As classes gear up to start, I know that there are many emotions each of us are experiencing. There’s the excitement that comes with starting a new year. We are experiencing new and interesting classes, meeting new people, and seeing old friends. Then there is the anxiety that comes with school. New classes means work and tests, which take up a large portion of our time. Making new friends is challenging for those of us who are more introverted, and it can be more of a hassle than it is worth. Some of us are thrilled to start the new year, while others are incredibly worried about the perils the school year will bring. I have especially seen this in the chronic illness community, and rightfully so.
Most chronically ill teenagers experience more than the average teenager. They are struggling with pain, or fatigue, or mental illness that add to the fears of beginning a new school year. High school was awful for me. I enjoyed classes, but I hated the toll the work took on me. I had undiagnosed anxiety and ADHD through most of high school, and wasn’t diagnosed with either until my junior and senior years. Taking tests was impossible, not to mention my least favorite thing. I could put hours of work into my studying, and the best grade I could pull in my honors class was a C. But, if I was in a lower class I didn’t focus because I was bored. It wasn’t that I wasn’t smart; on the contrary, I simply had too much on my mind. Focusing on a test was nearly impossible for me. Focusing during class was difficult for me. I enjoyed learning, but learning is hard when you are dealing with mental or chronic illness.
My senior year was the most difficult out of all my high school years. At the start of my senior year I began having chronic pain in my neck and shoulders. Sitting through my classes was difficult, and I almost never stayed the whole day for class. My spring semester was rough because my gastroparesis kicked in, and I was so nauseous I couldn’t eat much food. I struggled to get a diagnosis, and on top of that I was still trying to make it into my dream college. I remember feeling completely hopeless. Of course, I made great use of my class time – I wrote my first novel during my senior year. I have no idea what I learned in half of my classes, but I wrote a novel. Writing really helped me get through my chronic illness, and having a creative writing class my last semester of high school really helped me gather my thoughts.
Going to college was terrifying. I had a botox treatment on my stomach two days before I left, and that thankfully helped my gastroparesis stay in check my first semester. But I had to make new friends, I had to deal with a brand new chronic illness diagnosis. It was difficult, and lonely. I was all set to transfer after first semester, until I joined the Hunter/Jumper team and found my people.
High school and college students today, especially the chronically/mentally ill deal with so much stress. The school year can be awful. But, my motto was always C’s get degrees. This wasn’t my excuse to slack off; in fact, it was actually my mantra to remind myself that if the pressures of life were too much, my grades weren’t that important. Yes, I wanted to qualify for scholarships in college because of my grades. I wanted to achieve my dreams. But I also had to come to the realization that there wouldn’t be a dream to chase if I wasn’t mentally or physically in a position to achieve it. Sometimes, to be able to push ourselves in the future, we have to remember to rest in the present. God has dreams for us, but He can’t use us if we don’t allow ourselves time to heal. I can’t train for a marathon with a broken leg. I have to wait for that leg to heal before I start training. And I have to start training before I can run for that marathon. If we have this perspective on broken bones, we need to apply this same perspective to our minds, and our invisible disabilities. So, when things begin to get tough, just remember that C’s get degrees. If you’re at a school that counts a D as passing (mine is weird and doesn’t), D’s get degrees too. You are more important than a letter on a piece of paper.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” – Romans 8:26
Can I just start off by saying that the Holy Spirit is my favorite topic in the Christian church. I love the fact that we have a part of God living inside of us, and this part of God is strong enough to vanquish the sins we bear. This is the part of God that speaks and intercedes for us. I LOVE that. So, it seems to me that this is the part of God we should focus on as we head back to school. For a lot of us, school is our weakness. It is our source of fear, doubt, and vulnerability. Let’s unpack this for a minute.
We do not know what we ought to pray for. This line always cracks me up, because I don’t like to admit that I don’t know something. But, it speaks truth. Only the Father knows the future. We can pray for our futures, but we don’t really know what those futures hold. We can pray to get into our first choice college, or that we will get married and have kids, or that dairy will magically not be a trigger food (a girl can dream), but those are things we want. God has a plan, and it is greater than ours. We don’t know what to pray for, but the Holy Spirit does. And in our prayers, He prays for God’s will. My dream was to go to UK and become a veterinarian. I was going to cure Mad Cow Disease and make millions (yes, this was really my goal). God said no. But I prayed about it. I prayed for it a lot. But God still said no. He told me to write a book. He called me into a different life. It wasn’t the life I would have chosen for myself. But I also didn’t know what the future had in store. I didn’t know that I would have chronic illness, or that I wouldn’t be able to work in the heat all day every day. But God knew I had EDS. He knew it, and He used it. The Holy Spirit is a powerful being. As you all begin your school years, I pray that you remember the Holy Spirit in your times of need. I pray that He guides you, intercedes for you, and lifts you up to the Father. I pray that God reminds you of His plans, and I pray that you allow yourselves time to heal so that He may use you. Food for thought this week: What is it about your future that you need to give to God?
Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots
“It’d be to my brother, ’cause we have the same nose
Same clothes homegrown a stone’s throw from a creek we used to roam
But it would remind us of when nothing really mattered
Out of student loans and tree-house homes we all would take the latter”