It has been almost a year since I started ICO, and boy, has a lot happened! Am I happy to be at ICO? Incredibly. I have met some of the best people here, I have learned so much about myself (and about the eyes,) and I have found something that I really enjoy.
However, if you would have asked me during the first week of classes if I had made the right decision, I probably wouldn’t have said all this. In fact, I actually told Beth Karmis that I thought I had made a huge mistake coming to ICO, that I didn’t want to be an eye doctor, that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and that I applied to optometry school because I didn’t want to apply to medical school. Oh, and I was saying all this while bawling my eyes out (I hate crying in front of people!)
Was it true what I was saying? No. So, why was I saying these things? I was saying these things because, for the last 18 hours, I had been having my first major panic attack. When you have one of these attacks, you seem to say anything that could help you get away from the “dangerous” situation.
Lets back up- 18 hours prior to this moment. It was the second day of classes, and we still had two more classes to go. I was fine… until I wasn’t. My heart started to hurt, I had a lump in my throat that made it impossible to breathe or talk, and my eyes were filling with tears. I excused myself and ran back to my room. I cried from three until midnight, and 2AM, I called my mom and said she had to come get me. She and my grandpa arrived 8 hours later, and had no idea what to do.
After a long talk between Beth, my mom, and I, we had a few options: try to get through classes until White Coat, go home for the week, or quit. My mom was afraid that if I went home for a week, I would never return. Round and round we went, until my grandpa said, “Jesus Christ, Melissa!” He decided he and my mom were going to leave me and return for White Coat in two weeks. As they were leaving, my second major panic attack began, and it didn’t stop until I fell asleep at home in my mom’s bed 8 hours later.
My mom had assumed that, as soon as I was in the car heading for Minnesota, it would all stop. It didn’t. I started to panic because I knew I wanted to be at ICO, and I wanted to be studying to become an eye doctor. I ultimately felt lost.
Fortunately, my grandma has a great relationship with her doctors. The next day, I had two doctor appointments. One was to a psychiatrist, and the other to a family doctor. Both said the same thing: Panic disorder. The psychiatrist said that my panic attacks were the kind that didn’t tire my body out, and therefore they lasted longer than the usual attack. The family doctor said that everyone has a battery- a reservoir- and unfortunately, I had gone into optometry school with both empty. I was exhausted.
I ended up being medicated, and I decided to head back to ICO. Unfortunately/fortunately, while I was getting used to the new medication, it would actually cause more panic attacks for the next three weeks. Family members had to take turns staying in Chicago for the time being. Therefore, I was struggling to stop panicking, stay atop my studies, hang out with family members everyday, and try to make friends.
I failed my first exam (biochemistry.) My mom said it was OK, Beth said it was OK, and Dr. Z said it was OK. I had a panic attack and bawled again while looking over the exam in her office. However, I did laugh after this because I was so embarrassed, and guess what? It was OK. Now, I’m preparing to start my second year, and kicking it off by helping with Orientation (who would have guessed?)
So, to incoming first years: It will be ok. They say first year is the hardest. While I have nothing to compare it to as of yet, you can get through it, no matter the bumps along the way. I found out that people are willing to help; just ask. Talk to your roommate, or Beth Karmis, your teacher, or someone from the year above (like me.) Everyone wants to help you in the difficult times, even if it has nothing to do with optometry.
As Rob Schneider said in The Waterboy: