Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Come Sail Away

I've been following the story of Jose Salvador Alvarenga, the apparent castaway from Mexico and El Salvador who turned up in the Marshall Islands recently. It's been interesting to see the media and all the people skeptical of his story try to figure out what really happened to him and whether or not his story is plausible. When it comes to the crux of his story - that he was away at sea for over a year - many people are saying his story has to be a hoax. They point to his physical condition (he has some meat on his bones), "paleness," and the implausibility of him surviving such a scenario as evidence that he's making the whole thing up.

But sometimes, you know, the truth is really stranger than fiction.

Personally, I'm not on board with the people who say Alvarenga's story is a complete fabrication. As part of my law school education, I'm currently taking Evidence. Although the class itself is really concerned with learning the rules of evidence, it's based heavily in logic - and what facts can potentially be inferred by evidence, i.e. the ways in which evidence may be interpreted by a jury. If you look at the evidence available to prove or disprove Alvarenga's story, thus far, it weighs heavily in his favor.

Thus far, we have:
  • Statements by the government of the Marshall Islands that he washed up there and was found with a dilapidated boat on a remote atoll. They have also said they have found no reason to doubt his story and that he was hospitalized on the Islands.
  • Statements from the hospital in the Marshall Islands where he was treated indicating he arrived in poor health and was readmitted after he was initially released.
  • Statements from Mexican officials saying everything they've heard thus far adds up, as far as they can be sure.
  • Statements from Alvarenga's family that they hadn't seen him in eight years and assumed he was either dead or in jail.
  • Statements from people who worked with/for Alvarenga's employer in Mexico that document him, his boat, and his companion going missing in November 2012. A search was said to have been conducted, but it was unsuccessful in locating the boat or the two men.
Now, unless news media has fabricated this evidence and flat-out lied about speaking to his family members, government officials, and others involved, you have people in at least three countries corroborating his story. Of course, that doesn't mean that it's conclusively true, but it lends credence to his tale. It's possible that the information provided and statements made by these people are fabricated, but what motivation do they have to lie? Unless you're a big believer in transnational conspiracy theories, they really have no good reason to do so.

Alvarenga, who's currently getting his 15 minutes of fame, also can't be said to have a strong motivation to make the whole thing up. In order to make the story plausible, he would have to somehow make himself so unhealthy that he was admitted to a hospital, venture to a remote part of the world and somehow get his boat there, make his companion permanently disappear, and lie low enough in some other part of the world so as not to be easily detected. This guy was a fisherman working in Mexico who seems to have come from an economically challenged background - do we really think that he came up with the world's greatest hoax and went to such extreme lengths to carry it out? No, I don't think he did.

I think Alvarenga was a man who was thrown into extreme circumstances and found out exactly what he was capable of. Life-threatening circumstances have made things that seem impossible possible before; it's not a new phenomenon. You can find any number of stories about ordinary people lifting extraordinary weight when a family member or friend is trapped under something, even though they never should have been able to have the strength to. You hear about horrible historical events like the Holocaust, where some people were miraculously able to survive work camps even though they had no food, no water, had to work constantly, were beaten, were abused in every way possible, had no sanitation, etc. Sometimes, against all odds, people are able to survive. Just because we don't understand it doesn't mean it's not possible.

Do you believe that truth can be stranger than fiction?

Friday, January 31, 2014

A Little Bit of My EDS Reality

One of the reasons I initially decided to start a blog was to be able to give my own perspective on my medical issues. I had suspected there was something odd about me medically for years before I was finally diagnosed in September with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, but in many ways, I didn't realize how abnormal some of my symptoms were. I didn't even realize they were symptoms! Since September, I've learned a lot about myself and the world around me, and in some ways, life makes much more sense than it ever did.

