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Grad School Almost Killed Me

I know this sounds extreme but grad school literally took “my life” out of me. Before grad school, I was working full-time at a salary position with great benefits and a heavy flow of income. I had my own place, my own dog, and a social life. Life was good. Being an overachiever as I am, I applied to grad school to further my goals of becoming a licensed clinician in the field of mental health. I really do want to help people and end the stigma of mental illness. I had big dreams, big goals, and big expectations.

Starting grad school was not so bad. I remembered how to apply my study habits, prioritize my schedule for school work, and apply the knowledge of what I am learning. School work has always been somewhat easy for me. I have always enjoyed learning so I made it a priority. My social life started to shift a little and I started to say “no” to social engagements to focus on my school work. But my life was still relatively enjoyable.

The moment I had to do my clinical hours was when my life changed. At the time, the pandemic started and I was desperately trying to find a hospital or private practice to start my internship. Most of the large hospitals were postponing internship opportunities until the following year or pausing it until the pandemic ended. Either way, I felt screwed. This meant that I had to either postpone my graduation for another year (looking back now, doesn’t sound so bad) or settle for an internship that I was not so excited about. I went with plan b.

Starting my internship, I had to end my full-time job with full benefits to start a 6-months un-paid internship program at a place that I was not so excited about. To keep a roof over me, I moved in with two strangers, and started an hourly job to pay my bills. Talk about a humbling experience, I received it. I no longer had time for social activities because I was trying to work as much as I can to pay my bills and finish a full-time internship program. Insanity is what this process is called. I asked around to other interns on how they were surviving and most of them either had a spouse or parents who were financially providing for them during this time. If “entitlement” is not what this grad school process is about than I don’t know what is. I felt like the poor girl, scrambling around for scraps of food to survive, while others were gracefully eating, drinking, socializing, and living their life with no complaints.

After working 70+ hours a week, studying, and completing my internship, I reached a complete burnout. I mean b.u.r.n. o.u.t.! It has made me second guess this process of grad school and becoming license clinician. I am not sure how “normal” people survive this process. Meaning how do you survive this process on your own without reaching complete burnout.

I’m writing this post as a dialogue to open the discussion of surviving grad school on your own financially and to warn others that if they are wanting to start grad school, make sure that you’re ready for the heavy burden and foreseeable burnout.

In addition, for me to become license, I also have to take a 4-hour state exam. Once I pass the state exam, I still have to apply and be accepted from the state board. The state board meets every quarter so if I don’t have all my documents turned in on time, I could pass the deadline and have to wait another quarter to find out if I can become a license clinician in my state.

In the meantime, how do grad students survive this process of becoming license?

While I wait for answers, I still live with two strangers, my dog died this past year, and my social life is at a bare minimum.

Was this process worth it? I am still wondering it myself.