When I was 16 I was diagnosed with General Anxiety disorder and, in the same year diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Getting through high school was nearly impossible and was a dramatic change from how I was able to perform in the past. Prior to my diagnoses I held a 4.0 GPA and was at the top of my class. Although I wanted to give up everyday I made sure to keep in constant contact with my teaches and support systems and that is what got me through. I managed to graduate on time and get accepted to state university 45 minuets away from home.
My first year of college was a struggle. I was suffering daily from chronic fatigue and a times my anxiety was so crippling that I felt too cognitively impaired to complete assignments or even participate in class. My social life was lagging but eventually I was able to form a meaningful relationship with my roommate, a relationship that continued to flourish throughout college and well into my adult life. By the end of my Freshman year I held a 2.0 GPA and was placed on academic probation. I barley recognized myself. I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat and although I did my best to appear cool, calm and collected, I was falling apart mentally and academically.
Sophomore year everything changed. I started utilizing the Student Disability Services, I was not going to let the stigma of my mental and physical health stop me from becoming the person I knew I could be. I started eating healthy and excersising regularly to help cope with the pain. Some days were better than others but for the most part exercise and meditation got me through. I made sure I had regular appointments with my therapist and superscribes; I founds medication to help with the anxiety that enabled me to function the way I needed to as a student.
I revisited the executive functioning skills I learned in high school and started to apply them when needing to write a paper, complete an assignment or present a project. I took control of my academic planning. I realized that taking a full course load each semester was not how I learned best. I modified my schedule and took my hardest courses over the summer. I found a major I loved and formed meaningful connections with my professors and clubs to help supplement my learning and keep me motivated. By my senior year I held a 3.9 GPA in my major and a 3.5 GPA overall - a huge turn around from almost being placed on academic leave.
Despite all of the odds stacked against me I am now working as a Supportive Employment and Education Specialist at Columbia Doctors Midtown and I am planning on returning to complete my Masters degree in Social Work.
I still find myself struggling from time to time. When my anxiety is heightened I can not think clearly; it affects my work, my health, my relationships. There are some days when getting out of bed seems impossible. The Fibromylagia makes me feel like there is a parasite living in my body. My back aches, my neck feels sore the whole world around me becomes a giant fog. I made it thought college but navigating life beyond college with anxiety and chronic pain is something that is increasingly new to me. Where do I find the strength and reliance I had in college?