"Falling Behind"

I’m a junior in college.
Actually, well, I should be a junior in college.
I’m actually a sophomore in college by credits, junior by age and semesters.
But I’m catching up!
          No, actually I’m not. Still chugging away at what feels like a cruise controlled speed. Chugging away at the arbitrary set number of hours you must sit in school until deemed “educated”. And I’m readily becoming more and more frustrated trying to arrange class schedules, accumulate credits in any way possible, and get a good enough grade so that I can move on. GMU has this nifty program called Degree Works that takes your credits and tells you what you still need to graduate, which classes fill that requirement, which classes have qualifiers, ya get the drift. According to Degree Works, after almost 9 semesters now, I am officially half way.
          College is not friendly towards students with chronic illnesses. Despite many universities attempts to bridge the gap with programs like disability services, the odds are still stacked against you. Many classes will drop you if you have too many absences (sometimes even 1), regardless of your ability to keep up with the work. College is also a breeding ground for germs, poor eating and sleep habits, and stress. Being physically able to get out of bed is one thing, going to class another, and then absorbing it? How about homework? Most homework either involves reading, computer use, studying, or essay writing. Most of those tasks are near impossible when eye strain, fatigue, migraines, photo sensitivity, concentration issues, and other fun cognitive issues plague your daily life. Reading that may take most people 30 minutes takes an hour for me. While most college students become sleep deprived zombies around finals too, finals for students with chronic illness can be especially challenging. Most people get sick during finals but because the pressure is on, non-chronically ill students are more likely to go to class, despite being sick and often times, contagious. This puts those of us with weaker immune systems at risk for getting very sick during finals when we are already probably pushing our limits.
           All of this and more makes me look at that half way mark and want to cry, but not tears of joy. Finishing college seems impossible (all my family out there chill, I know its not impossible and I’m not dropping out). It makes me sad because before I got sick I was so excited about college. About life beyond school. About making a difference. Now I feel like that motivation and joy of education is being slowly stripped from me. I don’t want it to be this way. I want college to matter, to be something I enjoy rather than just another constant struggle. I’m scared this fog in my brain will never clear. I’m okay with “falling behind” but I’m not okay with staying behind.

On Memories of Easier Days

     I was looking through pictures on my computer desperately searching for this one picture I needed for a project. After a couple of minutes I found the picture and immediately quit the application, hoping I had escaped in time. A sharp pain starts in my chest. I remember climbing mountains, and going on adventures. I remember not having to plan my life around medications, doctors, and energy fluctuations. Spontaneity. Freedom.  Carefree. Worry-free solitude. I have always been some degree of sick, in some degree of pain, and had some restrictions, but nothing compared to this. I live with constant anxiety about flare-ups, falls, canceling plans, and being alone when needing help. It’s exhausting. My 21st birthday is rapidly approaching and planning the celebration has been yet another reminder of limitations. Sure, you can break those limitations: eat whatever you want, do something physically demanding, or go to a new place where you are unsure of what you might encounter but theres a catch. Breaking rules and limitations with my body can sometimes leave me dealing with the aftermath for days or weeks following. It can mean anything waking up in the ER with no memory of what happened to simply being unable to get out of bed for days. So, is it worth it?
        For many people a 21st birthday includes hanging out with friends and family, and having their first (legal) alcoholic drinks. Alcohol is definitely out of the question because of the potential for serious medication interactions (RIP Julie). In my family, tradition is to have a family dinner at the restaurant of your choosing and then desert and presents afterwards at home. For me currently, eating causes pain, nausea, vomiting, and other TMI GI issues. I could go out and eat something I’ve missed and spend days 2-6 of year 21 dealing with the repercussions, or I could plan something not food, alcohol, or high energy centered. Some 21st eh?

I miss not having to worry about spoons, building accessibility, supervision, and germs. Those were easier days.