A Letter to My Newly Disabled Self

This isn’t a letter you ever expected to receive. It’s also a letter you won’t want to read, let alone accept. Yet, the reality for you and countless others who will acquire a disability during their lifetime is that you don’t really have a choice.

One moment, the “accident” – a loaded word that you’ll struggle to use, has dramatically altered the trajectory of your life, disrupting the entirety of your future plans, interrupting all you had worked so hard to achieve. You were just standing there, in that front yard on that beautiful day, and it happened. The injury. The onset of disability. The moment.

That moment will exist on an infinite repeating loop in your mind over the next year as you search for a reason, trying to identify why you were the sole victim of that falling dead tree. You’ll wonder why it was you who had their independence stripped away, forced to contend with the challenges of navigating life on wheels instead of your own two feet. After all, a spinal cord injury isn’t for the faint of heart, a lesson you’ll rapidly learn as some of your assumed college “friends” become increasingly distant and ultimately disconnect. It hurts, it stinks, and even your mom’s “then they weren’t true friends to begin with” attempt to comfort you won’t help. But she IS right, friends don’t leave you in the doldrums of life. Try not to worry, you will find your people, and they’re so much better than your mind can even imagine.

Nine years of disabled experience down the road, I can say with certainty that you’re in for a ride (pun intended). That first year, well, it’s rough. You’ll have to re-learn how to do tasks parents are teaching their toddlers, glaring at your immobile lower body as you pull on yoga pants wishing they were jeans. Especially those jeans with all the extra bling above the back pockets — you’ll never stop missing wearing those jeans. There are exciting highs, like when you learn how to drive with hand controls, alongside undeniable lows. Lows that pulse deep into the soul of your being, gnawing at your insides until tears feel like a worthless currency. Yet as the years pass, you’ll be surprised that despite the numerous physical changes that accompany your new life as a paraplegic, the most drastic shift will occur with total strangers. A trip to the grocery store to buy eggs and your commended for being inspirational. A conversation in the park and it’s assumed you’re a hospital patient instead of your actual role as a medical student. Another day in that same park and someone tells you how impressive it is that you use a wheelchair and aren’t overweight. Assumptions. Bias. Ignorance.  A triple threat that will continue to persist regardless of the growing comfort you feel in your own skin.  

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What a Rush

Three. Zero.

*Insert long slow exhale here*

Not gonna lie, I don’t think that exhale was long enough to be able to process such a reality, but here we are, the end of my first day as a thirty year old. I’d guess a few of you reading this are chuckling to yourself thinking, “yup, been there done that” or perhaps you’re on the other side thinking “eh, I’ve got time.” I mean, increasing in age and reaching another milestone is just something you *know* will happen eventually, but those markers in time usually seem so far off that why even bother thinking about them?

And then it’s here.
Face to face, smack dab in front of you, your-age-begins-with-a-new-number, here.

It’ll be a surprise to no one that while pausing to reflect on my entry into this new life stage, I’m humming along to the “this is not what I expected thirty to look like” song. But then again, I doubt there are too many people in existence (now or ever) who can say with sincerity that their life turned out exactly the way they expected and planned.

It always amazes me to think about the contrast between our expectations alongside the present reality. While I don’t remember having an extensive “this is what thirty will bring” thought session in my younger years, I know I had a number of assumptions. I was pretty convinced I’d be married, maybe even have a kid or two. I was definitely going to have a number of four-legged creatures under my ownership, some that slept in bed with me and my husband and of course a growing flock of wool covered ruminants. I’d be a veterinarian, out in the workforce, growing my practice and impacting the world by keeping the livestock that are so vital to our society healthy and happy. I’d be 6-foot tall, healthy and active thirty year old Sam, who wrangled sheep, laughed too loud, and drank more coffee than was recommended for a single person.

Funny how easy it is to paint pictures of the lives we once imagined. Less funny the little pangs you still get in your chest when you drift back to the present and feel those images fade. Then comes the indescribable guilt of acknowledging those feelings are even there and realizing the loss of something you never had still hurts and probably always will.

And yet, here we are. Well, here I am.
Here I am at the beginning of year 30 looking back on 29 solid years (plus 1 day) of an unpredictable life that has filled to the brim (and beyond) with adventure, tears, excitement, frustration, and joy. A life chock-full of experiences that I don’t think anyone could have imagined. From countless 4-H meetings to Monday night swimming lessons at the YMCA. My own tiny flock of sheep (well, flock may be too generous of a word) and a never ending list of high school extracurriculars. Late night rounds as a community advisor in my college’s dorm and an acceptance to veterinary school. Of course that all drastically changed with a sudden and unexpected injury. Paralysis. ICU. Rehab. Then the agonizingly slow and exasperating process of figuring out how in the world to live and who I was in this body that worked much differently than it ever did before.

