What a 'Rough Day' Means for a College Student With Lyme Disease

A peak inside the mind of a chronically ill student, unfiltered.

I’m sitting in Colburg lounge, one of the nice dorms here on campus. There’s a stretch of windows with an encapsulating view of the lake, one too perfect to describe in words. I tend to hide out here. This is my happy place.

Correction: this was my happy place.

Every other minute, a different student walks through with their luggage and a wide grin of relief. Today begins spring break. There’s laughing. Chatting. Talking of plans. They all seem to have a skip in their step.

After the long dull winter, the bright sun and fresh air has Wisconsinites in bliss. Normally I would be walking out to the parking lot just like them. However, a brutal albeit brief series of seizures on the concrete outside Colburg last week has me unable to drive, and not in the greatest shape.

Today is an OK day. I made it here with the help of my cane. I’m in severe pain and neurologically impaired to the point where it’s difficult to function, but I’m out of bed. I’m conscious and alive, and that makes today an OK day. Maybe even a good one in the grand scheme of things. But an “OK” day in the eyes of a chronically ill patient doesn’t constitute what’s needed for an OK day in college.

I need to be at the top of my game. I cannot get anything out of class if every word I read is floating, flashing, completely incoherent. I cannot function in class if my hands are numb, unable to write or take notes. If the pain’s too bad to focus, if a layer of fog is settling within my brain, making words float in and out with no apparent organization. So, today is a good day for a patient who’s simply grateful for the little things, but a mess of a day for a student.

By this point dozens of people have passed by. I don’t know anyone at school yet, so here I am, penning down my random thoughts. I can’t quite remember how I got here in the building, when I sat down, much less what I wanted to achieve with this writing. “Lyme brain” will do that to you. I’m grateful to be in college. Many Lyme friends of mine haven’t been fortunate enough to even graduate yet; I’m a lucky one.

I like school, but at times I hate it. My once well-working brain takes 10 times as long to do something and has to try 10 times as hard just to get the same outcome as everyone else. That’s OK. I’m at peace with my journey and grateful for my adversities. But on days like today, when no matter how much I try to overpower, Lyme disease controls my every move. Days like these I can’t help but be a little frustrated. That’s OK too, as long as I remember to turn that frustration into motivation.

Maybe today was just an OK day, but I’ll never stop fighting and hoping for better days.

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