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To the Teachers at School Who Question My Low Attendance

Ever since I was little I’ve always found myself in some sort of trouble – not serious trouble, but just enough for all of the teachers to know my name and keep an eye on me. I’m not going to say I was an angel and try to excuse everything I did, but I am going to try and clear some things up and put some reason into my actions.

First of all, I rarely have perfect uniform and I can often be seen sporting baggy tops, loose dresses and jumpers. I don’t wear all this for fashion but to help me hide my braces and bloating from the meds. I usually wear leggings because they are easier to put on than the tight office pants I’m supposed to wear and they don’t put as mush strain on my knees. They also hide how bruised my legs are and the kinesiology tape covering my legs. While I do care about the dress code, I think being able to move around and be comfortable in my own skin will have a much more positive effect on my education than the office attire you keep pushing onto me.


Another thing people assume I do because I don’t care is not going to assembly. This isn’t a small act of defiance; it’s me not feeling comfortable in a room full of people. I may need to leave quickly if I feel sick, I can’t sit very long before my joints start to lock up and the heat in the assembly hall makes me feel faint. I have permission to not go to assembly but teachers often assume that I just don’t care about the school policies.

Finally, I have a very low attendance, so low that if you added all the days and lessons I’ve missed together, you’d realize I’ve missed over a month and a half of school since Christmas. Most of my peers think lying in bed watching movies can’t be that bad. If I was given the opportunity to do that two years ago I would have jumped at the chance, but now I’d groan because I’ve learned the reality of taking a sick day, usually a sick week, and it’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. On the days I don’t go to school, my days aren’t filled with Netflix and video games but with pain, frustration and hanging onto banisters hoping my knees won’t give out on me as I attempt to make my way to the bathroom. I also have hospital appointments quite frequently as well as physiotherapy once a week, which also impacts my attendance.

The worst part about all of this is that when I go back into school I’m greeted by an array of teachers asking why I wasn’t in and telling me I need to stay in school until 5:00 to catch up on what I’ve missed. I can’t really blame them either, because to the eye I’m a sprightly young girl with decent posture and a smile on her face. They can’t see the braces holding me upright and they can’t feel my pain as I stand there trying to keep a smile on my face. So it’s no wonder they all see me as a girl who simply can’t be bothered to show up. This really sucks because the more they say it the more I believe it. If I really put my mind to it, surely I could go in for my lessons, sit the full 90 minutes and concentrate. Right?

Wrong? No matter how hard I push myself, odds are I’ll never be able to do that. I know that because I’ve tried. I did a full week of lessons. Every day I’d go into school for eight hours and I would work. After one day in school I was exhausted and every bone in my body felt like it was on fire. I thought it must be normal though and because of this I carried on. The more I pushed myself the worse I got. I was spending my breaks in the toilets dry heaving or crying. Sometimes both. I was shaking from head to toe, I couldn’t eat and I just couldn’t concentrate. At the end of the week I was in a much worse state, both mentally and physically, than I was at the start of the week. To top it all off, the quality of my work reduced and I think I lowered my attendance even more in the following weeks trying to recover from something so many people my age do with ease.

I’m not going to say I regret doing this because it taught me something. It taught me I’m not being “pathetic” when I take the day off school and I proved to myself that I do care. Despite what my teachers tell me, I must have cared a lot to put myself through that. It’s been a year since I tried this and now I know what my body’s capabilities are. I’m getting closer to being able to do a full week of school. I still miss about two days of school a week and I know this is a lot to most people, but when I am home I do my work and in one of my subjects I’m doing fairly well. I’ll probably have to resit the year due to my poor attendance, but at least I’m still trying.

I really hope this gave some sort of insight into the things I do. While this is my own experience with school, everybody has a different experience, so my post may not speak for everyone who has chronic fatigue, chronic pain or just chronic illness in general.

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Thinkstock photo via Purestock.

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