In May of 2011, I went to my future Alma Mater for early registration. Standing in line with my dad to have my ID picture taken, I was a ball of nerves! I was super excited about all the doors that the hilltop high would open for me. Standing directly behind me was a girl and her mom. I glanced, just looking around the room, and had to do a double-take. Before I could stop myself, I yelled “Oh my gosh…ya’ll look exactly alike!!!” From that day on, Alyssa has been my best friend. She’s been there for the tears and the growth. I’m so happy to be doing life with her by my side. It’s been nothing short of amazing to watch her grow into herself and all of the potential that she possesses. Alyssa, I love the woman and friend that you are, and I’m proud of you holding this space to speak your truth. And here it is:
Today (April 21st, 2020), I had a mental and emotional breakdown of sorts. Why you ask? What am I battling with? I am a 27-year old, Black, educated, BEAUTIFUL woman. And did I mention that I am also a doctor? (A chiropractor to be exact.) I’m married to the love of my life, whom I also call my best friend (besides the creator of this blog, of course). We have two, four-legged children, a turtle, and a pup, and they are the absolute sweetest. So why on earth did I just recover from a mini-meltdown? Let’s dive in, shall we?
Have you ever put so much effort into your passion, and I mean a TON of effort, just to “fail” at something crucial that is keeping you from being able to truly act on your passion? Come on, think back, I’m sure you can relate. It may be something not as intense, maybe you received your first C in a class and that disrupted your awesome GPA, or maybe you “failed” a class? Maybe a relationship, friendship, or marriage that meant so much to you “failed”. Maybe you’ve graduated from college, received your degree, but the job that you are so worthy of won’t hire you. Or maybe that license that you need to even fulfill your passion hasn’t been obtained yet, and that’s holding you back. BINGO! This is my testimony.
Let me brief you on what chiropractic is, as well as what is required of these physicians before they can practice. Chiropractic, in short, is the practice of healing the body with the best God-given tools known to man: the hands. As chiropractors, we believe that the body was created to self-heal with assistance from an outside force, that force being the hands. Chiropractors adjust the various joints of the body when they become subluxated, or “out of place” for the lack of better terms, and we do this in hopes to restore healthy body activity. Whenever a joint is subluxated, that can cause a couple of things to happen. The associated ligaments, tendons, and muscles surrounding the joint can become taut, which can cause that person incredible discomfort. This can lead to nerve irritation because nerves travel through and around the joints like cars through tunnels. Nerve irritation can cause extreme pain, and if not treated appropriately, this can lead to permanent nerve damage. Yes, this means that it is irreversible. And chiropractors learn to do all of these things with only the use of our hands, and not much else. Yep, you guessed right, we do NOT prescribe medication. While certain medications are extremely effective in moderation, we believe that what you put into your body is what you should expect to get out of it. If you put bad things in, you should get bad things out of it, and the same goes for putting good things in. You may not experience the consequences immediately, but the longer you live, the more you will endure. Practicing chiropractic requires a lot of gained knowledge, as well as common sense. The knowledge that we learn comes from going to school for about 7 years after high school. Usually, that comes in the form of four years in an undergraduate program, and three more in a graduate program. In our graduate program, we learn a multitude of information on anatomy and physiology, neurology, biomechanics of the body, nutrition, biochemistry, examination, and diagnosing, just to name a few. This brings me to every chiropractic student’s favorite topic: Board examinations.
As a chiropractic student, we have to take board examinations, just like nursing students, medical students, physical therapy students, pharmacists, and osteopaths do. Sometimes, our examinations are more rigorous. Before we can be licensed in any state in the U.S. to practice chiropractic, we must take a total of 5 board exams (some states require less). Those exams are Part I, Part II, Part III, Physiotherapy, and Part IV board examinations. Part I (when I took them in school) consisted of six different tests taken in one day, and those topics were on spinal anatomy, microbiology, physiology, biochemistry, general anatomy, and pathology. Part II consisted of six more topics, general diagnosis, neuromusculoskeletal diagnosis, diagnostic imaging, principles of chiropractic, chiropractic practice, and associated clinical sciences. Part III is a combination of all of the above topics, and we are tested on our diagnosing skills. Physiotherapy is testing our ability to use therapeutic modalities on patients, and Part IV is a hands-on, clinical examination, where we are tested on examination, diagnosing, and treatment of patients.
