I am elbow deep into my second semester of graduate school. Wow. It’s exhausting. My three classes are going well so far. I am taking Quantitative Research, Human Behavior in the Social Environment II (HBSE) and Forensic Social Work (FSW) at George Mason University. The FSW class at George Mason University (GMU) is particularly interesting. I don’t love my class schedule. Well… my Quantitative Research class is online which is great because I don’t even have to leave my pajamas for that.
Being chronically ill and going to grad school is a challenge. When I go to class, I have to make sure I bring everything with me that I need. First, there are the obvious school items like pens/pencils, notebook/paper, MacBook, day planner. And then for me, there are items like my alkaline water bottle, a cushion for me to sit on, sunglasses, migraine glasses, my regular glasses in case I need to take my contacts off, my medicine bag (which is just what it sounds like…it’s a make up bag filled with all the meds I take daily) and my Keto IC food in my polka-dotted lunch box. It always feels like I am taking a long trip when in reality I am just going to one class.
I was recently invited to join MuPi, the Master of Social Work chapter of the Phi Alpha Honor Society. The minimum GPA requirement is a 3.8, so luckily I got that 3.9. Well, we shall see how I fare this semester but I suspect it will turn out with similar results. I’m still a smidge bitter about that 3.9 but this too shall pass lol. I can’t really be too upset about it because last semester my health was really bad off and I was in so much pain….really I’m lucky I made it through at all.
Mu Pi, or Moo Pie as I like to call it, holds weekly meetings and I haven’t been able to attend any of them because they are at the same time as my physical therapy appointment. I changed my PT appointments for the month of March though so that I will be able to attend the Mu Pi meetings because I do actually want to be involved.
I recently had my request for accommodations through the Office for Students with Disabilities approved, which is bittersweet. My accommodations are: extensions on assignments, taking frequent breaks during class (for bathroom or pain), being able to leave class early or not come to class (with professor’s permission, of course). I hope I will never have to use any of these accommodations…but in a way, it’s nice to know that they are there as a backup in case I need them.
I am really struggling with all of this though. I know I am taking care of myself first and foremost. Self-care is my priority. But I have had to give up my life as I knew it in order to do this. And now I feel disconnected from all my classmates. It’s very hard. I only have one face to face class at Gallaudet with my actual cohort and it’s not enough time to spend with them, like last semester where I had three classes on campus with my cohort. And I haven’t been able to go to the Mu Pi meetings because of PT. My other class at GMU is with a whole other group of people who I don’t even know so obviously I’m not connected to them at all. I am literally an outsider in this cohort who has been together for almost two years. I feel disconnected.
Not to mention I miss the DeafBlind community so badly. The other day I saw a group of them chatting at Gallaudet. I wanted to go say hi but I had just finished my PT exercises and therapy. So I was physically and emotionally exhausted and in the pain…my body couldn’t handle it. And really I couldn’t handle it emotionally either. I would have become incredibly emotional and started crying because I miss them all so much.
I just feel this indescribable disconnect this semester.
I have given up so much. And I am really starting to feel my losses. I try hard to keep busy and since I have been so sick recently I have been distracted with that. But it doesn’t matter because at the end of the day I still feel lost and disconnected from people.
I am trying so hard to keep going and not let it get me down. I keep reminding myself I am doing what is best for my health. I can’t push myself too much or I will lose any progress I have made- healthwise. And I have made some…I have less inflammation in my body which is great. And I have short periods of time where I have less pain.
When people with chronic illness(es) commit themselves to self-care and improving their health, it is absolutely the right decision… but it is not easy. To some people, it might seem self-involved or selfish because all we do is think about ourselves and how things will impact our health. But it’s not selfish. We just want to be better…be healthy. I want to be the person I was so that I can do the things I used to do. I know if I just stop caring for myself now and try to go back and start working again I will hurt myself very badly.
Having chronic illness(es) is never easy. And when you start to feel disconnected from everyone around you… it’s all too easy to become depressed and isolated. I am fortunate to have my support system to back me up and be here for me when I need them most. But even having a support system doesn’t prevent the feelings of disconnect. This is something I will just have to process and go through. There is no fix it for this feeling. I can try to be more involved in some ways but I need to find the right balance. I am concerned about undoing all the progress I have made.
I am learning to accept my life for what it is right now. It is a struggle but I’ll get there eventually and I am sure by the time I get there it will change and I will have to start learning to accept it all over again. But that’s life…beautiful messy heartbreaking inspiring life.