Regardless of who you are or what your life looks like, I think we all experience moments where our life seems to come to a grinding halt. Like if your life is this tiny little snowball that was gently pushed off the top of a hill. It moves slowly at first, but with each revolution it gets a little larger, adds some extra “experience” and gains momentum, rolling faster and faster and faster and then suddenly, someone just picks it up. And holds it. And everything stops. It’s a jarring experience, even if the “stop” is from something good. But eventually, that snowball gets set back down and starts its leisurely roll only to pick up more and more speed once again.

At 30, I am solidly back in the “picking up speed” phase and boy, it’s a rush. Sure, no one expects a spinal cord injury and paralysis to be apart of their life story, but I also doubt anyone could have predicted my life experiences that have followed said event. Deferral from vet school. Beginning to blog. Deciding not to pursue vet med. A new found passion for disability advocacy. Ms Wheelchair WI. A shift to human medicine. Ms Wheelchair America. Adaptive sport. Acceptance to an MD PhD program. A move to downtown Chicago. Becoming a cat mom. Starting med school. Becoming a cat mom x2. And the list goes on and on and on…

*Insert long slow exhale here*

When you’re in the thick of it, living and grinding through each day, things don’t always add up. You’re putting in the time, you’re doing the work, but today looks a lot like yesterday which will look a lot like tomorrow. But when you find yourself at a milestone looking back on where you’ve been, ooft. Wow.

Sure, I guess I’ve always been someone that packs my days and weeks pretty efficiently – filling the majority of moments with tasks and to-do’s. In all honesty, I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten worse at overloading my days or depending upon how you look at it, even MORE skilled and efficient at adding events and activities to my calendar. Maybe it’s that I used to put 7lbs of potatoes into a 5lb sack and now I’m convinced I can actually fit 15lbs into that same little bag. Then again, looking back at the crazy busy whirlwind of a life that these thirty years have been, I can’t say I would change much of anything. Though I guess a bit more sleep would have been a good idea…

Maybe it just depends on what we’re looking for and hoping to see when we take a glance in the rear view mirror of our life. Maybe it’s the experiences from those years that shift our perspective and adjust our “value scale” for the worth of an hour, let alone a day and how we decide to spend that time. Sure, my days are pretty packed and I’m still learning how to “guard my yes,” but I also know I thrive in this constant “go” and get so much joy from all those things I stack one on top of another. A good friend recently referred to this as “managed mayhem” and I can’t help but agree, shaking my head even realizing my schedule from today.

Julien, the sheep. If you’re on instagram, you can follow his adventures and (all of his farm friends) at @wingandaprayerfarm :D.

Wake up to a little orange cat all warm and snuggly in my arms. Shower. Call Mom and complain about that little orange cat who ruined my dryer duct. Go to lab. Meeting. Meeting. Zoom call with Julien, the sheep. Class.

Yes, you read that right. I had a zoom call with a sheep today (thanks to a genius Christmas gift) and I’m convinced it will remain the highlight of my month. Also I definitely only included the down-low of my schedule so I had a reason to post a picture of the handsome man…

I mean seriously, look at how handsome he is! I’m eight hours post zoom call and thinking about it still makes me smile and I don’t think it’s the old fashioned I’m leisurely enjoying kicking in.

30 years.
Gee wiz.
What. A. Rush.

Ode to an Orchid

I moved to Chicago a little over four and a half years ago which oddly feels both like it was just yesterday and also a lifetime ago. To say I (and my parents) were a bit nervous about such a move would be a rather large understatement. It was my first time living alone… ever (I always had roommates or lived in a dorm situation). First time being on my own as a disabled woman and manual wheelchair user. First time living in a busy “downtown” urban environment. Needless to say, when I officially moved into my new humble abode, my Mom was generous enough to spend that first full week helping me get settled complete with numerous freezing treks to and from the nearby Bed Bath & Beyond and local grocery stores (I brilliantly moved in the middle of winter). During one of those treks to Trader Joe’s, Mom added a little orchid plant to our shopping cart saying it would “help bring a bit of life to the place.”