Now, I realize that that was a mouthful, but I had to list all of those things in order for you to really understand my story. I took part I while still in school, and passed all six parts with flying colors! I moved on to part II and part III, and while I passed four out of six on part II, I “failed” two parts of part II, and I also “failed” part III as a whole. This was a bummer. Not just because it was extremely hard, but because it was extremely expensive to take, and a great number of my classmates passed them with no issues. These were taken in my last year of chiropractic school. I went on to the physiotherapy section and I also retook those two topics of part II and part III. I passed the two topics of part II and I passed physiotherapy! Awesome! Sadly, however, I “failed” part III, yet again. This was now my second time taking this, and might I add that this was about 3 months before graduation. I was highly disappointed, but I went on to take part IV, which was usually said to be the hardest, and I PASSED IT ON THE FIRST TIME! This was a month before graduation, and it was an AWESOME feeling. But I couldn’t help going into graduation without having part III on my mind. I graduated on December 14th, 2018, and it was one of the absolute best days of my life, but the feeling of being incomplete still lingered. While looking around during the many celebrations that week, many of my classmates had passed them all, had job offers, and some were even in the process of opening their own practices, but there I was. Still with one more exam left, and it was kicking my butt.
Emotionally, I was distraught.
Mentally, I was drained.
Physically, I was tired.
But I had to keep going. Because what good was having this Doctorate of Chiropractic degree without the license to practice? And I couldn’t receive that without passing the board examinations as a whole.
So I kept going.
By February 2019, I had obtained a job where I completed my preceptorship, which is pretty much the equivalent of a residency for medical school, just shorter. I was hired as a chiropractic assistant (because I wasn’t licensed to practice yet). As an assistant, I did a lot, but what was even worse was looking and watching the chiropractors around me practicing, making good money, and doing what they loved, and I was still JUST an assistant. That wasn’t a good feeling at all. But it was the best that I could do at the time, considering that I accepted that job after driving for Postmates and DoorDash. Yes. I was a DoorDashing and Postmating doctor. And I was ashamed. I felt like a complete and utter “failure”. So, I had no choice but to stay at that job. As the months went on, that job became more stressful. I went from having one responsibility to having about 20. I felt like I was being pulled from every direction. While I learned a lot, I felt like I was stuck. I was uncomfortable. I would also like to add that while all of this was going on, I was planning our wedding, and still studying to pass this exam. I retook part III for a THIRD time in March of 2019, and I received my results in May of 2019. My husband revealed the results to me during my lunch break. And it was heartbreaking.
I “failed” AGAIN. Again.
‘Why’ is all that I could ask. ‘Why? Why me? Am I crazy? Am I dumb? Am I not meant to do this?’
I cried. I cried so much that my husband had to call my boss, who was patiently awaiting my results. He told her the results and my current state, and they let me go home for the rest of the day. Three times I took that exam. And all three times, I “failed”. There was a trusted board review class that a large number of chiropractic students took in order to study and pass the exams. But that costs money. A lot of it. Especially when you just forked out a couple of hundred to take the board exam. By this time, I had spent thousands of dollars on these exams, much of it coming out of my own pocket, just for it to go down the drain. This was the hay that broke the camel’s back. I needed a way out of this office. I needed more time to study. I needed a mental break from reality. Most importantly, I needed to feel like my life had purpose again. I started applying for jobs, any job where my degrees would be looked at as useful. Anything that allowed me to feel whole again. And something fell into my lap. Remember all of those classes that I took in graduate school? Can you imagine how much anatomy and physiology I took? Well, God heard my cry all along, and placed the perfect position in my lap. I became an adjunct professor at a local technical college teaching Anatomy & Physiology to pre-nursing and other healthcare students. It was part time, but it was so much better than that feeling I had at that office. I felt like I had a purpose again. I took a significant pay cut, but looking back, it was worth it. I was able to use my free time to go on our honeymoon, and after coming back, I was able to really start studying.
