I’ve been hearing this a lot from my grandma, and it is because there are more changes occurring in my life now more than ever. This past semester taught me the importance of self-care, and how crucial it is for someone like me (with a chronic illness) to rest. When I gloss over this quarter and reflect on all that has happened, a heavy weight of exhaustion plops itself over me. I was exhausted emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and worse of all…physically.
Psoriatic arthritis ruled every decision I made this semester. Instead of trying to resist it, I listened to my body. I rested when I pushed too hard. I cried through the worst flares. I wrapped myself up in my classes, not caring that I was dressed for the Arctic while the person beside me was dressed for a Texan summer. I called off plans when they got to be too much. I stopped fighting everyone’s battles and my own, and instead just embraced what life had in store for me.
In college, life is intense. With two and a half hour classes, endless hours of homework, sort of social life, and the need to sleep and eat, it all can get to be too much to handle.
If you’re like me, and you like to volunteer, that’s another added thing onto your plate. I volunteer at a local middle school as a mentor for students interested in writing and who aspire to become published authors. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience, where I get to share one-on-one time with young, bright minds. These are the nicest middle schoolers I’ve ever met, and the passion they have for writing–and just life in general–is something I never experienced in middle school. They are so positive.
However, in order for them to stay positive, I have to be positive. Most days, I’m smiling through the shooting pain in my arms and knees. I frequently have to sit down while giving lessons. I kneel beside the kids when reviewing their work, giving feedback because standing for long periods of time is hard. While I love volunteering, it’s draining for me physically.
Yet, I think right now is the perfect time to volunteer, because I’m seeing that there’s more to life than just my physical pain. There’s a promise, hope, and joy for brighter days. Volunteering with middle schoolers has changed my perception of life in that is something to be lived, and not dreaded.
This was a rough time for my family and I. In February, my grandma got sick. She was in the hospital for over a week with kidney failure. While the circumstances were not ones that I found ideal for a visit, I realized that love means you have to sacrifice.
When my grandma got sick, it was smack in the middle of midterms. Things were picking up, projects were finally taking a strong direction, and because of this, I was overwhelmed with stress. So, I found that visiting my grandma brought me back to earth. It humbled me. The three days I stayed with her taught me that sometimes you need something that will shake you to your core to understand that your circle of problems doesn’t really matter when there’s a life on the line.
I’d been meaning to call my grandma for weeks, but assignments kept getting in a way. This experience taught me that family should always come first. The timing of my grandma getting sick taught me to always check in on my family, no matter how busy things get in school.
I had to learn to start saying no to other people, but start saying yes to myself. If I don’t feel well or if I’m having a flare-up, and someone wants to hang out, I have every right in this world to say no.
I don’t have to put myself through the stress of putting on a face and acting like I’m not in pain when in reality, my joints are throbbing and my skin is prickly. No one can force me to do anything. However, I am the person that forces me to do things. If I get tired or I’m low on energy, I used to become angry with myself that I didn’t get to do everything I wanted.
I used to say, “there’s not enough time.” But now, I embrace that I am a person who can’t do it all because my health comes first.
I was diagnosed last year with psoriatic arthritis. I knew nothing about psoriasis and swore that arthritis only happened to people of older generations. When I first got diagnosed, I was scared that I would lose myself. I was more afraid of the limits psoriatic would place on me, rather than acknowledge that I needed to start taking care of myself better.
The diagnosis was an extreme wake-up call to me, shouting that if I didn’t act fast, I’d be in deep water. So, I quit my job, I took all of the winter break off to rest and rejuvenate, and I studied more about psoriatic arthritis to understand it better.
While we may not always understand why things happen to us when they do, we should also remember that timing is everything. The things that happen to us when we least expect them (good or bad) are gifts and lessons we shouldn’t take for granted.