Naturally, she wasn’t wrong and that little orchid found it’s home on my desk where I saw it day in and day out, it’s delicate white flowers a little reminder of that first week in Chicago and the start of my next life adventure. Sadly those flowers, so paper thin and pristine, didn’t last forever. A few months later, their once vivid cream color began to fade as the petals began to wilt and slowly fell, leaving behind a solitary stalk and some lonely green leaves. Yet that orchid plant continued to sit on my desk. It sat there while I studied for my first medical school exam. It sat there when I got a kitten and those lonely leaves naturally received a few punctures. It stayed on that desk for those first two years of being in my first Chicago apartment, not blooming since its first appearance but just “being.”

I moved to a different building and that unflowering orchid plant made the move with me. I continued to water it (with a respectable amount of organized frequency) and it continued to grow, sending out new leaves while allowing the old to wither and die off. Year three and nothing. Still alive, still being watered, still receiving occasional teeth punctures in the leaves, but still no blooms. Year four and nothing. We’re talking 1400+ days with this plant and seeing zip, zilch, nada flowering excitement.

I know, I know, I haven’t written for a literal year (whoops, I promise that wasn’t my intention) and I’ve spent the last three paragraphs talking about a plant. Yet, as I sit on my couch this evening on the eve of my “eighth year with a spinal cord injury” anniversary looking at that very plant, I can’t help but chuckle and shake my head. It looks a little different today than it has for the past four plus years, and in some ways, I swear it’s showing off. A proud stem with those gorgeous little blooms standing tall, the soft but vivid creamy yellow hues a reminder of what its always been capable of and made to do.

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One Third.

Memorial Day — it’s already here. Or maybe, depending upon your perspective, it’s finally here. If you identify as a service member of the US military, my heartfelt thanks and prayers to you and your family. I can only imagine the sacrifices made by both you and those you hold dear, let alone the experiences you’ve had and memories that likely cross your mind today (and everyday) as a result of that service. I would guess today carries a lot more meaning to you than the “average” individual. A date viewed as the “unofficial” start of summer and an excuse to grill excessive amounts of brats and burgers shifts to poignant memories of decisions made and people you spent many long and difficult hours with. I can’t and won’t pretend to know what today must feel like for you, but know I (and so many others) are especially grateful for all you have done and continue to go through.

I think days to pause and remember are good things. A time to reflect, process, and let go of some difficult memories or maybe revisit and laugh at others. This Memorial Day is a uniquely special one to me as it lands on May 25 — the seven year anniversary of my injury. I was injured at age 21, so as of today, I have officially lived in this “wheeling existence” for a third of the length of time I lived walking. Such a, dare I say, accomplishment may not seem like a mark worth noting, but thinking back to a time when living seven days as a wheeler seemed impossible…. well, making it and thriving (generally) for seven years is a beautiful thing.

Unsurprisingly, this anniversary feels quite a bit different than the previous six. Sure, perhaps some of that is the result of the classic “older and wiser” adage, but I’m pretty sure I can give a large nod to the state of the world and our country as we’re forced to contend with the unknown of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m experiencing this anniversary some 200 miles away from my family as I continue to “shelter in place” in IL, social distancing from friends, and spending more time with my cat than is probably healthy (though I don’t think she minds anymore…). I’ve had anniversaries away from my family before, all of which could be attributed to the grind and commitments of a dual degree training program, but this, “you probably shouldn’t be at home right now” is obviously a bit different. It feels strange to not be able to laugh side-by-side with my sisters, shake my head at some ridiculous remark made by my Dad, or give my Mom a huge hug and tease her about her “convict” ways when I was in the rehab hospital and she would “steal” forks and mayo packets from the cafeteria so we could make egg and/or chicken salad in my hospital room (true story). I guess I just didn’t expect this to be the way this anniversary would go down. And you know, I’m pretty sure I’m in the same boat as the majority of the US when I say I didn’t ever expect something like this to happen.

That’s the funny thing about life and expectations, right?
They rarely align.

While I don’t intend or want to minimize the implications and impact of a global pandemic, I can’t help but notice the parallels that exist between the experience of now and what I went through seven years ago. A world seemingly turned upside down. Questions of if things will ever feel normal again. Wondering how and what it will look like to return to work or school. Having to adjust and adapt on a daily if not hourly basis as you learn more, enter a new environment, or want to perform a different task. Having to maneuver and go out into the world with some additional physical items (though I promise you, masks are much cheaper and easier to manage than wheelchairs…even if they consistently fog up your glasses).

