I had hoped to be posting once in a while, but as the quarter went on, I had fewer and fewer spoons to even think about personal projects. I had Quantum Mechanics to stay focused on, and I had flares and other medical problems to distract me from that. While I made it through Fall quarter, I know it's going to continue to take all of my attention and focus to get through Winter.
As the New Year occurred, I started thinking about resolutions, as everyone inevitably does. And while usually, I set intentions for the year, this year I truly have a resolution.
I'm going to finish my degree.
I've been terrified to say those words, and declare it to the world. After constantly being set back for the past four years, I know that there are circumstances outside of my control. A lot of them. And the idea of graduating makes me extremely nervous at this point, not for what comes afterwards but for what comes before.
I have to finish Quantum Mechanics, which is challenging to say the least. This is on top of sleeping enough to manage fibromyalgia, taking care of my other classes, and working enough to pay my bills. Most students in this last year of physics don't even think about working a job, much less working on top of managing chronic health concerns.
I also have an incomplete class to finish by the end of the quarter. Which is terrifying in itself, as most of my spare time is spent resting.
I'm determined to get my degree though, so all of this is going to get done. And at this point, I know I can do it. I have spent a few years gathering pain management resources, figuring out how to ask for help from those around me, and learning what I need in my day to be successful. I can absolutely do this, even if I'm doing it from my couch at home.
While it isn't much of a New Year's Resolution, I am committed to the resolution of finishing my degree THIS year.
Here are the ways I am helping myself do that:
- Taking advantage of Disability Resources I have at school
- While I am choosing not to use a scribe for the limited in class note-taking this year, I am committed to using a scribe and extra time on tests. The time is valuable in calming my mind, even if it is used mostly for dictation. Having the scribe allows me to not put myself in pain while I am taking my test. Both of these resources are provided by the school, and using them allows me to be back on par with my classmates.
- Being open with my professors about my challenges
- Thankfully, my professors express their openness to understanding the challenges of their students at the beginning of class and on the course syllabi. Being open about the challenges I face makes me less panicked when I'm struggling to stay awake during my homework, struggling to write during class, or leaving class to deal with my symptoms.
- Doing my best to get 8-10 hours of sleep each night
- Without sleep, I don't have a brain to use. On top of forgetting very important things, I don't have the capacity to remember how to do integrals or minimize energy values. Sleep is massively important for STEM majors, especially those in pain.
- Keeping a planner with dates and responsibilities
- I made mine myself at the beginning of the year, having a calendar in the beginning and leaving most of it for free form entries. Having the dates to look back at is helpful, as is having plenty of room for writing when my hands are cramped from the rest of the day. I write really big when my hands hurt, and traditional planners do not have enough room to be practical for me. It was well worth the effort to set up my own.
- Using soft, comfy clothing, my walking cane, and other pain aids for flare days
- My pain often comes from tactile responses, such as with rough seams on clothing or too tight clothing. Having a stockpile of soft clothing that is easy to put on makes getting ready for school a lot easier, especially when I don't have to wear things that could dislocate my fingers. Pull on clothing that looks fairly professional makes it a lot more likely for me to go to school on a bad flare day.
- Relying on my friends and family for positivity and emotional support
- Knowing who I can talk to about my pain is really helpful. Usually once I complain about it a little, I can suck it up a little bit better and get to work. My advisor at school is really helpful, as I can just vent really quick right before we get down to business.
- Staying positive about graduation
- This one sounds silly, but it's really important to me. I lost sight of graduation a few years ago, so delving into the idea of graduating and celebrating my achievements is scary. Focusing on invitations and party decorations and people to invite, it reminds me that I absolutely can get it done. It reminds me that I have worked so hard this far. It reminds me to be proud of who I am and what I am doing. And it has been a while since I've had pride in my work.
There aren't going to be many more posts until Spring, but just know that it is me doing all I can to achieve my goals. All of my spoons are going into STEM, and I'm really excited to be making my degree happen this year!