New, on a physics hiatus, need help!, really any physics psychologists?

  • #1
New, on a physics hiatus, need help!, really... any physics psychologists??

Hey I'm new to this forum. I need help bad, I've been stuck in this depressive rut for too long. I'd post this long rant on a psych forum, but no one understands physics counseling except for people who go to school for physics. I need to tell my story to this forum, get suppressed feelings out to people who understand, get some words of wisdom from people who have been there. Here's my story. (this is pretty much a long *** circular tirade, but I feel so much better just having it written out)

I transferred from a Junior College, having completed all my physics prerequisites and G.E. over the course of 4 years, to a 4 year college. After my first year as a junior (300 level classes), I became academically disqualified. I only took 2 physics courses over the two semesters, and the rest was random math classes and an Existentialism class. I know what I did wrong in terms of behavior and class choices. My problem is that at junior college, I basically figured out how to pass Engineering Physics I, II, & III. It's almost like it was too easy, that I am smart enough to pass these classes without much effort and I'd just get drunk every night and show up hungover to exams to get a 'C', have a smirk on my face, and live this quote on quote 'American Dream'. I used solutions manuals and never truly learned how to problem solve complex 'world problems'.

Don't get me wrong though, I'm smart, Calculus comes easy, and a lot of the time physics does too. I over familiarized myself too much with concept. Every time I would hang out with friends, I never received much respect for saying I choose physics as a major, and I always got laughed. None of my friends passed algebra, and none really go to school, so I can understand anxiety they would get when I'm drinking with them and bringing up physics out of all things to people who have school anxiety. However, they know me, and I've never been an ******* about school. I'm so open minded and not of this world about the school thing. So if a conversation is happening about lets say.. a physical phenomena or something along those lines, I would try to explain what is 'really' going on in an interesting way and the feedback I got was always very negative and they would say "yeah, but then how would it do that, and how would it REALLY do that", "you don't really know, you just believe what someone tells you in school" in a mocking way almost saying 'dont learn random equations that people tell you to memorize'. I took this seriously and in a way I am happy for that, because I was always kept in check about reality, trying to understand who I am as a person, and who my friends are without selling out.

As I was socially and academically developing from ages 19-23, I had to avenge this kind of social feedback. I could not let the naysayers win. I am still at loss in a way because I have terrible, miserable social anxiety and my teaching skills make me look like a dummy... stuttering, embarrassment.... when in fact I'm really smart, so even IF I can avenge this social dilemma by now at age 25 with researching the HOWS and WHYS of physics, I still have no verbal skills to put on the 'explaining show' (hence rambling alot when I'm drunk to get my point across)... So as a result of going mind blank when I come across the hows and whys, I abandoned memorization and techniques that I should have learned. Techniques that any engineering calculus physics student would have to master problem solve homework problems to know what to expect on tests.

I studied the HELL out of conceptual physics so I could have answers for everything. I'd copy my Halliday/Resnick/Walker book, take the 2 trig based physics classes that are for non science majors. I took my research all the way down to a math obsession to where I was tutoring algebra for a little while, Intro philosophy which I became obsessed with and used as groundwork for science in a way, and Existential Quantification (sort of) from Wikipedia. I wanted to be able to explain how something works all the way down to this thing existing as the number 1, if there is such a thing, and how this number 1 could philosophically and physically (or not?) exist to shut up people up. At least then I would earn respect as not just a narrow minded physicist, but a narrow minded intellectual. (even though I think I have an open mind, hence heavy open mindedness is always leading me to think everyone is racist and narrow minded). So I spent a solid 4 years, I had to retake Engineering Physics I, II, III, General Chemistry I & II, and Calculus I, II, and III multiple times all. The other 2 trig physics classes I took, and intro physics I passed on first attempt with B's. From intro philosophy, to speech 101, to engineering physics 3, I was retaking everything. I drank hard. If I was more structured, things would have been different. I do not feel that I am academically incapable of getting a physics degree and that is why I am very sensitive about this embarrassing disqualification from my first stab at a university. I know what happened, I was under prepared in terms of having a good physics mindset, time management, short attention span and needing to self medicate. I also was heavily addicted to benzodiazapenes (klonopin and xanax). Those things are anti-anxiety prescribed drugs and boy did they ever save my life. That is when I started to tutor algebra and I felt capable to do anything. The worst part was when I was deep into the benzos that by the time I was at the university, it was a ***** to read a 50 page existentialism assignment, because just like 50 pages of a physics textbook, you basically have to read philosophy with the same amount of care (all those passages). The difference with existentialism is that I don't have time to outline that book and my memory was shot from the pills. Yeah, math was still fine, whatever. Physics was too to a certain degree. Regardless, I was walking into an ambush and I kind of knew it too. Everything was kind of a joke, nothing seemed real. I thought I was invincible for a while, because I got myself to the heirarchy of Physics 300+ level classes and Existentialsm. I became somebody and I had anxiety under control from ages 23-25 because of the meds. This summer, after being disqualified, I cut the benzos. Oh, I smoke pot all the time too ages 15-25. That has not really harmed me too much, but I know when to watch the marajuana and how. The drinking is under control, I drank daily for a while for anxiety, pretty much a rough average of 60% of the days from ages 17-23, minus lets say 365 days when I was taking my theoretical drinking breaks, or I'd say I quit for either school, work or a girlfriend. So 60% of 6 years is alot!!! I should have pancreatis!!!

