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This isn’t necessarily a post aimed at doctoral-level students or those in a physical therapy program. This is aimed at everyone because we all get bogged down by life and neglect the things that bring us true joy. I hardly engaged in my hobbies during the first term of physical therapy school. Part of that was trying to figure out just how much work I actually needed to put into doing well and part of that was also undiagnosed ADHD. The second term I did better, mostly incorporating some reading and Netflix, but I knew I was still neglecting a lot of other things that I love to do. Exercise comes to mind. I was seriously neglecting that. Studying wore me down so much that I didn’t have any energy for a workout when it came time for a break. I also wanted to get back into painting, but having been away from it for several years, I figured it’d be a learning curve that I wouldn’t have any energy for, so I figured it’d be better to wait until the break to get back into it. I also love gaming and mountain biking–and believe it or not, challenging games utilize a lot of mental energy that studying drains. As for mountain biking, my favorite trails are about 40 minutes away, so it’s a battle figuring out if I have any time for it or not.
But it is now my third term, and I am determined to make these hobbies more of a priority. I am on my fourth week of consistent workouts. This is the first week of the term, and I have already done two workouts this week. Tomorrow I plan to do an abdominal workout that totals 24 minutes. My plan is to workout as soon as I get up in order to prevent studying from sapping all of my energy. I will prioritize intensity over duration, using a combination of Fitness Blender on YouTube and other videos I find. Working out also gives me a burst of energy, as does regularly drinking water thanks to a hydration jug I purchased., so I have started a new painting. It’s really just an exercise in gradients and brushwork, but the point is that I started one; I always finish whatever I start. Unfortunately I’ll have to abandon it for the weekend since I’ll be at school for labs. I am also a gamer and am playing Xenoblade Chronicles 1 with the intention of beating it this term.
My hobbies are important to me because 1) they are just plain fun, and 2) they are my way to recharge. Painting provides me a creative outlet that I desperately need, a way to create since it’s hard to find the energy to write a novel (writing a novel isn’t exactly a hobby, not when I’ll be making money from this trilogy). Gaming is really just fun but also allows me to exercise that spatial visual part of my brain. I credit video games for my spatial visualization ability or just my spatial ability in general. The problem solving involved in a lot of the games may be why math was so much easier when I took pre-calculus about two years ago–it’s that sticktuitivism. And I exercise specifically for my health. When I’m of the age where I have to get bone density tests done, I want my numbers to exceed the average. I want to avoid the common age-related pitfalls that can be mitigated with physical activity.
I write all of this out to emphasize the importance of making your hobbies important in your own life. It is hard to do that, especially if you work a job that drains everything within you or if you’re a parent who spends much of the day caring for a child or several children on top of doing all the housework and other minutiae of parenthood. Even so, self-care is important. I absolutely consider hobbies part of that self-care. Self-care doesn’t always have to be doing the hard stuff like making sure you get your laundry done or that dentist appointment scheduled. Self-care can include the things that fill your empty cup.
I’m not going to tell you that if these hobbies are important, you’ll make time. Not everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. It’s also unfair to place that expectation on top of anyone. All I’m advising is that you take time, however long you need, to assess how you can fit a hobby into your day, a week, or even a month. It took me almost eight months to figure out how to make my mental health a priority.
I wanted to start prioritizing my hobbies because as someone experienced in the realm of troubled mental health, I want to feel my best. I want to avoid those dark places. I want to avoid burning out. I want to avoid questioning why I’m in physical therapy school if all it does is render my life joyless. Basically, I want a full cup so that I can give it my all in grad school, so that I can actually enjoy what I’m learning. Mental work, in my opinion, is so much tougher than physical work. At least with physical work, I may be physically drained, but I have mental energy and I can easily recover that physical energy by stopping the physical activity. With mental energy, I have nothing left, including physical energy. I can only recover through sleep.
When I went mountain biking two weekends ago, I was floored by how much I missed it. Even though the ride was murderous near the end because of some of the climbing and my lack of cardiovascular endurance, the tired I felt was beautiful. It was energizing. I went home, took a bath, and felt like I could do so much more due to that ride. So find your mountain biking. Find the thing that refreshes your spring.
