Thursday, August 29, 2013

Moving With And Packing Up Lupus and RA: New Beginnings And Bittersweet Endings, Baby Steps And Quantum Leaps

In preparation to move from Michigan to New York, I had to get rid of something I’ve been holding onto for the last five and a half years – all of the prescription bottles since I got sick. 

 They became, to me, what felt like the only tangible mark of illness. 

Just by looking at me, you probably wouldn’t know that I’m sick.  Aside from the litany of doctors’ appointments and tests and procedures, the only thing amiss is the fact that I take a bunch of pills. 

My therapist told me that someday, when I had the validation I needed, I would get rid of them.  And I guess, in a way, he was right.  I have a man in my life who has embraced me despite my illnesses.  And I am at a place in my life in which my life and my illnesses no longer seem completely like opposing parties.  I am more comfortable with who I am in spite of my illnesses. 

It was definitely hard to part with all of those bottles.  It felt like a part of me was going away.  But it simply did not seem realistic to take them with me.   And in reality, they were more of a crutch than anything else. 

In some ways, getting rid of those bottles feels a bit like leaving me with nothing to show for the last five and a half years of illness.   

 And it’s weird.  I sort of feel that way about the last six years that I spent in a PhD program.  All I have is a piece of paper.

And I got this key chain and card case.  I guess this is kind of my gold Rolex. 

But the reality is, I have so much to show for the last six years.  Maybe they aren’t tangible things, but I have learned so much, matured a lot, and learned what the important things in life really are.

And those things are just a key chain and card case, and they aren’t a ridiculous amount of empty prescription bottles.  There will certainly be more of those in the years to come, and I can certainly amass the collection again if I so desire.

On the other hand, it is in some ways liberating to be without them.  They were a big part of my life, but they weren’t the only thing.  So it was a baby step to part with all of those prescription bottles, but it was a quantum leap to move to New York City. 

 I have so much more to talk about – my move, what it’s like to live in New York City, and why I’m here and the wonderful, new adventure I am embarking upon.  So this is a quick update for now, but I’ll be back soon.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Patients For A Moment: Social Media Edition

For the July/August 2013 edition of Patients For A Moment, I asked bloggers to talk about the influence of social media on their illness experience.  They could either write one statement in no more than 140 characters and explain it, write a post that had many statements in no more than 140 characters each, or answer the question, “How has social media impacted your illness experience?”  Any and all iterations of this were fair game, and there were some great responses:
The always entertaining Duncan Cross came up with a very creative “twitmeter” in relation to his IBD, and also discusses the importance of social media, in the post, “PFAM: Social Media”.  Duncan, I like how you think!

Sarah Bramblette, of Born2lbFat, in the post, “Healthcare and Social Media – Empowering Patients”, traces her social media evolution, and combines social media into her post.  Thanks, Sarah, I really enjoyed reading this!   

At My Brain Lesion and Me, Rhiann Johns talks about the positive experience she has had with social media and its ability to connect people even when in the throws of illness, in the post, “Social Media and the Chronic Illness experience”.  Thanks, Rhiann, for sharing!

Ms. Rants, of the blog, Chronic Rants, writes in the post, “Finding health solutions outside the doctor’s office”, about how social media has provided the answers to some questions that doctors have not been able to answer for her. Thanks for your post, Ms. Rants!
Thanks to all who submitted posts for this edition!

If you didn’t submit a post but have a related one, please feel free to link it in the comments – only related posts, though, please.

The next editions of PFAM will be September 15, 2013.

I am in need of hosts for the September, November, and December editions.  Please e-mail, if you are interested in hosting.  Or you can throw in your hat for the 2014 editions, as well. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

You Can Call Me Doctor Rott

Well, not that kind of doctor…

But on Friday, I defended my dissertation, so I am now a Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology. 

It’s hard to believe that I am basically finished with my graduate program.  It has been a long and difficult six years, punctuated by being diagnosed and living with multiple chronic illnesses.

It meant so much to me to have my family at my defense (literally and figuratively) – my parents, sister, aunt, and grandparents, my boyfriend, and several good friends, one of whom flew all the way from Seattle to be there for me.   

And it made me realize that while getting a PhD is a huge accomplishment, what actually means more are the people that I am surrounded by, who have helped and supported me along the way. 

Because I couldn’t have done this alone.  It certainly wasn’t easy. 

Even the defense was difficult.  My committee peppered me for over an hour with really hard questions.  But in the end, the revisions I have to make are minimal, and I feel that I stayed true to myself and the kind of dissertation (hopefully one day book!) that I set out to write.

It really is a surreal feeling to be done.  I am still trying to wrap my head around the idea.  When I woke up Saturday morning, it was a huge sigh of relief to realize that it’s over.  And to know that I never have to face the firing squad ever again – amazing! 

It also feels good to finally be in a place where, as both as a person and a scholar, I can be myself.  So much of the past six years was spent making other people feel okay about my situation.

I’ve talked about it a lot before, but when you are in a strenuous graduate program, the assumption is that all of your time and energy will be spent concentrating on school.  And if you’re not doing that, for whatever reason, you might as well not be here.  As I have discovered over the years, this is not specific to my discipline.  This is the nature of the graduate school beast regardless of subject area, specifically if you are in a PhD program. 

But aside from that, it really has been a crazy ride.  And I made it. 

There were definitely times when I wanted to quit.  Where I felt like it would be easier if I just threw in the towel.  But that’s not my nature, and the more people told me that I should leave, the more I wanted to stay.  And not only stay, but finish. 
And despite everything, I am one of only a few people in my cohort who have finished so far.  It took me six years, and considering everything I had to deal with, it’s pretty amazing not only to finish, but to finish “on schedule”.    

Without listing the acknowledgements from my dissertation (which is three pages long!), I have to say again that there are many people I couldn’t have done this without.  And I am so grateful to each and every one of them.

And I am grateful to all of the readers of this blog who have supported and encouraged in ways that many of the healthy people in my life could not.  They say it takes a village, and it totally does.  While the researching and the writing of the dissertation was all me, seeing this program through to the end was an amalgamation of all of the supportive people in my life. 

Even if I can’t write prescriptions, it is pretty cool to be a doctor.  I might just let that go to my head a little bit.     

Now on to the next adventure…