Introducing... New Premed!

Hi. I’ve been lurking here for a while, and I figured I’d introduce myself. I’m 29 and live in Chicago. When I was a little kid I wanted to be a neurosurgeon, and my desire to be a doctor lasted most of my youth. I went to a science and math high school and was a decent student, though calc and physics were tough for me. I was kind of burned out on school afterwards, but I went to college (University of Illinois) even though I wanted to take a year off to figure things out (parents weren’t ok with a year off). I did pretty badly my first year. Really badly. I spent a lot of time drinking. I failed a class for the first time. It didn’t help that I was very depressed.
I dropped out and took a year off, got it together, then went back and got a BA in English and Rhetoric, graduated with honors with a 3.45 GPA (not great, but I had a rocky start), all while working full time.
So it came to pass that the only job I could get in the recession-time of 2002 was as an administrative assistant in a bank. I’ve worked there 3 years now, and about 6 months ago I realized I’d had it. Hating my job was driving me crazy, and I had to do something. I was complaining to my brother about it and he said, “Why don’t you just go to medical school?” I read every popular science/medicine book I can get my hands on, all the science magazines; I’m always ‘enlightening’ people about interesting things I’ve read about breakthroughs in genetics or whatever. I guess he noticed it before I did…
I had written this possibility off so long ago that for months afterward I told myself I couldn’t do it. Then I researched a little and started to realize that it might be possible. Which was terrifying.
So I took Bio 1 at a community college, and remembered why it was my favorite subject. And I’ve been gently breaking it to my family that I want to do this, and - surprise! - they all think it’s the best idea I’ve ever had. I’ve heard a lot of “It’s about time” and similar comments. My boyfriend of 9 years is ecstatic, though I’ve told him how rough it might be, and how we might have trouble with the mortgage payment, etc.
So now I’ve committed myself to this. Even though I have NO medical experience, NO research experience, and NO science background (on paper). So I’m going to try to do the post-bacc program at Northwestern, since I need University science classes, which will cost about $20K in loans. And I’m going to have to volunteer and shadow a doctor. All while keeping my job and other responsibilites.
I’m really scared, to tell the truth. I’m glad I found this forum, because it makes it seem possible.
Sorry if this is so long. I guess like a lot of people on here I need reassurance. Also, I am wondering:
Do you think my psychiatric history will come back to haunt me? I was on medication for several years, but I am fine now - I went off my meds 4 years ago and have had few problems since. I have worked really hard to be better, and I hope this won’t cause me problems in the future…
And, is my total lack of medical experience going to sink me? If I volunteer and all of that, but keep working at the bank to pay the bills, will it hurt me? I notice that a lot of people on here are already in the medical field somehow. I wonder how much of a disadvantage this is for me.
Thanks for your time!

Congradulations and welcome to the club of terrifed but determined people!

Quick answers:
1. psych history. Can’t think of a single reason anyone needs to know. Having a bad freshman year, taking off a year to sort things out, are very common experiences and you don’t need to say why. Just “My first year of college brought home to me that I needed time to figure out my focus,” or something like that.
As for protecting your mental health, pursuing what you’re inspired to do may be just the thing to keep you healthy! Hopefully you got therapy along with medication to help you identify the pitfalls for depression as well as the ways to avoid it… if not, you’re better now, but keep it in mind for the future if you start feeling unwell. (this is the voice of personal experience)
2. Medical experience. Yeah, you need to do SOMEthing so that it’s clear to AdComs that you’ve done some reality testing with this idea, and you know what you’re getting into. You can find lots of food for thought by perusing this website; search for “volunteer” or “shadow” and you’ll get more posts than you can read in a week, I suspect. Hopefully NW’s program will help you make some contacts locally.
3. job background absolutely will not haunt you. The most interesting people in my med school class were the ones who’d majored in things like language and music.
whoops, pager’s going off, but that’s a start. Welcome and good luck!

Thank you so much for your replies. I guess I had this paranoid fantasy that there would be a box on the application that would say something like “have you ever been treated for a psychiatric condition?” and I would have to mark an X through it, and that would be it for me.
I guess that’s fairly silly, come to think of it…
and yes, i’ve had therapy, and i’m still in it, and it helps. just because i’m much better doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvement!

To me, having psychiatric care counts as a disability, and med schools shouldn’t discriminate based on disability, as long as you meet the general requirements set by the school, e.g. maturity, communication, etc., etc.
I don’t think you would have to list your illness any more than someone with cancer would! Accepting and pursuing treatment for any health condition shows maturity and understanding.
I haven’t had to fill out the AMCAS yet, so I don’t know exactly what they ask, or what secondary applications ask, but I would be suprised to see a question related to mental health. Adcoms will get a good idea by how you write and interview as to whether you are fit for med school or not, and you wrote a nice e-mail

The AMCAS does not ask any questions about mental health. I’m pretty sure that would be discriminatory. OTOH Meg I gotta tell ya that telling me that past treatment for depression makes me disabled is, uh, probably not quite what you wanted to say.
I’m in the process of filling out paperwork for a permanent license in the state of Virginia right now. There is a question that asks something like “do you have a condition that could affect your ability to practice medicine?” It’s a pretty broad question and awfully hypothetical. I suppose the fact that I was treated successfully for depression in the past COULD lead to a “yes” answer to that question, in that statistically I’m more likely to become depressed again in the future. IF I got depressed again, would it affect my ability to practice medicine? Conceivably. I concluded that on psychiatric grounds at least, the hypotheticals were kind of ridiculous. Of course I actually DO have MS and so to my chagrin and regret I am going to have to answer “yes” to such questions forever even though I currently have no limiting factors in my practice, but that’s a whole 'nother story…