Just spend time looking at your day and reviewing how you can fit in at least one fun activity. You don’t need to spend an entire hour on it. You can commit even 20 minutes to it. It’s understandable if you genuinely can’t find any time, but I can’t emphasize enough the importance of trying. No one wants to feel haggard or burnt out. It is so easy to neglect yourself when you are constantly on the ground running. It’s so easy to forget that you are your own person.
I think I was probably seven-years-old when I first had an inkling that perhaps I didn’t want to do the whole kid thing. At the time it was due to the excruciating pain of childbirth, and I didn’t want that. But it was just a thought. A fleeting one. I didn’t truly start making any decisions about wanting children probably until I was in high school. At the time, however, I thought being a mother was an inevitability, something that I was going to have to go through regardless of whether or not I wanted children. It was the next step in life, something I was just going to have suck up and do. But the problem with that thought is that I was just really beginning to understand what I wanted out of life, and what I wanted out of life did not include children. Children were not my idea of happiness or contentment.
I remember my first time I had a pregnancy scare in high school from my now husband. I was paralyzed with terror, not because of the shame of being a pregnant teen, but because I did not want to be pregnant. I’m fairly certain I have tokophobia. Any dreams of pregnancy I have are nightmares, and I always wake up relieved they’re not real. But back to my pregnancy scare. I knew what I was going to do if I were pregnant. There was no question about it. I felt I was late, and I knew I was irregular to start, but it seemed I was too irregular. I think I had my now husband buy me a pregnancy test, which turned out negative. I was still restless though, still fearful–until my cycle finally hit. The relief I felt was immeasurable.
I think the scare made me realize that I didn’t want kids. Ever. It’s not tokophobia that makes children an undesirable option. It’s that my maternal bone only exists for animals, I don’t have a clock (I’m 30 years old), and babies and children have never done anything for me. I have never dreamt about being a mother. I have never imagined being a mother and caring for an infant in a blissful way–or at least yearning. Even when my own nephew was born and I was at the hospital to see him, I was honestly weirded out when I was holding him, which had nothing to do with his fragility and everything to do with when he opened his mouth to cry, I wanted nothing to do with him anymore. Crying babies are sensory overload. I feel sympathy for parents with fussy babies, but I want far away.
My husband used to want children, only because it’s the thing everyone does. I think I changed his mind when he realized it’s not something you have to do. He’s fine with my decision. He even approves of my getting a tubal, if I can find someone willing to do it. Children are a choice, not an inevitably, and I’m glad I’m privileged enough that I don’t have this pressure to have children; my parents don’t even care.
Even so, on occasion I still have to defend my decision. There are too many people out there with the mindset that children are blessings and must be so for everyone. If having children has brought them happiness, then surely it is some sort of requirement that they bring everyone else happiness, too. There is also the common idea that I’ll change my mind, that they’re different when they’re your own. It is exasperating defending myself when I know my own mind so much better than other people. And guess who I have had to defend myself against? Men! Men who do not have to bear children, who will never know the pain of childbirth, who will never risk their lives because maternal mortality is largely abysmal, who largely do not do their fair share of childrearing. Of course it is easy for men to want children because they do not have to shoulder any risk and don’t have to worry about putting in an equal amount of responsibility to raise that child. Even when both parents work, mothers still do the majority of the childrearing. I commend the men out there shouldering the same responsibilities, but it isn’t most of them, unfortunately.
I am often gobsmacked that these sorts of men do not have enough self-awareness to critically think why it is easier for them to desire children than it is for women. In fact, women haven’t even argued with me. I know there are women out there who would, but I haven’t met them yet. Women largely understand the sacrifices involved in childrearing in a way men don’t or won’t understand. They intrinsically know it should be optional for that very reason.
But I absolutely will not change my mind. They are not different when they are your own, and it is dangerous to push this message, as though having a child is as easy as adopting a puppy. I personally know someone who said if she could do it all again, she never would have had children and would have instead pursued physical therapy school, just as I am. Obviously this isn’t to say she doesn’t love her kids. She does, but she has admitted that motherhood removed a lot of options for her, especially because she is a single mom. At the same time, I understand this wish because my pursuing physical therapy would be impossible with a child. My husband is a trucker, and I know my parents would not want to be babysitters all the time while I try to get schoolwork and studying done.