Most people I've come into contact with have never even heard of EDS. The people closest to me are just beginning to understand what it means for me and what is has meant for me. Most of the things written about it are so clinical; I think it's very difficult for a healthy person to understand what EDS can really mean. Symptoms and manifestations of the Syndrome vary from type to type and person to person, but in the hopes of enlightening people to the actual impact EDS can have on a person's life, here's a list of ways my EDS has impacted MY life.
  1. Three and a half years ago, I lost most of the productive use of my feet. I somehow fractured my right talus (a bone in the ankle), the fracture didn't heal, and I had to have surgery 6 months later to remove scar tissue and the broken-off piece of bone. While I was healing, I couldn't put pressure on that ankle, and a week after surgery, the other ankle started feeling bad. To this day, it still does, and it's been constantly swollen since then. I wear braces on both of my ankles, and I can't run, jump, skip, walk any significant distance, stand for any real period of time, or use stairs unless I absolutely need to.
  2. Even though EDS gives me "loose joints" and has forced me to live an extremely sedentary lifestyle, you'd never know it from my muscles. Especially in my legs, they are large, and they are super tight all the time, which means I constantly experience at least a low level of pain, fatigue, and/or soreness from which there's ZERO relief. Intense massage can help a bit, but it's not easy for people around me to do, because it's hard to get into the muscle. Imagine trying to knead a new basketball. That's what it's like trying to manipulate the muscles in my legs.
  3. Most of the time, when I'm just going to school, I don't bother doing anything fancy to my hair. I used to straighten it almost every day (I have ridiculous Italian frizzy curls), but I stopped a few years ago - because it was painful. I never understood how other women got up and did their hair everyday, and then I realized that they were able to because they weren't in pain from it. I thought it was natural for my hands and wrists and arms to feel horrible after. I didn't realize that my finger joints, wrists, elbows, and shoulders were all constantly subluxing while I was working on my hair.
  4. I am extremely clutzy, and not matter how careful I am, I always knock into things/knock things over. I smash my knees and/or elbows into doorjambs, walls, and tables/desks constantly, even when I conciously try not to. I will pour myself a glass of water, put it down, and not even thirty seconds later, manage to send it flying across the room even when I'm concentrating really hard on not accidentally knocking it over. My poor proprioception is because my joints don't have any idea where they are in space, so they can't accurately tell my brain where they are, allowing me to avoid such mishaps. This might also be why I'm terrible at parking straight.
  5. Before I was born, my mother's doctor thought I was going to be born with spina bifida, because my AFP was abnormally high. After I was born, I developed jaundice, had severe milk allergies, and ended up at the doctor's office/ER multiple times for breathing treatments. I had chronic bronchitis, severe allergies which required shots, and by the time I was seven, my doctor noticed that I had absolutely no arch whatsoever on my feet, and I walked incorrectly. By the time I was ten, by orthopedist could pull my knee-cap halfway down my leg, and he told me I was "loose-jointed." I had chronic sinusitis and chronic ear infections, but I couldn't run a fever. I began to have chronic ankle issues - they were constantly rolling, I tripped all over the place all the time, and I went through all manner of braces and orthotics. I started getting injured constantly, and my healing times were over double what they should have been. I started having issues with milk again, and ended up doubled over in pain almost every night for no apparent reason, feeling like something was clawing and ripping at my insides. All of these symptoms were EDS-related, but not a single doctor ever mentioned the fact that there might be something bigger at work.
  6. Every morning, I wake up with something new dislocated. Dislocations are supposed to be painful - and they are - but when you deal with them sometimes multiple times daily, you kind of get desensitized to it. As long as you can pop the joint back into place, you feel like everything's normal.
  7. For someone who isn't blind or legally blind, I have pretty bad eyesight. My prescription is currently between -6.25 and -6.50. I literally cannot function without my glasses or contacts, and I need to be very careful, if I take my glasses off, to remember where I put them down. If I don't remember, I'm in trouble, because I pretty much need my glasses to find my glasses.
  8. Stairs are bad. Very, very bad. It sounds crazy, but they're actually life-threatening. Since my joints are extremely unstable bodywide, I am a huge fall risk. If my ankles aren't rolling even with the braces and causing me to trip, my knees or my hips are likely dislocating, and when one part dislocates or subluxes while I'm in motion, another part inevitably follows. I can hold on to a railing or another person, but my wrists, elbows, and shoulders all sublux and dislocate, so that doesn't make things much better. Considering I have issues not tripping and falling flat on my face on flat, even surfaces, stairs terrify me. Years ago, when I used them regularly, I used to brace myself for a fall - I tripped up the stairs at least once a day every day I was in high school.
  9. I don't ever feel well-rested. Ever. I can function after 7 and 1/2 hours of sleep, but on any less than that, I'm feel like garbage all day and can't keep myself awake. I set three alarms in succession the morning to mentally prepare myself to wake up, because I feel just as tired in the morning when I get up as I did at night when I went to bed. I also have my boyfriend call me every day to wake me up, because I sleep like the dead. Even if I've already gotten 8-12 hours of sleep, I sometimes won't wake up to my alarm clock and my phone blaring on full volume. I used to regularly oversleep the alarms by as much as three hours. I also seem to have a digestive intolerance/allergy for caffeine, so coffee, tea, or anything caffienated is out of the question unless I want to spend the next four hours in the bathroom.
  10. I am extremely flexible. Creepily flexible. I had no idea that most other people couldn't touch their palms to the floor with their knees locked straight or that there was any part of someone's back they actually couldn't scratch until last year. I also only recently came to understand why women say they need someone to zip/unzip their dress.
So, welcome to my weird world. Do you know anyone with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Snowpocalypse Janus

