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Is anyone here a doctor or in school to be a doctor?

I'm just starting out on doing my pre-med classes (finish my first one on thursday!) and i start full on in the fall. but as proud of and happy i am with this decision i've made, i still find myself embarrassed to tell people. i mean, on one hand i'm 28, married, with a kid, and have a degree in art and another in education (not exactly consistent), so i'm worried about judgement on that. but the more i get into school and prove i "still got it" (so to speak) the more i feel i can hold my own on that front.

on the other hand, i'm bipolar.

i don't have any doubt that i can do this. i know there's going to be a learning curve to managing my illness and getting through school, etc. but i'm afraid of the opinions of others. i actually just told my pdoc and he had to drag it out of my b/c he couldn't understand why i was taking all these math classes. i was terrified of telling him and my tdoc b/c i thought they might tell me that i should "reconsider" and that would crush me (they didn't though i'm still paranoid). my friends from home still don't know and my friends from here know (maybe) through me indirectly talking about it. my father-in-law just found out and the rest of my in-laws don't know (to be fair i tried to tell my mother-in-law and she told me that was unacceptable because we weren't allowed to leave this city and my husband had a career here and wanted to go to school, then promptly forgot i said anything. she's a gem.).

just looking for some people who have been there, done that and how they handled both the practical side of being bipolar and studying to become/being a doctor and the judgement, if there was any.

thank you.

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there is a member here who is in medical school

she is also an admin or mod here

she is a great gal, and I am sure she will respond when/if she sees your post

her name is Tryp and you will find a lot of posts from her

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Keep in mind that one of the most important research psychiatrists in the U.S., Kay Redfield Jamison, has BP I and is a professor in the psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. A good book by her is "An Unquiet Mind". She is also the co-author of one of the standard MI textbooks, "Manic Depressive Illness: Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression", seen here on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Manic-Depressive-Illness-Disorders-Recurrent-Depression/dp/0195135792

She's one of my heroes because she became a doctor in spite of her illness, including some serious psychotic breaks. I feel like if she accomplished all that, then there's hope for all of the rest of us to lead a productive life.

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Dr. Jamison is actually a psychologist and not a psychiatrist and is therefore not a physician (although her appointment is with the department of psychiatry) - I would venture to say that medical training has some aspects that are more destabilizing than what clinical psychology training has. But her story and her success are definitely inspirational. My psychiatrist recommended that I read her book, but I haven't yet because I feel like it might be too close to home.

As BPLadybug said, I am a medical student - just finished up first year and currently working in research in my school's psychiatry department. I am not BP, but I don't know who else is kicking around right now, so I will answer anyway. I can think of one BP physician and one BP resident who have been around here in the past year but I have not seen either of them recently. We have had a couple other medical students/doctors over the years but most of them don't stick around too long.

When it comes to age - I don't know if this is true in the US, but in Canada it is quite common for there to be a few older students for whom medicine is a second or even third career, or who have already started a family. There are definitely some in my class that are around your age. Medical schools here actually value those students because of their experience and perspective. Medical training is long, but you will definitely still have a long career ahead of you. I doubt that anyone will look down on you simply because of your age. My own psychiatrist worked in a completely unrelated field for years before going to medical school.

When I was doing my pre-med, I was definitely embarrassed to tell my psychiatrist that I was pursuing medicine, but she was actually one of my biggest supporters. In some ways, it's an advantage - because of my relationship with my psychiatrist, there is actually room for some mentoring there - I have someone around who knows the ropes and can reassure me or clue me in about things. I'm not going to lie, that was VERY uncomfortable for me for a long time, and my current psychiatrist does teach upper year medical students, so at times it's STILL very uncomfortable, but I am beginning to see how I can also use that relationship as an advantage and a springboard towards becoming a good physician, and she has never been anything but encouraging and supportive.

I have had psychiatrists who were not encouraging, but they were not doctors who know me well, and frankly they were assholes. I think particularly of a psychiatrist in the emergency room where I wound up one night manic from Zoloft who told me that I need to pick a goal that was "more achievable for someone like me." She was actually just a moron though.