I’m not going to list all of the reasons I don’t want kids because someone out there with all the time in the world is going to refute every reason in some vain attempt to convince me why I should have children when I do not want children ever. Children require sacrifice. The question is whether or not that is worth it in your personal life. Wonderful if it is. Fine if it isn’t. I don’t care about the parent who was still able to pursue college with a child or travel to France with an infant in tow. There are sacrifices that must always be made, sacrifices I personally do not wish to make. Sacrifices I never wish to make. A baby isn’t worth it for me. Parenthood is neither interesting nor fulfilling for me. Being able to pursue physical therapy school has required sacrifices, but they are sacrifices I want to make for something that is both intellectually stimulating and fulfilling.
I’m not interested in the drudgeries of parenthood.
Just as not everyone is meant to be a physical therapist, not every woman is meant to bear children. If all women were meant to be mothers, we wouldn’t have this concept of consent or even be able to invent the concept. We wouldn’t have a say in the matter. We would be acting on pure instinct the way animals do when they mate. But we don’t. We have choice.
While regret for children may be an outlier, people still regret having children every single day. To the people who state it’s different when they are your own, why would you want someone who doesn’t want children to bring a child into the world on the off-chance that they don’t regret that child? Regret is much more likely in a case where a person is staunchly against having children–and those children suffer.
I have never been overweight. I’ve been close to it. Between 2018 and 2019, I gained thirty or more pounds because of medications that tossed my metabolism over the edge of a building. I am a recovered anorectic, so you can imagine what that amount of weight gain does to one’s mindset. Despite feeling absolute disgust toward my own body, one thing I didn’t do was blame myself.
I realize I am in a privileged position because I have never gone through life with anyone commenting negative things about my body, even when I gained all that weight, even when it was noticeable in places like my stomach and thighs. Even so, none of that offered me any comfort; I, too, started internalizing the hatred larger bodies received and developed an empathy for them I couldn’t have before. I already knew losing weight was tough. I already knew those with larger bodies were at a disadvantage. I already knew they needed support. But you cannot truly understand something unless you experience it yourself. And I have never had to go through the process of weight loss and didn’t think I ever would.
It was absolutely frustrating trying to start the process of weight loss. I couldn’t lose anything. Even when I deliberately cut back what I ate, all I was doing was preventing anymore weight gain. I was even training for mountain bike races, so I was lifting weights and biking many miles a week with no true increase in calories–I was afraid to increase calories, even with increased exercise. I wasn’t starving, of course. If anything, my appetite also plummeted with this drop in metabolism. Even with a change in medication, I dropped five pounds and plateaued. It took experiencing worrisome side effects of my medications to have an entire overhaul in dosage and immediate release to extended release for anything to start happening. In fact, I don’t know if anything really started happening until I started taking medication for my ADHD. It’s not a stimulant, but weight loss is a side effect.
I have been using my waist as a measure since the scale is triggering. I have lost probably 2-3 inches off my waist. The only reason I measured recently is because when I looked in the mirror my waist looked noticeably smaller, almost to its normal size. I estimate I have probably lost 50% of the weight I put on.
Weight loss is so damn difficult for women who have slower metabolisms to begin with and who fight an uphill battle with their hormones. Yet, the vitriol I see on the internet against larger bodies is obscene, unacceptable.
We do not know why someone gained weight, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that people are rarely, if ever, overweight due to laziness. While weight gain because of medications or medical conditions isn’t as common as eating too much, there is usually a reason behind why someone increases their caloric intake to the point where it begins to cause excessive weight gain. Plenty of people are emotional eaters who use food as a crutch. The fact of the matter is that food tastes good, certain meals can induce positive memories and even nostalgia, and it elicits lots of feel-good hormones. Consuming food is a fast way to induce these psychological benefits, whereas things like exercise or even meditation take work.
I developed an eating disorder as a way of coping with my emotions–and my mind was also very, very sick at the time. I discovered this recently when I looked at pictures of myself in the throes of anorexia and was horrified by my appearance, a feeling I couldn’t even muster at the time. I thought I looked great! If you haven’t already deduced, I did not lapse into an eating disorder as a way of trying to lose this weight despite having developed a newfound distaste for my body’s physical changes. This is because my mind isn’t sick; its perception is not warped.
