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When You Have to Take a Semester Off of College Because of Your Health

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Why was my body failing me?

Why couldn’t I be a “normal” college student?

What am I doing wrong?

Why can’t I do this anymore?

These were just some of the questions I had going through my head the fall semester of my sophomore year.

I went into the fall semester feeling strong. I had gotten my service dog in training almost five months earlier. I felt good. Nervous. But good. I was rooming with one of my best friends in the dorms. I felt like that semester was going to be the best yet. Little did I know, my body was slowly failing me.

The semester started out strong. I was going to all my classes, hanging out with friends, finishing all my work on time, partaking in my sorority, training and having an amazing experience with my dog. Life was good. I wasn’t stressed, well, at least overly stressed. For the first semester of college so far, I didn’t want to go home every weekend. I wanted to stay there with my friends and have fun. Why did I need to go home?

Slowly, but surely, my body started declining. I was halfway through the semester and my health started interfering. I had to stay behind when my friends hung out because of my health. If my friends and I wanted to go somewhere, I had to drive because I was the one with the dog. I couldn’t be as involved in my sorority as much. My body was giving up. I was giving up.

To make things worse, my grandparents both became as sick as they had ever been. They were both in the hospital for months. In November, my mom and I went to visit them in Florida. Little did I know that was going to be the last time I saw my grandpa. When we went back for his funeral I spent as much time with my grandma as I could. She had finally gotten out of the ICU. Things were looking good for her, she even got to go to a rehab facility after we left. Then the end of December comes around, my grandma passed away.

At this point, I found myself thinking that things couldn’t get any worse – but they did. I had just gotten home for winter break. Finals were over. The semester was finally over. I then got a call from my dad asking me about a close high school friends name, and if that was who I was friends with. He goes on to tell me, “he died.” Now I was the one who had to tell my friends. I had lost three people in a matter of months. I was hitting rock bottom.

Things slowly passed. My health was worse, including both my physical and mental health. I ended up having a fight with my roommate – my best friend. Over what? An issue I had with a Lyft driver denying service to me because of my service dog. We didn’t talk at all over break. I really didn’t talk to anyone.

Spring semester was getting closer and closer. My health was continuing to get worse. I had a thought in my head that wouldn’t leave,“I need to take the semester off.”  Why? Why was I thinking this? This thought hadn’t left my head since my health had declined rapidly. After a lot of decision making and talking it through. I decided that I needed to do what was best for me and my body. I took the semester off.

Now comes the time where I needed to tell my friends. I called them one by one. They all were so understanding and said how much they were going to miss me. But, I still have one friend to tell – my best friend. I was scared. Was she going to think it’s because of our fight? Will she talk bad about me? She didn’t want to talk to me until we saw each other in person, which wasn’t going to happen. I finally got her on the phone and told her. From my point of view, I felt like she was judging me. She asked repeatedly if this was the right thing, but not in a best friend kind of way. But that was that. Unfortunately, I lost her and our other best friend. All due to one disagreement.

Now, here we are. Spring semester. I’m home and all of my friends are at school. They’re halfway through the semester and I have no one. I’m at the point where my high school friends aren’t even talking to me. I spend most of my days at home or at the doctor. My health is just getting worse as the days go by, as I’m also losing touch with my friends.

Why was this happening? They all told me they were going to miss me and talk to me a ton. Yet, I’m here, still waiting for that text message. Waiting for one person to ask how I am. One person to ask how my dog is. Just one person to reach out.

My family asks if I miss school. My answer is always the same, “I don’t know.” I miss hanging out with my friends. I miss going to classes. I miss being independent. But, there are things I don’t miss. I don’t miss being away from home. I don’t miss living in a dorm. I don’t miss my “friends.” I don’t miss not having my family and doctors around. I don’t know if I miss it or not.

I look back on the past few months and realize how my decision was the best decision I ever made. I wouldn’t have been able to survive this semester. I got the flu, and I wouldn’t have made it without my mom helping me. My migraines are increasing. My body is just declining.

Being chronically ill and still going to college is the hardest battle you will ever go through. I took a semester off, but that doesn’t make me any less of a person. It’s going to take me longer to finish school, still doesn’t make me any less of a person. I am strong. I can do this. I may be fighting this alone, but I can conquer this. If I can do it, so can you.

If you are unsure about taking a semester off due to your health, make sure you do what’s right for you. Do not think about other people’s opinions. Take care of yourself and know what you choose is the right decision. I am happy I took the semester off. Is it the same as I thought? Definitely not, but my health comes before anything or anybody.

Getty Image by LSOphoto

Originally published: March 6, 2018
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