Why I Chose to go Back to School with Chronic Illness

I was discussing my issues with chronic migraines with a classmate yesterday and she asked me a question that my brain can’t let go of: If stress causes you to have migraines, why did you choose to go back to school?

In the moment I wasn’t ready for that question and I gave her a brief, vague answer that probably wasn’t very satisfying to receive. But that was not the time or place to dig in because there isn’t an easy answer to that question. But I’ll do my best to answer it here and now.

School has challenged me physically and mentally, which I expected. None of this is a shock. I have had to sit with myself and ask why I made these choices. On the tough days, these are the questions I ask myself. And the answer is more or less the same every time: no matter what route I choose I will struggle with my health. There’s no such thing as a life that doesn’t aggravate my symptoms. So I might as well challenge myself from time to time so I can have a career and existence that allows me to pursue my interests and passions.

My personality never got the memo that we are chronically ill. I can’t stand being idle. I have no tolerance for being in an environment that doesn’t provide me some semblance of joy and purpose. I think if anything, my chronic illness pushes me to pursue my passions. My physical existence will likely always be a painful one based on the problems I have and current medical technologies and techniques available to us. Dealing with these symptoms pushes me to be extremely selective of how I spend my energy. I fatigue easily, so I must use my energy wisely.

I’m not interested in a life where I push myself physically and mentally for a career where I am miserable. I am forced by circumstance to make the sacrifice to expend a large portion of my precious energy on my career so that I can earn money to survive. Disability isn’t an option for a lot of reasons and that topic is its own discussion for a later date. Our time on this planet is precious. Life is a gift. A beautiful, challenging, complex gift. I refuse to let my story be one that lacks joy, purpose, and passion. I refuse to mentally check out to pay my bills. What is the point of that? That isn’t a life. I’m in school now so that my working years can be spent bringing healing and relief to others. That is my passion and calling.

I learned the hard way how negatively my health is impacted when I am in a position that doesn’t interest or inspire me. I spent every day at my old job asking myself what I was doing with my life. I was spending all of my energy to get underpaid and overworked, so that other people could collect huge amounts of profits in an industry that is fed by corporate greed. An industry that takes advantage of the sick. I was in a position where the company I worked for didn’t give a shit what amount of damage they did. They wanted results and productivity. I wasn’t a person to them. Every day I spent there, I lost a piece of myself. Until I became an empty shell and everything fell apart internally and externally. And I knew that I would have this problem anywhere I worked in that industry. It is a systemic issue.

It’s so much easier to get out of bed now knowing that I have chosen a future profession that does more help than harm. The process is taxing and it challenges me to my core. But I will gladly take that any day over what my existence used to be. It’s amazing to see the internal and external transformations that are happening as a result of this choice I’ve made. I made the conscious decision to put in the effort to love myself enough to give myself the life I want and deserve. I will never regret that. I chose to live for myself instead of a machine. Chronic illness will not take that away from me.

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