Schedule Change this week: I may not be able to post on the regular days due to anniversaries – PLUS ANOTHER LONG POST
Between January of last year and March of this year, I went through the process of applying to graduate school for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). That & aromatherapy are what I’d like to be my second career, so it seemed like a good thing to do and provide opportunities to meet people in a new city. Plus, I had been going there for a few months to get treatment at the teaching clinic and really liked the school’s philosophy, training approach, professionalism, etc.
Many of my friends, co-workers, and family members were happy for me. Almost all of them knew how much I wanted to work in the healing arts and couldn’t take those steps during the first round of college. I was still scared and worried that my PTSD and DID would get in the way, but I also felt hopeful because everything was different. Interpersonal communication, socializing, and interacting with people was still difficult. The fears, panic attacks, and communication issues still existed, but I was ready to face these challenges head on.
I applied for the masters program. And I persisted even when my application got put aside due to human error/glitch in the admissions department. My application was accepted, and I was asked to come in for an interview (step 2). Now, speaking in groups is extremely triggering and scary, not just for me (the host interacting with people), but for everyone in our system. It brought back a lot of bad memories.
So I coped in the best way I knew: gather information, practice with different people, and focus on what I can control instead of what I can’t control. Namely, my outfit, accessories, and travel plans. Then work out a group of coping strategies I could take with me to use. People who didn’t know me well got the impression that I was not focusing on the important stuff – namely acing my interview questions – and too much on my appearance. But that’s okay. Certain forums are NOT the best place for personal confessions. Not everyone needs to know everything about anything.
The interview was lively with a good flow and many laughs. They asked the required questions and then some based on the conversation. Then I asked questions to follow up on some of their comments. But I was brutally honest about all of my personal challenges and possible issues with being in classes and classrooms during the interview. I felt accomplished about getting through the interview without switching or having a panic attack.
I didn’t expect to get accepted. Nor did I truly want to be accepted into the program at the time. Either I would be waitlisted or rejected.
I got wait listed and offered a chance to “sit in” and observe some of the potentially triggering classes; then write an essay about my experiences and have a second interview. But all of this had to happen before the admissions deadline. And all of the classes were during the day. Thankfully, my boss understood and allowed me to change my work schedule for 3 weeks. It was a great opportunity for me to see if my plan (school and work together) was workable or not.
So, I worked, went to acupuncture appointments, went to counseling, blogged, and attended classes for 3 weeks in the spring. The students and teacher included me in many activities and made me feel like part of the class. It gave me a perspective I would not have had otherwise and a chance to test myself in a real life situation.
Then came the time for my second interview. My essay was strictly about experiences related to whether or not I could succeed in a graduate school program in spite of the current challenges. It did not touch on how I felt or reacted or coped with life in general. My blog posts touched on that; and in an effort to be transparent and honest, I let the committee members have access to the blog posts during that period too.
The differences in my professional essay to the committee and my blog posts in the same period were glaring and could be misinterpreted by those who don’t understand what it’s like to live on the inside and the outside. So I explained the differences in the interview.
The blog shares experiences about my whole life (the internal one my alters and I cope with all the time) and all of the recurring coping challenges that come with having PTSD & DID.
The essay focused only on my experiences with the college and whether or not I’d be able to cope with the stress of that and continue my current lifestyle/work.
What is expressed here on the blog is my whole life including 90% of what people in the outside world DON’T SEE OR KNOW ABOUT ME AND WHAT I HAVE TO COPE WITH ON A DAILY BASIS.
I got rejected for 2017/2018 admissions.
Instead of feeling sad or upset or angry or shamed, I felt happy, grateful, hopeful, and relaxed.
My Perspective & Goals for this Experience
I went through this process to test my ability to cope and interact with many different kinds of people in a triggering environment full of potential pitfalls.
My learning Style is: Kinesthetic followed by Cognitive
That means I learn best by DOING or PARTICIPATING in the activity or experience followed by Thinking & Processing information I read or learned through all senses.
Like I told the Admissions Committee in both interviews:
My life now is not the same as it was last time I went through graduate school. I am not the same person then as I am now. My coping strategies/techniques are different. My sense of self is different. My reactions to triggers and stimuli are also different.
HAPPY because I accomplished my goal and learned where I need to improve so that going back to school will be a success
GRATEFUL because the school gave me a unique opportunity to challenge myself and test my skills in a safe, but honest real life situation
HOPEFUL because someday I know that I can and will succeed at graduate school & my second career as long as I work on coping strategies to deal with overstimulation & communication challenges through small steps & successes
RELAXED because now the challenge is over, and I have the information I needed. It was tough, scary, triggering, and full of stress, but also fun, exciting, interesting, and filled with life lessons I am still processing and integrating into the present.
It’s times like these when Robert Frosts’ poem “The Road Not Taken” comes to mind.
The people who know, love, & accept me as I am might not always understand why I do things the way I do, but they accept that it’s the right way for me and support my choices.
The opposite is true too.
The path we take to recovery & life after surviving trauma is a lot like the road less traveled:
Full of pitfalls, traps, and head-scratching to other people, but exactly right for each and every one of us.
And that’s part of why I write this blog
Everyone deserves to have someone in your corner who values, supports, and accepts them as they are and their choices too. Someone gave that to me, and it changed my life. Now I’m grateful to give that to others too.
Thanks for reading