Sunday, February 12, 2006

Broken Body, Revitalized Soul

Broken Body

So last week, I found out that I have a whole bag full of medical problems right now. So let me make a list here.

Even though I've barely gotten back into running, I'm already injured again. I had a pretty bad case of shin splints last year, but I thought they would go away over my 6 week break. Nope. I could feel them again by the fourth day back into running, and now it's so bad that it hurts when I walk too. But it seems localized to my left leg, which is very weird since my right feels fine. I may have a stress fracture in my left tibia, and first thing tomorrow I'm calling the sports medicine clinic to get it examined.

This really sucks. I'm not sure if I am going to run the half-marathon anymore. Even though I could, I don't want to make this injury worse than it already is. :( I'll probably have to pick up biking and swimming for a few weeks while I wait for it to heal. *sigh*

I have RSI (repetitive strain injury) in my wrists from typing too damn much. It's bad on somedays, but not so bad on others (today is a good day, which is why I'm blogging). This also really sucks, because I do so many computer-related things that having trouble typing is like having trouble breathing.

The good news is Freescale is taking care of me. :) I went and had the nurse do an examination last week, and they are sending an ergonomist to evaluate me, and scheduling (free!) theraputic massages for me. If that doesn't help heal it, then I may need to file for worker's compensation. So I guess things could be worse.

I have recurrent excema that haunts me about once a year, always on my palms and always in the winter. When I saw I was breaking out I prepared for the worst, but so far I'm holding up much better than in the past (so far). Usually I end up losing almost all of the skin on my palms, and it hurts REALLY bad (I'm also 50x more likely to get a paper cut in that state). It's genetic though, and there's not much I can do about it. I've seen a numbe.r of dermatologists over the years and I have some cream, but it doesn't help a whole lot


I went to see my mental health counselor on Monday last week. I went there with the intention to thank her, and tell her I'm all better now that I (finally) was able to rest, and ask her how I can prevent myself from getting into that state again. She went over a list of symptoms I had when I first visited her in September and asked me about each one of them. She concluded that although I'm much better, I'm only about 75% of the way there. After thinking about it a little, I think she may be right, because I do have some symptoms left over, and I probably feel completely better because I was at such a low point just a couple months ago.

But those symptoms are starting to get freaky. I am still having some trouble (but not as much) with concentration and memory. I still feel more tired than I should and sleep a little too much. But the really weird thing is my dreaming. My dreams feel so incredibly real these days, almost as real as shortly after I had an accident when I was 14, which left me with brain damage (long story). I'm having trouble differentiating between dreams and reality sometimes, which can be really disorienting. I also have a warped sense of time right now. Everytime I wake up, the events of yesterday feel like they were weeks ago. Things that were a few days ago feel like they were months ago, and last month feels like last year. I've never experienced anything like this before, and honestly I can't say I like it. I'm also having delusions, where I start having conversations with people in my head that, like my dreams, are very real. Some days I can't blank my mind at all, because people just keep talking to me (these are real people in real life BTW, not fictional people I make up).

After hearing this, my counselor suggested talking to a psychologist about this. She knew a couple in the university, so she told one of them about me, and he said I should approach this problem biologically, and see a neurologist. So I was given a list of neurologists in Austin, and I guess I'm going to see one sometime this week or next. Should be fun..... I'll post later about how it goes and whether I'm officially insane or not.

Revitalized Soul

Ok, so I had my interview on Friday and Saturday with the Institute for Neuroscience at UT Austin. It was really fun for me, despite it being part of the admissions process. Here's a timeline of events:

> Friday 8:30AM
Met with the other recruits (there were 15 total) and we had our pictures taken. Then we went to a library where they had posters of current research that was going on up, and we talked with each other, other INS students, and INS faculty. We also had breakfast served. :)

> Friday 10:30AM
I had my first 1-on-1 interview with a professor. I was drilled a little bit about not having any neuroscience lab experience, and I admitted that fault. But other than that the interview went great. The professor talked about the research that he does and I found it incredibly interesting. So much, in fact, that he made my list of professors I think I'd like to rotate with, if I get into the program.

> Friday 11:05AM
I got caught up talking with the first professor and was a little late for my second interview. This one was in the ARC (Animal Research Center) and I actually had to be escorted because it was a high-security facility. I didn't get to speak much with the professor, but she gave me a tour of her lab which was really cool. I also got to wear a white lab coat (we don't do that in EE!!!) and got to see a room full of rats. I've never really seen a rat before, but I thought they were pretty cool and I got to pet one. There was also a machine they had there where they induce localized strokes in the rats to study brain damage, and the machine they used looked like something out of a horror film. >_>

> Friday 11:40AM
Headed to lunch and I got to meet a lot of the recruits before the meal began. There were actually about 9 girls and 6 guys, which was different (in a VERY good way) for me since there are virtually no girls in EE. And most of the girls were really cute too. ;) They were really nice people with various backgrounds, but I was the only computer engineer there. :) Lunch was really good and we had a private dining room. And of course, it was all paid for. :D

> Friday 1:30PM
We then had a half-hour presentation about the program. The room it was held in was actually right outside of my advisor's office, and she doesn't know that I'm applying to this program at all (because I don't like her, and telling her would serve no purpose anyway), so I was a little nervous. Luckly, she wasn't in there though and I made my escape.

