Monday, November 3, 2008

Showing Up

Friday night I sat down to write a “poor me” post. I was alone in my apartment trying to recover from an exhausting week. But I didn’t end up finishing that post (as is evidenced by my lack of posting in recent days). Because the truth is, there were more ups than downs this week. And for once in a long time, the odds may finally be stacked in my favor.

As I’ve been writing about a lot lately, I’ve been having problems with getting my department on board about my illnesses and all that goes along with them. I had finally gotten a meeting with someone at the level of the graduate school. However, in talking with someone who has sort of been along with me during this entire process (even last year), I caught a break. The person I was talking to was very frustrated that I had been jumping through all these hoops without any help and offered to make a call to “a friend in a high place” on my behalf.

A half-hour later, I was in a meeting with that person, explaining the entire situation. And guess what? In two days time, more was accomplished than had been in the previous six months. This person called dozens of people for me, directed me to what forms had to be filled out by Doctor C, and was coordinating all of it. And Doctor C turned the form around in not even 24 hours worth of time.

Apparently, I’ve been talking to the wrong people all along, because I shouldn’t have been the one having to do the coordinating. But what is most interesting about this situation (other than the fact that it’s not what you know, but who you know) is that I was commended for taking the initiative to get “all my ducks in a row” before there was some emergency where they needed to be. While that was my whole point all along, I didn’t really see any positives where my abject failure is concerned.

However, in a roundabout way (about as roundabout as all of this coming together so quickly and seamlessly – finally!), this leads me back to an earlier lesson from this semester…

In my academic publishing class, my professor has stressed to us the importance of “showing up” for our daily scheduled writing times. In the beginning of the semester I rebelled against this notion. With a medication schedule and a newfound curfew/bedtime, I resisted any other attempts to further routinize my life.

But I’ve been doing some soul-searching these last few days, and I have realized that despite all evidence to the contrary, showing up really is key and I have a profoundly stupid ability to do so.
As I’ve tried to explain to several people, sometimes just my being able to be present in class, to drag myself to campus, to show up – is a big thing. And as I talk to others who skip class for no good reason, I realize that while others have to give me a break, I have to give myself a break, too (a shocking realization, I know).

But… [sigh] old habits die hard. And Thursday was a perfect example. Whether it’s the extra sleep I’ve been forcing myself to get over the last month and a half as per Doctor C or my newfound coffee habit (bad, bad, bad – I know), I do find myself with more energy than before. To me, though, extra energy still means exploit it, not conserve it. So I put in a 17-hour day. And it wasn’t until I hit my bed that I realized how exhausted and in pain I was. And I definitely paid for it all weekend.

Now the whole point of that is to say that now that my department is on board, I have to be more willing to ask for help and concessions when I need them. I didn’t just spend that last six months, and the last month in particular, trying to work these things out for nothing. And I should be more willing to take a day off when I need one. Everyone else does, so why shouldn’t I? After all, my whole purpose in this situation was to forcibly end my (and everyone else’s) denial that my life hasn’t changed since I’ve gotten sick. Because of course it has.

And now that things with my department are no longer on the fritz and I have people on my side, working to make sure that there are contingency plans in place, should I ever need them, I feel much more relaxed about things.

Of course, there are still hurdles to be jumped – personally, professionally, and medically – but for that matter, there will always be hurdles. At least for today, though, the hurdles are more my size. And even if I stumble along the way, at least I had the tenacity to show up in the first place.

* P.S. – Check out the first stop on the Women, Work, and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working Girlfriend” virtual tour over at Rhymes With Migraine. The theme of that post goes really well with my post for today.


  1. Hi Leslie,

    Of course I read this right after I responded on my blog to your comment, but this is great news. Happy to hear you are getting some support, institutionally and otherwise!

  2. Thanks, Laurie! I've left you a further comment on your blog. It's definitely a step in the right direction, but officially, no guarantees have been made! So it goes...

  3. Once again, it shows how important only one person can make in our lives~
    I am so happy to hear that a person was there for you, Leslie. You deserve it - and I mean that!

  4. Good for you for being persistent, and for enough good luck to get things in place for yourself.

    I just realized in reading this post, that a big reason for my reluctance in taking time off from work when my Migraines are bad is because all through school, I almost never took days off because I was sick. Nine times out of 10 I took a day off as a "mental health day", or even sometimes to catch up on homework assignments. Days I was actually sick I usually dragged my butt in to school.

    So, like you, I have a lot of trouble giving myself the ok to call in sick when I need it.

    Here's hoping the semester smooths out for you a bit.

    Be well,