Recently diagnosed PhD student

Status
Not open for further replies.

aurora

New member
Joined
Oct 23, 2020
Messages
4
Reason
DX FIBRO
Diagnosis
09/2020
Country
US
Hi all,
Hoping to find fellow graduate or professional students with similar experiences to mine. I am in my third year of a psychology PhD program and working to be a licensed psychologist. I have had symptoms of fibromyalgia for at least 7 years but didn't get diagnosed until about two months ago. Over the past few years my symptoms have been getting worse and worse - I think due to the stress of being in graduate school. I am trying to listen to my body and take more breaks to care for myself. The pain and fatigue get so bad when my stress increases and I have no motivation to do anything. I have been sleeping for longer periods, taking midday breaks, and trying to not take on as much as I normally do. This has been extremely difficult for me as I've always been the type of person to take on as much as possible and still get it all done. I can't do that anymore though. It's been difficult because I compare myself to others who are constantly working and making accomplishments that I just don't have enough time for because I am now prioritizing my health. There is also significant judgement from both students and faculty in my program when you take breaks, have hobbies, or do literally anything not related to pursuing a PhD. I feel constantly judged when others around me are working or making accomplishments and I am resting. Most people know that I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia but I don't think a lot of people know what it means. I'm wondering if anyone has had a similar experience and can commiserate, offer advice, or just literally anything. Overall, I am in a much better place since I received a diagnosis and know the symptoms are not my fault. I'm just trying to get to an even better physical and mental place :)
 

sunkacola

Very helpful member
Joined
Dec 2, 2016
Messages
1,341
Reason
DX FIBRO
Diagnosis
00/0000
Country
Uni
State
Somewhere
Don't know if you will find fellow graduate students here or not. But all situations, work, school, family, are similar when it comes to this kind of thing. People don't understand what they have never experienced. People are afraid to hang out with a person with a syndrome, illness, or disability. People don't want to believe that another person's physical issues are as bad as they say they are. And so on. There are many psychological reasons for this, which I am sure you know since that is your fiend of study. But the main thing is this:

Take care of yourself no matter what
Don't let the opinions of others get you down. You know the truth. Who cares what they think.
Don't try to get everyone to understand. They won't.
Some will understand, or will try to support you. These people are your real friends. Disregard the people who are not your real friends.
Ignore judgement. It is coming from people who don't understand, don't want to understand, and are not your friends.
Be courageous, keep your head up, and carry on.
 

happyest

New member
Joined
Dec 19, 2020
Messages
1
Reason
DX FIBRO
Diagnosis
12/2020
Country
US
State
OH
Hey! I’m new to this forum and was also newly diagnosed with FM this month, though I’ve been dealing with symptoms for the past 6 or so years now. I’m also a PhD student in clinical psychology! My symptoms have also gotten increasingly worse since applying to grad schools while working last fall, and especially bad after starting my first semester of grad school this fall. That plus the stress of COVID-19 and other significant life events this year has meant lots of pain and fatigue. I don’t know if I can provide any advice but it sounds like we’re in pretty similar situations—I’d love to chat and commiserate about things 😭
 

ekozlows

New member
Joined
Oct 5, 2020
Messages
6
Reason
DX FIBRO
Diagnosis
06/2014
Country
US
State
LA
I too, am a PhD student in Cultural Anthropology with Fibromyaliga. I am fortunate enough to attend a university with a very supportive accessibility department. They have been integral in adjusting the program to allow me to complete each step in a manner that enables me to manage my disease and be successful in the program. I just finished my coursework this semester and will start my fieldwork compenent next spring.

I still struggle with judgements from students and faculty, glaring looks when I park in an accessible spot, frustration and neglect from advisors, etc. I have felt very much alone and am thrilled to find others in a similar position.

I strongly suggest you reach out to acessibility (many are listed on syllabi) and ask for help. There is no shame in it, and we must stand up for ourselves! After all it is a physical disability like any other. I am happy to offer any assistance I can, or share what has worked for me. I wish you success and am proof you can do this!

Best,
Bright
 

aurora

New member
Joined
Oct 23, 2020
Messages
4
Reason
DX FIBRO
Diagnosis
09/2020
Country
US
@happyest It's so wonderful to hear from another grad student in clinical psychology! The stress has been absolutely unbearable with everything going on and I absolutely think it contributes to the pain and fatigue. I hope you're doing well and adjusting to starting grad school - it's quite a ride! I would absolutely love to chat and commiserate with you! Would be happy to exchange emails or just contact one another through this platform :)
 

aurora

New member
Joined
Oct 23, 2020
Messages
4
Reason
DX FIBRO
Diagnosis
09/2020
Country
US
@ekozlows thank you for the advice! I am so glad you are at a university that accommodates you and your needs. I started receiving accommodations this semester but have had a lot of difficulties advocating for myself and pushing back when people do not understand my need for accommodations. I do have some very wonderful professors and supervisors though. How have you been dealing with the judgment if you don't mind me asking? Also, any accommodations that have been beneficial for you? I currently have extended deadlines and flexible attendance as well as built-in breaks during classes.
 

ekozlows

New member
Joined
Oct 5, 2020
Messages
6
Reason
DX FIBRO
Diagnosis
06/2014
Country
US
State
LA
Hi Auroa,

Some days are better than others. It's so difficult for me to get around campus. It's big, has very few HC parking spots availble and I usually end up in so much pain. Online classes were a blessing in this way. It's like my brain is fine, its my body that doesn't work. But its invisible, right? A good cry in the car after class helps and seriously, being honest with my professors and colleagues. If I feel bad, and can't make class, I simply send an email and tell them I'm having a bad pain day. (I still feel guilty). The director of the accessibility office is also really familiar with Fibromyalgia and is incredibly supportive which really makes a difference. I never have to explain myself to him. I also had to provide all sorts of medical documentation, so its on paper. I still struggle with the shame of not feeling up to par like everyone else.

My accommodations included the ability to be late and miss class as needed without Drs notes (in addition to the standard allotment of absences). I was also able to reduce my course load per semester from 4 to 3 classes. This Fall I was to complete my final class, do RA work, apply for research grants, and complete my dissertation proposal all in a semester! I was able to push everything by a semester so I can tackle each component individually. Of course, quarantine because of covid helped, you can't really do fieldwork where there's a plague.

I have learned that pushing back (with diplomacy) is the only way I will be successful. After all, we were accepted into our respective programs so they obviously value our contributions to the University. So just reminding the powers that be "these are the things I need to be successful in the program and manage my disease" helps. But is is not always easy or simple and I almost quit at the end of the Spring semester. I hope my rant has helped somewhat.

Best,
Bright
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top