By 23 I slowed down, I had adventures still with malt liquor from 24-25 but the crappy 10 dollar plastic bottle vodka habit became absent. I even made plastic bottles the centerpiece of this parody, 5 years too late, facebook account I made while going into my first year at the 4 year school when I was 24 for Fall 2010. Ages 24-25 is definitely when I slowed down with drinking. I got what I wanted in a way. It is very hard to get drunk now. I have to babysit myself and treat hangovers. My fuselage blew out. It is exactly what I wanted. Now i have a reason to look at alcohol and be like, mehhhhh. A disease that got killed in a way, under control. Now, at 25, I'm seeking more real help. Not just help to make myself look good, but personal help. I've discovered that all this anxiety and self medication could be because of Autism or err, aspergers. It seems to make sense at least. I've always felt biologically repelled when it comes to making friends. Normal conversations are the worst. I function well on my own, enjoy peace and quiet. Booze and anxiety meds made me be able to verbalize with confidence and no fear. With everything that has happened, I feel like I've crashed back to earth, understood more about myself, and got a grip on my life.

The reason why I say all of this stuff, the too much information, is because I'm not looking trying to ignore my problems and use petty excuses so I can get some academic/life advisement that will be short term in my high functioning brain. Any professors on here, i'm sure, have heard it all before and that I would just be another washed up student looking for more outs so I can find something to do in the meantime to feel better about myself and fail all over again. I want real advisement. I want help, I want to succeed and not be stuck in this garbagehole all my life feeling sorry for myself. Aging is scary. Hopefully laying out the true honest story will be starters

I had my fun with substance abuse, tried to contain the anxiety with drugs which made things worse, and now I have some good help and resources. The autism thing makes sense sort of. I found this out a coupe weeks ago, so I'm still pretty devastated and shook up. Aside from social anxiety, the social life i had/have made me go through junior college at a very slow pace like I explained. It was all booze and research. From what I explained, I think found what I wanted in terms of 'social revenge'. I am very, something a specialist, knowledgeable with conceptual physics. I feel in certain ways, I can interpret physics all the way down to existentialism. I can wake up and do math. It's wired in the brain. My strives for perfection still make me feel unworthy to thoroughly explain anything arbitrary because any error or miscalculation will bother me and I do not want to lie to be smart. Especially when I want to represent physics down to existence.

Here comes the main problem now, I can converse about something down to the subatomic particle and past that, to the existence of number 1 in a way. If i cannot thoroughly explain it correct, then I will at least intellectualize it. I've trained my brain to be very very intellectual. So the problem is, my conceptual knowledge is too shaky. Whenever I'm with friends and double-split diffraction is brought up, I say nothing. I can look at it, interpret the trig and what it is, cool whatever. But I have no detailed knowledge. When I try to understand something so well, it makes me forget so many things. There is so much in physics to know. I mean, you could open a book to lets say, section 23-8, and there is Applying Gauss' Law: Planar Symmetry. Okay, so you work with electric flux for planes. The rate of electric charges flowing through the geometry of a plane. And then you get some equations, maybe 10 problems in total in the problems section, and about 300 other problems online. Okay, the plane could be angled, the plane could do countless things to make the problems more challenging. Now what happens when I feel the need to know everything about section 23-8. A real physicist should know every printed word right?? pretty much by memory or some kind of memorized and fully understood interpretation??? On exams, I would get tested on a overall thorough understanding of just kind of what happens and as long as I can show what I know with calculus and such and such. What about the multiple choice questions?? Obviously we are expected to know more. If the mult choice questions are this random, asking anything peculiar, then we need to know everything. Looking at the test manual that comes with the book, it seems that in order to understand all the questions for each chapter in the 3 semestar physics book, I could assess every question and the concept behind it and write a goddamn page report for each question. That's one way how I've improved ground basic knowledge in physics. So am i wrong for doing this????? I know I do it because I want to represent 100% knowledge. I know I'm hard on myself, but I want to get a degree in this stuff. I know upper division is hard, and I think if I have a profound knowledge of calc based physics for the 40 chapters, then there should be no problems in upper division. Then multivarible calculus and having to use quantum theory for alot of things in upper division to explain the more true and detailed nature of everything down to car mechanics should be cake. What am I doing wrong??? Do i need to take vitamins and exercise more? If i want this much of a profound knowledge and I use section 23-8 as a reference, then section 17-9 should be treated the same as well. But what if i forgot The Doppler Effect and all the details that I once memorized and wrote on 12 sheets of notebook paper that I eventually threw away because there was too much paper everywhere. Yes, I know if you understand physics, you can derive the equations for Doppler anyways. Understanding a few things about motion, waves, this and that and the equations are basic. The concepts however seem to be more of a side project, and that is my dilemma. So now I'm looking at 1,300 pages not to mention all the proofs in the back.

