Since it is Back To School season, I'm sharing my story of why I dropped out of college due to chronic illness and things I learned from my experience.
In my first blog post I Don't Look Sick I shared my story of how I got diagnosed with fibromyalgia and M.E. There I talked about how I have lived with different health issues since I was a child and that I was still undiagnosed when I finished high school.
After a one year graphic design course in adult education I knew I found what I wanted to do with my life and was excited to learn more about it. Determined to get my bachelors degree, I signed up for university and moved into my dorm.
But I was completely ignoring all the red flags my body was sending me and I ended up in a huge crash and dropped out of college.
I would be lying if I said that I never wondered whether I made the right decision. Did I miss out on something?
When I see other young people with chronic illness(es) going to college with good accommodations I wonder why I never looked more into this.
Stubborn as I was, I thought I wanted to do all the courses instead of looking at other possibilities. Since I was undiagnosed I thought I was not "disabled enough" of getting help. The lack of understanding from my environment and doctors made me hide my pain and put on a poker face.
Maybe if my symptoms were taken seriously earlier I would have gone to university? Who knows.
Even though this was a very difficult period in my life, I choose to believe it happended that way for a reason.
I got my diagnosis after 10 years!
Maybe I would have never pushed through and fought for help if I chose to pursue my studies. My bad crash made me stand up for myself and not settle anymore for answers like "you have growing pain" or "this is all in your head".
A diagnosis opened so many doors. Not only did I get the right medication, I did a rehab physical therapy program, I learned so much more about pacing and pain management.
Learning > Studying
If I wasn't put in this situation, I would have never got the life experience I have now. I found the incredible community The Chronic Warrior Collective (Chronic Connection at the time) that has helped me not only to cope better with my health but also inspired me to start my business, helped me to improve my English, gained confidence from traveling to meet up with cool people from different countries and learn about their cultures.
I learned to be more creative and look for other options when a situation seems impossible with chronic illness. I joined a few workshops, I went to art classes and got my certificate from a business course.
Life is not about getting good grades, it's about enriching your knowledge, experiencing and doing things out of your comfort zone. Growing as a person is more important than getting an A+.
One last note
I have a lot of respect for people who do finish their degree and I'm sure it's a wonderful experience for most. I just don't think the school system fitted me and that's okay.
That being said, I might go follow a course at a uni in the future that interests me or that would be helpful for my business.
Whether you are in high school, college or enrolled in another education program, know that even if you are not diagnosed yet, you are valid and deserve accomodations.
There are alternatives out there, perhaps more suitable for your own personal situation.
Sending many good vibes and good luck for the new schoolyear,