What You Can't See in My Graduate School Commencenent Photo

Last month, I graduated with my Master’s degree in public administration. My program was online; my parents offered to take me across the state to my university so I could participate in commencement ceremonies.

In this graduation picture, I look very healthy and happy on the surface. While I was glad to be at the ceremony to celebrate all of my hard work, attending the graduation caused a great amount of anxiety for me. First of all, the chairs were extremely hard, so sitting for several hours caused great pain. (If I get a Ph.D. in the future, I will be bringing a seat cushion!)

As much as I tried to enjoy the ceremony, my anxiety levels were quite high. I was worried I would have a fibromyalgia flare from the hard chair or an IBS attack and need to leave the ceremony suddenly. With continuous anxiety throughout the graduation, I also began fretting about having a panic attack and needing to leave the ceremony. I’ll always be grateful that I made it through graduation without any of those things happening; the paranoia of a sudden flare or attack caused me enough grief!

Attending the ceremony that day was important to me; it took me three-and-a-half years and disability accommodations to complete a program that would have taken me one year before I became chronically ill. I am proud of myself for not giving up, and for finding the courage to reach out to my professors to use my accommodations as needed. That’s what this picture symbolizes for me; hard work, dedication, and the vulnerability to ask for help.

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