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Medical dreams after a messed up life & severe ADHD - anyone else?

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thirdunity

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Greetings folks,
I am 31, female, and almost ready to transfer to UC Davis as a biology major. I have completed my liberal arts requirements, and am now digging in to the math and science. Enjoying that tremendously. ;)

My lifelong interest has been in medicine, especially in diseases, public health and pathology - subjects in which I have had a passionate interest since early childhood. The first book I could read was a book about diseases in cats!

However, I was a serious slacker and screw-up up until very recently. Up to that point, I was your basic shiftless, drifty, dreamy Gen-Xer with hippie parents. I grew up poor, living in a variety of colorful areas such as the Barrio and a red-light district motel, though I am white and my parents are now making middle class incomes, so I can't easily claim "disadvantaged background" on parental income alone.

For one, I have ADHD, and for fifteen years, had untreated major depression, which led to my dropping out of high school at 15 despite doing well in college classes and AP science classes.

I gave up on the idea that I would ever be anything. I was a graphic artist and computer technician (rather unsuccessfully) for years, and lamented over the fact that I really wanted to work helping people but couldn't because my hyperactive, somewhat eccentric personality annoyed people too much. I worked in computers, which I hated. Meanwhile my interests in biology and medicine continued "behind the scenes", even interfering with the work that I did. I figured I would never get over the math block or be able to focus on school, or be able to get a job working with people, so I was just one more frustrated computer person with an eccentric hobby. I didn't have a good track record of holding jobs, either, due to the ADHD. I either totally win people over or totally put them off because of how much mental and physical energy I have - I am extremely determined when I put my mind to something.

Now I am a 31-year old re-entry student at a community college. I finally sought treatment for my ADHD and depression.

After an excellent response to lifestyle remediation (life coaching, diet change, rigorous exercise) for the ADHD and therapy combined with SSRI medication for the depression and anxiety, I started to turn things around and realize that my childhood dreams aren't so unobtainable. Given how well I'm responding to the SSRI treatment and lifestyle change, I'm not going on the typical ADHD stimulant treatment except as a final line of attack.

Lo and behold, now people can stand me, and I can focus enough to get excellent grades. For the first time, I can handle a full time college schedule and even excel. I'm finding that I'm even better at math and science than I am at liberal arts subjects.

I'm able to keep the house clean for the first time! Given my attention span is finally longer than a two year old's, I am now looking for a job, too, confident that I'll be able to hold one at last.

I'm in the process of reinventing myself. The question I have - has anyone else been through this kind of a personal overhaul, who managed to get into med school?

I do not meet the mold of a typical pre-med student. I don't come from any kind of elite background, and I enjoy people from all walks of life. I am somewhat of a colorful, eccentric person who in the past has struck people as scatty or flaky - I'm also a writer and artist. "Creative bohemian" became my dominant identity for years, with most people never guessing that I spent hours absorbed in science books and case histories. I even went to - and dropped out of - beauty school.

But medical schools might not take me seriously based upon my past. That's what I'm concerned with.

I'm married - but I may be moving out within a few months, as I married another severely depressed ADHDr who won't seek treatment. That's probably not a relevant issue to this post, though.

I'm also afraid of making major life decisions based upon how I am on medication. I am thinking I may aim for (under my doctor's guidance) going off my meds after I graduate, to see if I can still "keep my ducks in a row".

I'm presently looking for volunteer opportunities and ways that I can work in medical technology while in school.

I know that if all goes well and I go to med school, I'd be entering as a person in their mid to late 30s. Perhaps "feeling my age" and hitting 30 years old, has been an inspiration to me that I need to "get my act together" and start going after my dreams, because I'm not getting any younger and my dreams won't be attainable forever.

Is anyone else coming from this kind of a position? Does anyone have any suggestions or words? Thank you.
 
N

njbmd

Hi there,
If your past is any indication, you SHOULD make all of your major decisions while you are on effective medication. It sounds like you are on your way to turning your academic life around. I would caution you about trying to find a "label" for your life such as GenXer or child of "hippie" parents reinvented. You are a human like the rest of us who suffered the consequences of some life situations and with hard work and excellence, you can achieve your dreams.