Right now, I'm comfortably settled in the law library, and there are approximately 14 inches of snow on the ground. Snowpocalypse Janus hit Long Island and NYC yesterday, causing massive chaos and panic throughout the region. Attempting to make the drive home yesterday was one of the most physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting experiences I've ever had in my life, so much so that I think I might still be running primarily on adrenaline now.

In the morning, everything was fine - until the snow started 3 hours earlier than predicted. By noon, the media and public officials were telling everyone to get home ASAP, because the worst of the storm would be upon us soon, and travel would be extremely hazardous. Of course, the NYC and Long Island region is hugely populated, and millions of people commute back and forth to work every day. In fact, so many people commute back and forth that rush hour in the region, occuring in both the morning and in the evening, can be up to four hours long each rush, because of severe overcrowding of the roadways and public transport. So yesterday, all at once, you had not groups of commuters on the road (people who generally leave their workplaces at different times during the normal rush hours), but ALL commuters on the road. Literally everyone in the area decided they'd better head home at the same time. Most of the main roads were sanded and/or salted in the morning, but snow was coming down at the rate of over an inch an hour. Temperatures were well below freezing, and the roads filled so quickly and cars had to move so slowly that it actually felt like the apocalypse was occuring. My boyfriend's home, which is normally a relatively quick 10-20 minute drive from my school, took me over 90 minutes to reach. Traffic on the parkway going towards his house moved at an average rate of about 7 miles an hour. Cars were sliding out and getting stuck all over the place, and I passed accident after accident on the way.

After stopping at my boyfriend's house to check the traffic reports and the weather, I figured out an alternate route home. I got back in my car, and it was honestly like the world was ending. Two hours later, I'd only made it about two miles from his house, and I hadn't even managed to average a mile an hour the entire way. I stopped at the Container Store just to get myself out of the car and calm down; the radio had announced that two of the nearby parkways were closed due to accidents, and the weather was steadily getting worse. My parents, both frantic, kept trying to get in touch with me. My father suggested staying in a hotel, but everything I'd really need for an overnight stay was at home: my phone charger, my medications, etc. My father's girlfriend's house was about another two miles away, and we decided that I'd try to get there, and either my father would try to come get me later or bring me some stuff, if the roads weren't going to be passable for my small car. It took me almost two hours to get to my father's girlfriends house, but thankfully, I made it there safely.

Normally, I spend a maximum of two hours driving in the car per day. By the time I arrived at my father's girlfriend's house, I'd spent a total of five hours driving my car through snow, ice, and stand-still traffic. I was so glad to be someplace warm where I could rest and try to relax.

For the next few hours, I monitored traffic cameras, traffic maps, and attempted to figure out what to do. At around 9 o'clock, the roads were finally clear enough that I was able to go home, driving less than 35 mph the whole way. I don't think I'd ever been happier in my entire life to be home. There were many times in the car yesterday that I wondered if I would even get home; I worried that I'd run out of gas, spin out, get in an accident, have the car break down, break down myself, not be able to physically endure the demands of driving due to my EDS - it was terrifying.

I am so grateful that I made it home in one piece. I am not grateful for the mass hysteria induced by the media and public figures, or for the utter failure of anyone to predict how bad the storm would get so early. Realistically, by the time anyone revised the time that the storm would be the worst, we were all screwed, because it was a race against the clock to get home before then - and no one could. We were all out in the worst parts of the storm, simply because someone got the weather report wrong... and then scared us all into heading out exactly when we should have been sheltering in place.

I think I need a nap.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Old and New

Sometimes, the law library feels like my second home. I spend so much time in here reading (and relaxing, when I have the time); it was almost strange to be elsewhere during break. Yes, my law school classes have started up again... too early! I could have used another week or two of break.

But now I'm back to the daily grind, which honestly isn't so bad. I'm one of those people who's only happy when I know I'm doing something with my life; little breaks and vacations are great, but too much time spent lazing around always ends up making me depressed. I tend to feel like I'm stagnating if I'm not working towards some sort of goal, which is why 2013 was a difficult year for me but also felt like a turning point in my life.

