Having chronic, invisible illnesses is tough, really tough. Being in a competitive dietetics program in your last semester before internship is really tough. Writing a thesis and doing your own research study for that thesis is really tough.
Having chronic, invisible illnesses while being in a competitive dietetics program in your last semester before internship and doing your thesis at the SAME time, I've decided is just plain STUPID and really tough. And it looks something like this just happened.
****Disclaimer: I'm going to write this blog piece in the most respectful and polite way possible. Nothing I am saying in this particular post is against my institution, my clinical placement site, or any person. I absolutely love my professors, my program, and where I am placed for clinicals right now. This posting is about how I feel physically, not how I am treated. Period. Do not read anything else into it.****
I was really excited when I got my schedule for this semester, I told everyone it was like the Heavens opened up. After last semester of having 8-4:30 Monday-Friday of classes or clinicals I was so excited of this semesters schedule. Classes are Monday, Wednesday, Friday 8-12. Clinicals are Tuesday 12-4. That's it. How could it be more perfect. Look at all that free time!!! Hallelujah!!! What was I going to do with all that free time? I was actually not going to have to miss class for doctor's appointments anymore, I was so excited. I found out my schedule last spring. That was before I progressed so much.
Now let me tell you what. I have no free time. Almost every second of that "free time" is filled with a doctors appointment, treatment, therapy of some kind. And if it's not it's filled with some kind of intense homework assignment or studying. Because what they don't tell you when they give you that schedule is that our classes don't fill up our time anymore because the 2 classes we have this semester are SOOOO hard and time consuming outside of class they can't give us anymore classes because they are so hard (and I guess I should have guessed that since they are 5 credit hours each).
Anyway to give you an idea, I'll show you a typical 2 week schedule for me (because I alternate alternative treatments every other week of what my schedule looks like by showing you my schedule for this week and next week).
This week I had: class on Monday (our 8 am was a field trip though, then rushed to class on campus), then an Applied Health Sciences department picnic (in the sun on a 100 degree day across campus and I didn't use my wheelchair), then I had counseling, then I came home and went to bed. Tuesday I had clinicals from 12-4 and that was it (but it was plenty since it's a lot of standing and I decided I was 'real people' sick on this day and for the rest of the week too). Wednesday I had class til noon, then I went home and crashed until 2:30, had to run back up to school to drop off a worksheet for homework I forgot, then ran back to the other side of town and went to the chiropractor and got a 30 minute massage and then went to a new C-group (Bible study) which I loved. Thursday I had my infusion at 8, went to lunch, and didn't do much else (besides fight on the phone with doctors offices all day) because I was so worn out, including didn't study for my test today which was a really bad decision, but I just couldn't because my body just couldn't do it. Today (Friday) I had a test at 8 am, class at 10, then a Barium swallow study/speech eval at 1, then I came home and slept for 4 hours and went to my cousin's bday party, and now I'm back in bed again.
Next week I have: class on Monday til 12, counseling at 1, and acupuncture at 3. Tuesday I have clinicals from 12-4. Wednesday I have class until 12, then I have to go follow the certified diabetes educator for 4 hours at the professional office building. Then Thursday I have my infusion in the afternoon (maybe I can sleep in?). Then Friday I have class until 12, then an appointment with my rheumatologist at 1, my general physician at 3, and a massage at 4.
All of this is in between having a to-do list just this weekend of:
- Take chapter 4/CDC module 3 test
- Take chapter 8 Medical Nutrition therapy test
- Take chapter 9 medical nutrition therapy test
- read chapter 5 for food service systems
- read chapter 13 for medical nutrition therapy
- read chapter 5 for epidemiology
- do Monday homework for medical nutrition therapy
- clinical write up
- epidemiology paper outline
- work on food systems paper
- work on file box project
Oh yeah, and then I've got to worry about ya know the being sick part. The fact that I'm in unrelenting pain all the time. I have a consistent headache all the time. I can't stand up very long without feeling like I'm going to pass out (but I have to for clinicals and have to walk around which makes me subluxate and disloacte from my EDS). I have blood pooling which causes edema and swelling. My neuropathy is getting worse and so everything is tingly and numb all the time and my feet are super, super bad. The joint pain (which I think this is the 3rd time I've mentioned in some way) is the worst it's been by far this semester. I'm nauseous all the time to the point that it's debilitating. I choke all the time, on food, on my own saliva, sometimes on the air. Sometimes I randomly quit breathing and we don't know why? I can't stop coughing. My eyes are always in pain too and hard to focus. My colitis is flaring again which just really stinks because it's been in remission for so long. The blood pressure and heart rate are going back and forth so much it's not even funny and my glucose level are all over the place. Oh and let's not forget that every time I eat I feel the need to fall asleep within 30 minutes and can't stop it no matter what I try. And eating is pretty important so I have to do it so I just have to fall asleep in class, sorry, can't help it. And now I've gotten to the point where I'm falling asleep pretty much all the time. Because let's face it put all these symptoms together with all this school business and it's exhausting and you just can't do it. But for some reason I am.
I'm pretty sure I'm failing at it too. No matter how good I look on the outside. No matter how many times I know the answer in class and can raise my hand (I probably only know the answer because I've had that test or procedure done to me, not because I know the theory, let's face it). No matter how much you think I have it together, I don't. Today, for instance, I drove zombie like to school and took 1.5 hours to take a test that was 10 pages long and by the time I got to page 5 I couldn't even read the questions anymore, let alone answer the questions accurately. I was in so much pain it was no even funny. I don't know what I got. But I bet it's not good. On one of the questions I literally wrote, "I know the answer, but dysautonomia won't let me tell you right now," because this teacher would prefer a humorous (though it's not humorous to me or my grade) wrong answer than nothing written on the page. I can't imagine why after the night before last only getting 3.5 hours of sleep from pain. Being super nauseous all day yesterday, dealing with doctor drama from 2 different offices, feeling like crap and fatigue yesterday that I couldn't study because I couldn't read, finally did study some, but not enough and when I was studying nothing stuck in my head. Then getting to school today after getting about 6 hours of sleep but having a migraine and being nauseous and worried about a test I'm having later that afternoon. Why would I not do well on a test? Why would school be so difficult?
But I know there is a plan. I know that I'm over a quarter of the way into the semester. I know that I can do this and I'm not giving up now. So I've just gottta stick it out and do the best I can and rest when I can. This post was just to let people know what it's like to try to balance a chronic illness with a college (graduate student, though I don't think there is a difference in level) education. It takes some work, it takes some balance, it takes some dedication, but most of all it takes God. And here is a part Bible verse, part addended (yes I made an addendum to the Bible y'all, but someone else did it first and i liked it) thought to end on in relation to all of this. I can't worry about what's going to happen. I can't worry about tomorrow. I don't know what's going to happen. But I do know this. She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs with no fear of the future, for her hope is in me! Proverbs 31:25 (plus 6 words). If I can remember that He has my future in His control and that I have continue to have hope then it will all be ok and me and God will get through this semester a-ok, together.