Archive for May, 2011

Two Graduations

Friday, May 20th, 2011

P1020838

As some of you know from reading this blog, I completed my doctorate earlier this year. This week, I attended my official graduation ceremony (pictured above). It was an incredible day on so many levels.

There were times when I thought it would never happen. I entered my doctoral program as a young, healthy single woman. I left it as a married woman with a child and RA. In many ways, my memories of my years as a doctoral student are inextricably tied with my journey with RA. I struggled with the label “disabled,” fought against the idea of using the disabled services offered by my university. This struggle lasted right up to the end, when I accepted a disabled parking permit for my graduation day but still insisted on walking in the ceremony itself, instead of taking disabled seating. I also did something foolish – at the end of the ceremony, my friends got impatient with the logjam at the steps leading down from the bleachers where we were seated, and opted instead to jump down the bleachers themselves. I jumped with them, and paid for this decision with two days of pain. Maybe this was worth it for the chance to feel like a regular, non-sick person for a day. Or maybe it just shows that on some level, I still wrestle with denial.

Either way, I am still amazed that I made it. I was diagnosed with RA and also got pregnant during my first year in the program. I had to learn to slow down, pace myself, accept the reality of a later graduation date than I had originally anticipated. I learned to use voice-activated software and used it to write a large chunk of my 227-page dissertation. I also had to balance all of this with taking care of a baby. Nothing went quite the way I planned it – but I finished, and now my son calls me Doctor Mommy. :-)

There was also a second graduation in recent months, one that was a little harder to take. I graduated from this:

new disabled temp

 …to this:

new disabled perm

Logically, I know that this is a good thing. With the temporary permit, every six months I had to deal with the logistics of getting the documentation from my doctor and then endure a miserable, frustrating trip to the DMV, plus pay a fee. Now I can renew by mail in two years, without having to provide any more documentation or pay any money. But still, the idea that I am “permanently disabled” is hard to swallow.

The reason this came to pass is that the law in my state says that a person cannot have more than six consecutive temporary permits. The fact that I have means that I have been using disabled parking permits for three years now. That, too, was hard to face. I really never stopped thinking of myself as “temporarily” disabled; I guess the state sees it differently. I know that this doesn’t mean anything from a medical perspective, but it was sobering to realize that it really has been that long.

In time, I would like to be grateful for the second graduation and the conveniences it brings. For now, I will focus on celebrating the first graduation.

Appreciation

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

I recently learned that my blog has been named as one of  “40 Excellent Blogs for Arthritis Support” by NursingDegree.net. This has really made me think. It’s also given me the kick in the pants I think I needed to start writing again.

The list is divided into blogs of two types. The first are called “Informational Resources.” Many of my favorites are included in this list, and I really value what these people do. Sometimes I feel guilty that my blog isn’t more like these – I feel that I should be doing more to help others with RA.

But then I look at the second part of the list, called “Living With Arthritis.” This is the category to which my blog belongs. And there, again, are so many blogs I love to read. And I remember how many times someone has written to me to tell me that my blog puts into words (or sometimes music) the very things they think and feel. Some have shown my blog to their partners, family, or friends, and said, “This is what I’ve been trying to say – this is what it’s like for me.” And that, I realize, is of value.

I have been hiding out because things have been hard lately, and I’ve been pretty depressed. I guess I haven’t wanted to put that out there; so many people in our community work hard to stay positive, and I admire them. I also tend to go silent when things are wrong, even with my real-life friends. (This is something that started with the RA – oddly, I used to share everything before.) But, unfortunately, sometimes depression is part of the deal with chronic illness, and if I want to be honest about my experiences, I have to include it. There are some things I still don’t want to write about because they are too personal, but there are plenty of other things I could share. Some are good, some are bad, but they are all part of the deal with RA.

So I will try to do better. I’m so grateful to those of you who continue to read my words and come back even when I’ve been silent for awhile. I’ve been silent across the board – not participating in RA bulletin boards, not commenting on other people’s blogs. I want you to know, too, that if you’re on the list of blogs on my homepage, I still read you whenever you post. I’ll try to be better about commenting – it’s nice to know that people are out there!