Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Spoons of Education

College is a milestone most of us will divide and conquer at some point in our lives.  But how does one with a chronic illness such as lupus jump through the hoops and not completely loose it in the process?  It is a very delicate balancing act consisting of planning, planning and a lot of spoon usage.  This quarter especially has been a huge challenge for me.  I am confronted with tons of memorization and not enough time to do it all in. That is only the beginning of the laundry list of struggles I have experienced with my time in higher education...

Professors can be very good at dropping surprises.  A common one that makes me want to attack them with my bare hands would be "oh by the way this will be on the exam tomorrow."  Yes, well thank you very much professor.  I do get outlines for my classes and hand outs.  But there seems to always be that one rogue detail left off that doesn't come to light until the night before.  I am on a study break right now from one such rogue detail that was exposed yesterday night.  What makes this hard for me is I only have so many spoons set out for a certain day and I have them planned out.  Two for class, two for studying and one for driving.  It is a well thought out and almost scientific way of conducting my day.  There comes a point where I just have to let these surprises go because I do not have the spoons to cram them in like other people may be able to.

I try to be a very self sufficient person who academically can pull her load without a ton of outside help.  However I function best with a study buddy/note taker.  Sometimes I can't make it to class or even if I come to class I am not "there."  For anyone who has been around a "checked out" Katyann, you know that I am about as capable as a really drunk person.  In other words not very capable at all.  Half the time I am in such a state I don't even remember driving to school.  There have only been a couple classes I have had a reliable and good study buddy/note taker.  There comes a point where I cannot write anymore or can be struggling with just comprehending the lecture.  Simply having that other person there taking notes and later on being able to discuss with them what happened in lecture is priceless.  Yes, I realize there is the option to record lectures but it is a hassle and frustrating because in the classes where recording would be optimum I am blessed to be sitting next to a Chatty Nancy.  In the case I am blessed with a quiet class I do take advantage of recording devices.

Studying takes an amazing amount of spoons.  Shoving bucket loads of condensed information is a lot for anyone.  Tag on lupus and the recipe for success suddenly becomes like a Gordon Ramsey cooking show.  Very stressful and full of cuss words but somehow at the end things turn out okay.  I study around 10-12 hours a day including class.  My life consists around my textbooks Monday through Friday.  This may sound extreme but I have a hard time getting things to stick in my foggy head.  I do not always have the advantage of having a clear mind to study with.  Nor do I always stay awake during those 10-12 hours.  It is not uncommon to see me fallen asleep in a textbook.

Physical strength is another limitation I have.  I know, this is really an odd one.  I'm 19 and look as healthy as a horse.  I should not be struggling to tote around my textbooks and supplies I need for class.  Sadly I do.  My back cannot tolerate the load of manuals and textbooks, the pain is just too much.  Plus on a day leaning towards the "bad" side of the spectrum, my whole body feels as though it were composed of concrete bricks.  Not so conducive to even getting out of bed, let alone lug around a backpack on campus.  I have sacrificed having a textbook in a class as a requirement for keeping my pain and spoons where they should be in order for me to function further through the day.  

Stress has to be my number one enemy.  What can cause Lupus to come out of the woodwork and go crazy?  Stress!  What does college consist of mostly?  Stress!  A lot of people in my classes ask me how I can be so chill about even the most stressful of things.  Quite simply I cannot afford not to be stressed.  I have no choice but to just at the end of the day breathe out and say "100 years from now this will not matter."  It isn't easy when I have two major exams stacked into a two day period and a to-study list as long as my arm.  But I want to be in remission and I"m not going to be in remission if I stress about every single little test or paper.

With all this being said I am enjoying college.  I love the learning and experiencing new angles on life I have not had previously.  There have been some real eye opening moments I have had in the past year and a half.

Lupus has been treating me decently these days.  I have more good than bad days but when a bad day strikes... I am DOWN.  Today I went in for lab work at the UW.  Hoping it comes out better rather than worse.

Many Spoons!