This post is going to be a bit more personal than many of my others. I’ve had a lot on my mind recently and I made this blog with the intention to be 100% open with you all and 100% invested in its success. So here I am, sharing my current reality.
The following is my experience.
If you’ve read my post Living with Tachycardia 101, then you know that I’m currently taking a short break from my studies to deal with some medical problems.
This post is directed to those of you in similar situations, thinking of leaving or having left due to medical illness.
It took me almost a month to make the decision to leave college for a semester, and I still feel uneasy thinking about it. It feels unnatural, being home while my friends are studying and being independent from their parents.
You might lose a great deal of independence.
My independence was a big deal to me. Before I began dealing with tachycardia and the other various symptoms that have popped-up along the way, I was as independent as I could be. I bought my own groceries. I paid for school by myself as much as I could. I set my own schedules at work and school. I didn’t depend on my parents for dinner, a ride anywhere, etc. That changes when you leave, especially when you’re sick.
I came home feeling dependent on my parents. Dependent on their approval especially.
Was I making the right decision? Were they disappointed in me?
It took me a few weeks to realize that I had to do what I thought was best for myself, regardless of the opinions of anyone else.
You could spend a lot of time alone.
If you’re taking a leave of absence for medical reasons, like I am, and you can’t work right away, you’re probably going to be alone the majority of the day every day. My younger brother goes to high school, works sometimes after school, and also has extra curriculars. Both of my parents work during the day. So, I’m left at home by myself at least five days out of the week. At first this seems like an advantage. I know I was excited to be able to rest and relax alone with Netflix and no major responsibilities. But it becomes lonely after a few weeks, and you begin to get tired of being alone.
I keep thinking to myself:
If I were at school, I could call a friend to watch a movie with me.
I could talk to someone face-to-face.
You’ll probably lose a lot of your support system.
I don’t want to say that you’re losing them because they’re technically still there, but you aren’t. The majority of my support system was composed of college friends, professors, and in some instances even employers. Making the decision to come home, I also had to grapple with the fact that I was leaving all of them behind. The reality is I can’t just pick up a phone and ask my best friend to come over, because she’s miles away in a classroom. I can’t just ask a friend to stay the night because they aren’t a few doors down from me anymore. It’s challenging. I know that they’re still there, but they aren’t within a reachable distance and that makes it so much harder to feel supported. I can’t hug my friends when I’ve had a bad day, because they simply aren’t there.
Don’t get me wrong, my family is a huge part of my support system. But it’s different. It’s so completely different. There’s nothing like watching an old movie with a good friend, being held by them while you cry, or getting milkshakes at midnight because you both feel like your life is in shambles.
You’ll feel like you’re missing out on a lot.
When you leave college behind you also leave behind the culture. I can’t go to the functions on campus because I’m not there. I can’t struggle through midterms with my friends because I’m not taking any. I don’t know any of the happenings on campus and can’t hear any of the new gossip because I no longer work in Student Life. You just feel so out of the loop.
You could struggle with anxiety and/or depression.
This has been a big one for me. Being alone the majority of the time, I’m left with my thoughts. And sometimes that isn’t a good thing.
What the hell is happening to my body? Why am I sick like this? Why is this happening all of a sudden? Will they ever find an answer? Will I have to live like this for the rest of my life?
A lot of the time no one seems to be as concerned as you are, which makes you wonder:
Am I blowing this out of proportion?
Which leads to:
Did I make the right decision to leave school?
It’s a downward spiral that leads to intense anxiety. There’s so many what-ifs when you have an undiagnosed illness.
On the other hand, you’ve isolated yourself either in an attempt to manage the anxiety that you’re experiencing, or because, like me, you don’t have access to the public during the day. Isolation leads to depression. You start thinking things like:
Maybe I did something to deserve to feel this way. My friends and family probably feel like I’m a burden. I’m too dependent on my loved ones. Maybe my boyfriend will leave me because I’m so needy. Maybe my friends will stop talking to me because I don’t have school in-common with them. Maybe I should just give up completely.
You’ll have good days too, even great ones.
Just yesterday I was in Charlotte, North Carolina enjoying pizza with Jon, thinking to myself how lucky I was to be sitting across the booth from someone so understanding, encouraging, and full of life. That morning we drove almost an hour to the mall to buy lavender-chamomile soap from a store with only one location in the Charlotte area. He didn’t act like it was a chore, and he distracted me from thinking about how I felt. When I started to get anxious about how fast my heart was beating, how dizzy I felt, etc. I just hooked my arm into his and let it come, knowing that if I should fall he would catch me. We got milkshakes at one of our favorite ice cream shops and drove through downtown just so I could look at the big buildings and interesting people.
Your family will always be there for you.
This morning I called my grandmother because I was beginning to feel discouraged and anxious about how dizzy I’ve been the past few days, and was met with:
You’ve been doing so much better and you’re going to do even better.
My mother has been my rock through this entire ordeal. When I first decided to come home, she didn’t approve, and sometimes it still seems like she doesn’t, but regardless she’s there for me. She has been to every doctor’s appointment with me, and has been my advocate 99.9%. She looked my cardiologist in the face and said:
As women our symptoms are often brushed off as anxiety. Don’t do that to her. I want you to leave no stone unturned.
You’ll be just fine.
I’m not there yet, and if you’re reading this you probably aren’t either. But, I’m getting there one day at a time. Someone the other day told me that I was getting better, and I met that with the response:
I’m managing it better.
And honestly, that’s all that matters.
Take it day by day.
Listen to your body.
Breathe and know that you aren’t alone.
You’ll be just fine.