Friday, July 17, 2015

line of insanity, net of grace

Perhaps 3am after I've been up since 7am, taken an 8 hour exam, and traveled 200 miles is not the best time to write a blog post. But apparently the adrenalin required for the exam is still going strong, because I'm very awake. 

So. Now's a perfect time to tell what I've been doing this summer. 
(forgive me if it takes a while)
(if it doesn't make sense feel free to ask for clarification in a comment.
I may not be at my most eloquent, even if I am at my most real...)

Two and a half months ago I finished the classroom portion of med school. I had a lovely study schedule laid out wherein I would head off by myself 
and study for seven weeks and take my board exam on June 7th. 

Ah, the best laid plans. 

It started out simply enough...I studied and slept and took up running and got out in the sun and rode my horse and felt generally good about myself and life in general. I started making a little list of Things I Learned While Studying For My Board Exam.

Enjoy the little things. 
     Flowers blooming? Pick one to have by your study space. 
     Learn to give up "pet tics" - I work better on sunny days. Rain makes me want to write. No. You           need to work when it's time to work. Don't baby yourself.

Don't mess with partial rewards.
      Like chocolate? Get a few high-quality chocolate bars and eat some every day. (Forget about Hershey and go for the good stuff.)
      Enjoy a good book? Don't use your 5 minute break skimming news articles online. 

Don't forget sleeping, eating healthy, and taking care of your skin don't actually take that much more time to do than not, and will make you feel a whole lot better about yourself. 

Then it came time to take a practice exam. 
The score scared me a bit, and I went back to studying with renewed vigor. 
I should be at least in the passing zone at this point.

Fewer horse rides, more running, and more attempts at studying...

I'd heard how everybody else was doing it, how people who'd done it before had done it...I've taken a good plenty number of exams myself. I knew how it worked. You go through the study book (or part of the study book, since I never complete them fully on time), you take the test, you get a number a few points below what you really wanted, but good enough to get you where you want to go.

Next practice test:
my score is not only not passing, but lower than the previous one.

Okay, now it was clearly time to seriously get serious. 
but I was finding it horribly difficult to concentrate or focus, my practice questions every day were taking me forever to get through, I was falling more behind every day on my study schedule, and it was extremely frustrating to realize I'd spent a week reviewing biochemistry and I was getting all of 30% of the biochemistry questions right.
Spoiler: it didn't.

Somewhere around that point I realized I was going nowhere fast and I rescheduled my exam for June 29. And started a 40 day fiction fast...which morphed over those 40 days into basically giving up almost everything I love to do for fun, piece by piece. 

The following weeks can basically be summed up by this:

As my scores continued to creep up by maybe half a percent a week and the days slipped through my fingers like sunlight through lace, anxiety crept up on me. And before I knew it, it had taken up residence.  

I've always hated tests. I've never frozen in panic in the face of one before. Let me tell you, it's not fun. 
I used to wish I had the kind of anxiety that made me eat less, instead of more. Apparently I do have that kind of anxiety...I've just never been that anxious before. 
The thought of food made me nauseous, and every time I forced myself to eat
I'm studying! I need brain food! Eat, you stupid body!
it was like choking down sawdust. (Like looking at chocolate made me feel absolutely sick. I didn't know that was possible.) 
on the upside, I lost like 7 pounds and the college chub is pretty much gone. med school has been nice that way. on the downside, that is seriously NOT a diet I'd recommend. it's awful. 

Then one night I did another section of practice questions...
and after a week of 40-to-close-to-60%, I got another 30%. 

I could feel the darkness descending.

I got up, packed my things, and went to bed. 

Depression is one of those things I've seen enough to know what it is, and it's come close enough to burn me once or twice in my life. Each time it's been utterly hideous, and the last time I was probably 16 or 17. I thought at that point I'd beaten it. It was gone and I was an adult and I understood things now and that was over and done with. 

If you have ever dealt with depression you know it's ridiculous and unreasonable and you can't get away from it. If you haven't this probably makes no sense and you think I'm overly dramatic and weird. (Well, I am that also, but depression and anxiety are things you can't logic away when they come on like gangbusters. I tried.)

I knew I needed to go back and stay with my mom instead of studying on my own every day and that's where I went, with quite a bit of panic coming with me.  

my mom said:

my study advisors at school said:

We came up with a new study plan and I started in, now not only having to study, but having to force myself to eat and fight feelings of pointless misery and wanting to sleep all the time. 
on the upside, and also on the list of Things I Wish I Didn't Know About Myself, I concentrate way better when I'm depressed. I got through a lot more material all of a sudden.

I took another practice test. 
I'd come up 2 points in 3 weeks. 

I sent the results to my advisor. 

She started talking rescheduling my 3rd year and giving up all the perfect rotations I'd been so excited about getting and going to a study camp for 6 weeks and then coming back and picking up whatever left-over rotations had not yet been taken in a huge city I've been trying to stay away from for as long as possible. 

