So the biggest problems for me as a person with fibromyalgia were 1) The Testing Center, and 2) The stairs. My two biggest problems with Fibromyalgia were fatigue and pain.
Although my professors were pretty understanding of my needs, (although sometimes uneducated about them), the problem was the testing center. I know that it’s just a revolving door for tests, but it was just a deathtrap for me and my needs. First, that normal stress was just physically toxic for me. I would feel pain and fatigue akin to the flu just from the average stress that tests can bring, which just comes with the territory of University education. But when I actually got to the testing center, it was just rough. Except for 25 min religion tests, I was just prepared for achiness and fatigue. The thing with staring at a paper for more than 30 min is that my fatigue would take over, and I would literally have to take a power nap, taking precious time for my test to recharge. Thanks to the UAC, I got extra time on my test so I could have that time. They also stopped allowing food at some point, which I get that they have to worry about cheating. But food was what sometimes kept me awake in classes, and I was pretty toast when they made it seem like we couldn’t have snacks. And everyone knows how awful it is sitting in those desks for a 2 hour test. For fibromyalgia, it was pretty killer. I literally would switch rooms just to get up and walk around. But the doors weren’t always open. I always looked suspicious as well, which made me extra stressed. All this time, I’m worrying about this rather than the material I’m being tested on. I just have bad memories all around for the testing center. I’m sure everybody does, but after feeling like every time I walk in there, I have 30-90 minutes of aches and fatigue akin to the flu, the testing center is a place I don’t really want to walk in again.
The stairs are also something I never want to deal with again. I am grateful I have the ability to walk up the stairs, but during days of fatigue, aches and pain, and general brain fog attributed to the fibromyalgia condition, stairs and inclines were just the daily torture. The hills were sometimes worse than stairs. I remember trying so hard to rush to my classes, and being in just a lot of pain. And the pain wouldn’t go away right away. My body didn’t know if I hiked the RB stairs or if I hiked the Y. Bodies with fibromyalgia sometimes confuses mild pain with less mild pain. I know everybody gets short of breath while hiking up the RB stairs, so I shouldn’t complain, or should I?
That brings me to something else. The nature of fibromyalgia is that it doesn’t have any visible indications that it exists. It’s an enigma, and it’s something that I’m still learning about to this day. That means, not a lot of people know about it. I was lucky with most of my professors after I was diagnosed. But the average person, although sympathetic, doesn’t really get what’s going on. This made it hard to interact socially and has made it awkward in classes. Did I fall asleep 4 out of 5 days in my most classes? Yes. My poor partner in BIO100 would literally be discussing a subject with me, and I would just get so fatigued and lose my ability to stay awake. I’m glad that she was patient with me. It was hard to feel so vulnerable in class. I felt that everybody would be making fun of me, or be thinking that I was a poor student, that I was a partier, or that I didn’t care. But I did care. I did go to sleep at night. I did try my best. The funny thing is that I wanted to stay awake! I thought my classes were really interesting! But my body just couldn’t handle it. And the stress of people judging me for this just made me down everyday. My confidence had this dent in it because I had felt weak and misunderstood.
There were more problems, like reading and the line up of assignments. Again, nobody really has a perfect line up of assignments, but because stress affects my physical pain, a week stacked with assignments felt like a tsunami of feeling sick and achy.
There was physical therapy available, but for a price. And also, it was all the way by Wymount, which stunk when I couldn’t drive there. I often borrowed ice from the RB physical therapy room, which got me through a couple of tough days. I also thought parking was just a doozy. I don’t want to steal handicap parking for those who are worse off than me, but finding parking then hiking the mile that was required just was counterproductive for someone like me. Sometimes I would have to power nap in the car before taking the hike if I got there early enough.
The physical obstacles, and the emotional vulnerability, made the experience pretty difficult. And I have a more mild form of Fibromyalgia where I could get out of bed and to school. I’ve heard of some other people with the same condition who can’t function at all during flare ups. I don’t know how they do it.
The lack of education about it also makes it hard to handle. The only time I really truly felt understood is when my Biology teacher told me that she’s actually read articles about it, and when a UAC representative said “You’re not the only one here with it” and made me feel like I wasn’t crazy for feeling all this pain and fatigue. For the first time, I thought that it was an actual problem and not because I “wasn’t Trying enough”.