One thing that medicine can do for you is make you pretty selfish about your life and time. If you are in a relationship that is toxic, it can ruin all aspects of your life. Decide if your relationship is good and positive. If not, figure out if you can salvage it or move on. Don't make yourself a double victim.

As long as you are alive, you can go to medical school so don't get hung up on age. I had plenty of people in my medical school class that were over thirty, over forty and one that was over 50. Figure out what you need to get to your dream and do one little thing toward it each day. Write down what you have done and mark off things so that you can see some progress.

Medicine is about chipping away at huge volumes of information on a daily basis. The more adept you are at doing this, the better. From here on out, you can associate yourself with excellence of scholarship and purposefullness of goal. You don't have to bury your creative side as it can be an welcome outlet when you need it.

Your past difficulties may need some explaining during a medical school interview but you have years to formulate a good explanation and hone your answer. Just focus on your studies now, making sure your grades are good and your life is simple. Set out a timeline for achieving your goal and stay on it. Success will come but you have to create an atmosphere in which to nurture it.

Good luck
njbmd :)
 

medtechv79

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I agree with Njbmd. She definitely gives great words of wisdom and inspiration!
As for someone coming from the same vantage point as you...I can't help you there myself but I had a cousin who had severe depression like you and dropped out of highschool senior year b/c she didn't want to go anymore for several months. Anyways, to make a long story short she ended up graduating highschool going to a really good university, then decided after college to go pre-med. She ended up graduating medical school at VCU a couple years ago and is doing a fellowship in Oregon in psychiatry.
Her past did not hinder her at all. In fact, one thing different about her situation than yours is that she stopped taking anti-depressants in college and got better "herself". She learned to control her depression. I think you can too.
Its all mental. Tell yourself you can do it. You're already on the right track realizing your dreams. Keep at it.
And I don't think your past should hinder you at all. In fact, it shows how much you have grown as a person. It makes you that much more unique. Just make sure to do very well in your pre-reqs, interview well, rock the MCAT and you should be fine.
Good Luck!

p.s. I'm sure there are people in worse off situations than you! Some people don't even graduate college! (no I'm not one of them :) )
 

KLeigh

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Good for you, thirdunity! Struggling with ADHD and severe depression is extremely difficult and can be absolutely agonizing--this I know first hand. Although I cannot claim to know your exact personal situation, it definitely seems like we have some things in common. I too grew up with ADHD and depression, and it wasn't until I was about 19 years old, when I saught help on my own, that my parents mentioned to me that I had been diagnosed with ADHD when I was a young child. My parents didn't "believe in ADHD", so they ignored the diagnosis and didn't tell me about it, which infuriated me because I know that is why my grades suffered. And, of course, my grades radically improved once I was treated (I couldn't believe I had been able to learn anything up to that point, actually, because that was the first time I had been able to sit through a class and actually listen to the prof-it was amazing!). And, although the depression was harder to treat, once it was under control, everything finally started to fall into place. As you know, those 2 sentences I just wrote certainly don't do justice to the amount of anguish and struggling required to pull oneself out of a deep depression, but long story short, it is possible to come out alive and carry out your dreams (as you know, of course, because you're doing just that!).

I guess my reply doesn't really have a point, lol, because I can't really offer much in the way of advice, since we're in similar situations (I don't know if you have read any of my other posts, but I am also a non-trad pre-med, although I wasn't brave enough to tell the whole story behind my poor grades, as you were--bravo to you!). I guess all I can say is I admire your honesty and appreciate all you've gone through--you must be a very strong person! Keep up the good work!

Oh yeah, also, I wondered 2 things related to this topic: first, I know they offer special testing situations for people with ADHD to take the MCAT--do medical school adcoms look down upon that? And also, what are some thoughts on sharing situations of past struggles with depression with adcoms (that is, if it is clear that many years have passed without any problems, and grades have stayed up for a long time)?
Thanks!
 

Texas1111

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Hi Thirdunity,

when I saw your message, I just had to reply. I was in a somewhat similar situation as you. I was a very rebellious teen, lived in "getto" areas, did drugs, got pregnant, and dropped out of high school in 10th grade. I got my GED in late twenties, and started taking classes at a community college. Now I'm married with two small kids, and I'm currently finishing up first year at UT Southwestern Medical School. I think the background you came from will actually help you stand out among the applicants, you'll just have to tell them in your personal statement of the things you had to overcome, and how you've done it. This shows integrity, determination, and maturity. Good luck in your future endeavers.

