“What’s today’s date?
Can you remember these numbers?
Are you having the thoughts again?
I think you should leave school.”
December 5th, 2019. On a backpacking trip to Hawaii with three other Minervans, we each took only a toothbrush, one pair of clothes, a bathing suit, a sketchbook, a sleeping bag, and a tent. Within the first three hours since we landed on the Island, I got hit by a car while walking on a crosswalk. It was serious. A few days later we went back to San Francisco.
I kept emailing the Minerva staff related to my condition, and I got no reply. Ruby sent an angry email to Ben Nelson. He replied within three minutes.
“We think you should take a leave for this semester.”
I heard that sentence three times in one day from three different people. My doctor, Reed, and Dean Chandler. McKenna said the same thing the day after.
Dean Lyda came to meet me in the Residence hall because I could not walk. That’s so nice of him.
Michelle Rigler called me today for disability accommodations. Talking to her feels like a soft summer breeze. She said that it must be hard to be in this condition in a community where everyone is rushing to reach new goals every day while I’m struggling just to breathe. I said some people are stopping their run so they can give me a pat on the back.
What is going to happen to my work-study?
I misread the word telescope as microscope and misunderstood the entire class poll. I waited for the eye rest break so I could cry away from the camera. I was put on the big screen right after.
January 2020. I missed two weeks of class due to my condition. Now I have 22 pieces of makeup work and five assignments from last semester, which have to be submitted in less than a month. I also have this month’s classes, readings, and assignments. I am allowed to use the computer only three hours a day, or so the doctor told me—what a joke.
Today, my pre-class work and my first class add up to three hours. In the middle of the second class, I feel nauseous. I leave the breakout group so I can throw up in the bathroom.
I woke up at night having trouble breathing, chest pain, and my heart felt as if it was a racehorse. I googled the symptoms, and it said I was having a heart attack. The CAPS team told me the next day that I was experiencing very severe anxiety. Nice to meet you.
At the beginning of the semester, I sent an email to all the professors telling them how the concussion makes me say things I don’t mean and has left me with a troubled, short memory. I added some sad and intimate stories to make it sound legit. I accidentally sent an email to the wrong professor. I wanted to dig my own grave.
My broken finger is healing now. I had to give up archery, though.
I did only one hour of work this week. The time to pay for my bills is near.
My AP manager (work-study) is giving me work that doesn’t require a lot of screen time, mostly listening. He also checks up on me from time to time.
I wear a hat everywhere I go. The scars on my face and my swollen eye make people think I’m getting abused. I can’t handle the pity of every stranger in San Francisco’s streets.
February. I just realized that the assignment I just finished for CS, which was due in two hours, is all trash because I used the wrong data. I gave up.
I forgot my roommate’s name for a couple of minutes. I screamed into my pillow.
This week, anxiety visited me very often. Professor Ahuja had this alarm that went off when the eye rest break was over in class. It startled me so bad once I couldn’t breathe for nearly a minute. So every time my breath became faster, I started thinking that my heart is a clustered forest,
With trees so ticklish they need easy
So if my heavy breath is the strong wind
I don’t want to hurt the trees
So I breathe slowly.
And it passes.
Update: I did not give up. Ruby gathered a group of people to come to the rescue. Finn bought cookies, Pedro two packs of M&M’s, Malia her smile of a hundred roses, and Shreya her sarcastic jokes. Marina boiled water for tea.
I slept after class because I was not feeling well. Meliane bought a ton of fruit at the farmer’s market, made a fruit salad, and left it on my desk while I was sleeping. She also added a cup of sugar to the side because the grapefruit might be too sour. She said she remembered me telling her that I love fruit.
I didn’t get the Pixar internship because I applied too late. Going to the doctor, a hand therapist, and seeing a counselor twice a week takes more time than I thought. My severe headaches won after all. Finn came to the room with a llama keychain from Peru, four different fancy tea bags from Japan, a cookie, and himself.
The concussion made me forget that I existed today, until someone moved to make way for me on the street. I am in Yerba Buena now. I told Ivana I needed her. She came running, and I started sobbing in the middle of the park at 8 pm.
Back in December, my secret Santa gave me an Olaf toy. I remember, in the questionnaire, I wrote that all I wanted was something that would make me feel safe. I still don’t know who my secret Santa was, but thank you.
The professors treat me equal to other students in class, even after the email I sent. They expect the impossible from me while being very indifferent about it.
My CS professor asked me a very long question today, and apparently I had to do math to find a number, but my answer was “yes” because my concussion thought of something else. The class was laughing. I have become a clown.
I am turning down invites from friends. Mostly because I keep forgetting.
I lost a total of five things this week. It’s from all of those walks I take around the res hall because my doctor told me it’d help my blood flow to my brain.
I tried to take the BART by myself today. My phone is dead. I couldn’t remember the Residence Hall address.
March. Maybe it’s just the concussion, but my head craves touch. It makes me want to rub it in the blankets or someone’s chest.
Having a concussion while at Minerva is disturbingly hard. I cried, I vomited, I gave up, I pushed my limits, I was ashamed, and I felt like a clown. Having online classes doesn’t help at all when the way for a concussion to heal is to take a break from electronics, bright lights, and stressful situations.
Reed, Dean Chandler, and Dean Lyda have been there for anything I needed and supported me all the way. Michele Rigler, the Disability Resource Specialist, is incredibly understanding. The professors will treat you as if you were healthier than a fresh apple on a young tree somewhere in a French village. They say that it’s not fair to other students to give you slack just because you’re sick. That’s what they call equal. Although, after alI, I chose to be here. And I don’t regret it. I want these people in my life.
For me, it was Minerva or nothing. I have finally found my people who were worth me going through all of that. If you’re not this kind of confident and stubborn, and if Minervans are not your people, then I don’t recommend your concussion (or any major illness) going into a relationship with Minerva. Remember, It’s YOU before everything else.
Please take care of yourself.
To all the friends I couldn’t mention because it would take days to read – you’re not forgotten. I am here because of you.