I started off 2013 with the flu and the one-year anniversary of my car accident, where I was hit from behind while stopped. I was depressed that I wasn't in school or employed, and I was really nervous about finishing my transfer applications and pretty down on myself in general. Losing my scholarship in law school, though the circumstances were extreme (shingles during fall finals, allergic reaction and cellulitis before spring finals, a debilitating care accident at the beginning of the spring semester which left me in PT 3x per week and unable to drive for a month, with horrendous, I-need-to-lay-down-NOW headaches, my mother's cancer scare and surgery in February, and there being a power surge that shut down my computer during my Transnational Law final and a proctor with no idea what to do) and my grades weren't bad (loads of B+s, a few Bs, and a B- in Transnational Law), made me question everything. Before starting law school, I was so sure it was exactly where I was supposed to be, and everything devastated me so much that I spent a lot of time wondering if maybe everything that happened was just a sign that I wasn't supposed to be in law school. My boyfriend, who hadn't had a car for over a year and was struggling with unemployment due to the job market and his bachelor's degree in sociology, managed to find a temp position, save enough money to afford to lease a new Nissan at a manageable price, and finally, finally get back into school, something he'd been intending to do since we met. To my surprise, I was accepted into a higher ranked law school than my former law school, AND the higher ranked school, which actually cost slightly less than my former law school, offered me significant scholarship money. (I'll still have boatloads of student loan debt when I graduate, but every bit of help helps!) I was nervous about attending, still in the midst of my quarter-life crisis, but everything ended up working out really well. I honestly believe that everything I went through with my former law school was so that I'd end up here. I hated my first year in law school, but the environment here is so different, so much more open and welcoming. I've made a few friends, gotten involved in a student organization, met some great professors, and I'm about 25,000x happier than I was at my former law school. I didn't apply to this school right out of college for several reasons, all of which I've thankfully found out were baseless worries. I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome in the last months of 2013, which evoked a lot of mixed emotions that weren't always easy to deal with, but at least now I can begin getting the kind of care I need to preserve my not-already-shot joints and my the rest of my health. I found a wonderful online support group for the condition, and I've begun educating friends and family members about EDS, which has helped me a lot.

2013 was also a big year for me in terms of my genealogy research. I found and connected with numerous modern-day descendants of my ancestors on both sides of my family, getting in touch with everyone from third cousins living locally and fifth half-cousins once removed living an ocean away in Denmark. I got all the paperwork together to finally order my great-grandfather's death certificate to find out the names of his parents and be able to start tracing the family back in Italy, and I found out some crazy information about my mother's father's mother's side of the family.

All in all, 2013 was a really big year for me. It had its struggles, but without them, I wouldn't be moving forward. I'm glad to be. 2014 has been fine thus far; my professors don't seem terrible, nor do my classes. My schedule isn't the most convenient thing in the world, but it's not bad either - it should allow me to get a lot of work done at school, which will be nice, since it means I'll have less to do on the weekends. I also did order my great-grandfather's death certificate, and to my surprise, the office was able to give it to me right away - I didn't have to wait the 4 to 6 weeks I thought I would have to for them to send it to me. I've already found another family member on my father's side that's more closely related to us than I thought I'd be able to find, and the grades I've received thus far - and the grades my boyfriend has received in the classes he took this past semester - have been pretty good. I finally got an A in law school (and in a subject in the field I want to work in), which was pretty awesome.

A very happy new year to all of you out there!

How did 2013 go for you? Did you hit any turning points in your life this year?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Outsider

I'll be honest: I'm someone that doesn't usually like change. I know it's inevitable and a part of life, but it's disorienting, and that makes me uncomfortable. I like to always have a plan, and change tends to throw all your plans out the window.

This Christmas was a big change for me. Since I was a little girl, I've always spent it with my family, immediate or extended. Since my parents divorced, our celebrations have been much smaller than they once were, but there has still always been a comfortable familiarity about them. Until this year. This year, instead of my mother doing a Christmas Eve party, she asked my father if he was okay with her doing Christmas with my sister and I instead. Normally, my father does Christmas with my sister and I, since Christmas is also his birthday. Because my father is in a serious relationship with a woman whose family does a big Christmas Day celebration, he told my mother that would be fine. It took the pressure off of him to cook, and he's very comfortable with his girlfriend's family, most of whom neither my sister or I have ever met. So, on Christmas Day, he went off to his girlfriend's mother's house, and I went off to my mother's house.

