Fall quarter has come to a swift start for me again. A little bit of sleep and a lot bit of homework. College is probably one of the hardest long term academic tasks a person with lupus could subject themselves to. Even for a healthy person college is a taxing time. There is also plenty of enjoyment in it as well. I do enjoy learning and going to college. But it is a very tight walk between my higher academic goals and keeping my lupus in a manageable state. Stress can take me from zero to flare in a very short period of time.
On the first day of class things either go really well or I know I will be fighting an uphill battle for the next eleven weeks. Some professors are excellent about understanding the ramifications of having lupus. Others… well, yeah… no. The best thing for a professor to tell me is “I don’t know what that is.” Not, “I don’t care what is going on in your personal life, still come to class regardless. We all have our problems and you still need to be here.” There are days where I just can’t come to class and there is nothing I can do about it. The second type of professor gives me nightmares in my sleep. When I sleep.
Half the difficulty of attending college for me is having the energy to focus. Sitting in a room with florescent lighting (makes lupus symptoms worse), in hard plastic chairs (that can be very painful!) and trying to keep my absolute focus for an hour or more just drains me. Thinking takes an enormous amount of energy. I can’t even read books for pleasure anymore on my own because it takes too much energy that I could be using for something else. I have been known to during lectures just lay my head down on the desk and turn on my recording device. The fatigue just over whelms me at times. It does not help me if any of my classmates are not on task. Just like with anyone else, the more distracting the surroundings the more power it takes to focus. For me, it is a lot of spoons. Even just sitting in places like the Student Union for 15 minutes can drain me as much as a walk around campus for that same amount of time. Even though one is a physical task and one is mental.
My peers are either helpful or hurtful to me. I’ve had both sides. It can get ugly and can really hurt my self confidence when they are hurtful. Peers get mad me, frustrated with me or will just flat out say things that really can hurt my feelings. I only have so much control over how I am doing on a certain day. I don’t have control over what symptoms present, only how I handle what has come about. This is something only other people with chronic illness can understand and amongst a crowd of youth… there really aren’t very many chronically ill. I’m kind of the odd ball. On the flip side, I have had some amazingly helpful peers. They would take notes for me when I would miss class, bring me up to date on everything and hold many study sessions with me. More often than not people are willing to help rather than to hurt.
Learning for me is a delayed process thanks partially to both the amount of sleep deprivation I experience on a regular basis, the brain fog and energy factors. Simple things other people can grasp in a night, can take me three days. It is almost as if I’m processing information through the clouds, it is really hard to think/see. One major thing about college is learning information very quickly. Needless to say if the assignment comes out on Monday and isn’t due until next Monday… I never wait. In order for me succeed at college, I cannot procrastinate. This goes for anyone but is especially crucial to me for my success.
Physical appearance by now I have swallowed any dignity I ever possessed. When it comes right down to it, attending class is far more important than looking like a rock star. I could come in looking like I’m ready shred but then fall asleep on the desk. Or I could come in looking like I just crawled out of bed and listen to the lecture for an hour. Dress became a topic of conversation in my English class and someone remarked “you should always be dressed like you’re ready to meet the love of your life.” Oh I would love to have that capability! But the love of my life will just have to have the same appreciation for PJs that I do. Yes, I get stared at when I am in clothing that is not of the norm. However, I generally feel so sick, tired and awful I could really care less.
Only once have I had someone freak out about me having a Raynauds episode. It was group work, I was really cold and… I changed into some very lovely shades of white/blue. Not unlike that of the unbombidle snow man. My body is all ready starting to react heavily to the fall weather. Winter is always the hardest for me. I feel subhuman all winter long. Not only does my body have to focus its energy on every day tasks but also on keeping it’s self regulated/warm. During the summer I have the heat to help keep me toasty so my body doesn’t have to spend as much energy trying to just keep up with things. Needless to say quilts and electric blankets become my best friend. I wear lots of heavy coats to class.
There is the nice thing about college of being able to schedule when my classes are. Mornings are really rough for me. Having the ability to not go to school before noon really can make all the difference in my success. This quarter I am taking an evening class that doesn’t get out until 9:30. After this first week I would say it is a bad decision on my part. The other time this class was offered was 8 a.m., so it really was picking the lesser of two evils. But after lab last night, I knew that my spoons were going to suffer the next day. Alas, it is noon and I’m still not out of bed. ‘Small price to pay for an education. However I am exhausted to the core.