What It’s Like to Be in High School With an Undiagnosed Condition


My freshman year in high school will always stick out in my mind for more bad reasons than good. 

Like many students starting high school, it was a rough transition: meeting new friends and teachers, learning to navigate a new building and trying to find out just who you are.

For me, it was even harder than that. I went from a small private school with 25 students in my class to a brand new school district with almost 1,000 kids in my class. 

I knew absolutely no one, and it was hard making new friends because of how shy I was. Some days my mom would take me to school, and I would have such bad anxiety about it that I would make myself sick and she would have to take me home.

I eventually did make friends, but my year didn’t get better. In March, I was home alone one night and was struck with sudden and severe chest pain. I went to the doctor the next day, and little did I know this would be the beginning of a long search for a diagnosis. 

I usually missed the maximum absences allowed each semester because I would be in too much pain to get out of bed. Some of these days were spent in the emergency room, some in doctors’ offices, some at specialists and some were spent getting test after test. My school excuses for being absent were always the same: Please excuse Nora from school on this date. She wasn’t feeling well or she had an appointment. 

On days that I did miss school to go to an appointment, I would bring my school work with me and teach it to myself and do the homework. When I would return and people would ask me where I was or if I was feeling better, I never quite knew what to say. I would tell my friends and teachers that I was sick, but I was feeling better.  

Being sick and in high school is never fun nor easy. I had to teach myself all of the material that I missed plus do the homework. I had to study harder than anyone to get a good grade and rely on friends to get the notes I missed. I had to make up all of the quizzes and exams, which requires you to miss the lesson for the day.

I would try to get to class as early as possible to ask the teacher what I missed, turn in my work and explain why I wasn’t in class. Coming in to school late or leaving early would always draw attention, especially if it was in the middle of a class.

Some days I had to call my mom to come pick me up early because I was in too much pain to sit through the rest of the day. The office aides would bring a note to my teacher who would then give it to me, saying my mom called and I’d have to leave class.

The principals knew me by name even in such a big school because I was constantly talking to them so they could help me as much as they could so I could continue to be successful in classes. 

Being a teenager in high school with an undiagnosed medical condition was tough, but I’m proud to say I made it through. The first two years were harder than the last two years after I finally received my diagnosis of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Girl sits on the edge of cliff and looking at sun valley and mountains

Chronic Pain Has Become More Difficult Than the Mountains I Climbed

Since I woke up this morning, this day has felt odd. The skies were angry and storms passed through every hour, darkening the sky to a night time gray. The rain was heavy, furious as it fell, creating a calming yet aggressive presence on our tin roof. The winds sliced through the trees bringing branches [...]
Noelle Chelli Lopez and her dog, Bear

How My Dog Helps Me Cope With My Chronic Illness

As I sat down to write this morning, I heard an old familiar voice whispering to me, “It’s going to be a loooong day!” I was running on little sleep with a pretty bad flare, so getting through the day would surely be an arduous task. Staring down at my swollen hands illuminated by the computer screen, I felt defeated [...]
photo of woman in hospital bed with red and black lighting

Adjusting to the Truth That I Can Never Go Back to My Healthy Self

When I first got sick with Lyme disease but didn’t know what the hell was going on, I believed this would pass and I would go back to “who I was.” I was sure that whatever reaction I had had from the cortisone injection in my back would somehow get figured out and then I would be [...]
Medical stethoscope lying on cardiogram chart closeup while medicine doctor working in background. Cardiology care,health, protection, prevention and help. Healthy life or insurance concept

To the Insurance Companies Who Will Decide Whether or Not to Cover My Treatment

There are many factors that contribute to a patient’s inability to access appropriate treatment for their condition. Oftentimes, lack of insurance, being under-insured, location, or the inability to meet copays or co-insurance create significant barriers. Workman’s Comp and Veteran’s Affairs often present challenges to those bounden to those systems. Restrictive plan limits further obstruct  physician recommendations [...]