This story was originally published on my vet school blog, “Wet Cleanup on Aisle 5.” I still have vet school nightmares, 10+ years later.
Seriously? Why am I having these dreams? I haven’t even started yet!
Last night’s dream featured a multiple choice test, along with people interrupting me every ten seconds to make comments under their breath or to ask a question. Consequently, I couldn’t ever fully read through a question, and had to keep starting each question over. I had about twenty questions left in the last five minutes… arg!
Unfortunately, this scenario isn’t too far from reality. I discovered something very interesting about myself at the beginning of last school year, when I was taking my first Mammalian Physiology exam. There were so many people in the room, and my grasp on the material felt fairly tenuous, and I was really nervous…
Every. Little. Thing. Distracted me. A person moving their leg, a pencil hitting the table, the tick-tick-tick of the clock–any of these would fully remove my attention from the test, and then I would have to start reading through the questions all over again.
Here’s a sample of my thought process:
“Sodium channel blockers inclu… oh god, look at the time. Sodium channel blockers include which… would you shut up? Stop tapping your pencil. Sodium channel… oh, crap, I only have a half hour left. Sodium channel blockers include which… PLEASE stop shaking your leg!”
I remember one question where I knew that both answers B & C were correct, but I couldn’t figure out which one the professor would think was “more” correct. I must have read through that question, literally, 50 times. After I got the test back, I saw, for the first time, that answer E said “Both B & C.”
I went to talk to the professor afterward about my miserable experience, and he was awesome. He could not have been more helpful, and I will be forever indebted to him for listening to me and nudging me in the right direction.
“Have you talked to the folks in the Student Disability Center?” he said. “They have testing accommodations just for situations like this.”
“But… I don’t have a disability.”
“And you could hardly make it through the test, but you clearly know the material. You should go talk to them.”
It took me a week or so to get over my guilt about visiting them. I didn’t have a disability, and visiting them would be like trying to game the system, right?
It turns out that what I experienced is common in people with ADD. I never in a million years would have considered that a possibility for me, because I have always associated ADD with the kids who were “bad” in elementary school–they never sat still, they always got into trouble for talking, that kind of thing. I was just the opposite as a kid.
It also turns out that I am also not the first person to discover this about themselves as an adult. And, I have to tell you, it explains a lot.
I think about my first miserable college experience, my bazillions of little unfinished projects, my foot-shaking habit, my ability to hyperfocus when I’m really interested in something, my “Home Depot Syndrome” (that place gives me all kinds of anxiety–so many lights and sounds)… the pieces start to add up. I decided it wasn’t worth the $400 to get someone to officially label me as having ADD, and instead I am just aware that it, or something like it, is an issue for me.
The folks in the Student Disability Center were fantastic, and since then I’ve taken every test in their quiet offices. It’s been a godsend. (I almost typed dogsend, which might be more accurate.)
Am I worried that it’s going to get in my way in vet school? Not really. I’ve gotten this far just fine. That is, I’m not consciously worried. Apparently, my subconscious keeps wanting to bring it up when I’m asleep.
Pipe down, subconscious, I’m trying to sleep!