Our bodies generally have a set weight it likes to maintain. Obviously, that set point is individual. As babies, our appetite regulation is on point. We just don’t keep consuming milk past fullness. We can argue hypercaloric foods ruin our ability to regulate our appetites considering they are not very filling for the amount of calories they contain. And sometimes that does happen for some people. They simply don’t understand that even though they’re not feeling satiated, they’re still consuming too many calories. But that doesn’t matter because weight loss is hard, and it’s absolutely terrible to judge anyone in the thick of it. It’s not fun, and there are entire sciences behind weight loss.
Larger bodies don’t owe anyone anything.
I call it concern trolling, where people who think they are well-meaning try to espouse the many negatives of being overweight. People with larger bodies know that. I know that, which is why I fought to get on a regimen that would finally allow me to lose the weight I’ve gained. I’ve talked to many people during my time doing observation hours who admit they needed a joint replacement because of weight gain. Who wants a joint replacement? The recovery is miserable. No one needs to be reminded of the health problems that come with excess weight when concern trolling is everywhere and unavoidable.
When I initially discovered all of this weight gain, I was blindsided and unable to process the first 20-lb. gain that I saw. I had not increased my food intake, and at the time I thought the only reason you could gain weight on meds was due to a possible increase in appetite. It was confusing. I was so upset that I was almost in tears. Originally I thought it was my birth control, but nothing happened when I stopped it, which is why I started blaming the medications; I wasn’t wrong. I’m not an emotional eater, after all. If anything, I stop eating with an increase in stress. During my last lab weekend I barely ate anything from severe anxiety due to lab practicals.
I remember how disgusted I felt looking at a body that shouldn’t have been mine: being able to grab a handful of my stomach, having not even a centimeter’s space between my thighs anymore, not being able to fit a pair of favorite jeans, switching to sweats and skirts and dresses because it’s easy to hide.
I’m sure this disgust wouldn’t exist if larger bodies weren’t so vilified. Women’s bodies are especially torn asunder. Men get to have theirs called dad bods while women’s bodies are just fat bodies, subject to humiliation and scorn because many people believe women exist to be pretty for others and not ourselves.
And if we don’t, we deserve scorn.
It’s all unbelievably unfair, and the people who need to read this message won’t because they are stuck in echo chambers bleating hatred at their walls.
I have only recently begun to accept my body again. That is only due to the weight loss. I don’t want to sit here and type that I ever hated it. If I did, I would have relapsed into anorexia. I would have deprived my body of its favorite foods (I never cut out anything). I would have spent my days with some sort of self-hating chip on my shoulder. I wouldn’t have ignored its changes during 2019, the year I trained for various races. I didn’t spend moments reflecting and crying over it and being angry that I could not lose the weight. I just couldn’t. Cutting back anymore on my intake would have starved me.
But I get it now. I understand just how truly difficult it is.
For those who tear apart people with larger bodies, remember that one day you, too, could be struggling trying to lose an amount of weight you didn’t mean to gain.
I’m going to be doing a complete overhaul in the content of this blog because I have a lot to say, and I’ve been saying it all on Twitter, and Twitter isn’t the best place to be platforming my opinions on a variety of topics. This blog was originally a lifestyle blog and then I wanted it to be a physical therapy blog and now I want to bring it back to being a lifestyle blog. I’m still going to absolutely be covering physical therapy, especially my experiences in PT school; that is an inseparable part of my identity. However, I have grappled with feeling as though being a student is my only identity. A doctorate is all-consuming. I don’t want that. I only feel as if I have multiple identities in between terms, so I think being able to blog on a variety of topics will help remind me that I am a multifaceted person with a complex personality. Thus, off of the top of my head, these are the topics I will be blogging about:
I have bipolar disorder, ADHD, and anxiety. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder back in 2012. I’ve had anxiety since I was a child. And I received an ADHD diagnosis in January, with the idea that I’ve most likely had ADHD since childhood. I am in my second term of physical therapy school, and luckily my bipolar disorder only reared its ugly head once and it was a mild depressive episode that was very easy to power through until I cycled back to baseline. But undiagnosed ADHD coupled with untreated anxiety (because my anxiety is more of a thing that is triggered) made my first term a horrendous ordeal.
I developed the shakes, something I never had before. I even had the shakes during my first soft tissue practical, which thankfully did not affect my ability to do soft tissue interventions. I have had anxiety attacks. I even shut down several times throughout the term due to my brain no longer being able to tolerate the amount of anxiety assaulting it. I was overall numb.
I hated my first term. I found very few enjoyable moments. They say your first term is the hardest because it is a big adjustment period in terms of work load, but I knew there was something more going on. I knew that what I was experiencing couldn’t just be anxiety. I constantly felt beat up by the end of the day. I would go to bed thinking the next day would be easier in terms of getting my work/studying done in a decent amount of time, only to wake up and struggle trying to keep my focus without being pulled in fifty million directions by distracting things. If the internet didn’t exist, I would likely be distracted by something else, so the internet wasn’t the issue. Plus, I needed the internet to do all of my assignments. I then thought about how if I were placed in an empty room with nothing, how would my mind be? I then realized I’d start screaming from abject boredom. It’s known those with ADHD have a low tolerance for boredom because our dopamine levels are low to begin with. We’re constantly seeking out things that raise dopamine levels, which is why we always have to be doing something.
I started considering the possibility of ADHD. My brother has it, so it’d make sense to consider it. But I didn’t tell my psychiatrist about it right away. Even I was falling prey to the stigma attached to ADHD. I just kept thinking I needed more willpower. But it got to the point where I realized willpower was not the issue. No amount of my feeling determined to get through the day without issue made it so. I started relying on coffee to give me some focus. It worked. I was actually able to get through five finals without feeling numb and burnt out. Of course, I knew medication would likely be a lot better than coffee, but I just didn’t know how to bring it up. So I sat on this possible diagnosis and used some of my Christmas break to take every screen I could find on the internet. They all pointed to me having combined ADHD (inattentive and hyperactive).
Fast forward to today, and I have been on a non-stimulant medication called Strattera for five weeks.
I feel like focus is a superpower that I am finally privy to. I can wake up, tell myself I’m going to answer ten questions for gross anatomy or whatever, then have a break, and actually be able to do it without taking three hours to do ten questions because I spend so much time messing around. I’ve even been able to write this blog post without going to Facebook, then Twitter, and going to Google to search something unrelated that I’m curious about.
My executive functioning also seems to be improving. I picked up all the trash in my room and bagged it. All I have left to do is organize the stuff on my floor–but at least it’s not trash! And because my focus is better, my memory seems to be improving, which I found so problematic last term. I had to do so much repetition because it took an absurd amount of time for things to stick. Prior to my medication working, I almost felt the creeping fingers of burnout while studying for midterms and sucking down caffeine. Then I started to notice my medication dusting off the cobwebs of my mind. I let go of the caffeine, and I was pleasantly surprised by my ability to power through the rest of my midterms–even though I still couldn’t wait for them to be over with. I didn’t have as much time to study for my second patho exam as I did my first, but I did not freak out like I normally would. Instead, I used the power of focus. Even though I studied less, I felt it was more quality thanks to a clearer mind.
Unfortunately, I think my anxiety is still largely a separate thing, though it is better now because Strattera is doing a good job at dusting. I lost my mind during a midterm when I started having problems with Respondus (there’s a whole story behind why I flipped out that is connected to the fact that we originally used ProctorU). Of course, it was me jumping to conclusions; everyone had the exact same problem I did. Even so, I think parts of my anxiety are more under control now that the ADHD is settling down.
I am now enjoying this term more and feeling more confident that this is something I can manage, that I am capable of doing this, that I will not fail or drop any classes. I am looking more toward the future now instead of feeling trapped in the present, taking things one day at a time. You’d think that’d be a good thing, taking everything a day at a time, but sometimes being too present can feel stifling. Sometimes not looking toward the future means you are uncertain about whether or not you’re even going to have a future. Now I am doing research into a specialty that I would ultimately like to obtain within the decade after graduating PT school, one I’m very much excited about because I didn’t know of its existence. I have TMD, and physical therapists can help with that, and so I want to specialize in that area. I still want to specialize in the low back, but I’ll probably go after the McKenzie specialty first since it may count toward being able to be certified in the craniofacial and cervical spine through PTBCCT.
Overall, my passion for PT has been renewed thanks to finally being treated for ADHD.
This term was tumultuous, not because of COVID (although that played a part in it), but because life loves getting in the way so much that sometimes you wonder how you’re going to make it through four full years. It seems absolutely nothing can go wrong in your personal life. Nothing, lest you wind up slipping and failing a test or two or three.
