Monday, April 11, 2016

Falling Behind

      I really am not sure what to say about my health. The past two weeks have included an intimidating mix of allergies, urgent care, asthma, anxiety caused by excessive albuterol, nausea, and arthritis (side note: 75%+ of my medical issues start with the letter "A" and it really freaks me out). They have included vomiting in the school bathroom at 6:55 a.m., scaling the stairs to my chorus class at 9:00 a.m., limping awkwardly to my independent study at 10:38 a.m., and only being about to eat Ritz crackers and an almond/cranberry/cashew mix until approximately 11:00 a.m. They have included crying while getting ready in the morning at the thinness of my braided hair and taking 20 minute naps that magically turn into 4 hour ones. I have been asked if I am pregnant and if I am hungover by concerned students (re: morning vomiting). It was really hard not to lie and say yes, because I was curious as to what their reactions would have been and I wanted to seem hardcore, but I contained myself and said, "food poisoning," another lie but at least a more socially acceptable one, and one that accurately conveyed that it was not contagious. I guess I will have to save extravagant, fictitious accounts of my life for another day.
A good thing that happened last week:
I committed to Tulane University!
Roll Wave!!!!!

      Yet they have not been awful days. I have been able to walk for the most part, and I really am happy. I have been having fun with my friends, and loving people, and making smoothies. There has been an abundance of arthritis jokes, compassionate smiles, and internal conversations with my joints.

      Although I have been dealing with arthritis for five years now, I have never exactly found myself behind in my classes, or in my friendships, or in "life." Even during my tedious diagnosis process, I kept up with all of my work (I was in the sixth grade so it was not the most difficult material ever, but still). I am not a person who is generally stressed about school. I rarely feel daunted by tests and assignments. I love going, and I love learning. I adore my teachers and do not mind the workload.

     When I reluctantly walked into a trusted teacher's classroom about a month ago and confessed that I was actually behind in my work after a rough week with my health, I knew it was a turning point for me. "This is not the Rachel people know," I thought. More importantly, "this is not the Rachel people like." People, teachers especially, have always complimented my ability to stay on top of my assignments even in the midst of my failing health, and I have never used my illness as an excuse not to get things done. But the fatigue was crushing, and the hours between my long after school naps and nighttime sleep were simply not enough to get all of my work done up to my standards. While my schoolwork is important to me, it is not my number one priority, and therefore it was not all done all of the time. Admitting my inadequacy felt so risky, yet also so necessary.

     The truth is, I am not Superwoman. I cannot do it all of the time. I cannot always stay awake to read the last chapter or complete the last math problem. Even though six to seven hours of uninterrupted sleep is a dream for many of my friends, it does not cut it for me. I cannot always stay awake in class, either. On Friday I was absolutely devastated because the library was closed, and I was planning to nap on the carpet. That is not a normal reason for devastation; I am sick and I am fatigued. I have been keeping up with friends for the most part, but I really have not had much energy to put into relationships over the past few days, and I have been saddened knowing that I am distancing myself from people but feeling powerless nonetheless. So there are disappointing times, when I know I should be talking to someone about an activity they are participating in or complimenting their shoes or something minor like that, but the process of going up to them and trying to seem normal and comfortable has felt overwhelming, and so I sink into something more independent that requires less energy.

     It is on days like these that I am especially grateful for friends who refuse to let me drift away. I texted my friend Amelia Thursday night to let her know that I was not feeling well, and immediately she offered to help me in several very practical ways. On Friday, this friend saint walked slowly with me, left in the middle of our physics class to retrieve my ice packs from the freezer (which was in a completely different building), and even offered to bring my car around so it would be closer. I am so, so lucky to be her friend. When I went to the mall with my sister and mother after school, they waited up on me after I explained that my hip only had about 20 degrees of motion.

     So that is all for me. I am completely caught up now, and I am trying to reconnect even though it is presenting itself as a sizable challenge. I am trying to stay positive even though my knees, ankles, and hips are not having it, and I am reminding myself that this too will pass.

     I hope that when you read this you still like me. I hope you can accept that, while it is a rare occurrence, I do fall behind sometimes. I hope I can accept that, too.

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