> Friday 2:00PM
I then had my third 1-on-1 interview with another professor. He was a really cool and relaxed guy, and he actually showed me his experimental setup for how he observes decision-making processes in primates (monkeys). I got really interested in his research as well, and added him to the rotation list I had in my head. :) We actually went 10 minutes over because I just lost track of time hearing him speak.

> Friday 2:40PM
Then I met my fourth professor. I had actually met with him two weeks ago when I inquired about why he became a neuroscientists (because like me, he was formerly a EE). So he gave me a tour of his lab, which was really impressive/intimidating. The lab has windows all along one wall with a great view. There were microscopes, lasers, various beakers filled with who-knows what, and other hydrolic contraptions I don't know the names for. It is SO different than the EE labs, which only have computers and computers!

> Friday 3:00PM
After that I had free-time, so I went to my usual 2-5PM Friday Neuroscience course, which got out a little early.

> Friday 4:25PM
Went to happy hour at a local pub (which is actually very close to my apartment). The beer was free, but I don't drink so it didn't matter to me. I talked with a lot of the current students there and that was fun, even if it was really loud and difficult to hear what people were saying.

> Friday 6:15PM
Went to the hotel with other recruits and got ready for dinner. The dinner started at about 7:00 and it was pretty good. All the recruits and several current INS students and faculty ate dinner together and it was a great time. We just pretty much talked about nothing in particular for a couple hours.

> Friday 9:30PM
I went home at this point, but some of the recruits and current students went to a bar downtown. I was just too tired at that point to do anything like that (and I don't drink, so...).

> Saturday 10:00AM
We had brunch at the hotel, which was very nice. I spoke with some faculty that were sitting at my table (mostly about cars and random stuff), which was cool.

> Saturdy 11:30AM
Then we all left for campus, and took tours of the various centers in the institute for the next two hours or so. There are three centers: The Center for Perceptual Systems, The Center for Learning and Memory, and The Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research. All three were great and the facilities were very impressive.

> Saturday 1:30PM
We headed over to Posse East (a bar/restraunt that is also very close to my apartment) and were treated to a delcious lunch. This time it was just the recruits, some current INS students, and the program coordinator so it was a bit more laid back.

> Saturday 3:00PM
We split up after lunch. Some of us went back to the hotel, some went to the park. I chose to go see the movie Matchpoint at the Alamo Drafthouse with 3 other recruits and a current INS student (whom is also in one of my neuroscience classes). The movie was alright. It was filmed in a very different and artistic manner, and I appreciated that. After the movie, we dropped the other recruits off at the hotel, and I was taken back to my apartment to chill.

> Saturday 8:00PM
That night there was a party at one of the INS student's houses so those of us who hadn't already flown back to wherever went there. It was the first time I've been at a party in four years, so I had forgotten what they were like. It was pretty fun at first and I talked to a lot of people. I met one (cute!) girl who was a third year in INS who I had a lot in common with, and we chatted up a storm. Once the alcohol started setting in though, things got a little more wild and she tried to get me to dance, but I resisted (never been much of a dancer, and with my leg hurting as much as it is I didn't want to aggrevate it). I stayed there until a litle before midnight and then took off. Some people headed downtown to a club and the girl I met again tried to get me to go out with them, but it's just not my thing and I didn't feel like staying all night. I think she had a little too much to drink though, because she made me tell her I love her before I left. :D Oh yeah, and there was free pizza there too.

So that about sums it up! The neuroscience program is SOOOOO much different than ECE for a number of reasons.

1) The professors (from what I've seen) actually treat you like people instead of indentured servants, and they will actually collobroate with you on work and give you advice/direction. Plus they are much more personable. (I know this is a broad and probably misinformed statement, but given what I know about ECE and INS, that's how I feel).

2) There are GIRLS in this department! And a lot of them are cute too! There's probably more girls than guys even! What could be better?

3) The students are all friends with each other (it appears) and they party and hang out together all the time. There's no stupid competitive animosity between parties.

4) The program has a WHOLE lot of money, much more than ECE. And that, my friend, is a *good thing*.

In summary, it was even better than I thought it would be. There is another group of recruits coming down next week (probably another 15 or so), so after that the admissions commitee should be coming to making decisions. Out of over 140 applicants, 30 were called for interviews, and there are only 11 slots for new students. It's pretty competitive, but I didn't even think about that during those two days. The other recruits felt more like my friends than my competitors. Well, now all I can do is wait.


Anonymous phil said...

Hot damn! No wonder you have RSI! How long did it take you to type that??!

I don't have a TV either, but I think an advantage of having one would mean less time spent in front of the computer, which would be good for one's wrists. At least in my case. I should spend more time exercising. And reading good books. >_>

Talk about animal cruelty. Localized strokes?! Geez!! I'm glad I'm not a lab rat. Poor things.

That sucks about your leg too, and not running the marathon :( But I guess it is better to let it heal.

This neurologist you're going to see... that sounds expensive! If it was through the university (like a neurology professor), that's one thing, but this sounds like going to an actual office, and neurologists can get pricey I think.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Tyler Olsen said...

Well I have medical insurance, so I'm hoping that that will mostly cover it...but yeah. If it's more than a couple hundred dollars out of my pocket I won't be able to afford it right now. Tuition sucks.

6:50 PM  

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