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Screen Shot 2019-12-21 at 5.53.57 PMI know today isn’t actually the end of the year, but there’s something about the winter solstice that feels like a conclusion. The shortest “day” of the year, marking the end of that slow march towards less and less sunlight we’ve all been experiencing since the middle of summer. Funny thing about conclusions, they often serve as both ending and beginning.

For example:

  • I finished my first quarter of graduate classes, and I’ll begin my next quarter after the holidays.
  • I just burnt through my Christmas tree scented candle, and now I’ll light the wick on another wintery smelling candle (literally, the candle is called “Winter”…. don’t ask me what winter smells like).
  • A Hallmark Christmas movie ended a few moments ago, which means another one with basically the same story line (just different actors) starts in t-minus two seconds.

Endings and beginnings, they’re almost hard to separate but we do it anyway. Maybe it’s to help compartmentalize all the experiences and stories our lives contain, setting them in boxes and storing them away, maybe to be opened or maybe to avoid opening. I know I have a “my walking life” box that gets opened on occasion, memories and experiences I love to remember sitting right on top, ready to be pulled out and put to use.  But of course, there are those memories I shove down deep into that box’s corners, forgetting they even exists until one gets caught on something and is unexpectedly brought into my consciousness.

It’s that ending of one part of my life and beginning of another that I can’t stop thinking about today; contemplating the threads found woven through both pieces and those abruptly cut off and never restarted. Perhaps its the shortness of the day and temporality of the daylight that are serving as a reminder of all those things that came to an end much earlier than I had ever expected. Expectations, maybe that’s where I’m going with this post (I’m a bit out of practice…it’s been awhile). Continue reading


I told myself once my board exam and med school classes were over I would write on a more regular basis — get back to the “once a month” kind of schedule. Sounds reasonable right? Then again, reality is a rather fickle beast and I don’t think I’m the only one who finds an infinite supply of the proverbial “something else” that make their way onto my to do list. Funny how those “something elses” manage to squash my motivation and ruin all of my best intentions…


These visitors are one of my excuses for being preoccupied 🙂

I’m still a bit bewildered that today is already August 1st. The second year med students started their classes on Monday and the brand new first years are on day two of their journey into medicine. It’s fun seeing the new faces on campus and the returning, whole-year-wiser second years. They seem to bring this unique energy that I don’t think I realized was missing from the hallways.

Naturally, all that energy also brings back a lot of little reminders of my own foray into those first few days of classes – the nerves, the unknown, the questions, the self-doubt. Yet, those thoughts are starkly contrasted by the acknowledgement of just how far I’ve come and what I’ve managed to accomplish (but with a twinge of the ever present knowledge that I still have so much more to learn and do).

Honestly, they’re reminders that have been unexpectedly helpful.

As a dual degree student, you have a few additional transitions added into your educational journey.
1) Start of medical school
2) Start of lab and graduate/PhD training
3) Return to medical school, clinical care, and the hospital — then graduate

While I definitely knew that those steps and stages were all a part of the training I signed up for, I know I didn’t truly KNOW what that really meant. I also didn’t KNOW how it would feel to have to take one step and then another down a path with footing that sometimes feels a little too uncertain to rest my full weight on.

Currently, I find myself at number two on the list, a whole two months into my quest for a PhD. Two months down, an undetermined amount of time to go.

I think that’s one of the challenges of the transition to grad school and lab life, there is a path, but it’s somewhat vague and highly mutable. You decide if you go left or right, if you slow down and dig deeper or sprint ahead.  Perhaps you’ll find something totally new and unexpected during that sprint. Or… it’ll turn out to be a dead end and you have to spend a bunch of time back-tracking while pondering all the effort and energy that now feels wasted (although “wasted” is a matter of perspective). Continue reading

Six of one, Half a Dozen of the Other

There are certain things that make me nostalgic.

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Sheep were a fair project — probably the only one I was every actually prepared for

Driving the route that used to be my daily commute to high school, remembering the 7am jazz band practices or late nights following musical dress rehearsals. Going to the Outagamie County Fair and remembering the daily (and then some) runs to Walmart that occurred the week of entry day to finish those last minute 4-H projects that probably should have been done months ago. And today. Today, May 25, always makes me stop and remember.

Today marks six years, adding another tally mark to the side of my life lived in a wheelchair. They’re still drastically unbalanced sides, 21 years walking to a measly six years wheeling but still, that smaller side is growing. It’s like a slow dripping leak into a bucket — a drop here and a drop there doesn’t seem as though it amounts to much so you stop paying attention. Yet suddenly, as if by some dark magic, the bucket is overflowing and making its presence well known to anyone nearby.

