Kristen Wheeler

My migraines/daily tension headaches started when I started 8th grade so I’ve dealt with them through high school, undergrad, grad school, and now a doctorate program. I was very lucky for those beginning years to have a mom who works at a high school in my corner to get me a 504 plan and all the accommodations I needed.

When I chose a college I needed something small and personalized so I wouldn’t be just a number to a professor but a student with a name. I decided not to try accommodations for undergrad because all the professors I had (5-6) were understanding when I took them aside to explain my condition and what I may need or ask for throughout the year but that I would give them as advanced warning as I could and because I was forward from the beginning of each semester they allowed me to do what I needed and did not punish me for needing time on tests or making things up later as I always had a doctors note too. It especially became important when I was hospitalized twice a year those 4 years and would be so determined that I took my school work and books to the hospital with me and tried to turn everything in on time as much as I could. I also usually waited till I was on a break from class too (hello Thanksgiving and Christmas inpatient). Even in my sophomore year I underwent a neurostimulator surgery and took my month break to take care of myself afterwards.

I knew when I chose psychology as my major I would need to pursue grad school and my dream was to get a PsyD. I dealt with a couple professors telling me I couldn’t do it and getting into the school I wanted didn’t happen to people from my college. I was too sick to sit for the GRE exam to apply for my doctorate right out of undergrad but it was alright because I fell in love with a forensic psychology masters program in my city also a small school that’s difficult to get into with my not the greatest undergrad GPA. Again I went without accommodations and explained to my four professors what was happening and always provided doctors notes to excuse absences. I still did hospital trips in those two years with my trusty backpack in my hospital room.

I graduated from that program with a masters degrees in counseling specializing in forensic psychology. But my true passion fell with the military and addictions. I figured that I survived a masters mostly unscathed that I could finally pursue my psychologist dream. I started my doctorate in September 2017 and graduated with my masters that October. Throughout my years with migraines I have also been diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder and have been hospitalized twice for those conditions as well. Luckily I chose a graduate program that puts so much emphasis on self care that as soon as I told my professors about the migraines or depression, they told me to take my time and take care of myself first! After the first couple semesters I finally pursued accommodations just in case I ever need back up but I’m not too worried yet about needing them because of the support I have received thus far. I start my second year of the program and first diagnostic internship this fall.

I think having chronic pain, invisible illnesses, and mental health issues will in the end help me relate and work with my clients. I know what it’s like to be in a hospital, psych ward, have people that don’t listen, struggle with addiction, and how bad the stigma is against this. One day I will be able to share my story and have it help others as others stories have helped me. My end all be all goal would be to finish my PsyD in clinical psychology with emphases in military psychology and substance abuse and treatment. I want to work in a VA with veterans with possible substance abuse issues and possibly provide substance abuse counseling in prisons. I want to work with the people who are underserved and have problems that people ignore like my own and give them the voice and help they deserve.

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