It’s the last hour of December 1st, 2015 and I am sitting at my desk at home, having just made official my decision to withdraw medically from the semester.
I never thought that I would have to take one semester of off school, much less two. Remember last year? The time when I started this blog, actually, was right around the time that I had come to terms with the fact that if I didn’t take all my energy to focus on mental and emotional healing, I was going to just keeping declining. So I withdrew medically from classes but stayed at school to be with my community there.
I was not happy to withdraw. I saw it as a failure, as a personal mark of how I had not grown up to become the woman I was supposed to become. Of course, time passed and I realized that was just silly. Taking the reigns on my mental illness and having the bravery and courage to pause everything and tackle it head on was a huge victory! I do not regret, not for one moment, having taken medical leave fall of last year.
This time around the situation is quite different. Depression and anxiety are still present in my life. They are not as powerful and consistent as they once were, but they are present and they have their flare-ups. Fortunately from taking medical leave last year, and from making other wise choices, I have developed such a large army of tools to battle mental illness that I am able to push on when things get rough without a feeling of helplessness. But back to this semester: I was doing well for a while there. Well, for the first month things were fairly smooth sailing. I was working, I was chasing after my revived passion for music performance with full force, I was helping to lead music classes for young children, I was more confident than ever. Things seemed pretty good.
Then God decided to remind me that, whether I struggling or thriving, He was the one who should be at the center of my life and not, shockingly, myself. I got back into this old habit of lying on my bedroom floor at night in a fetal position, trying to understand how I could feel overwhelmed and upset but yet amazed and so loved by God. I would journal late into the night wondering why this new wave of passion for Christ was hitting me and what it could lead into. God just kept breaking my heart for him.
And then I started to lose energy. I didn’t think much of it—thyroid imbalance? Depression? Stress? Result of being a busy college student?
And then… And then I got high. I made a poor decision. I got high. I got a whole lot more high than I ever thought was possible. I thought I was dying. I almost choked on my vomit. I was tackled head-on by evil depressive thoughts that wanted so badly to get hold of me. I was gripped tight by the Lord and reminded relentlessly through that dark, dark week that the Holy Spirit claimed me and loved me and was never going to leave me.
Yeah—that was traumatizing. That was an awakening to the rebellious part of me, that was an awakening to my bank account (it turns out that ER visits cost a lot… and you better believe I was not about to have my parents pay for an ER visit that was the result of a little fun marijuana intoxication), that was a shattering awakening for me emotionally and mentally, and oh my goodness that was a powerful shock to the system spiritually.
What a load to handle.
It took me a long time to process through everything that happened that week and it was definitely painful. But it was the sort of painful processing that I knew was going to yield fruit of the spirit. Spiritual growing pains are tough in that way: they hurt to the point that you don’t know if you can bare more, but they always fulfill their promise of giving you something more glorious than you ever expected.
So the spiritual growing pains became noticeable before The Great High (yeah, I gave it a name) and surged on powerfully after.
I was so distracted by Jesus that I had trouble staying motivated with schoolwork. Academics suddenly seemed so trivial when I had this desire to eat up God’s word and give my life to Him entirely. But I pushed on with academics anyway. I balanced academics with my spiritual life with music with my job with my social life. And I started to get really tired. So tired that naps were becoming an almost daily occurrence. First by choice, then by necessity.
And when I woke up form these naps, just as when I woke up from a long nights’ sleep, I had pain in my legs. It was a dull pain, much like that which you get when you are going through a growth spurt as a youth, but it was pain nonetheless. ‘How weird for me to be having growing pains in my legs when I am almost 21,’ I thought. ‘I guess I’m just going to get even taller.’ So I shrugged it off for a strange but harmless occurrence, and went on with my life.
Then one Monday I woke up so exhausted—physically and mentally—and with my body so sore, that I did not know how I could garner the energy to get to all five of my classes that day. Suspecting I was just way more depressed than I was aware, I went back to bed to rest. Later that day, though, my arms hurt from just holding up my phone to send messages and I started to get mild tremors.
The next day I sucked it all up, giving it the benefit of the doubt that I was just unusually wiped out, and went through my classes. Some days were pretty normal again, some days were awful, and many days had just moments that signaled that something was not right.
So I began the process of getting medical testing done. First, the generic bloodwork tests. Maybe my thyroid levels were just imbalanced. Maybe I was just dehydrated. Then as things progressed with my symptoms, things progressed with the medical tests. I could hardly garner the energy to hold up my instrument to practice.
Mono? Nope. Lymes Disease? Nope. Anemia? Nope… The doctors ended up chalking it up to a mixture of stress and fatigue and vitamin deficiency. I was given painkillers and told to come back in a few weeks if things didn’t change with rest and vitamin supplements.
So on and on it goes. I won’t bore you with the details. Let’s just sum it up to say that now, I am seeing several specialists to try to get to the bottom of this. Painkillers and steroids had no effect on my symptoms. It all remains a mystery and I’m stuck in this terrible waiting game. It certainly does feel like living in limbo to a point. Some days are much better than others (granted the better days are the ones on which I hardly do anything).
I so so so hate that I have to take medical leave. It’s almost the end of the semester. Why do I have to pull out? So much hard work and time and energy and money have been invested! But if on some days I don’t have the energy to practice my instruments or walk or can’t walk because it is just too painful, well, there is really no way for me to manage by full lifestyle as a student.
Many of my friends are puzzled and ask me over and over, whether out of sympathy or plain confusion, “Why are you dropping out of the semester? You’re almost done!”
When they say this, I want to stare them in the face with the nastiest glare I can conjure up and tell them that “It’s not a choice at this point. Do you think I want to drop out of this semester? Do you think I know that I’m really close to finishing it? OF COURSE I KNOW! I am more aware of this than you are, and it certainly pains me more than it pains you.”
I’m now on track to graduate after around 6 years of undergrad. That is not at all what I want! But what am I supposed to do? I’ve been grinning and bearing this all over the past two months, and people can’t tell anything is wrong unless I complain about it, which I’m not apt to do. But it hasn’t been easy and it isn’t getting easier. I am not finishing the semester because I physically cannot right now. Period. Now, please, don’t question me anymore. And don’t try to tell me that I will get better if I eat more healthily or sleep more.
So I’m back at my desk, typing away. I don’t know what my future holds. I don’t know what the next week will look like and I certainly don’t know what the next few years will look like. Perhaps I will discover that whatever is going on with me physically has an easy fix. That would be just grand. And perhaps I will discover that whatever is going on with me physically is going to effect me in great ways down the road. I really don’t know.
What I do know right now is that I don’t have much control. God does, though, and as tempted as I am to get angry at him, I know that he is with me and fighting on my side. Goodness knows I do not understand why God works the way he does and why he allows us to go through such trials. But right now, he is my only rock—really my only rock because nothing else is really stabile right now. And I am choosing to be grateful for this rather than using it as another excuse to wallow in self-pity.
Well, friends, I apologize for rambling. Thank you for listening. Really.
Oh and, if you have any advice on how to handle this crazy load of unexpected surprises that life throws at us, just let me know. I’m keeping a –reasonably— good perspective, but assistance would be very welcome.