The following is my submission to the 2015 Fall CourseHorse Learner’s Scholarship, coursehorse.com/scholarship I intend to write more about my experience in regaining health very soon – so much in my life has changed, and I am so grateful! This essay gives a small glimpse of my story.
As a high school freshman, I balanced a full roster of honors classes and extracurricular activities, and my future looked incredibly bright. On the morning of June 5, 2006, that all changed. I fainted in the shower that morning, and my life suddenly went from fast-paced and busy to me being bed bound much of the time, passing out up to 16 times a day. I spent two years going from doctor to doctor before being diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, a form of Dysautonomia, at the Mayo Clinic. Medicine helped a little, but I was still a sliver of my former self. I spent my days feeling like a giant anvil was pushing me into the ground when I tried to stand or sit up. I was so dizzy, and the exhaustion I experienced was like nothing I had ever felt. I was so tired it was physically painful, and not even 23 straight hours of sleep could put a dent in it.
I spent my high school years struggling with these serious health issues. Getting through a full day of class became impossible because I struggled to remain upright for so many hours, and it felt like a thick fog had enveloped my brain. My previously easy honors classes became so difficult for me. Every assignment took so much longer to complete, and remembering concepts for tests felt like a nightmare. I missed more days of school than days I attended, but I made sure to stay in contact with my teachers and get my work sent home. I had piles and piles of makeup work that left me so overwhelmed I would cry. Graduating high school while dealing with feeling so sick all the time felt like an insurmountable task. But I knew my education was important, so I tried to persist. In 2009, I graduated on time with the rest of my class, which I consider my greatest achievement to date.
Going through my own struggles opened my eyes to the struggles other people were facing, and I became passionate about helping others. I dreamed of becoming a doctor, but had to turn down a full ride scholarship to a school’s biochemistry program due to my poor health. This broke my heart. Then, while attending community college, I accepted the fact that medical school would be too rigorous of a career path for me. I began pursuing a degree in nursing. Attending the necessary science classes was such a struggle – sitting up for long periods of time left me so exhausted I could often barely leave my bed for days afterwards. However, I finished my prerequisites and was accepted to nursing school. My brief joy turned to devastation when I met with the department to discuss my health and was told that nursing was not a safe or viable option for me with my limitations. This caused me to rethink everything. I knew I was passionate about helping people who dealt with serious health issues, and I wanted a way to explore the psychological side of long-term health issues while being one on one with patients. I realized I wanted to counsel those with chronic illness. I intend to get my master’s degree in social work, eventually becoming a Licensed Clinical Social worker, in order to do this.
I have worked so hard to get to where I am, and I am eager to keep working. Due to my health issues, I’ve had to take school at a slower pace, but my entire self has been dedicated to it because I didn’t have the energy for anything else. In the past year, however, I have experienced incredible health improvements. I feel so fortunate to be able to attend school full time now. Feeling like I have regained a high level of cognitive functioning is absolutely wonderful! For years, I could barely retain the knowledge I got in the classroom, and learning was incredibly difficult. It was hard to focus on lectures when I was struggling to just sit up and make it through my classes. I spent many, many hours doing homework from bed and wondering if I would ever be able to make something of myself. Now, I am thriving! My first semester studying social work has been life changing, and life affirming. I love being able to attend classes and learning from my professor – my time in school is always the highlight of my day! The things I am learning are not only improving my awareness of the world as a whole and my critical thinking skills, but they are improving me as a person. The human brain is an incredible thing, and the ability to use it is a gift. To me, learning is a privilege. The ability to sit in a classroom and gain knowledge is a beautiful, powerful thing. I never want to forget how lucky I am or take any aspect of my health or education for granted.