What do I need to do as a student on hiatus waiting for my next attempt? How can I get myself to be in the more 'problem solving' mindframe as a physics student so I can keep up with the classes. I can't keep letting myself get behind because I'm confused about something and I have to discover the number 1 so I can solve a problem, which could take days for that problem, as opposed to spending a few days learning problem solving techniques so I can tackle any problem on the spectrum of physics, chapters 1-40 pick a problem!!! I need to re circuit this brain, I feel sick and depressed all the time. My knowledge of Electricity and Magnetism is **** too, and that could be part of the problem.

So here is my plan so far. I don't know when I am going to get back into the 4 year university because I was so down and out, and when I cut the anxiety pills, I couldn't move for months. I will probably get reinstated for Fall 2012, assuming everything goes okay. That is the least of my concerns though, being ready is a bigger concern. So I'm enrolled to a different Junior College and I'm going to take some engineering physics classes this Spring, Spring 2012. I'm going to do electricity and magnetism, at least, because I feel very unfamiliar with it. I'd like to do Engineering Physics III as well, but I'm thinking more about doing Engineering Physics I so I can redo mechanics with better problem solving techniques. I do not expect the teachers to magically make me understand problem solving techniques in these classes. I need to develop them. For the past month, I finally have gotten myself motivated to at least look at my physics book. I'm working on avenging electricity and magnetism, but I am working at my pace. The first chapter that is just electric charge. There is 71 problems and I'm basically trying to write a novel on these 71 problems so if I am confronted with any kind of charge distribution, I will know what to do and I will conceptually know how the charges will behave since Polarity and Inductance are always being rewritten very tricky. Also in these 71 problems of terror, I've discovered great relearning strengths with forces, torque, even a question is supposed to be solved with polar coordinates. This is very useful, as I'm kind of learning force mechanics with charge distributions. Remember, I was involved with the 3 semestars of physics in a very long, stretched out period of time that involved memory loss, and who is going to retain all this information anyways? I dont wake up and look at flashcards.

So what should I do so I can remember and problem solve, mostly remember and be able to look at section 25-3 and understand? I'm enrolled to another Junior College so I can enrich myself with these classes in a different approach. I'm working at getting back into the university. I have personal issues taken care of, always working at that. I've overcome adversity. I'm prepping myself for Electricity and Magnetism, and writing a novel on 71 problems to get my mind off of depressing stuff. So I have a plan. What else should I be doing in these months of solitude?? This is where I need some real advice.

Answers and Replies

  • #2

What else should I be doing in these months of solitude??

You should obviously come on PF and write a very long essay about your life.

Anyway, I think I see where your problems with people come from. You say that you always correct your friends if you're talking about physics. People don't like that. It makes you some kind of know-it-all. The best thing is to say nothing at all sometimes.

You seem to be able to having troubles with the material. Yes, in physics and mathematics it's important to know EVERYTHING. Everything builds on everything else, so you should know it all. You can't skip things at will. Undergraduate courses is just the beginning, it's the introduction to physics.

The thing is that it get easier with time. Physics is not easy, but it's always the same thing. Once you're used to the way of thinking, it gets to be very easy. Undergraduate degree is basically there to give you a basic vocabulary and to get you used to the way of thinking. Once you get that, it should be very easy.

And what should you do now?? Well, study some physics and math books.

I also fail to see what an essay on 71 problems will benifit you...
  • #3
Gold Member

Oh my god, to add to what micro said, get over introductory physics. Trust me, you have a very superficial understanding of physics, don't kid yourself.

You are putting WAY too much importance on the introductory series. The questions are not deep, you are not gaining anything beyond a superficial understanding of physics. You can solve every problem in a text and in the end you still won't be able to solve even a sliver of the types of problems you'll see in physics. You simply don't have the skills or understanding to do so.

Grab a text like Griffith's Electromagnetism and you probably won't be able to do most of the problems if you don't read the text and learn it at that level. Grab something like J.D. Jackson's Classical Electrodynamics and you won't be able to do a single problem. The problems in an intro series are not suppose to give you any sort of deep understanding of physics. The only reason there are so many problems in any given chapter is to give instructors variety in assigning problems.

The intro series is just that, an introduction. You don't become a master in solving electromagnetism questions or classical mechanics questions or anything. If you want something useful to do, move on to upper level courses and texts, don't get obsessed about doing every problem or thinking there is some deep understanding gained by asking how long it takes a ball to fall from a 10 story building neglecting air resistance (or not).

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