You’re constantly studying for something once you reach a certain point–and it’s not just a little studying that you can get away with. It’s a lot of studying that you must do. And oftentimes you are studying for a test at what seems the last minute because you were too busy preparing for a practical or a previous test that you had to put off that test. All of my finals I only had about two to three days each to study for, although I did…
Midterms are over with (at least until next semester and finals, of course), and I did fairly well, so I feel confident enough to provide advice on how to study for grad school. I’m sure this is a worry many, many pre-PT students have, as your usual study habits in undergrad don’t necessarily translate well to a grad program. Take it seriously when PT students and even faculty tell you that if you were a straight-A student in undergrad, you’re most likely not going to be one in grad school. From what I’ve gathered talking to non-health science grad students, three classes is considered full-time. This is not the case in a health science program.
I’ve made my fair share of A’s and B’s, and as a perfectionist, it’s just something I’ve had to accept. Students during my observation hours warned me to not chase A’s. After all, on average, you’ll be taking anywhere from 5-7 classes a semester (depending on flex or residential), and I have accepted that it’s just not possible to get ahead like I could in undergrad. There are always assignments due. Once you finish one test, you have to study for another. And after that, there’s midterms. And then another test you have to study for. More assignments due. Let’s not forget readings. Maybe a project here and there. And lab practicals. And if you’re a flex student like me, you’ll have a job.
So here are some starter tips:
When Monday rolls around, prioritize less-intense classes first. Someone in my cohort said his advisor recommended this. In your first semester, gross anatomy I is an inevitably and it is THE heaviest class you’ll take. At my school, the residential students also take pathophysiology along with it, so that’s a double whammy. That’ll be me next semester. You’ll want to get the less intense classes out of the way so that you have plenty of time to devote to the more-intense ones.
There are various ways to stay organized. My cohort uses the GroupMe app to stay in touch, and we all use Google Docs. The more organized among us have created documents listening assignments due for the entire semester (I am not that organized, so thank goodness). I also use a whiteboard to list out my assignments for that week and check them off as they’re completed. If we’re given a study guide, we all work on it together through Google Docs. So I absolutely recommend gathering your entire cohort together and taking advantage of Google Docs and GroupMe. It’s wonderful because you don’t have to run to a professor for everything if you have a question. Someone in your cohort will likely have the answer. It’s also a great way to plan study groups.
If you have quizzes in any of your classes, take those seriously. Sometimes questions from the quizzes will be on your tests.
If your professors hold review sessions, attend them. Take notes. Gather these notes on a Google Doc and treat them like a study guide.
Study AT LEAST one week before any exam. You will not get away with studying the night before or even two days before. Every class is a lot of material, even your “easier” ones. And keep in mind, you will most likely be studying full-time for your more difficult exams. You’ll definitely be studying full-time around midterms and finals. So realize this is a lifestyle you have chosen and take it very seriously.
Attend tutoring. Make it mandatory to attend at least one session (particularly gross anatomy), even if you feel like you don’t need it. Your tutor might be an upper term and can provide you with tips and tricks. I went at the advice of my success advisor, and we went over ligaments and their attachments to bones. My tutor simplified it enormously when I was complicating it…enormously.
Meet with your advisor to obtain all the advice you can on proper study habits.
Do not pull an all-nighter. I am religious about my sleep habits. The only reason I’d ever pull one is if an assignment were due and I just procrastinated. Maybe you got away with it in undergrad, but you are going to need all your brain power in grad school, and it’s just not possible to pull that off with a sleepless mind. You’ll be too distracted by how tired you are, and recalling information is a slower process when sleep-deprived.
Now how do you study? For gross anatomy, I studied my quizzes (since I’m flex, the questions are available through Blackboard). My professor also told us exactly what would be on the exam (you may or may not get this lucky), so there was my study guide. I read through the study guide, read it out loud, and wrote down processes and things I couldn’t get right away. No magic to it. My professor likes to say that time in equals time out. For my GA lab practical, I studied how I pretty much did in undergrad. We were given a lot of resources, and I looked through all of those. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. There is no magic formula. We also do muscle card tests instead of listing origin/insertion and innervation, ect. on the practical. Note cards weren’t cutting it for me, and writing it out over and over wasn’t cutting it for me either. I purchased a textbook with pictures of individual muscles and would look at the muscle and try to guess everything before looking at the sheet. Then I would type it up. I know writing is better, but it takes too long, and your time is minimal. I typed it and read it out loud. And I’d just keep typing it. I got a perfect score on that test, so it worked. I might have had an easier time had I been forced to learn this information in undergrad, but we were only required to know the actions of the muscles.
