A Letter of Appreciation to Myself for Graduating With Chronic Conditions

Today, I graduate with a Masters degree. Through the year and three months it took me to complete the program, I dealt with some heavy stuff. I was open about that stuff. In turn, some people were incredibly supportive and receptive to listening to the stuff.

graduation tassel, ticket to ceremony and insulin pen for diabetes

However, part of me feels like the struggles I went through just to be heard in academia (and in other parts of my life) when talking about my chronic illnesses/disability accommodations were dismissed as being dramatic or martyr-like. At times this was really hard for me and made me feel like I wasn’t worthy of being in a graduate program. Since completing the program, I’ve wondered if anyone is proud of me or if people realize how difficult this was for me to accomplish. I know that’s my anxiety and depression talking – but nonetheless, those feelings are there.

I am 100 percent an advocate for the struggles of chronically ill and disabled students being heard at a systemic and interpersonal level. However, what I realize on this big and important day is that I don’t need anyone to validate the importance of this achievement other than myself. So, I wrote a self-appreciation letter.

Dear self,

You completed a heavily writing intensive, fast-paced Masters program in a year with the following:

– Two autoimmune diseases
– Two chronic pain conditions,
– Severe fatigue
– Anxiety and depression
– Financial instability and stress, which is largely attributed to the rising costs of life-saving insulin and a high deductible health insurance plan
– Unstable living conditions
– Consistent doctor and physical therapy appointments
– No caffeine (to be honest, this is the most impressive)

Because of the following:

– Your hard work
– Your family
– Supportive mentors and friends
– A vocal disabled/chronically ill community that motivated you to acknowledge that you are capable and worthy of accomplishing your goals

Dear self,

If you need to use a cane at graduation, please don’t talk yourself out of it. Anyone who thinks you use a cane for attention doesn’t understand the nature of an inconsistent health condition. Maybe they never will. Maybe that’s OK.

Dear self,

You are allowed to be proud of yourself even if your struggles aren’t recognized. This is big. Don’t convince yourself it’s not big. Enjoy your commencement and accept all the “congratulations” even though you haven’t found a job yet. You can be humble every other day of this year. Not today.

Dear self,

You are an equal. Your accommodations enabled you to succeed and having had them does not mean you’re a failure, or any less of a hardworking student. You don’t need to keep justifying it to yourself.

Dear self,

I am so proud of you.

That’s all that matters today.

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