“Sometimes a starless night can leave you misdirected. Sometimes the road you choose is not what you expected.” – Red Molly, Summertime
While it has taken me many years to admit it, I like folk music. A lot. Even folk music that treads into blue-grass territory (yep, that means banjos). One of my favorite groups, Red Molly, recorded a soaring rendition of the tune Summertime that resonates with me, and my semi-abrupt turn into the field of school psychology after finishing a degree in public policy.
One of the several reasons I was drawn to the field emerged just about two years ago; I was diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune disease. This means that with medication, I can keep things mostly under control. But it also means that the disease flares and remits, so I can be fine one day and feeling awful the next.
Shortly after I was diagnosed, I met an 11 year-old girl with a similar condition. Beatriz was having a difficult time at school; she had missed many days of class, her classmates made fun of her puffy face caused by one her medications, she could no longer eat foods she had once enjoyed, she had trouble swallowing the large pills her doctor prescribed – and the list went on. I realized how even one friendly, understanding face at school could have made a world of difference for her. I decided that I didn't want to spend all my time in an office crunching numbers about people I would never meet, and began to rethink my career direction.
While I have been extremely lucky so far health-wise, I can relate to Beatriz's feeling of being misunderstood. For those who haven’t been there, having a chronic illness while in graduate school means….
Squeezing in doctors’ appointments between class, practicum, and work-study.
Feeling moved when classmates text to see if I’m okay.
Adopting a more nuanced view of how physical & mental health shape development and why.
Worrying that the next disease flare will happen the night before a mid-term or during an important group presentation.
Discovering that many professors are wonderfully accommodating and understanding - and others aren’t (just like real life).
Staying home and sleeping some nights when I’d rather be out with friends.
Having a more personal understanding of what many students at my practicum site are going through.
Looking better than I feel some days; and feeling better than I look on others.
Getting tired more quickly than my classmates.
Wondering if professors think I’m “faking it” when I have to miss class.
Meeting really awesome people who “get it” because they’ve been there or someone in their family has been there.
To hear some Red Molly love: