I graduated top of my class… and here’s what I’ve learnt.

 

It feels like it’s been a really long time since I last wrote a post despite only being a couple of weeks.

This is going to be a bit of an odd one but because it A level results day tomorrow, an important one for multiple reasons.

As the title says, I graduated top of my class. An achievement I couldn’t even begin to imagine. Especially because I went into university feeling v out of depth after royally messing up my A2s. I was incredible as an AS student and excelled in law and psychology, also had a bit of a knack for business.

Fast-forward to A2 results day, I achieved C’s and D’s, meaning I ended up with 3B’s. Not that 3Bs is bad. But I was meant to go to a Russell Group. At the time, it was disastrous and to tell you the truth it affected me for far too long.

See, what I didn’t realise then was that grades are not the be all and end all of life. One bad day in that exam hall doesn’t make or break you. Yes it may put a few extra obstacles in the way for certain industries. I know it means I am unlikely to obtain a training contract with a magic circle firm.

BUT NO MATTER WHAT THOSE GRADES YOU CAN BE SUCCESSFULL IN YOUR OWN RIGHT.

And I hope that me graduating top of my class, despite essentially being near the bottom of my class when I entered uni (based on A level grades) shows that.

On a more serious note graduating top of my class and winning a grand total of four academic awards took a lot from me. And I want to let all my fellow perfectionists out there that life is not all about grades and academic awards.

I was in a bizarre position entering third year where my ME was so severe that I couldn’t engage in extra curricular activities due to the amount of walking involved to get to one. Due to the upright time it would require. And I think that pushed me to do so well. Because at the beginning of third year, all I could do was my degree. I could lay in bed and stare at a screen – it was the thing that kept purpose in my life and once I started to improve I was so deep in achieving my goal – to be the best I could be. To get a first that although I allocated more time away from the degree or complete rest purely because I had more hours in the day and was less liable to complete and utter, complete non-functional crashing, it still took a substantial amount of my time.

If I was healthy. I wouldn’t have done that. I would have been more engaged in Drama society, in volunteering or a job and I would have ended up with an average degree.

And that is okay! For three reasons.

  1. There is more to life than grades
  2. Employers value experience more than you being top of your class and winning four academic awards. (Trust me. Yes I have two provisional job offers but no legal work experience or training contract in sight)
  3. MENTAL HEALTH (and physical health) IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR GRADES.

The third one being in capitals because it is the most important. I am fortunate that my mental health was for the most part positive in my final year of university, my ME improved and I got more of a handle on the suspected endo monster than ever before.  But there was a lot of stress, there were tears. There were stress runs away from my dissertation even though those runs caused excruciating chest pains, felt like dragging my legs through cement whilst they were being weighed down with lead weights and inevitably caused a bedbound day 48 hours later. My sleep pattern was for the most part non-existent until I realised all of my exams were in the morning because ME/CFS sleep issues + pain + stress = han in too much pain to sleep, up until 4am frantically writing and reading about gestational bonding and whether that is a valid argument for the unenforceability of surrogacy arrangements. I partially dislocated joints in every exam, sat one exam whilst on antibiotics and another whilst having a bit of an endo flare.

I did this all because I genuinely wanted it, because I had nothing else, because I’m a workaholic and more importantly I love law. It created a perfect storm.

But just because I did it doesn’t mean you should, or you’ve failed. And I hope this goes to show that one bad academic year doesn’t mean you’re doomed for failure for the rest of your life. I also hope I’ve reminded you that self care is so important and more important than any grade could be.

As a perfectionist that’s difficult to accept, I know. The only reason I’m not doing 24/7 LSAT prep at this point is because I know if my brains not working it won’t be productive. Because However much I want Stanford and however much I am trying to get there, not getting in and not getting the scholarship I require is not the end of the world. The same goes for everything in life. Just because your not the best it doesn’t mean your not enough. Or you’ve failed in some way!

You are enough!

 

“It can’t be that bad” An open letter to those without chronic pain

 

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Here’s the thing. We have to adjust. We have to adapt.

If we didn’t we would have no life.

Here’s the thing. Some of us and arguably most of us are masters at hiding our extreme symptoms. Pain, weakness, dizziness, visual issues and the other 99 problems that come with having a chronic illness or if you’re really lucky multiple chronic illnesses.

Only earlier today, after an episode of paralytic fatigue I was left having to crawl around the house because I physically could not stand up. Was anyone in? No. Did anyone see? No. Does anyone ever see?

Sometimes. Last Thursday they did. But often I can adrenaline myself up to stay upright for only small interactions. Or my family doesn’t actually witness it despite them being in. (The countless times I’ve had to crawl up the stairs comes to mind here).

Does that mean it’s not that bad? No. It is that bad. I have major issues getting more pain medication because I’m on a dose of gabapentin that most doctors wouldn’t prescribe to someone so young – one that makes pharmacists repeatedly check it is correct. Despite this, I’m still in a lot of pain! Pain that even with double dosing OTC meds does not ease.

It means I’ve learnt to hide my pain in response to being called a hypochondriac, being disbelieved. Being moaned at for complaining so much, for being so negative. The thing is it’s easier to not say. Even without the above. It’s often easier just to pretend.

But our pretending does not mean it’s not that bad and the second we’re out of sight the pain will often increase tenfold – in response to hiding it for so long. This can present as painsomnia – a phenomenon leaving chronic pain suffers unable to sleep because we’ve spent so long during the day trying to ignore our pain.

It is that bad!

Another thing I would like to point out is the differing points of references between someone with chronic illness and someone without. I would also like to point out that even with the same chronic illness we all have different points of reference, different priorities and different struggles.

Different points of reference mean we tolerate more. It also sometimes means we don’t realise how ill we are until it really hits – hence oftentimes over pushing to the max as well as sometimes having to act on the side of caution if we have big commitments coming up.

I’m going to repeat again. It is that bad!

So please, be considerate. Be understanding. Even of what you can’t see or understand. Listen to us and help us. Don’t underestimate our struggles. That’s all we ask of you. This battle is a difficult one. A little kindness can go a long way.