People frequently call me "Ginger," but it wasn't that long ago that friends used to jokingly call me "the machine" and with good reason. At the time, I was working full-time in a physically demanding job, while taking five classes per semester toward my third degree. I did all of this while actively pursuing artistic and literary goals and maintaining a rich social life. A typical day would include a couple of classes, a six-hour shift, homework, then staying up late with friends at local shows and concerts. To cap it all off, I would recharge with four or five hours of sleep before doing it all again the next day.
All of a sudden, in October of 2011, everything changed. For a couple weeks, I was beginning to feel run-down. I was tired, my joints ached, and I was running out of breath easily. I blamed my busy schedule. When I found myself bedridden, I assumed that it must be a case of the flu. I wish that had been the case.
Weeks were passing and I was not improving. Pain in my joints made it nearly impossible to climb the stairs to get to my classrooms, or even into my apartment. No matter how I tried, I was finding it impossible to focus in class. My vision was blurring so badly that I suddenly had trouble reading the board, making lectures even harder to follow. Though I had graduated Magne Cum Laude with my previous degree while working full-time, I was now finding it necessary to drop some of my classes while only working 20 hours in a week. Switching to part-time meant I had to forfeit my scholarship.
I kept making excuses to myself, saying I was just tired or stressed, and that's why I still wan't getting over the "flu." By this point I had dropped two classes already. I was sleeping a minimum of ten hours a night, eating healthier, and drinking close to a gallon of water a day. I was dangerously thin already and losing weight at an alarming rate, no matter how much I ate. Finally, I could no longer ignore it when I began experiencing constant tremors, that quickly grew worse. They became convulsions powerful enough to throw me off-balance.
Doctors did nothing for me. They attributed my symptoms to lack of sleep, when I was getting ten hours a night. They called it dehydration while I drank over a gallon a day. They even had the nerve to tell me it was stress when the only stress in my life was a physical inability to handle the most basic of my responsibilities. I had to drop the rest of my classes and quit my job because I was so frequently unable to even leave the house. I was finally forced to use the last of my savings and order a test for myself online.
I was 1,500 miles away from my family, sitting in my apartment with rent and bills growing but with no way to pay them. I could hardly make it to the grocery store just a few blocks away, and now I certainly couldn't afford delivery. Finally, I received the email with my lab results. For a while, I just stared blankly, trying to make sense of the dark symbols on the glowing screen. When it all came together, I burst into tears, and once I regained composure, I called my mother. There was no more pretending. Right in front of me, there was proof.