This past week was my first week of classes of my second semester of my 8th year of college. Yes. 8th. I’m a transfer student, super super senior, with two health conditions that make it hard to handle more than part time schooling.
I’m starting this blog to accompany my YouTube channel about chronic illness (links posted later), but also to give me a place to write and express thoughts I have through the week. Mostly I want to show people what it’s like to live with my kind of illness and still try to live a busy life. My blog title is a play off of “lock, stock, and barrel” and the word “spoonies” which is what people in the chronic illness community have named themselves. So, as the title suggests, I’ll talk about a bit of everything, especially spoonie life.
My first week was the first week since I got sick that I’ve taken 9 credit hours worth of classes, had a semblance of a social life, worked 28 hrs/week, and actually slept an acceptable amount of hours (or attempted to). A feat I’m realizing is more difficult than I thought.
Most college students are stressed in general, but when you throw chronic illness in the mix it’s a whole new plain of existence. My illness isn’t even that bad, so if you’re reading this and you find it difficult to even go to school with no work, or even less, I’d say well done on whatever goals you’ve attempted. Whether you’ve achieved them or not, it’s finding the energy to try that’s the hard part.
I’ve had to put myself in a “just do it” mindset, which honestly feels like it suits spoonies better than athletes. When you’re exhausted, your condition’s acting up, and you haven’t had a real meal in at least 18 hours, you’re officially a zombie. I moved through my week full speed ahead, no stops, no time to think about it. Problems come up and I tackle them, my to-do list edited every 10 minutes with new tasks, or a rearrangement. But, I made it through, and only missed one class, and everything’s good, right?
Nope. I forgot the biggest rule to being a spoonie, the rule that’s quite literally part of the reason we’re called that: If you use spoons you don’t have, you’re borrowing them from days that haven’t happened yet.
I’ve run out of spoons.
As I finish this post, I’m caught up in chest pain, stomach pain, and difficulty breathing from both of my conditions coming together to make the perfect “here’s exactly what you asked for” slap in the face. It’s 4:30 AM, and my body is both exhausted and deciding it must keep me awake with symptoms. I know my body. I know that I won’t be able to make it through getting dressed in the morning, let alone going to class and work. My body has officially benched me from the “just do it” triathlon.
I will end up missing the most important day of my week because I pushed myself too hard last week. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to push your own limits, but as a spoonie, those limits are a little harsher and they like to push back. I wish I had a less cynical message for this first post but this is going to have to be one of the ones that’s a message to people who don’t have to balance illness with the rest of life. A message that “just do it” is great for motivation, but no matter how motivated your friend, coworker, or family member may be, sometimes their body is just done. The silver lining to this is that I have a good support system. My university, and therefore my job with the help of an extremely understanding supervisor, has accessibility services which allows me to rest when needed without penalty.
Not every spoonie is so lucky. I’m reminded that it’s a privilege to even rest today as I let my body recover.
If you’re a spoonie, remember that trying is 90% of the battle, and limits do exist. We can smash through them sometimes but usually it takes patience, and a lot of careful planning, but it can be done.
If you’re reading this without illness, then remember to have compassion and understanding if someone you know is dealing with illness. Every day is a new challenge and each mistake (we’re human, they will happen) can cost us a day or a desired outcome.
This post is much longer than I planned; I’m not expecting many to reach this point. If you have, thanks for reading, and I hope you’re happy you did. My past week has been full of a lot of unexpected challenges, so maybe it’s good to end with a blog post I didn’t expect to be so long. Here’s to hoping this upcoming week goes more as planned.