Injury anniversaries mean different things to different people, and I’ve been surprised to notice how the meaning of my particular anniversary has changed in my own mind as the years continue to pass by. I’m older, although not necessarily wiser. I’ve done different things and latched on to related, but certainly different passions. I’ve asked a lot of questions and found some answers that were quickly replaced by even more questions. Looking from that frame of reference, I guess it isn’t much of a surprise that each year anniversary has a somewhat different vibe.

Right now I’m sitting outside on my patio, looking down 16 floors at the constantly bustling Chicago streets and sidewalks. As a silent observer watching the strangers moving about below, each at their own pace headed towards a unique destination, I can’t help but think about the times when these roles are reversed and I’m the one being observed. Crossing Michigan Avenue. Ordering a drink at Starbucks. Riding in an elevator. Getting out of my car.

At one point in time, that really bothered me — the feeling of always being watched. Yet, after six years, I usually (and finally) don’t notice the “few seconds to long” stares. But when I do, I no longer feel the need to look away or pretend that if I can’t see them, they can’t see me —- and that’s new.

We all go through life with so many different identities. I’m a daughter, I’m a sister, and more recently I’m an aunt. I’m a Christian. I’m an MD PhD student. And I’m a disabled woman.

I’ve known that last identity exists as a part of my “demographic information” for quite some time, but claiming it and being honestly and truthfully willing to claim, it has taken longer than I want to admit (*cough* 6 years *cough*).

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Happy Grapes

I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile. What did I want to say? What combination of words could possibly represent just a few of my unstructured thoughts from the past four months? I know, four months — that was the last time I wrote something to share “publicly.” That long hiatus wasn’t necessarily intentional, but just kind of happened. The seemingly never ending addition of “need to get done NOW” tasks to my to do list had the unsurprising effect of pushing the “I’d like to do that sometime” tasks (like blogging) into the abyss better known as “maybe tomorrow.”

But anyway, here we are. Here I am. So, uh, hi?

These past four months have certainly been a bit, well, unique. I didn’t blog, but I was somewhat consistent with journaling. I just flipped through the pages dated 2019 and to be honest it amazes me how much I’ve experienced / been challenged by / celebrated / completed since the year started. To catch you up on the “big things,” I finished my second year of medical school, closing the chapter on my pre-clinical/didactic medical education. So that means when I return to school, I’ll be in the lab working towards my PhD in immunology for 3.5 – 5 years before returning to the hospital for a year and a half to complete my MD degree.

That also means I just took my first set of board exams, better known as Step 1.

Entering medical school with such a circuitous route, I’ll be the first to admit my knowledge of “boards” was ultimately nonexistent. I knew that you had to pass tests to prove your knowledge and be licensed, but beyond that, I considered the whole thing to be a problem for future Sam. Funny thing about the future, it does eventually become the present. The last official day of lecture at the beginning of March felt a bit like an out of body experience, realizing how much I knew now compared to my first day of class and recognizing how much I still needed to figure out before my 8-hour exam in April.

Between the end of classes and your exam date you enter into a period of time referred to as “dedicated.” You have no classes to go to, no external commitments besides the ones you make yourself, and are literally dedicated to studying for the exam. Eight, ten, twelve hour days of flashcards, practice questions, board review videos, and whatever other resources you decide to use to try and learn the mountain of knowledge that we currently claim to be truth.


Ingrid was super helpful (*rolls eyes*) with studying…

I don’t know if there’s any way to truly describe what the experience of dedicated is like, or I guess, more specifically what my experience of dedicated was like.

There’s something profoundly awesome about that feeling when you finally start to put the pieces together. We learn about the various organ systems in somewhat disparate sections referred to as modules, but obviously that’s not how the body operates. A concept introduced to me way back in December 2018 finally making sense when I could fit it under a larger umbrella that was given to me in February 2019. At the same time, it can also be humbling if not a tad humiliating as you answer question after question wrong on a topic you were once convinced you understood. Continue reading


Word of warning: This is a tad different than my “usual” post. But than again,  I guess that’s the cool thing about a blog. It can be whatever I want it to be. This happens to be more of a “day in the life” kind of post. A bit more of a what-is-it-REALLY-like-to-be-you kind of writing. So, here goes 😀


“And that about wrap’s up this lecture. Why don’t we take a little break and start back up at 10.”

