When you have the attitude of an over-achiever, without the ability to maintain what you’ve achieved, you tend to hit a breaking point; and that is where I’m at. I lived 21 very healthy years. I even won an award in high school for the least number of missed days. I rarely got sick and didn’t have a clue what chronically ill was. Ignorance is bliss; and boy, do I wish I could be ignorant again.
When my symptoms began, I was enjoying my summer between college and graduate school. I had ended my first educational milestone, and was about to embark on the rest of my journey. I had accepted a full scholarship to my college alma mater to earn my Masters Degree in speech-language pathology. My illness began with a vengeance, and as the start of the semester neared, I wasn’t quite sure how I’d manage classes, homework, research requirements, and the walking that comes with a Big Ten campus. I knew if I took time off there was a chance I’d never return, and that would be something I’d regret for the rest of my life.
And so grad school began. I swallowed my pride and asked for a handicapped placard, which was the only way for a student to park on campus. I buckled down and studied hard, while often driving three hours home for doctors appointments. If you would have told me 14 years ago that I still wouldn’t have a solid diagnosis today, there’s not a chance I would have believed you.
Grad school came and went. My first job came and went. I got married and had two beautiful, energetic boys, and my ability to keep up began to diminish. I had made a promise to myself that I would still have all I want in life despite my chronic illness, and here I was, unable to juggle the life that I had worked so hard to form.
Today my boys are 8 and almost 5. I often struggle with what is required of me to keep the house running, the kids happy, and my body feeling the best it can. Often times, as I lay in bed at night, I wonder what life would be like had this illness never began. There would be more vacations, more involvement in my boys’ school, lots of field trip chaperoning, and of course a job that I worked so hard to be qualified for. And then I let myself wallow in self pity that I haven’t used my degree in 8 years.
But as I bring myself back to my reality, I remember all of the things I do have in my life. All of the family that surrounds me each and every day, the home I have built and continue to take care of daily, and the constant reminder that there is always hope for a diagnosis; and that is what keeps me going. When you find yourself at rock bottom, look to the sky; the universe has a way of bringing you back to shore.