It’s that time of year again…

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I am that kid.

Oh September, September, how I love you.

School has always been my favorite. “School” was my favorite game to play as a kiddo, and when I actually got to go, I would cry when it was time to go home.

Annoying, I know.

What can I say? Learning is fun.

However, somewhere in the middle of me enjoying all that knowledge-absorption, the fun of school was interrupted…

BY CHRONIC ILLNESS!

Dun, dun, dunnnnnnnnn…

Yep.

I learned to crochet in 4th grade because I missed so much school I had become a barnacle on my step-grandmother’s couch (See the Crafty Chronic (1), August 4).

I have a vivid memory of a day in 6th grade when our assigned seats were being rearranged. A stinky boy was assigned to sit next to me and he groaned (don’t you just love adolescence?). In a show of solidarity, his jerk-face friend said really loudly, “Don’t worry man, she’s never here.”

Then in 8th grade I started fainting and barely went back after Christmas break.

High school wasn’t much better. You have to have an actual diagnosis in order to get accommodations, and “rare fainting disorder” doesn’t count. I had a doctor’s note that said I could drink water and eat pretzels in class and go to the bathroom as often as I needed to. But I went to Catholic school. You try getting a bathroom pass in one of those, even with a doctor’s note. #Strict #What’sTheBigDealSister?

I tried my very best to go about my business as normally as possible. I tried really hard to make high school as fun as possible. It’s a weird quirk in the universe that most people who end up with chronic illness are type-A personalities, over-achievers, perfectionists, etc. I wouldn’t want to not fit the stereotype…

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Can’t you tell? “Overachiever” practically oozes out my pores.

Editor of the school newspaper, president of the Environmental club (dating myself here to all you youngsters reading this- we couldn’t convince the maintenance director to start recycling. It was too expensive. Yep, waaaay back in the early 2000s, you had to pay the county to come get your recyclables. I know. #Blasphemy. Also we watched An Inconvenient Truth. A lot.), National Honor Society, Best Buddies volunteer…

My high school resume is FANTASTIC, as high school resumes should be. Get out there and have some funsies, Chronics. Personally, I don’t believe high school is the “best years of your life” because if it was um, ew. But I do think it can be a learning time to find out what interests you and what doesn’t, so you can set yourself up to have the “best years of your life” at another time, in another place, preferably with no plaid uniforms involved (just me?).

I can’t speak much for <GettingYourAccommodationsOn> in high school, because like I said, I muddled through without them. I DO NOT RECOMMEND MUDDLING THROUGH. Also, try not to muddle through when it comes to your social life either. Use your <ChronicIllness> words, if you have them. When you muddle through this is what happens:

Socially:

~You faint in the dark room during photography class, and they have to turn the lights on and everyone’s pictures get ruined. As no one knows that you have a medical condition, they will assume you skipped breakfast so you could fit into your homecoming dress and get really mad at you for being so selfish.

~Your friends stop believing you are actually sick after the 33rd time you can’t go to the movies, and think that you don’t like them any more.

~You secretly call your parents from the bathroom at the mall and beg them to come get you early again. When your friends ask why you have to go, you tell them it’s because your parents called you, as you don’t want your friends to think you are ditching them. See above.

Academically:

~Even though you missed the first month of school (I had mono Junior Year-yuck. Do not share drinks with people. Do not kiss people. You will get mono. And die.), teachers assume that you called your classmates for the work and are thus prepared for tests and/or quizzes. In order to arrange make-ups, your mom has to call and yell at people. You still might not get to have make-ups. Good thing you pre-read your Chemistry textbook for fun over summer break.

~The advisor of the National Honor Society might withhold your acceptance for a semester into said society on account of your frequent absences. “Try to show up more, and you are a shoo-in,” is what she will tell you when you flip out on her in the library.

~When your entire body shuts down the second semester of senior year and you have to be homeschooled, your poor, over-worked mother will have to have 99 meetings with teachers, heads of school, academic deans, etc. to get them to let you graduate. Even then, your crazy physics teacher might give you a C even though you did all the work correctly, as she deducted points for “lack of in-class participation.”

So, you know, muddling = bad.

504 plans, accommodations, and partial/complete memorization of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) = good.

Also, I hear that they have online high school now. I would really like to know why that had to wait until now to catch on. Seriously. Gosh.

Despite all that <Hullabaloo> I still managed to learn a lot and have <some> fun in high school. Luckily, bureaucracy never turned off my love of learning.

Don’t let it turn off yours, Chronics.

Being a high school Chronic is the pits. Accept this. It’s not fair, it’s a pain, and it’s not the way it’s *supposed* to be. All of that is true.

However, if I could go back and tell my high school Chronic self anything, it would be to Chill Out.

(Actually, it would be, “Your illness is called POTS and you should really be taking a beta blocker with a bit of midodrine. It’ll perk you right up. Also, don’t share that soda with that guy before junior year. He’s not that cute. And he’s contagious!” #MonoSucks #MakesEverythingWorse)

But really.

If you have the words, use them. As in “Hey <friend>, I’ve got this medical condition called <whatever> and it makes it hard for me to hang out after school. I really like being your friend, and I’m bummed I can’t. Can we do <SomethingYouCanDo> on the weekend? Or maybe just sit together at lunch?”

Use your words with teachers. Have meetings with your principal, dean of students, whomever is in charge. Get doctors notes and official this-and-that’s.

Then take a deep breath and go learn stuff. Learning is magic. It’s fun. It’s the only thing that can’t be taken away from you. You can’t “un-know” stuff (though you may forget just a bit after a while…Quadratic formula? Anyone? Me neither.) Participate to the best of your abilities. It’s totally ok if you can’t do everything.

You are still awesome.

I promise.

To be Chronically fabulous is to be the best kind of fabulous. Don’t you forget it, high schoolers 🙂

 

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