College is already hard, but when you factor in all the changes due to COVID-19 and dealing with endometriosis, life can seem pretty dreadful. I am a full time pre-med student in college, and it’s pretty rough right now. Upper level science courses require a lot of time and energy, both of which are hard to find while suffering from endometriosis, and then when they are put online, they get even scarier. I commend my school for all they have done, but I think they have forgotten about us: the spoonies.
COVID-19 hit fast and hard, and it is nowhere close to being over. It has descended the country into a perpetual state of stress, and 7 months later, we are all still trying to cope. First, came the cancelled vacations and longer-than-expected Spring Break, followed swiftly by spikes of unemployment and eerily desolate grocery store aisles. We have come back a little—able to buy necessities and slowly re-opening businesses—but a lot of us are still recovering from the depression the pandemic has created. When August came around and schools started sending out their plans for the academic year, spirits were lifted. We thought life would be reverting back to life as we knew it before. Personally, I was excited to have something to do after 5 months of isolation. I was excited to move in with my best friends and continue my journey to becoming a pediatric gynecologist. This excitement lasted just shy of my 5th week of classes.
My school wanted to come back in person for as long as possible. Because we are so small, we had a higher chance of success than some of the bigger schools around the country. We are nine weeks in, and still going strong, with only two active positive cases. I am very proud of how my school has kept this under control which allows us to have some sense of normalcy with in-person classes. However, in order to keep students on campus and prevent outside exposure, my school has gotten rid of our breaks. We usually have a four day weekend in early to mid-October, a perfect amount of time to destress after midterms by spending a weekend sleeping in and cuddling our pets at home. This year, we were given one single Wednesday off from classes. It was nice to have a day off, but we still had homework and studying for the remaining two days of the week. On top of that, what usually is a 85 day semester was shortened into a 70 day semester. This means that for most classes, the content was going at a faster pace than normal. A few classes cut some information out of the curriculum, but even then, classes are moving faster than normal.
All students are struggling right now. Professors tend to make up for lost class time by assigning more homework, but because we lack the face-to-face time to ask questions, the homework feels even harder. I know that the professors are struggling. I mean, it cannot be easy to teach to a blank screen all day and then grade photos of worksheets instead of actual worksheets. I am extremely impressed at how fast everyone learned the technology and how to adapt to hybrid classes. I just think there is one minority group that the schools have seemed to forget about: chronic illness sufferers.
A lot of us are not eligible for official disability, for example, endometriosis is not recognized as a disability in the United States. However, these illnesses impact every aspect of our lives, no matter how well we hide it. I have been suffering from endometriosis for nine years now, so I have gotten used to people not believing my pain or my disease. In response to this, I have gotten used to hiding my pain, not being honest with those around me, and not asking for help. Unfortunately, the pressure to maintain this façade has started to catch up with me. I depend on those three and four day weekends to recover. Yes, everyone needs to recover mentally from the school week, but when you have a chronic illness, you sometimes need to recover physically as well. I live with my best friends and I don’t want to spend all weekend in bed. I want to spend time with them and go to the farmers’ market and play games with them and just be around them. However, I have to acknowledge what my body needs and oftentimes, that is spending the day alone in bed. This is so hard to explain to people and it comes off as being lazy, but if I give this time up, the whole next week I am running on empty. Usually, I can use my four day weekend in early October to really recover so I can spend some weekends having fun with my friends. This year though, I am worried I will not make it to the end of the semester without a huge price to pay.
I have been excelling in my Organic Chemistry course, something that I am very proud of. I have also been doing well in my other classes, and I am actually on track to have the best GPA of my college career. However, I can feel the motivation dwindling. When I don’t get time to recover, I wake up in the morning feeling like I didn’t get any sleep. This leads to me either skipping class to sleep, or going to class but then sleeping instead of studying later. Neither of which keeps me on the right pace with classes. I want to get out in front of it this time, and I have been trying, but man, I really wish our small break wasn’t taken away this year. It seems like a small price to pay to stay in school, but some of us depend on those two extra days to recover and prepare for the rest of the semester.
One of the best things we can do right now is stick together and share our pain with each other. Whether you are stressed from school, family, pain, or anything else, you are not alone. The whole purpose for this blog is to bring people together and remind us that there are people we can talk to and with whom we can create a support system. Feel free to reach out and follow my social media pages to stay in touch and build community. Things may not get easier for a while, but we can at least share our struggles and create something beautiful from this dreadful situation. As always, I believe your pain, and your feelings are valid. Don’t give up. There are great days ahead, and we deserve every last one.
I decided to start a blog because my mental and physical conditions are constantly changing, and I want to help encourage people with similar experiences, and let them know they are not alone.