The other hard thing is from the other end - being in medical school and hearing doctors say derogatory things about psychiatry and psych patients. That has been far harder to me than telling my own physicians that I am a medical student. It doesn't happen all the time, but I've definitely heard things that I find inappropriate. I try to educate where I can, and where I can't (like when an attending gives me shit and there's nothing much I can say really) I file an equity complaint. Because of my experiences, I think I have a certain obligation to try to bust stigma.

Of course that doesn't mean I run around telling everyone about my MI. I am ordinarily a very open person, but I've had to sort of compromise and come to the conclusion that as much as I would like to be totally open, it's not going to be safe for my career or my education. There are a few people who know about me, but not many. I am registered with Disability Services but since I have not had to use my accommodations yet, the only people in my faculty who know about me are a couple of classmates, and even they only know varying degrees of the truth. I play the Borderline Personality Disorder thing close to my chest.

The most important thing to do is constantly be on top of your illness. I have had to sacrifice a lot of things because I decided that my performance in medical school is absolutely the most important thing, and I know that to be on top of my illness, I need to go to therapy and group therapy, take my meds, get a certain amount of sleep, eat right, take time to be alone, all of those things. And in return, I've given up some of the social life things that other people can do because unlike most people, I have a more limited "bucket" of energy and time, and I have to be very careful where I spend it, especially since a lot of it goes to managing my illness and most of the rest goes to my schoolwork and my girlfriend. If I feel symptoms coming on, I get all over them and if I need my accommodations, they are already set up for me. Mostly I get permission to tape record classes if I am too ill to go, and I also get support for extended deadlines and deferred exams and I am allowed to request that my small groups be scheduled in a certain way if I need certain times off for treatment.

I am currently a pre-clerk and in some ways that is easier. Because I manage my time, I can still eat and sleep as I need to. And I have done very well in my classes because I am good at school.

The biggest problems facing me at the moment are clerkship and internship - being up all night on call every third night, having to be in the hospital at 5 am for rounds. It's just not good for stability, not to mention being incompatible with some of my current medications. That is the part that really terrifies me - when I HAVE to be on my game 12 hours a day every day, and some nights as well. It also definitely factors into my choice of specialities. I am quite sure I want to be a psychiatrist and although I am open to changing my mind, there are some specialities that are just not an option for me. For example, surgery is probably not an option for me just because of the terrible hours. I think it would probably make me very ill.

I am unsure what, if anything, my faculty will be willing to do to mitigate the situation - I intend to meet with the clerkship directors this year to discuss if there are any accommodations that can be made to help me manage. And my psychiatrist is behind me 100% so I know that she will go to bat for me. It mostly depends on the school in that case - I know some schools where students with certain disabilities have been excused from call or had their call frequency greatly diminished and other schools where you're basically on your own. I suspect mine will be somewhere in the middle.

Medicine is a long road for anyone. For those of us with brain cooties, there are extra bumps. And not everyone will be supportive, or understand what you're going through. But if it really matters to you and this is what you want, give it everything and don't let anyone pull you down. We are not the first to do it with MI and we won't be the last. Frankly, medicine is FULL of untreated insanity - people like you and me have an advantage because we are already in treatment, we have some insight and we are willing to get on top of things before they get out of hand.

Edited by tryp

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Keep in mind that one of the most important research psychiatrists in the U.S., Kay Redfield Jamison, has BP I and is a professor in the psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. A good book by her is "An Unquiet Mind". She is also the co-author of one of the standard MI textbooks, "Manic Depressive Illness: Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression", seen here on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co...n/dp/0195135792

My dad has a chapter in that book. :) He's at least cyclothymic, he may have a mild case of BP I. He doesn't think so, other pdocs (friends of the family) disagree.

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thanks so much. it really means a lot to get all of these responses. especially tryp - it was really great to hear about it from a first person perspective.

i'm leaning towards psychiatry as well (had an interest in it even before the major crazies hit) though i am also thinking about pediatrics to a degree (my former career was teaching) as I enjoy working with kids and the hours (in a private/group practice) seems to be compatible with the BP life style. surgery was never even on my radar!

it's so funny, i'm not worried about school and the grades - i've always been really good in school even at my most defunct, and even though it's hard i can see a way to manage it - it's the "support systems" and other groups of people i'll be interacting with that scare me the most. i'm glad to hear that it can work out to be manageable as well even though it may be difficult at times.

thanks again.

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