Dear Montecito: Maiya Roddick
Since starting this column, I’ve hoped to either feature a fellow student from my own university or another student of psychology. Today, we’ve got two for the price of one.
I am happy to introduce Maiya Roddick: an alumna of the University of St. Andrews, a student of psychology, and a wonderfully thoughtful and accomplished person, who — as you will see from her letter — finds the time to pursue her multiple passions while attending the University of San Diego School of Law. I’m sure you will, like me, appreciate her story about college life and finding one’s path.
I was born in London and moved to the U.S. when I was in the first grade. My entire family is British, and the majority of my family members remained in the U.K. after my mom, brother, and I moved to Santa Barbara. I knew I wanted to leave California for college and was considering schools on the East Coast, in addition to the U.K., but I still felt very connected to my British roots and was intent on moving back to the U.K. after high school or college. I also wanted an opportunity to spend more time with my family in the U.K., particularly my grandfather who is Scottish.
It was actually my grandfather who dropped me off at St. Andrews for my first semester. I had fallen completely in love with the town when I took a creative writing program there in the summer before my senior year, and it soon became the only school at which I could visualize myself. When the time for college applications had arrived, I applied for their early decision, and accepted my seat in the school of Psychology and Neuroscience by November.
My decision to study psychology was primarily fueled by personal interest; psychology was always a subject I was drawn to, and I took a neuroscience elective course during my senior year at Cate, which happened to be one of my favorites. Envious of students at other high schools who were offered psychology courses within their curriculum, I spent a good deal of my free time watching every medical and psychological documentary produced under the sun. Additionally, I had known many people growing up who struggled with various mental health issues, including myself, (with anxiety) and felt compelled to learn more about these underlying explanations for human behavior.
My time in St. Andrews took an unexpected turn. I had a whirlwind of a first year: I made so many incredible friends, joined several clubs, and took full advantage of my newfound freedom. At St. Andrews, there are formal balls quite frequently for different occasions or social events, and I went to most of them, but around November of my second year, I had started to feel off. I attributed it to seasonal depression and began to wonder if St. Andrews was no longer the right fit. I was constantly fatigued. Having once been able to quickly write papers, I found myself struggling to formulate and type the words I was thinking in my brain. My short-term memory was suffering, and I felt like my mental clarity had turned into a thick fog.
After crying to my mom while on vacation in Mexico and expressing to her that I had felt like something was wrong with me, I decided to take several diagnostic blood tests, which revealed that I had mono (an infection with the Epstein-Barr Virus). That was just the beginning of a very long, arduous health journey, and because I had a rare form of this virus, it seemed as though no one really knew anything about it — it was chronic-active, lasting for three and a half years.
My once active social life came to an abrupt halt. I tried to keep trudging through my second year, but by the end of the term, I had pretty much stopped attending any events. It wasn’t uncommon for me to sleep between 18-21 hours at a time, and my roommate would occasionally come into my bedroom to check if I was still breathing. It was a very scary and dark time, because I had feared that I wouldn’t be able to complete my degree and was too scared to take any time off for my health, in case I never recovered.
I saw many doctors — all different types of specialists. Still, nothing worked. It wasn’t until I moved back to Santa Barbara, and started seeing Dr. Jonathan Birch at Purety Clinic, that anything really changed. For three months, I received intravenous ozone therapy treatments, and, by the end of the final treatment, I had my first negative blood test in three and a half years, revealing that my Epstein-Barr Virus was no longer active. I’m really thankful to Dr. Birch and to my family’s trainer of almost nine years, Shane Cervantes at Physical Focus, for all of their dedication and time they have spent helping me to heal.
Although I had spent the majority of my time at St. Andrews asleep, or in and out of the emergency room for infections that my immune system was too weak to fight off, I still have great memories of my time there: Particularly the long beach walks at West Sands, visiting my grandfather, and making some incredible friendships.
Currently, I am at the University of San Diego School of Law, pursuing a health law concentration while working for a medical malpractice defense firm, and serving as treasurer of the Health Law Society (HLS). Next semester, I’ll even be taking a mental health law class. I am beyond thrilled to have found a path where I can marry three of my interests: law, medicine, and psychology.
My mom says that when I was five years old, I told her I wanted to become a lawyer, but I’ve never considered myself one of those people who had a one-track mind or focus towards being a lawyer. After graduating, I took four years off because I didn’t feel ready to commit to a specific life path and had so many interests I wanted to explore. But during a four-month internship with the Innocence Project, I finally had my pivotal moment. After that, I knew exactly what my career would look like.