In my soft tissues intervention class, I practiced on my mom for 1.5 weeks leading up to the practical. I will be doing the same for applied anatomy, except it will be 2.5 weeks.
All my other classes only have midterms/finals, and they all had review sessions and study guides. My cohort worked on those guides together. I then went through and would do an initial read through, then read out loud material I couldn’t get right away, and then would write things and come up with mnemonics. I also used Quizlets. I studied the week before for three of my midterms and the week before for my physical therapy practice midterm (because my success advisor said students seem to have difficulties with this class, so I took that to heart).
If you are not lucky enough to be provided with study guides and your professors believe you must know everything, you absolutely need to form a study group. What one person may not know, another will. Your cohort is your lifeline; you absolutely will not make it alone. I can promise you it is impossible.
I knew coming into this program that I would have to change things. I couldn’t study for gross anatomy the way I studied for A&P in undergrad because the way I studied then was just too time-consuming. At least for me, note cards weren’t going to work, which is the method I used in A&P. So while I have tried to provide an exhaustive list of how I went about studying, you might need other methods or might even discover your own methods that worked.
If you have any questions or need further advice, don’t hesitate to email me!
I know I am not alone when I say I am very nervous about officially starting PT school tomorrow. With 5 classes looming ahead, which is probably two less than full-time programs (even though technically I’m still full-time), I am creating a schedule within my planner that will keep me on track with studying and keeping me on top of assignments.
This trimester I am taking gross anatomy I, applied anatomy I, physical therapy practice I, evidence informed practice I, and soft tissue manipulation I. I think I’ve purchased a total of 14 textbooks for these classes, which is mind-boggling. That in itself is a little intimidating because I can’t even imagine the amount of reading I’ll be doing. My English degree was absolutely nothing compared to this upcoming challenge.
I am most apprehensive about starting gross anatomy, as I’m sure many of my classmates are. With only 3 lecture tests for the whole trimester, there’s much more material to know and much more material that needs to be remembered. Not to mention during virtual orientation, the professors emphasized that gross anatomy would be hard. And all I could think about was, ‘What am I getting myself into?’
And we actually have midterms, which some of you might laugh at me for, but in undergrad and even during my prerequisites, I didn’t really have many midterms. It was just tests and a final. Some of my English classes had a midterm, but it wasn’t really a big deal.
It’s also tough because I have bipolar disorder type I, and I developed this thing in undergrad. It caused me to drop an entire semester, take a break, and then switch to a college that offered an online degree. It also caused me to be hospitalized during post-grad while getting my prerequisites done. And it’s not necessarily easier because I’ve been having issues with cyclical depression thanks to possible thyroid issues. I feel great now, and I’m hoping I’ll be on an even keel for quite some time.
In any case, during the orientation, we talked about a thing called grit, which is basically the amount of determination you have to get something done. What was a little discouraging to hear is that people with a mental illness, such as myself, statistically have lower levels of grit. I know there are outliers, and perhaps I am one. After all, even when I was hospitalized, I was determined to get out and finish chemistry and biology–and I did get A’s in both.
But four years is a long time in the world of mental illness since ANYTHING can happen. Academically, it might go fast. Getting my prerequisites done certainly flew by, but I can’t help but to be apprehensive about having some mental health crisis. After all, I found stability for three beautiful years and didn’t think I’d have an incident ever again. That incident then taught me that I can no longer be complacent. I cannot take stability for granted.
I am terrified. Almost a month ago I came out of a depressive episode that was threatening to take a turn for the worst (it usually does that when I’m rapid cycling, that I’ll get really bad and then come out of it). During that depressive episode, I didn’t care about anything. I didn’t get much done other than what I needed to get done, which I suppose one could argue is a feat in itself. Even so, my author life was almost nonexistent, and I didn’t workout much. I couldn’t even enjoy my husband’s month-long stay until he started his new job at another trucking company. I also didn’t care that I was starting PT school soon and whether I’d start or not based on the ten million things that still needed to be done.
