Facing the Future as a College Senior With Fibromyalgia

It’s 2:13 p.m. and all I’ve managed to do today is get out of bed and shower. I want to go to class, I want to go outside and run, but the pain shooting down my neck is an ever-present reminder of my fibromyalgia.

The words to describe my feelings about this are really first-tier words: it’s simple some days. Today I feel sad. I’m not even angry or frustrated, just sad I can’t get my body to do the things I wish I could do. I spend a lot of time wishing these days – wishing I could eat the sugary, fatty foods I love so much, wishing things could go back to the way they used to be, wishing my medicine would work properly, wishing so much of my income wasn’t being used for healthcare reasons.

I’m a senior, in my last semester at the wonderful University of Texas, with what I call an “invisible” disability. No one walking by me would know I only sleep four hours at night because pain keeps me up. Those guys that check me out have no idea what they would be getting themselves into if they chose to date me. Instead of walks along the lake, they would probably be cooking dinner for me and doing my laundry because on some days I can’t do it myself.

Today is my second to last day at a job I have loved. This is the third job I’ve had to quit because I simply can’t keep up. It’s hard for me to acknowledge that, but between balancing 15 hours, doctor appointments and daily pain it has become nearly impossible to not feel like I am drowning.

I’ve learned to stop comparing myself to my classmates. Though difficult at times, I have to remind myself that most of them are not struggling with daily pain and flare-ups so intense all I can do is lie in bed and cry. I have to remind myself that my professors don’t understand and that all I can do is help them understand. If I explain my condition and they still think I’m a slacker…well, there is not much I can do about that.

My major is Youth and Community Studies with a minor in Social Work. These days I spend more time regretting my major than being excited about the possibilities. How many people who go into education or social work have the flexibility I need? Not any that I know – all my friends with the nice, flexible commuter jobs are computer science majors or engineers. But had I known four years ago that I would be diagnosed with fibromyalgia my senior year, I’m not sure I would have changed things – maybe just my expectations.

Thinking about the future gives me so much anxiety I’ve decided to just live life one day at a time. Is life over for me? The life I expected to have is, but I have also come to see that with each closing door comes the opportunity to open doors I’ve been too afraid to open. Fear is my biggest enemy; it’s constantly nagging at me, telling me all the things I can’t do and how I am going to fail, but I can’t listen to it or else even on my good days I wouldn’t get out of bed.

Am I happy? I am overjoyed; sometimes I’m so happy I can’t believe this is my life. Those nights when I am with my roommates and we just giggle over dumb things. The days when I can go outside and see the bright Texas sunshine and feel the heat on my skin. The days when I am in my room crying in bed because the pain is so intense, but know I am loved not because I can do things, but because I am human. The days when I can share the joy and love I have experienced with others…those are the days that bring me happiness.

I have found the secret to my contentment: to love God and to love people, to place my hope not in myself but in the one who created me. This isn’t an endorsement of Christianity – it’s just my life as a senior in college and how I learned to hope when there seemed no earthly reason to hope.

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Thinkstock photo via monkeybusinessimages.

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