I graduated from high school in 2008. It wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t all good either, especially because of my health issues.
Freshman year was the worst year. I had been home schooled for most of 8th grade because of my health, and I got the bright idea that I would try public school again, because I missed being around people. When you’re not actively involved in public school you tend to fantasize about how ‘awesome’ it probably is, and this was making me nuts. But I was about to find out how ‘awesome’ it wasn’t. a Keep in mind around this time I did not have ANY diagnoses. I knew I was ill but I didn’t know why.
I was issued a broken locker. It worked for the first month but one day it just got stuck and would not open for anything. So the books I already had in my bag I got stuck carrying around the widespread campus. Great for your back. And the books that were trapped in my locker, I got points off my grade every day for not bringing my book to class even though the teachers knew my locker was broken. One day the custodial crew finally got around to cracking open my broken locker and they moved all my stuff to a new locker. A bottom locker. And when I went to get my stuff that I hadn’t seen in forever, some things were missing, like I had decorated my binder by putting some pictures inside the outer clear sleeve, those had fallen out and they didn’t care to pick them up. I found some on the ground around campus but most were lost. When it rained, the sidewalks were uneven and sometimes met together like a valley that would fill with water. This sometimes would make my locker really damp and I often worried it would damage my books and I’d have to pay fines at the end of the year. I started carrying every book in my backpack for this reason, and for the reason that my locker was so far away from my classrooms that I risked being late to class just to get my books. I shutter to think what this has done to my back.
Then there were the teachers. I caught a lot of colds because kids came to school sick in fear of being penalized for missing something, and my immune system is just utter shit when it comes to this stuff. I was absent a lot because going to school with a cold just wasn’t an option for me. I couldn’t get out of bed. They knocked me on my ass every time. And this must have happened every 3 weeks or so. I missed a lot of school, and a lot of homework. I tried to keep up, I really did, but I was falling behind. Especially in classes where the teacher didn’t accept late work AT ALL. I tried my best to explain to them that something was going on with my health, and a couple teachers were sympathetic, but some did not want to hear it. They gave me the “it’s not fair to my other students” speech. One even suggested to my mom on the phone that what I was dealing with could be ‘in my head’. This teacher made my life a living nightmare. He frequently enjoyed embarrassing me in front of the class. He treated me like I was just using my health as an excuse to be lazy. I had his class in the morning and would sometimes spend the rest of the day in a daze trying not to cry, which impaired my ability to concentrate in my other classes. Not long after I graduated, which he said I wouldn’t do, I wrote him a long email explaining my diagnoses, and that I hope in the future he would be more understanding towards students with illnesses. Never heard back.
I didn’t take P.E. or a sport because I was too sick, so that meant I had a period to fill. So I took another class. I had way more homework than I was supposed to because of this. I was drowning in unfinished assignments.
It was really hard to be motivated to do homework after a while. I didn’t even feel good enough to do fun things, so why should I waste my little energy on math I’ll never use? (Still haven’t used it to this day, and probably never will) I still feel the same way about this stuff. I’m not going to waste energy sitting in classes that will never apply to my life or my future career.
The physical aspects of going to school were absolute torture. I had a weird sleep rhythm (still do) where I don’t get REM sleep before 7am. I have since learned that to be healthy it is manditory that I sleep until at least 9am. But for school I had to be up at 6am. I was missing the most important cycle of sleep, and it was making me more ill. I couldn’t concentrate, I was exhausted, and my chronic pain was worse, all of which have been scientifically proven to be exacerbated by missing the 4th stage of sleep.
My high school campus was huge. It was one floor, but built on a hill, and stretched out wide. The hallways were outdoors (stupid california) so when it rained I walked around soaked and cold all day, hoofing a backpack that was way too heavy.
So around March of Freshman year, my mom, counselor, and I decided enough was enough. My counselor was in the middle of establishing a district-wide independent study program, and I was a perfect candidate. In the mean time, I had a tutor come to my house to teach me the remainder of my subjects that year. He was creepy, and seemed to like to talk about his experience in Africa and how many women were prostitutes. I also decided along with this tutoring I would still try to take a class or two at school. Why I decided this, I don’t know. I took Geography and science.