Perfect, that should be just enough time for a bathroom break. I back my wheelchair out from my front row spot – the only place I can sit in the lecture hall – and roll out into the hallway. I brace my footplate against the bathroom door and with a swift press of the handle and a bit of rapid finesse to get my chair moving, the door opens with ease and I’m inside.

I choose this particular hospital bathroom for a few well-thought out reasons. First, its close proximity to the lecture hall where I hear the majority of lecturers teach their part of the second-year medical student curriculum. My “process” for performing this seemingly simple and vital bodily function takes a bit longer than it used to, so cutting out any unnecessary travel time is imperative.

Second, it’s size. It’s a six-stall bathroom, one of which my wheelchair and I are grateful we can use. Lecture breaks are for the entire class and I certainly don’t want to take up a stall in a location where there aren’t many extras to go around. Just inside the door, I check my watch.


I round the corner and let out a breath, simultaneously reminding myself to relax and stay calm. Five empty stalls, doors wide open – a clear invitation for entry. One stall, closed for business. It’s the only stall I can use.

My class is in a hospital building, plenty of patients with disabilities are seen here on a daily basis. I have no issue waiting while one of my disabled-peers performs their own “process.” After all, everyone has to wait in a public restroom once in a while.

There’s a rustle of a coat or some other form of clothing. Oh good, they’re almost done. And I see two high heeled shoes walk across the stall under the door. 

Breathe, I remind myself. Maybe they have another reason to use the only accessible stall in this bathroom when all the other stalls are vacant.

I have a relatively new opinion of and relationship with bathrooms, of both the public and private variety. Having had a spinal cord injury resulting in paralysis in 2013 and now identifying as a paraplegic, simply going to the bathroom is no longer simple. I don’t even want to admit the amount of time I spend thinking about or planning when and where I will go on a daily basis. Plus, it just takes longer.


A friend from class walks in, looks at me and shakes her head, a mutual acknowledgement of how frequently this happens and how unnecessary it is. She walks into one of those five empty stalls and closes the door. Continue reading

Simple Questions

Why does Friday take so long to arrive, but Monday is just around the corner?
Why are the most beautiful colors of fall actually a physical depiction of ending?
Why do the hardest struggles result in the greatest personal growth and deepest introspection?

Why is it that the simplest questions, are the hardest to answer?

It has been a pretty crazy last two months — I guess that’s to be expected since the last time I made an appearance here was at the start of August. That wasn’t actually a long time ago, but in so many ways, it kind of feels like a lifetime.

Things that have happened since then…Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 10.22.22 PM.png

  • I’ve taken 5 exams — 2 anatomy lab practicals and 3 much longer (neurology-related) exams of the multiple choice variety
  • I’ve raced a half marathon — the fall Chicago Half Marathon at the end of September
  • I’ve moved out of my first ever “big kid” apartment
  • I’ve moved into my first ever “holy-crap-I-bought-this” condo
  • I have a car (my hand-control adapted car) in Chicago that I can use to drive where I want, when I want, including making a surprise visit home after the Psychiatry exam last weekend.

Yea, just a couple highlights of the past two months (with some pictures to go with). I think there’s so much I could say about each one of those experiences that I don’t really feel the need to say anything. I guess that doesn’t make much (if any) sense, but sometimes “making sense” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

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I love where I’m at — physically, mentally, and emotionally. I adore my new place and the fact I now have a bedroom and a patio. I’ve survived what most consider to be the hardest modules of medical school and am starting quite a few activities (classes, co-curriculars, etc) that I’m truly excited and passionate about. It’s a great place to be and it’s a place I intend to cherish and embrace. I guess that place I’m referring to is more related to where my head is than my physical person.

The last two months have been really challenging. Don’t worry, nothing crazy has happened. My family is doing well. My health is as good as it always is. I’m financially stable and still surrounded by so many great friends, colleagues, and mentors in the Chicagoland area. Yet, the day to day grind of life that never seems to stop, information you need to learn, assignments you need to complete, random to-do list items that won’t do themselves — was draining. I was exhausted. Stressed. Burnt-out.

It’s embarrassing to admit that. To recognize that I can’t always “do it all,” that I’m not some infallible being, that I have a limit to what I can manage, and I found where that limit lives.  We talk about wellness and taking care of ourselves in med school all the time. I think I was listening to all those conversations, but I don’t think I was really listening.  I don’t think I was processing through the obvious knowledge that the things we hear about in our lectures and see in our “medical life” can impact you in unexpected ways. Psychiatry was definitely a module of surprise and (slow) realization. Continue reading