I just finished my first semester of taking full 14 credit classes since I have been diagnosed. I wasn't 100% sure I would be able to do it, plus work, but I did, and I passed! It took a couple days of sleeping off finals and letting it all sink in to actually feel proud of myself. And I am.
This semester I learned many things socially, educationally, spiritually, mentally and physically. Most of them about myself. This is one thing about my chronic illness--I learn so much about myself. The 2 biggest things I am still working on, but that I learned from this semester especially is, 1- being ok with myself, and where I am at. And 2- realizing I am stronger than I really think, and the reason behind why I am so strong.
It is hard to have a chronic illness and not compare yourself to others. I am guilty of that. It's always been said you should only compare yourself with you... the only problem with telling someone with a chronic illness they should only compare themselves to themselves is it entails them to remember who they used to be, what they used to be able to do, and makes them hate their situation even more.
For example, I love learning about things I am passionate about. That's why I love college, I learn about so many things I want to learn about. The hard thing is the effort it takes for me to learn something now, where as before Lyme Disease, is frustrating. Where I could have sat in a lecture and left understanding everything before, I now record a few of my classes and listen to the lectures over again sometimes multiple times, to make sure I understand and know the material. 80 percent of the time it's not music I'm listening to when I'm walking around with my headphones in. Studying for finals takes me twice as long as others. Then you hear the kids in your class obsessing over those .5 percentages they have between an A and an A-. I couldn't help but feel really crummy about my C when I hear someone telling me they could skip the final and pass with an 91 percent, but I know they will come everyday and still do the extra credit to finish the class with 101 percent. How can I not compare myself to that? It's not saying "I'm worse than them because my grades are worse." It's more like "Why am I putting in so much more effort and yet I'm 2% from a D?" At that point it is easy to throw in the towel, and give up. Right? When it takes so much more work, why try?
I learned "why" this semester. When a very smart friend told me something nobody has ever told me before. It was one of those rough days when Lyme was winning everything. The depression was bad, and I was ready to ditch school and go home sick. I was ready to give up on everything. I. Was. Done. And I told her that, I told her I was tired of being strong. I didn't want to fight anymore. I wasn't the "Lyme Warrior" my blog said I was. On and on and on I went.
Until she finally said, "ya know what Sadie, do it. Just give up! Go ahead."
I was stunned. Nobody had ever said that to me. I don't tell people when I feel like I'm losing with Lyme just to have them tell me I'm "strong" and "I can do it." That's not me, but she did the opposite of what I expected. Have you ever felt words hit you with so much force that you physically shrink backwards? Those words hit me with so hard it was like a punch in the gut, I felt myself sway back. Finally I answered through tears: "I can't."
"That's right, you can't because you won't. Because you are not a quitter!" She answered with even more force, and I knew she was right.
It took a huge break down to realize that I can't quit, I won't quit, and the reason is because I am strong. To realize how strong I really was I had to have someone give me the permission to give up. I realized just because I was tired of fighting didn't mean I was going to give up.
I can't give up because I won't. I just won't. I won't let myself. I realized that I am tired, all the time I am tired. But I am not tired of being strong. I am still so grateful that someone saw it in me enough to boldly point it out. If I wouldn't have been granted permission to give up, I wouldn't have realized it in myself, and since then it has been freeing.
The rest of the semester after I realized I can't give up because I won't, I still struggled, I still felt the sting when a guy was mad over his 3.1 percent deduction on a paper that gave him a B instead of an A. I still got down on myself when everyone was sharing their scores on a paper and knowing I could have done better than I did, if I didn't have this chronic illness bringing me (and my grades) down. I still slightly compare.
It' s either a comparison between sick-me to them, or sick-me to non-sick-me, but I don't let it get me down. It's like ripping off a band aid too fast, I allow it to hurt and sting for a second, and then I attempt to move on and deal with me the best I can. Because I know I won't give up. So why linger on things that will just frustrate me to want to give up?
Learning to be ok with myself, my sick-self and learning just how strong I really am by realizing I can't quit because I won't has been two very important things for me in my confidence. I hope I can continue to be strong enough to overcome my comparisons I make towards myself and towards others. I have already realized I can't not, I just can't, but I do know that I can choose to be strong enough to not let them get to me anymore.
-The Lyme Warrior