She referred me to another advisor in that city and basically

Y'know...I sat down on my bed and bawled. Why was God not answering my prayers and why was I, for the first time in my life, absolutely incapable of learning material? Why was nothing sticking in my head? 
Why was this so ridiculously difficult?
What was WRONG?

To say this was the worst month of maybe my entire life would probably not be an understatement. 

I will attempt anyway.

I grew up with plenty of time to start my day with Bible reading and prayer. I was probably 6 when my church sent home weekly schedules for doing so, and I started getting in the habit of doing a little bit every day. 
I was 11 when a young lady from that church started a discipleship group and encouraged us to make it the first thing in our day, thereby putting our focus on God as soon as we woke up.
It was simple, and I did it, until I was 18. Somewhere in there the first part of the day bit slipped...though one year in college my goal was to pray for at least an hour every day, and that was actually possible. (I don't remember if I quite managed 365 hours of prayer, but I do know I was very close.) It wasn't quite the absolute, first-thing-as-soon-as-I-wake-up, but it was definitely something I worked to keep up with at some point during the day.

One of my goals year 1 of med school was to figure out how to implement 
a solid prayer time every day, and get back in the habit lest it slip away from me completely.

Guess which happened. 

Something I'd noticed for sure by the middle of June was that I didn't Somewhere in my brain yeah, I still wanted focused time to read the Bible and pray, but as far as putting it first, before I picked up another book, before I spent time on email, before crashing into bed at midnight and falling asleep to Alexander Scourby reading my chosen chapters for the day...I had no desire strong enough to change my behavior one bit. 

I was busy, you know. I had stuff to do as soon as I woke up. I' it later...

But at this point I looked at my scores and laughed. I couldn't see less improvement if I did nothing and praying for an hour a day might at least beat back the depression a little bit. (Wow, nothing like a little helplessness in the face of unreasoning misery to send me running to my Shelter. Pathetic.)

So I started praying for an hour a day and I moved my test to July 7th. 

Another thing I picked up from the young lady I mentioned - she was crazy about hearts, and she used them as a reminder of God's incredible love for us. I liked the idea, and seeing a heart anywhere in nature always reminds me of the same thing. 
During this mess, my mom went for a walk, and as she walked she was praying about me and this stupid test and my horrible scores...and as she finished she thought I wonder if I can find any heart rocks for her? She looked down at that moment, just finishing her prayer, and lying directly at her feet where two small stones shaped like hearts. 

I set those stones by my books and I prayed and studied and prayed some more.

I started asking that I'd pass my next two practice tests - my Gideon's fleece for whether or not I could take the actual exam. Whether I was supposed to take the actual exam. If there was actually any kind of a chance I could possible pass  the thing itself.

A friend of my mom's posted this on facebook, and I started realizing once again that I'd let fear creep in until it was too strong for me to deal with - and that was wrong
(and seriously this could be my theme song for med school...)

The week ended, I sat down on the couch and reviewed a set of notes one more time.

About those heart rocks. 
Hearts were kind of "her" reminder (and that of every girl in her discipleship groups and conferences who'd heard her speak), and while they still were a reminder of God's love, eventually I'd chosen feathers as a more specifically personal reminder. (Psalm 91 is one of my favorites.) 

I studied on that couch all morning, I got up to get ready for my next practice test, and when I came back there was a feather laying on the seat. 
Where I'd been sitting all morning and seen nothing.

Then I picked up the Bible on the table next to me, considering reading a chapter before I started the test. It opened to Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears.
it's especially funny when my dad's name is David

Anyway, I took the practice exam, and I passed it. 

To put this in perspective, from my baseline in March to the end of June, I'd come up 10 points. This practice exam was from a different source, but according to it, I'd come up 34 points in 6 days.

I (and everyone praying with me) was thrilled. I went back to studying pretty much sure I had it now. I'd prayed to pass these two and the first was awesome and amazing. One more to go and then the real thing and then a week of break and on to rotations!

Things were looking up, and I was starting to feel better. (I realized how bad it was when my younger sister started singing For the first time in sister's "almost hungry"!)
I sat down to my next practice exam.

I'd gone back to the official practice exams, and while I was still 8 points higher than I'd been two weeks ago, I'd come down 16 points. No longer in the realm of okay.

Color me now very confused and absolutely exhausted. Why, if God knew I was going to fail, did He let me pass the first one? I could have spent the past week figuring out my new schedule, canceling rotations, etc. Instead of smashing my head against a wall of learning that was clearly not going to let me through anytime soon. 

I went to bed and got up and did nothing for a solid day. Including contact my advisors with the score and start the process of dismantling my third year. 
Mostly because my mom wanted me to take one more practice exam. 
I kinda figured I'd already "put out two fleeces" and the answer was a pretty obvious NO...but honoring one's mother is kinda a command...and it wasn't like I was going to pass anyway. 

Except I did.