Every Christmas Eve, my mother throws a party for her boyfriend's fiancĂ©'s (they live together and have been engaged for a few years, but there's no serious talk of a wedding) family. Her own family is not invited, except for my sister and I and our significant others, if we want them there. So, this year was no different, it was just that everyone was coming on Christmas Day instead of Christmas Eve. No big deal, right?

Except in some ways, it was a big deal. I had become accustomed to the new normal: seeing my mother Christmas Eve, and spending Christmas at home with my father, having a really low-key day with good food, lots of time to relax, and being in the company of only those people I'm closest to. It allowed me to continue winding down from the day before, which was undoubtedly stressful. You see, I have never liked my mother's boyfriend fiancé. He and I are civil to each other, but we will never have a familial bond - I accept that he's a part of my mother's life and important to her, but that's where my regard for him begins and ends. He has done things that have had a direct, massively negative effect on my life, my sister's life, and my father's life, and as far as I'm concerned, the actions he actively chose to take - the things he chose to do - are unforgiveable. So... it's really quite awkward for me to be around his whole family.

His family loves my mother. They love my sister. They're civil to me, but they treat me like the daughter time forgot - even though I've been spending Christmas Eve with them for the past eight years at least. They all exchange their gifts for the holidays at my mother's house. My mother and her boyfriend buy everyone gifts. My sister and I never do. When it comes time for them to hand out their gifts, at least two or three of them always give something to my sister. I never get anything. And I realize that Christmas is about giving and not receiving, but I can't say it doesn't sting that my sister is always included, and I'm... just not. It doesn't help that it took most of them years to remember my name, and even now a few ask my mother what my name is when they walk in the house and see me.

This Christmas, I felt like an outsider, which is something I don't think I ever expected to feel on Christmas. Even when I realized, after my parents split-up, that someday it was likely Christmas would be celebrated with whoever they chose to be with, I had hoped anyone either of my parents chose to be with would at least try to make my sister and I feel comfortable during the holidays. I didn't expect gifts or to be considered part of the family, but people remembering my name after eight plus years and treating my sister and I the same as far as gifts/no gifts would be nice. I am my mother's daughter, not a stranger or a guest of my mother's they've never met before. I've thought about what it would be like to be in a relationship with someone who also celebrated Christmas and to celebrate with their family instead of my own - even if I felt like an outsider, that would be a situation I chose.

Have you ever felt like an outsider at a holiday celebration?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Holidays from Hell

Okay, so can I just skip the winter holidays this year? Pretty please?

I don't mean to be a Grinch, but I am having the week from hell, and my level of Christmas spirit is at an all-time low. I was looking forward to being done with finals, decorating the house, sending out cards, making cookies, making some money babysitting, seeing my family, and spending time with my boyfriend. Of course, then shit hit the fan, and it took all of my excitement for the season with it.

My week started off with me getting sick again, right after finals. I've felt crappy for days, all stuffed up and gross. Then, the father of the two little kids I babysit for got hurt at work, meaning he was home with the kids instead of me. I love those kids to death, and babysitting them seriously makes my day when I do, so that was super depressing along with meaning that both the father and I were out the cash he'd get by working and I'd get by babysitting, right before Christmas, when it's usually needed the most. My mother then decided to turn everyone's holiday plans upside down and cancelled Christmas Eve dinner, replacing it with Christmas Day dinner - which would be okay, except my sister and I was planning to be with my father, as we have for the past eleven or so years since my parents split up, since Christmas is his birthday. He's okay with it, because now he'll go spend Christmas with his girlfriend and her kids, but my sister and I aren't invited since we're supposed to be with our mother. My mother is having her boyfriend's entire family over, and none of her own besides me. It's awkward, especially since her boyfriend and I have never and will never be on good terms due to the circumstances surrounding them getting together.

As if that wasn't enough, there's relationship crap going on - I couldn't even tell you if I'm in one anymore. I've been really upset, so now in addition to being all clogged up, my face is sore and swollen from crying and I'm nauseous. (And he's not speaking to me.) A bad fight right before the holidays when you've been together for almost three years will do that to you.

Originally, I'd planned to make a happy post about holiday traditions, but for obvious reasons, that isn't happening. I'm happy that nothing worse as happened yet (like a death in the family or something), but at the same time, it's hard to be grateful that the worst hasn't happened, you know?

What's screwed up your holidays?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

EDS and Law School Finals

It's that time of year again. No, not the holidays - finals season! I had my first final today; I have four more and a paper to write before I'm done for the semester. I'm scheduled to be down with everything at 3PM on December 16th, but it's going to be a crazy couple of weeks.