TX
 

mshheaddoc

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I agree with all the posters as well as I know two extreme cases of ADHD/ADD that have turned their life around and are in medical school. Although I think the fact that your significant other won't seek treatment is a factor to you though. You have to look at the whole picture and know if your SO has a medical disorder that isn't being treated it could effect your relationship. Medical School is a stressful time and I know that living with someone with untreated ADHD/ADD can be very frustrating. I'm not saying don't do it, I think you should for it!!! But I don't want to sound negative but it can be hard if all the supports aren't in place, and your SO usually has to be your biggest cheerleader. I hope your SO is aboard as well. :D

:luck:
 

thirdunity

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mshheaddoc said:
But I don't want to sound negative but it can be hard if all the supports aren't in place, and your SO usually has to be your biggest cheerleader. I hope your SO is aboard as well. :D

:luck:

I am probably moving out of here soon. We have all kinds of other problems. Try, my spouse is also immature, depressive, and thinks that two people enabling each others' worst neuroses is what constitutes a relationship. My SO is mostly moping about how this means we're not going to have children... I'm 31 so I'd be in my fourties by the time I could start a family.

My mom is behind me 100% though - I am 31 so it sounds odd, but I am on the phone with her every day. She is thrilled.
 

mshheaddoc

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thirdunity said:
I am probably moving out of here soon. We have all kinds of other problems. Try, my spouse is also immature, depressive, and thinks that two people enabling each others' worst neuroses is what constitutes a relationship. My SO is mostly moping about how this means we're not going to have children... I'm 31 so I'd be in my fourties by the time I could start a family.

My mom is behind me 100% though - I am 31 so it sounds odd, but I am on the phone with her every day. She is thrilled.
So you are going on for your dreams but leaving your spouse behind? You mean moving out for separation or just to achieve your goals. Not to be nosy, just curious.

I suppose your reasons were some of the reasons I broke up with my long-time boyfriend so I find it interesting how people get on with their lives in different ways. If things aren't working for you know do you think things will improve? Will this be a distraction for you? I'm sure you have thought about this alot as well, I just relate in some instances to how you are feeling.

You will find great knowledge and support on this board. Having your mom there is a great support method as well. I know it means alot for me as well.
 

thirdunity

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mshheaddoc said:
So you are going on for your dreams but leaving your spouse behind? You mean moving out for separation or just to achieve your goals. Not to be nosy, just curious.

I suppose your reasons were some of the reasons I broke up with my long-time boyfriend so I find it interesting how people get on with their lives in different ways. If things aren't working for you know do you think things will improve? Will this be a distraction for you? I'm sure you have thought about this alot as well, I just relate in some instances to how you are feeling.

You will find great knowledge and support on this board. Having your mom there is a great support method as well. I know it means alot for me as well.

I'm probably going on way too long about this, but actually, it's much more ordinary than that, I'm just leaving a lousy marriage and don't feel it can wait much longer. If I wait much longer, I'll be too depressed to even go after my goals.

We had a fairly toxic relationship based upon two people enabling each others' neuroses. I was getting crazier and crazier. One day, I decided to pull my own socks up, and we stopped getting along at all. Once I started being motivated and having "normal" friends, we stopped even having the basis for a relationship.

He doesn't want to get well, so I have to leave. It's that simple.

Last semester, we had this immense blow-up right before Finals Week where I ended up being the sole person responsible for picking up the whole house in anticipation of my mom visiting - when he'd known about the visit for months.

This kind of thing always happens, and after this last time, I knew it was only a matter of time before I started planning to get out. I can't imagine what it'd be like to be dealing with med school with him, let alone just what I was dealing with taking only *two* classes.
 

