A Day in the Life of an Undiagnosed College Student

Every chronic illness forum I’ve come across has an article like this, “A Day in the Life of a Someone with *insert illness here*.” I find them interesting, thinking to myself the entire time how much I relate to the article. I see the similarities of their life and of mine, and it’s nice to see someone has finally put into words what I’ve been feeling since my senior year of high school.

As a sophomore in college, I struggle to put into words what I am feeling as an undiagnosed patient. As many of you know, college is a strange period in your life. You’re so incredibly stressed, you can feel your mind pushing its mental boundaries, yet so incredibly happy you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else.

For a chronically ill student, the feeling is still the same, but the stress is intensified by the fact that you are ill. Not many forums have an article on a day in the life of the undiagnosed, so I am going to put one out there for you.

8:00 a.m. My alarm goes off, telling me I need to take my first round of meds. I do a quick inventory of what my body is feeling because this will determine how often I’ll take Motrin and Tylenol throughout the day. I roll out of bed slowly and trudge over to the other side of my room. Careful to not wake my roommate, I pull out my medicine from the fridge and pop it in my mouth along with the other seven or eight pills I take.

 8:10 a.m. During the week, my sorority only serves breakfast on Tuesday through Thursday. On those days I throw on a sweatshirt and sweatpants and walk downstairs to make myself a cup of tea if my tonsils are swollen, and pick over what they’re serving because my nausea medicine hasn’t kicked in yet. I curl up in a little ball at the table with a few other friends and nibble at something I know will sit well. I am never, ever fully awake for breakfast and have literally fallen asleep sitting there with my friends. Then again, I do have chronic fatigue, so when am I not exhausted?

 9:00 a.m. I drag myself upstairs and snuggle under my covers for a little while longer. I try to keep myself awake by checking my email, Facebook, Instagram, etc. This gives me some time to let my pain medicines kick in so I can move a bit quicker. I also just really love my bed.

 10:00 a.m. I throw on comfy clothes and scrape my hair up into a messy bun or side braid. I live for big t-shirts and Nike shorts, which I know everyone hates, but trust me, it’s the best outfit choice I’ve made in a long time. Bloated? Can’t tell. Did I sleep in this shirt? You’ll never know. My sorority girl-ness shines through in my outfit choices during the week.

10:30 AM- 3:30 p.m. These are my normal class hours. Sometimes I’ll have hour breaks to run back to my house and eat, possibly rest for a little bit, but I try to stay up and productive so I can take my mind off the fatigue. I also have to remember to take another dose of medicine, otherwise I’ll never make it through sitting in incredibly uncomfortable chairs all day. During class I do my absolute best to stay focused and take notes. I use little tricks to keep my mind from wandering and write down as much as possible. Currently, brain fog makes it difficult to remember everything I’m learning or the exact term for an idea, so I push myself to write everything down and review a little bit before class to help myself out.

 3:40-5:30 p.m. After class, I take another moment to see how my body is doing. I look at my planner and see what else I have scheduled for the day and what I need to have done for tomorrow. I stay as involved and active on my campus as possible, holding positions within my sorority, but also on campus councils and organizations. If I’m not feeling well, I try to lay down for a little while and give my body a break, but if I’m doing ok I try to knockout as much of my homework as possible while I still have energy and can remember clearly what I learned that day.

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

Related to Undiagnosed

A woman and child holding hands, standing at the shore

The Stigma That Comes With Being Undiagnosed for a Decade

I know what I’m feeling is real. The deep bone pain, heaviness in my limbs, and debilitating weakness, although not visible to others, are weighing on me during my every move. I can’t help but wonder what my friends think when they ask me how I am and I still don’t have a name for [...]
Patient sitting on exam table

When You're Undiagnosed and Afraid of Yet Another Disappointing Doctor's Appointment

Dear Ashley: I write this to you as we are now only six days away from the very anticipated and long awaited for appointment at Johns Hopkins. I know you are scared. I know all the feelings that are running through your mind as you’ve experienced them so many times before. You’ve been sick for approximately eight years [...]
man outside holding umbrella under sky

To Those Who Are Waiting for a Diagnosis

I’ve always turned to reading as a way to escape reality during the dark days when I wanted to take my mind off of my illness. But I’ve also turned to reading as a way to approach reality head-on and try to come to a better understanding of my physical health and mental well-being. Recently [...]
Gouache painting of an imaginary blue female dancer and a colorful background.

When You Actually Want Doctors to Find Something Wrong With Your Health

I am one of the few people in the world who actually wants something to be wrong with them. I get frustrated when my neurologist tells me my MRI was unremarkable, or that my nerves are working fine. I become angry when another test comes back inconclusive. I cry when my general practitioner tells me [...]