The geography teacher turned out to be a jerk. I worked my ass off in that class, but he decided since I came after the semester had started, he couldn’t give me full credit even though everything I did in that class was A or B work. He gave me a D. And he didn’t tell me he was gonna do that until the end of the school year. I was mad at myself for busting my ass after that, because I kicked my health in the nuts just to do well.
My science teacher was awesome. LOVED her class. She was understanding about my health issues and gave me the BOTD when I turned in late work. Our agreement was basically “turn it in when you can.” I did great in her class and it was stress-free.
By May of that year, I had been diagnosed with Addison’s Disease, and had started on one of the two treatment drugs, Florinef. I wasn’t noticing a whole lot of a difference in my health though. So by August I started the other drug too, Cortef.
In the middle of all of this, I tried my ass off to have a social life. But it was really hard being absent all the time from school. People thought it was weird. So they mostly ignored me. I had pretty bad depression after a while, and really low self-esteem. I started believing that I really was just lazy too. It was awful.
So over the summer I had registered for the new independent study program at the district office. This program made it possible for me to take care of my health while still being able to work towards graduating. It changed my life, so it makes me really mad when people bash home school or independent study. Public school isn’t for everyone. Some people just don’t fit into the cookie-cutter, so get over it.
I continued for the rest of my high school career on independent study. I was getting my self-esteem back. I was getting the rest I needed. And I had teacher who was understanding.
Senior year is supposed to be a big deal. Football, prom, yearbooks, graduation. I wanted to be a part of it somehow. So I decided to take art and science on campus again, and still continue with my other subjects in independent study.
Well, the science teacher I had was a complete ass hat, so after a while I dropped his class and finished the subject on my own. My art class was cool though, I loved it, and I’m glad I went.
I was bummed because I missed the deadline for Senior quotes somehow. It seemed like they didn’t publicize it enough, because a majority of seniors didn’t have a Senior quote that year. I wanted to put something that would kinda tell my mean teachers off in a “haha, I proved you wrong” sorta way. But from what I heard, they got strict on what they would allow and it had to be scholarly or religious. I remember trying to decide between Soul Asylum or Goo Goo Dolls lyrics, both of which were probably longer than 180 characters anyway. It was all so rigged all the time.
I bought a year book. $100. Not really worth it, but it’s a good reminder how shitty it was when I decide to look back on it with rosy glasses. The typos in it are quite amusing too.
Prom was shit. I’m glad I went though, so I didn’t suffer from ‘always wonder’ syndrome. I went without a date, because when I asked people, they “already had a date.” Sick girls can have fun too, ya know. The prom security confiscated gum, lip-gloss, and any kind of medicine, you know ‘cause all teenagers do drugs, and smuggle them inside lip-gloss. Luckily, I had stuck my pain pills in with my camera batteries so they didn’t see them. That way, if someone came up and whispered, “Hey man, I need a trip, you got some Tylenol?” I could be the cool kid. I rode the school bus to prom because no one could seem to ‘fit me in’ their limo. So I sat by myself. Our group were the first ones to get there and the last ones to leave. We were there for 5 hours, and my prom was at the Skirball, which is an hour away from my high school. By the last few hours I was just sitting around waiting for the bus to take us home because I hurt so much. I had an after-prom-party ticket that went from 1am to 5am but there was no way in hell I was doing that.
Then came time for graduation. We had rehearsals where we had to sit in the sun for a few hours a couple days in a row. That always makes me really tired. I didn’t know I had Lupus yet, but people with Lupus aren’t even supposed to be in the sun because it can cause flares. On Grad day, they alphabetized everyone in the gym and then made us stand there for two hours for no real reason. They weren’t gonna let me bring water in, which wasn’t an option for me, so the lady asked to sniff my water to make sure there wasn’t alcohol in it when I told her I had health issues. These high school people are just so fucking paranoid aren’t they? I also remember had to slip my phone in my bra, because they didn’t allow people to have phones. How the hell was I gonna find my family after the ceremony? There was a huge mob of people trying to find one another after so I was glad I had my phone. I went back up to the gym to get my diploma, because they didn’t actually hand them out onstage, they’re too lazy for that. I was exhausted from sitting in the heat and my mom wanted to follow me into the gym even though parents ‘weren’t allowed’. The doorman said something rude to her about me, I didn’t hear, but it was rude enough for her to spare repeating it to me, and rude enough for her to grab the guy by the shirt and have a few words. High School was shit right down to the last minute.