The 30 Day Chronic Illness Challenge is something I learned about through Tumblr. It was created by @cfs_zombie. Each day, there is a brand new writing prompt that focuses on the topic of chronic illness. I am looking forward to completing this project.

Day 28: Name 5 things you have achieved despite your illness

This topic feels very similar to the one for Day 25 which asked about 5 activities I managed to pursue while being ill, and 5 activities I wouldn’t have pursued if I hadn’t become ill. How can I make this blog different from that one?

I think the way to go here is to pick 5 things that I achieved that seemed absolutely impossible at the time due to my chronic illnesses. These are some of the things I look back on and wonder how I managed to live through them.

1. Graduated from High School
Between the borderline anemia, the migraine headaches I used to get, and the undiagnosed allergies, I was attending school about 3 days a week (or less). The doctor who diagnosed the migraines and the borderline anemia was kind enough to send the school a doctor’s note for every day I was too sick to attend. I’ve no idea how I managed to pass any of my classes while being so sick.

2. Student Teaching
Student Teaching is one of the most difficult things I have ever attempted to do. It is the transitional period between “working toward a degree in Education” and “ready to start working as a teacher”.

You do all the things that a teacher would do – writing lesson plans, classroom management, grading, attending meetings and workshops, spending hours preparing everything for the next lesson. You don’t get paid, though.

At the same time, you are putting together a journal of your experiences, and a collection of your lesson plans. You are documenting/photographing the work the students complete, and meeting with your adviser to discuss it.

I was specializing in Art Education, so all of my lesson plans involved hands-on artwork and the necessary preparation of enough supplies for all the students in all the classes I taught. Oh, and you are paying your college for the privilege of doing Student Teaching (like you would if you were paying for a class).

Student Teaching is exhausting, even for healthy people. I barely ate anything, didn’t get much sleep, and was under a ton of stress. I can’t believe I lived through it.

3. Driving to California
My husband Shawn and I lived in Illinois, and then decided to move to California. Long story short, we rented a car and drove there. This took many days, and we did some sight seeing along the way. Driving was necessary because we were moving with our 6 birds and felt that they had a better chance of surviving a drive than a flight.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs for this project, Shawn is legally blind. This meant that I had to do all the driving. We were basically rolling the dice and hoping I’d be well enough to drive every day despite whatever allergens I’d encountered. Somehow, we made it. To this day, I have no idea what made me even think that I’d be able to drive to California.

4. Working in a Bookstore
Wherever there are books, there is also dust. Books stay on shelves and gather dust. The packing material the books come in generates more dust. Older books sort of shed dust as the paper degrades. A bookstore is not an ideal place for a person who is allergic to dust to have a full-time job at.

I would not recommend retail work for anyone who has a chronic illness. Swing shifts mess up your sleep schedule. There will be days when you close the store and have to return to open it (a few hours later). You can’t eat until your break time appears (even if you are about to faint from lack of food). Not all managers will believe you when you try to call in sick. It sucks to have to overmedicate in order to deal with allergens because your managers won’t let you go home early on a bad allergy day.

I worked at a big chain bookstore from 2004 to 2009, which means I suffered through 5 holiday seasons in a row. I will never do this again. I truly believe that if I stayed working there it would have, eventually, killed me.

What else? This blog is going to have to be marked “incomplete” because I cannot think of a 5th thing to add to it. Four will have to do.

Image by Susan on Flickr.

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