To My Professor Who Encouraged Me to Take Care of My Health

I am, admittedly, a person who overworks myself, simply because I want to explore many different things all at once and experience as much of life as possible. I was an honors roll university student, leader, mental health advocate, author, and blogger. My life was rich and full, I was happy, and on my way to receiving a double degree in nursing and social work with the dream of opening a shelter in the future.

That was until, in my second year of university, as I soaked up the beauty of life’s wonders, my body also soaked up a large handful of chronic illnesses.

At the time, I ignored the symptoms to keep pursing school. While my seizures, syncope episodes, irregular heartbeat, critically low blood pressure, abnormal blood glucose levels, fatigue, chest pain, severe iron deficiency requiring infusions, and easily breaking bones refused to relent, I refused to acknowledge that I had a problem.

“It’s just the flu,” I’d say. Or, “It’s just a bad virus, it will pass.” I was a train wreck awaiting combustion, and all I wanted was to keep getting A+ plusses and checkmarks on my degree requirements list.

Then one day, I had a seizure in my class. Humiliated that 300 students watched me violently convulse and scream, I apologized profusely to my professor who had to cancel the lecture.

He replied, “The only thing you need to apologize for is if you don’t take care of yourself.”

I stood there stunned for a moment.

I realized that I couldn’t “be the sick caring for the sick.”

If my dream was truly to take care of others, how much more important was it to take care of myself first? Ultimately, I made the decision to take a break from school. I knew that if I kept going down my current path and pushing myself far beyond reasonable limits, I would only continue to suffer. I’d rather graduate a year later and be healthy, than graduate on time and be sick and miserable.

Although I had to say goodbye to many amazing professors, aides, and peers, those goodbyes means many more bright hellos in the future.

I am about two months into my break from school, and already there has been a massive upswing in my health. Because I took the time to see a myriad of specialists and undergo testing, I have greater diagnostic clarity now. During school, I had no idea what was going on with my body and didn’t want to pause my life to figure it out.

Last week, I was finally diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) and autonomic neuropathy, both of which essentially explain every symptom I’ve experienced this year. When I allowed neurology, cardiology, and internal medicine doctors to come into my life and take care of me, I found answers. With a very modified, strict diet, compression socks, as well as medication, my symptoms have subsided to an extent, and it’s only been a week! I can only imagine the improvement I will see over the next year as I dedicate it to my health and wellness.

Sometimes, the greatest lessons don’t come from a textbook.

So, to the professor who encouraged me to take a break from the books and take a look at my health, thank you.  I am rejuvenated, properly medicated, and on the road to even greater success now.

Oh, and I look forward to Acing your exam.

Next year.

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