying to pursue and I think you’re doing a terrific job!
    xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Yes! Exactly! Our training should absolutely involve patient sensitivity beyond just the normal sociocultural issues (e.g. race, religion, gender, age) that they cover. In a field that spends a LOT of time touching other people, sometimes it very intimate ways, I’d hope it would be a requirement! Thank you for your kind words of support and encouragement. I will use them to power myself onwards! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. aniken5er says:

    yeah i think you DO have audacity; it is probably why you survived those hospitalizations and suicide attempts and shitty childhood all the way up to that exercise in class (dissociation IS very useful sometimes), and why you can have that retirement party at 65. keep it up; i think you’re doing great! you’re obviously smart and have a lot of options before you, but you chose this one (physical therapy) for a reason and you’ve hit a bump in the road. i suspect almost any career path will have at least one (unless you pick a really boring one; oh wait! ‘boring’ is a bump. 🙂 that’s what your people are for – to get you through those. i’ll be cheering for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      You make a very good point here. I’ve made it this far, I’ve been through worse, I’ll get through this. Why shouldn’t I? Thank you so much for the encouragement – it means a lot! 🙂

      Like

  9. Sara J says:

    I’m sure you know how I feel about professionals who are indifferent or unconcerned with trauma…but even without a history of trauma this sounds suuuuuuuuper uncomfortable. *hugs* I’m sorry for this unpleasant experience my dear, BUT you’re going to be an awesome PTA, especially because you’re actually aware of and concerned about these issues. You are absolutely entitled to success and happiness and I know you’ll get there, even if you have to deal with insensitive or oblivious people along the way

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Haha, yes. I thought you might have an opinion about the obvious lack of awareness to trauma-related issues. It was super uncomfortable! Once I calmed down out of freak-out mode, I looked around the room and it was obvious that nearly everyone was having their own version of a freak-out. Maybe trauma-related, but maybe because they’re insecure about their body shape, size, color, smell, features, etc. Or maybe they’ve never really been touched before. Who knows! But it sure would have been nice to have aired out some of that shit before we jumped into fondling each other sans clothing.

      Thank you for the encouragement. I’m hoping that my “people skills” will be the major selling point for me once I graduate and get licensed and need a job. Kindness goes a long way. Especially in customer service (and PT is a business after all).

      xoxo

      Like

  10. Cat says:

    Oh freak out, horrifying, I don’t know how I could have…. Is this the same (smart mouth) Prof who was talking about students taking the lift?

    I think it is one thing having this kind of contact with patients, but quite another when you need to practice with colleagues. This kind of service needs people like you, Andi, and I’m quite sure you will take this experience forward into practice. It might not be such a great idea to raise it with the nutty-Prof at this stage, but it could be a great reflection or essay sometime in the future. Medical services need to be more aware of how this type of procedure can affect a patient’s emotional well-being and you’re just the person for the job!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s