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Challenge Essay - toxic family relationship

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tessellations

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Please don't quote if possible. Just edited this down a bit but I'd still like to protect my anonymity. Also sorry for the millionth post of this kind, but I didn't want to stick my personal story into someone else's thread and my story is pretty specific to me.

So I won't be applying until next year, but now that it's secondary season, I've been thinking about what I will eventually write about and something very apparent came to my mind. The thing is, I'm worried that it's not good fodder for the challenge essays/that it will be misconstrued in some way. If so, I'd like to take some time to think about what else I want to write about. And to get it out of the way, I'd be pretty comfortable talking about this topic in an interview. Any feedback at all would be greatly appreciated.

To keep it short and simple, my dad was in a toxic relationship for a few years around when I was in middle school that involved domestic abuse - both verbal and physical- and did nothing to stop it. The police were called twice (never by my dad) and the relationship ended after the second call (made by a family friend) and the second call led to a social worker being called. In the end, my dad reluctantly agreed to a restraining order against this woman, so that my mother wouldn't sue for full custody.

Anyways, this relationship really negatively affected me. It was a horrible way to learn that a parent is human. It shredded my sense of control - I felt helpless because not only did my dad do nothing to stop her behavior, but I was also unable to help him. It also destroyed my relationship with my dad for a long time. I became pretty apathetic and a big procrastinator - I just didn't care as much as I did before about a lot of things, especially school. I had ups and downs until I hit a big down my sophomore year of high school where my grades dropped drastically. My dad moved away to another country and I realized just how much I had left bottled up. I ended up in therapy and through a lot of hard work I began to gain a sense of control back and slowly but surely let go of my anger towards both my dad and the world for allowing it to happen. I've come to accept that things are often out of our control and that dwelling on those situations is not productive. I also have learned that people are human and that expecting perfection from others is unfair. We all make mistakes, even people we love and care about. My dad and I have a much better relationship now, though we will never see eye to eye on how toxic that relationship was. My grades are also much better now that I'm in college (I have a 4.00 GPA) which is something I could never have dreamed of while I was in high school. Basically, this whole experience forced me to grow up very quickly, but I've learned to accept it, learn from it, and move on with my life. I've also come to forgive my dad's ex and have come to realize that she herself was probably dealing with her own set of emotional troubles (she was an Iraq war veteran).

I'd appreciate any thoughts about whether this could work for the challenge secondary essays.
 
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BeMD13

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If you are going to use this, I would stick to the very last paragraph about your growth and self-discovery. I would narrow down the story about your family to two or three brief sentences. Just state the facts and switch the focus quickly back to how you learned from it. I know what it's like to have messed up parents but it's not all about their drama anymore. It's our story now.
 
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BeMD13

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Just state things like "due to situations involving domestic violence.... " ...Introduce social worker....Restraining order was necessary...
That will give everyone the point that it was pretty serious without having to focus on them.
 
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tessellations

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Just state things like "due to situations involving domestic violence.... " ...Introduce social worker....Restraining order was necessary...
That will give everyone the point that it was pretty serious without having to focus on them.

This is really helpful advice - I definitely want to approach it with the focus on overcoming the situation and less on the situation itself.
 
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tessellations

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I'm just going to bump this one more time. If you have any insight into whether this would go down ok with adcoms, I'd really appreciate it!
 

raf1ki

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I would minimize the drama as much as possible while still conveying the severity of the situation, and emphasizing your personal growth going forward from it. You do not want to come across as emotionally hung up in the past.
 
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TomBombadil14

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I agree with the above! I think this topic is works, but I think most adversity essays want to know your coping and/or problem solving skills. I think I'd focus on lessons learned, support system, and how you have learned to healthily deal with painful situations.

Good luck and congrats on the 4.0!
 

BeMD13

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I agree with the above! I think this topic is works, but I think most adversity essays want to know your coping and/or problem solving skills. I think I'd focus on lessons learned, support system, and how you have learned to healthily deal with painful situations.

Good luck and congrats on the 4.0!

Agree 100%
 
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Goro

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It's fine to discuss this. Emphasize your resilience.

Please don't quote if possible. Just edited this down a bit but I'd still like to protect my anonymity. Also sorry for the millionth post of this kind, but I didn't want to stick my personal story into someone else's thread and my story is pretty specific to me.

So I won't be applying until next year, but now that it's secondary season, I've been thinking about what I will eventually write about and something very apparent came to my
 
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DokterMom

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I agree with much of what has been said, especially the focus on resilience. I do think you need to clarify whether she was abusing the kids (you and siblings) or your dad (it happens) or both. I think the 'loss of control' feelings, slump, therapy and rebound sequence is also important and that your experiences as a survivor of child abuse will make you a far more understanding and compassionate physician. That you have been able to forgive your father says a lot about you.

Best of luck to you --
 
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tessellations

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Thank you all for the wonderful and thoughtful responses. To clarify, the abuse was just towards my father, and thankfully, my brother and I were never abused.

I'll clarify this when I write the essay, and will focus on my resilience (i.e. the rebound sequence) and why going through this experience will make me a more compassionate and understanding doctor. :) Thanks again!
 
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LizzyM

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I think that an important point to make is that you sought professional help and benefited from it. Part of the reason for this question is to collect evidence that the applicant is going to make good choices when the going gets tough and is going to be able to bounce back from hard times. Med students who resist obtaining help when they are not doing well are a drain on med school administration.
 
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orangeblue

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@LizzyM, thanks for being here for all of us.

I have to write two essays:
- diversity/what will other students learn from me/my contribution to other's learning in medical school. 400 words.
- one on special circumstances/challenge. 400 words -

Diversity essay : writing it on experience of poor immigrants, in workingclass jobs, and such inviduals resist healthcare, and have many challenges to overcome in healthy lifestyle practices. I moved here to US as a child with a single mom. Often the parent isn't there due to long-hours work and the strong routines (such as vacations, dinner every night) isn't there to bond families, provide emotional support, etc.

Special circumstances: Mom was depressed/emotionally unavailable in childhood due to an abusive arrange marriage that she left when I and my brother was young in a developing country with little rights/income for women. I don't want to be too crude but very possibly marital rape is involved in these situations.When I went to a top tier college, those problems only excerbated because I had no support system, no family encouragement, etc. I know ti's important to emphasize what I learned from that experience. Do I mention seeing a therapist in multiple intervals (including free clinics, etc) and consciously working on my anxiety as a result? Seeing professors, TAs being proactive in studying. Someone said that one way to show I learned from this is to relate my experience as an teacher/mentor to help innercity kids get into college and working at a women's crisis center.

AMCAS Disadv statement: Just factual state the low-income, single parent household in a country until age 12 with little rights for women. 1-2 sentences how it motivated me/lesson learned. Is this good enough?

My premed advisor hasn't said anything.
 
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