Telroa

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Thirdunity in a way I can feel for you. I am 25 and I have ADHD as well although I have never been diagnosed with any sort of depression. I also dropped out of high school but I never made it past 9th grade. Reading about this actually makes me feel better because I am working on getting into school myself, although I have to admit it's a bit hard to figure it all out at first. I am in a vocational college learning to be a medical assistant while trying to figure this all out. Congratulations and I wish you all the luck I possibly can give. As for your husband I can't relate but I feel bad it sounds almost like he doesn't want you to succeed. My girlfriend and family are nothing but supportive and I'm happy because without that I don't think I'd have a chance.
 

thirdunity

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Telroa said:
Thirdunity in a way I can feel for you. I am 25 and I have ADHD as well although I have never been diagnosed with any sort of depression. I also dropped out of high school but I never made it past 9th grade. Reading about this actually makes me feel better because I am working on getting into school myself, although I have to admit it's a bit hard to figure it all out at first. I am in a vocational college learning to be a medical assistant while trying to figure this all out. Congratulations and I wish you all the luck I possibly can give. As for your husband I can't relate but I feel bad it sounds almost like he doesn't want you to succeed. My girlfriend and family are nothing but supportive and I'm happy because without that I don't think I'd have a chance.

Hi Telroa, given you mention a girlfriend, I'm guessing you're either a man or a lesbian :) I am really starting to think the dynamics are different where the woman is the one who is goal-oriented, vs. when it's the man. If the male complaints in the spouse section are anything to be believed.

How long is it taking you to get through med assistant training? I am looking for some training I can complete over the summer, so that I don't have to interrupt my college to do it.

Best of luck to you. And anything is easier to get through when it's something you really want to do, that you really believe in doing.
 

Telroa

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thirdunity said:
Hi Telroa, given you mention a girlfriend, I'm guessing you're either a man or a lesbian :) I am really starting to think the dynamics are different where the woman is the one who is goal-oriented, vs. when it's the man. If the male complaints in the spouse section are anything to be believed.

How long is it taking you to get through med assistant training? I am looking for some training I can complete over the summer, so that I don't have to interrupt my college to do it.

Best of luck to you. And anything is easier to get through when it's something you really want to do, that you really believe in doing.

:laugh: Well I'm not a lesbian and I suppose you're probably right about it being easier for a male than a female. I wouldn't have any problem with it in fact I keep trying to get her to go to school. The MA course I am taking is 8 months so it may be a bit longer than you want. I've heard EMT classes are relatively short but I've never really looked in to it. Thank you for the good luck I think I need it and good luck to you.
 

Jambi

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Telroa said:
I've heard EMT classes are relatively short but I've never really looked in to it.

EMT classes are generally one semester long and are 5-6 units. It's a great class and you'll learn a lot.
 

docLN

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i'm new to all this. :oops:
i am currently applying to med school and have had a bumpy past also. it's so nice to hear that there are people who do not fit the usual pre-med cookie-cutter image.
i dropped out of college during my freshman year and ran away and got married. at that time i was trying to deal with major depression and saw running away as a solution to my misery. of course things got worse, the marriage became emotionally abusive.... to make a long story short i divorced him and moved back home, now managing my depression very well. i knew i wanted to go back to school but had no idea what to do.
i was a ballet major, then an art major (getting my AA in art at a community college), worked as a muralist, and now a humanities/pre-med major. I am really afraid that my 'flighty-ness' after highschool is really going to reflect poorly on my application. i have excellent grades (3.7 gpa), just took the mcat, and have some good ec's.
anyone have any advice on how to 'tweak' my past to make it look the best on paper as well as in interviews?????????


thirdunity said:
I'm probably going on way too long about this, but actually, it's much more ordinary than that, I'm just leaving a lousy marriage and don't feel it can wait much longer. If I wait much longer, I'll be too depressed to even go after my goals.

We had a fairly toxic relationship based upon two people enabling each others' neuroses. I was getting crazier and crazier. One day, I decided to pull my own socks up, and we stopped getting along at all. Once I started being motivated and having "normal" friends, we stopped even having the basis for a relationship.

He doesn't want to get well, so I have to leave. It's that simple.

Last semester, we had this immense blow-up right before Finals Week where I ended up being the sole person responsible for picking up the whole house in anticipation of my mom visiting - when he'd known about the visit for months.

This kind of thing always happens, and after this last time, I knew it was only a matter of time before I started planning to get out. I can't imagine what it'd be like to be dealing with med school with him, let alone just what I was dealing with taking only *two* classes.
 
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