It occurred to me recently that I really haven’t talked much about my progress towards becoming a physical therapist on this blog.
So, if you’re curious, here’s my deal:
I have a Bachelor’s degree in the humanities. My concentration was social theory, with an emphasis on gender studies.
My goals, when I was in college, were focused in a pretty different direction than the path I’m on now: I wanted to study social policy, and travel abroad working for various non-profits and human rights agencies. I also wanted to become a psychotherapist.
I started down that road immediately out of college, working at a mental health agency so that I could gain experience before grad school.
Before this, I’d already had a lot of struggles with chronic pain, and had to have surgery for compartment syndrome. Yet after college, I’d managed to reach some kind of holding pattern where pain didn’t cause me to miss work. That was, until the awful winter of 2010, when a few things happened in a brief span of time that caused my pain levels to flare way up.
That was my breaking point– when I tried, anew, to get answers. Finally, after months of searching, I found my physical therapist Tim, who had studied pain neurophysiology education with Neil Pearson.
Ultimately, I was so inspired by everything I learned from Tim that it led me to consider becoming a physical therapist.
I’d always found physical therapy to be a fascinating field. As a high school runner, I’d had a few serious injuries where I really needed PT to get up and moving again. I had formed some great relationships with my therapists, and hung on every word they said. A part of me was always a little bit sad when they told me I was doing well enough that I didn’t need to come back. I would have gladly come back back every day, just to hang out and learn.
When I was a freshman in high school, I partially tore my hip flexor during a cross-country race and was on crutches for months. It was a physical therapist who helped me overcome my fear and eventually start running again.
Then, when I was 19 and had surgery for compartment syndrome, it was a physical therapist who got me back up and moving again. While I’ll always be grateful to the surgeon who fixed my legs, my PT was the one who gave me the confidence to actually start using them again.
And now, when my life had ground to a complete halt at age 25 because of constant, debilitating pain, it was a physical therapist who gave me my life back again.
I’d always had so much appreciation for PT’s. Now, the idea dawned on me: why don’t I try to become one?
Growing up, I didn’t really consider myself that much of a science person. Looking back, I think a lot of that has to do with the environment at my school, and how our science classes were taught.
Once I started looking into becoming a PT– taking classes, shadowing practicing PT’s– I realized I always had been interested in health science, and exercise physiology, and human anatomy. It had just taken a different form.
I’d always wanted to do the best thing for my body. I loved when my running coaches talked about strengthening, building endurance, the benefits of stretching.
And I’d always been interested in nutrition, and being healthy overall.
It’s just that when I was younger, I didn’t have the healthiest mindset, and took some of these interests too far. But my eating disorder was not all of me– it was a snapshot of a specific place I was in, at a certain point in time, at a certain age. Although I had some distorted beliefs, that does not mean I wasn’t also genuinely interested in health and fitness at the same time.
The difference is that now, I am able to come at it in a much healthier, stable, and more grounded manner, and know that I will be able to help others with similar struggles.
Five years later, I can say that I ended up loving all of my prerequisite classes, and I’m so glad I made the decision to take them.
It’s been an incredibly long road. You see, some of the classes I needed to take had prerequisites of their own. At the same time, due to my SI joint issues, there were periods of time where I found it incredibly difficult to walk, drive, or even stand up for more than a few minutes.
Despite of all of this, I’m finally at the point now where I’ve basically taken all of the classes I need in order to apply to PT school. (I might need to take one or two more, depending on specific programs I might try to get into, but most of my bases are covered).
And honestly, I’m so glad I made this decision. I realized that, while the humanities will always be my first love, I am also a science person, and have been all along. I couldn’t see it at the time, but I know it now.