I spent a few days away from any place I could accurately call home. I was a guest, a halfhearted tourist in the mountains. I slept embarrassingly late, responsible for no one else. I took every meal in restaurants and started reading a book from which I will learn nothing.
I drove home late last night, coming down out of the mountains down dark deserted stretches of highway with nothing to see but my headlights bouncing back to me from the reflectors lining the road. I played my favorite album, the one I know all the words to without having to think about it. I drove through the night and into the small hours of morning singing and stewing.
I came back to the house where my husband still lives several hours after he went to sleep, but my dog was there to greet me. It was an unsettlingly familiar experience echoing every night I would arrive home from working second shift to a quiet house. Except everything is just a bit different now. The rooms echo stripped of furniture and everything smells faintly of new paint and drywall supplies rather than something simmering in the kitchen. I do not live here anymore.
It would be inaccurate to say that I'm not feeling just a bit sorry for myself at present. I don't want this blog to focus so strongly on me and my test anxiety because for other students reading this to see what PA school is like it will have no relevancy for them (or at least one would hope). But it is a definite part of my higher education experience. It would be the miserable part, the only one. Even the long nights studying on campus or cloistered in my study room in my apartment isn't unpleasant since it feels fueled with a sense of purpose.
Railing against the universe wouldn't do much good here. Test anxiety was a part of my life well over a decade ago, I got treatment, I took many classes after it where it wasn't an issue, did quite well at rather important standardized tests, and thought it was all in the past. It was an extremely unpleasant surprise to find out that it was not. However, the fact is that being mad or sulking or collapsing into ball of self pity isn't going to make it go away.
So I told my husband about it because I know from the past that keeping it to myself without seeking help just allowed it to do more damage. I told my course director. I went for counseling and got a prescription to help alleviate the symptoms, which I had for the last three tests of the month of tests we had in October. And it helped. It wasn't magic but it removed me far enough from the anxiety to be able to function. I could still feel it but it didn't take over. The last week of exams was difficult, the anxiety built over the course of the days leading up to the first exam and continued to climb through the end of the week. I almost threw up on a cadaver during the final anatomy practical but I was able to eventually finish it.
I don't want to let the memory of the experience destroy the holiday break. I will go back and talk to the psychiatrist and reevaluate the treatment options I have. Therapy has been less helpful for me since I don't, in regular life, have anxiety, depression or much in the way of complaints. It is just the three hours or so of a given exam out of hundreds of other perfectly nice hours that are the problem. I have an elevated response to a normal and expected stress. It will be dealt with and life will move on.
Now I'm going to go spend time with my dog and start wrapping presents.