So I suppose I’m primarily nervous because I know my health isn’t steady right now. My psychiatrist took my thyroid levels at the beginning of the year, and they were high, which made a lot of sense and explained many issues I’d be having, from weight gain that I cannot lose to bloat to excessively dry/frizzy hair to the cyclical depression and so on. I don’t want the depression to come back because I am such a naturally energic/driven person who enjoys school and looks forward to learning how to be the best physical therapist possible. I can’t truly enjoy all that depressed.
But I guess all I can do is take it one day at a time, right?
Depending on when you decide to start, the summer or the winter before you officially start PT school is stressful. It doesn’t matter how prepared you are to get everything done. It is just stressful.
I’ll start by saying that I am incredibly privileged. Ever since my husband became a truck driver, I thought the best thing for both of us would be to move back in with my parents so that he wouldn’t be paying rent plus all the other bills associated with living in a townhome. He could concentrate on paying off his debt, and I could concentrate on saving what I could for school. So I pay for what I can, and my parents help me out when I need it.
But going through the process of prepping for grad school has made me realize that it really is for the privileged. People who can’t pay out of pocket are going to have to borrow close to the max amount every trimester for the next four years until they graduate. It’s going to be even worse if they don’t live at home.
So that’s one thing you’ll need to keep in mind–you’ll be spending more money than you think.
You’ll be spending money on the background check. That much is a given. But not only are you spending money on your urine test and to get a piece of paper to give to a company that will take your fingerprints, but oftentimes you’ll have to pay again to get your fingerprints done, incurring another expense on top of what you already paid for the background check.
You’ll have to buy all the equipment needed for your program. This ranges from the stethoscope to goniometers to scrubs and whatever else your programs demand of you. I spent roughly 280 dollars out of pocket–and I haven’t even purchased my scrubs or my APTA membership yet. Because of this, I’m likely going to be renting all of my textbooks since I only want to take out enough loans to pay for tuition and fees. And I’ll likely be using my Kindle for it.
Your school will require health insurance from you. I know some graduate programs offer insurance, but mine doesn’t, so I have my own. Thus, if you have insurance, it should pay for all the shots you have to make sure you’re up-to-date on as well as a physical, TB test, and anything else your school might ask of you. In the US, it’s a privilege to have health insurance, and unfortunately, it’s usually a requirements to start a graduate health science program. Thus far, I’ve spent 100 dollars out-of-pocket for all the medical-based stuff.
The paperwork seems like it’s never-ending. What you filled out just to apply for the program is just the beginning. Once you’re accepted, you’re bombarded with things you have to fill out, like verification forms for your insurance, promissory notes for loans, and so on and so forth. At one point I received an email telling me that after my advisor audited me, it’d been determined that I missed signing six forms. SIX FORMS! Do better than me and thoroughly read everything that comes in your inbox.
I had to do a lot of required modules in preparation for PT school. I don’t know if the modules were a requirement because much of my classes are online or because of COVID, but I feel like it was giving me an idea of what I can expect from a typical day as I go about my academic studies. And let me tell you, those modules took me hours upon hours to do. Now I know some of the modules are likely requirements in general, like elderly abuse and the like, but there are other ones about how to use various online tools necessary for the program.
Let’s go back to the APTA membership. I’m not sure if all schools require it, but mine does, and I think it’s 92 dollars for the state my school is in, which is Florida; thus, it varies by state. And apparently that’s great considering that’s the student discount. If you don’t have a job, I’d probably try to get a small part-time job–and I say small because I know some people will be attending 3-year or even 2-year programs. You’ll only accumulate more debt otherwise.
Now this is a positive, and I imagine more schools than mine do this, but there are so many resources available and so many people reaching out to you prior to starting your first semester. There have been many opportunities to attend virtual sessions, but I only chose one because it’s the only one I was interested in–a session on the day in the life of a grad student. However, there were plenty more, like how to navigate financial aid and learning about virtual simulations. It makes me feel confident that once I start my semester, my program is not going to let me fall behind. It seems like it will be a very different experience from undergrad.
Overall, the takeaway from this is that the process is time-consuming and expensive, so don’t expect to breathe easy before you start.