I studied. And I studied. And I studied some more. I finally was able to save enough (and with the help of my loved ones) money to pay for the board review class. Fast forward to October of 2019. I retook part III for the FOURTH time. And I didn’t know how to feel. I didn’t what to “jinx” myself, so I just didn’t think at all. I went back to work, and in fact, I took on more classes in order to keep my mind off of it for about six weeks (it takes that long to receive your scores). Thanksgiving 2019 rolls around, and I get a text from one of my beloved classmates asking me if I had received my results yet, and she made me check because she heard that they had been released a few days early. My husband checked for me, and my heart stopped, but for good reason this time.
I FINALLY PASSED. AND IT WAS MY HIGHEST GRADE EVER ON ANY OF THE EXAMS!
It was the absolute happiest feeling of my life. The one exam that had been holding me captive for the past year and a half had finally been conquered! Thank You Lord! Now I could finally go on to apply for my state license. A few months went by, and I was finally able to apply for my license (because that required money as well). I took my jurisprudence exam and passed it, and could finally practice! What an awesome feeling. Finally, in March of 2020, I was able to practice what I had gone to school to do almost 5 years prior.
And then the Coronavirus hits the U.S. HARD. I could FINALLY apply for chiropractic jobs, but now that COVID-19 is doing so much damage and taking so many lives, many chiropractic offices are CLOSED. That’s right. Closed, and not hiring. Not to mention that my teaching contracts for both schools (by this time I was hired on at another school as an instructor) were coming to a close. It felt like it was one thing after another. I started asking God ‘why’ more often. ‘Why? Am I not supposed to practice? Were those last 5 years of my life and hundreds of thousands of dollars just a waste?’ I yearned to treat patients that needed help. And it was killing me to not be able to do what I felt He called me to do. I just couldn’t understand. ‘How, after all of the blood, sweat, and tears that I shed, could I just end up an unemployed doctor AGAIN?’ And then time stopped. God spoke to me and said, “I have better planned for you, just wait and see.”
‘What? How am I supposed to wait? I’ve been waiting forever! What am I supposed to do for money? How will we pay our bills?’ And then He spoke to me, yet again:
‘Okay God, I hear You, and I’m trusting in You.’ And with that, I kept going. I kept applying to places, only to hear that they were still closed and not hiring. The thought of starting my own practice entered and exited my thoughts frequently. ‘I think I can do it, this may be good for me.’ ‘How can I start my own practice if I’m broke?’ ‘No, I can’t open a practice, I’m not experienced enough, and I don’t have the resources.’ ‘It’ll never happen.’ I allowed the devil to talk me out of what could possibly be my blessing for MONTHS. But the thought always came back up. And then I met a doctor, who told me that I should consider starting my own, and he encouraged me to think about it. He gave me advice on how to go about doing it with little resources, and I started thinking even more. I applied for unemployment, even though I really didn’t want to, but there was really no other choice. And I was approved. And it became quite clear to me that God was trying to give me time to plan and open MY practice. This was the time that I needed to get my affairs together. This is what I needed. While COVID-19 was affecting so many people negatively, God was using this time to mold me for my ultimate blessing. Which brings me to my ultimate point: timing.
God’s timing is perfect. It always has been, and it always will be. Had I passed every exam the first time, I would’ve probably started practicing back in January of 2019. And that was my goal, but that wasn’t perfect timing for God’s Plan. I would’ve been left to do what others in control and leadership wanted me to do. And that was not why I went to school. That was not why I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. That is NOT what my four-year-old self wanted back in 1996. That wasn’t what I was born to do. I was born to lead. I was born to help. I was born to change this world. And God knew that because He created me. So that’s what I’m going to do.
I hope that this long testimony encourages you to continue to chase your dreams, but also to keep your trust and faith in God because His timing is ALWAYS perfect.