Now more confused than ever. 
But there were my two passing scores. And when I checked, a new testing day had opened up at the end of the week at the testing center where I took the MCAT, giving me 4 more days to study.

I called my advisor. 

He went and conferred with someone else.

(I would bet you money this was their meeting...)

but they agreed that was what I should do.

and that's what I did. 

I ended up at the same computer where I'd taken the MCAT, and I spent 8 hours there, and the wave of exhaustion I was waiting for never even hit me. (If my current wide-awake status is any indication, I may never sleep again.)  

I don't know how I did, and I won't for quite a while. I could end up having to reschedule my 3rd year and retake the exam after all that. If I do, yeah, I will probably be rather upset. 

But even if that happens it won't change the things I learned this summer. It won't destroy the time I've been able to spend praying and reading my Bible. It won't undo the fact that God got my attention about a lot of things (I plan on putting them in another post because this one is already way too long.) and reminded me of a lot of things I shouldn't have forgotten.

So, y'know. As far as what my third year in medical school will look future in general...

But I'm pretty sure it's going to be good.

Because He is.

12 thoughts shared: said...

Woman, I knew you + God would get this done, and you rocked it. The F5 had confabs to pray about you, in fact. I'M SO PROUD. <3

Ashton said...

Oh my dear! I'm glad to at_least hear you're somewhat alive! I really enjoyed this post and it makes me realize how much I need to pray for you more. Like, extra harder. I've actually found myself in the same predicament with my school. It is quite possible to get so wrapped up in studying, taking tests, etc. that we simply forget to spend time with the Lord. I'll be praying for you! *cyber hug*

Katherine Sophia said...

if any gathering of two or more is able to pray me through passing that exam, I'm pretty sure it's the F5. :D You guys helped SO MUCH...just knowing I could share and you guys would absolutely be there for me was immeasurably amazing. :)

thank you, Ashton! I appreciate your prayers so much and they have helped. :) and as I work on keeping my focus I'll pray for you also! it's far too easy to be distracted... *cyber hugs back* thank you! :)

Miss Melody Muffin said...

I'm so glad you got to take the test and I'm praying for the results to be positive.

Thank you for the reminders that no matter what, God is still in control. :)

<3 <3

wisdomcreates said...

I've turned in my paperwork and, once it's approved, I'll be sitting for my own 8-hour exam. Your words were directly on-point for me today. Thank you.
I'm hoping you passed your test in victory. We were praying for you! And I totally agree that God has good things for you. That's one thing that I have done -- turn it over to Him. He's the one who got me this far. If this is what He wants me to do next, He's going to make a way. If not, then I'm ready to follow Him wherever He leads.

Katherine Sophia said...

*hugs* it was your prayers that helped get me that reminder, Melody. :) and thank you for continuing to pray as they compare scores and calculate the numbers to count. <3 <3 <3

Katherine Sophia said...

Thanks so very much for praying, wisdomecreates! :) And that's it...once the mountain of an exam was smashed back down to size and I was able to just hand it over to God for Him to decide my didn't matter so much. And I was able to see where not trusting God with it immediately had allowed a bit of anxiety to turn into something I was then unable to shake off. I'm glad you're going into yours with your mind in the right place. :) And I'll be praying you have a good day and think well and the exam goes amazingly! Please let me know how it turns out. (and if you would like extra prayer on the exam date just tell me when it is... :)

Christine Smith said...

Oh my goodness, I had no idea you've been going through so much. But what a beautiful reminder that God is always, always with us. He is so amazing!

I've been praying for you, sweet girl, and will absolutely continue to. Keep clinging to Him. Because He IS good. So, so good! <3

Katherine Sophia said...

Thank you, Christine! :) I am so grateful for your prayers. And it is good to be in awe of Him together!

wisdomcreates said...

Katherine Sophia, I would like extra prayers. I will let you know when they give me a date. Thank you.

Vicki said...

Oh, Katherine ...

*long sniffly Internet hug*

I wish I'd known everything you were going through. I wish I'd prayed harder for you. I wish that your time of trial hadn't needed to be so long and so hard. But more than anything, I wish for you that the things you've learned will stick with you your whole life, and that from the dark places you've been during these last months, you will rise to a new bright place of faith, peace, and resolve that you've never known before.

Whether you passed the test or not, everything I've always said about you is exactly the same: You are amazing, you are brilliant, and God sees and knows your heart's desire to serve Him by serving others. He loves you so very much, Kate, and we love you too. You're one of the bravest girls I know and I'm so proud of you. Thank you so much for letting us share your journey and pray for you - I promise I'll do better at that from now on!!

Bless you and love to you, Kate!!! I mean it, I'm very proud of you!!!

~ Vicki

Katherine Sophia said...

Thank you, wisdomecreates! I'll be praying things go well as you prepare!

Thank you so much, Vicki. That is exactly what I need, and I do hope it is what comes from that mess. And somehow your comments are always just what I need to hear. :) *hugs* Thank you.


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