Back To School Means Back To The Reality Of Life With Chronic Illness

Leslie Rott Health Guide
  • It's back-to-school time, and for me, that means many things.

     

    One thing the new school year means is a new cadre to disclose to. Thankfully I'm at the point in my graduate career where I am no longer taking classes. This considerably slims down the number of new people to potentially disclose to.

     

    Another thing the new school year means is that I have a whole new crop of students to get to know; names to learn (assuming that my lupus mind can remember anything at all), papers to grade, and the inevitable drama that can ensue when teaching undergraduates.

     

    Although between my office hours, my teaching sections, and the lecture for the class only takes up eight hours a week, the toll that it takes on me is immense. Many of my symptoms that had been gone for nearly a year are back. I've been exhausted and in pain. And I'm really frustrated by this.

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    The thing is, teaching, no matter when and where you do it, is ultimately a performance art. You have to be on all the time. And that's a really hard thing to do for someone who is chronically ill.

     

    I was on fellowship last year, so I didn't have to teach. And even though I taught my own class this past spring, it was a whole different ball game.

     

    In some ways, teaching in the spring was easier. It was a six-week semester rather than a 16-week semester. This meant that I only had to stay in relatively good health for a shorter period of time. Or at least pretend that I was relatively healthy for that long.

     

    But 16 weeks undoubtedly takes its toll. During the spring while I was teaching, that was all I did. I didn't really attempt to get my own work done; I was able to hold off on my traveling and research until after teaching was over. I simply concentrated on my class, planning and teaching, and let everything else fall away.

     

    Unfortunately, I can't really do that now. I can't spend this whole year ignoring my own work, especially since my goal is to finish my program by next summer.

     

    So, as I tend to do, I will soldier on because I have no other choice. Teaching is my livelihood; it's how I earn money and where my health insurance comes from. If I don't have that, I have nothing. So in some ways, the reality of chronic illness includes a lot of things about being practical, about making sure that I have the minimum infrastructure in place to support my health.

     

    Needless to say, I am still trying to get acclimated to the new school year. I am anxiously awaiting an appointment with a new GI specialist, which I'll be writing about in my next post.

     

    Unlike me, for most people, their chronic illness symptoms don't run on a school year schedule. So what jars you back to reality? What kinds of things that you have to do inevitably impact your health? And how do you deal with that?

Published On: September 20, 2011