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I Won't Allow Chronic Pain to Take Away My Dreams

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When I was diagnosed with chronic illnesses (fibromyalgia, endometriosis, Hashimoto’s) at the age of 14, I felt like my dreams could not come true. The idea of college and becoming an independent adult seemed impossible. The days of endless pain and sadness began to reflect that over the years.

Ironically, in my senior year of high school, the day my friends applied for college, I was on an operating table. My ambitions felt unachievable. As many moved off to college, I stayed home and spent my days at doctor’s appointments or working at the retail job that I felt far too comfortable working at. I thought I would always have to choose the convenience and comfort for my health over my dreams.

In my freshman year of college, I decided to settle with something far less than I could. I was miserable, living a less than ordinary life. I would sulk and allow my illnesses to take control of my destiny.

When talking with a doctor, I got a speech from him that showed that this was “my forever” in his eyes. The quality of my life would never improve, so I would have to continue to settle.

The ever-ambitious, academic-loving girl began to give up on her big goals. My schooling was put on the back burner. My retail job took my full attention because doctors constantly told me that was what my future would look like.

As friends around me began to graduate and live out those moments I once fantasized about, I felt pain inside worse than any physical pain I had.

My support system has always been my family, and they had a front-row seat to see the disappointment I had with myself. My parents always believed in me, more than I believed in myself sometimes. The conversation is still vivid in my mind; my mom and dad talked with me, encouraging me to transfer to my dream school and focus on school full-time.

When I doubted myself or when it seemed like too much, my parents encouraged me. They didn’t doubt for a second that I could do it — even when I doubted myself.

My grades began to reflect my efforts, and soon, I was accepted into a Bachelor’s to Master’s program, which solidified these ambitions I once thought were down the drain.

My parents instilled the mindset of, “Why not me?” Sure, I lived with chronic health issues, but why not? In a short matter of a few years, I went from believing I was only destined for less than ordinary comfort and convenience to today I filled out the forms for my upcoming graduation.

If it were not for my parents, I truly believe I would not have had the confidence to continue my education with my health issues. I can honestly say, despite all of the people who didn’t believe I could do it, they always thought I could.

I would love 17-year-old me to see where I am now; she wouldn’t believe it to be true. Graduating to me means so much more than a diploma and a degree. Graduating means, I accomplished something despite all odds.

I hope someone can read this and know that they can do it. Nobody’s story is the same; no path is alike, but don’t ever allow opinions and fears to burden your goals.

I was fortunate to have such a great support system, but allow me to be yours if you do not have that person in your corner telling you that you can do it…. because you can. Do not limit yourself. You are allowed to have dreams and goals even with chronic pain.

Originally published: January 4, 2022
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