Originally, this post was going to be a short note to let everyone know that I'll probably be M.I.A. until my semester's over, but I had been thinking a lot lately about how I haven't really posted much about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and its effects on me yet. I'd really like to help educate people about EDS and the impact it can have on a person's life, because most people haven't even heard of it, nevermind understand how drastically it can affect someone's life. So, today, before I'm away for a couple of weeks, I'd like to talk a little bit about how my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome affects me, specifically during finals.

Finals are pretty much hell for everyone. There's a lot of studying to be done, a lot of stressing out about things you didn't learn during the semester, and the fact that you have to attempt to prove to a professor in a few hours that you know everything he or she taught you during the course. It's not fun.

For me, finals have become a sort of special hell. There are no epic complications that occur because of my EDS, but there are enough little annoying things that happen that serve to make the experience all the more stressful because I have a connective tissue disorder.

So, what's the first problem? Testing rooms. At my law school, there are a number of classrooms that slope downwards; you enter the classroom in the back of the room, and you walk down stairs towards the front of the room. Of course, one of the complications of my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, presumably Type III/Hypermobility Type, is that all of my joints are extremely unstable, epecially in my lower extremities. My ankles are so unstable that I have to wear braces on both of them all the time, and even with the braces, I'm constantly in pain, can't walk significant distances, can't stand for any extended periods of time, or use stairs. Between my ankles, my knees, and my hips, which all sublux (i.e. move partially out-of-joint) regularly (re: almost every time I move them), I'm a huge fall risk, especially with stairs. No problem, right? I can sit in the back of the room. I can get to the testing room a bit earlier so that I don't have to ask anyone to move, no big deal. What about signing in and out of the testing room, like everyone's required to do? That's a bit of an issue, because the proctors always stand in the front of the room with the sign-in/sign-out papers, and it'd be really awkward to try and shout up and down the stairs to them that I'm disabled and can't use stairs. So, again, simple solution: I get to the classroom early, I ask to speak to a proctor as soon as one enters the room so I don't have to broadcast my health problems, and I explain the situation. No problem, they can bring the sheet up to me when it comes time for me to sign out. All I need to do is wait until everyone else has signed out, because when the test is over, everyone lines up in the front. Okay, great. I have to sit in the room until everyone else has left, watching as people stare at me and wonder why I don't just walk down the stairs, since I cover up my braces with pants and most people don't realize I'm handicapped. Even still, it's a small price to pay, right?

Other issues are created by the testing classrooms being located where they are. Most of my testing rooms are on the lower level of my law school, which is basically like a basement... with higher ceilings. As it happens, there are no restrooms on the lower level, which means if you need to use the restroom during an exam, you have to run upstairs. (Most students will literally run as quietly as possible - every minute of time on a law school exam is precious, and the longer you're gone, the less likely it is you're going to have time to finish the exam/write the answers to essay questions as adequately as you should.) As I mentioned, I can't use stairs. Instead, if I have to pee during an exam, I have to wait for the elevator - which can be slow as molasses, since it serves eight floors - to take me up a floor, and then I have to wait for it to take me back down. Once again, it's not the greatest scenario.

After I got home from my exam today, I was notified by e-mail of another issue: parking lot closings. I have a handicapped parking hang-tag, because as I mentioned, walking any sort of significant distance is a problem for me. I sometimes have issues walking 50 feet, so not having parking available close to the building can turn into a huge issue. (Believe it or not, the availability of handicapped parking close to the law school building was a huge factor in me deciding to transfer to the school I'm attending. The other school I was considering didn't have parking nearby, and because it also wasn't close enough to easily accessible public transport, I had to eliminate it as an option.) Now, in addition to studying my ass off, I have to find time tomorrow to call Public Safety and see what's up, because part of the lot I usually park in is supposed to be closed before my final on Friday. If the handicapped parking will be closed or minimized, I have to figure out where to park. The only other lot nearby is a faculty lot, which I could get a ticket for parking in even with my handicapped tag. I can't walk from anywhere further away, meaning that Public Safety is probably going to have to send a Public Safety vehicle or golf cart to pick me up from an alternative parking lot and shuttle me up and back from my car to my final. Considering though that this is Public Safety, I could be totally screwed if they're busy. Public Safety had to shuttle me to and from my classes when I was an undergraduate student when I fractured an ankle and couldn't crutch the mile and a half across campus in the snow, and because of all the stuff they have to do, it could sometimes take them twenty minutes to an hour to get to me. If Public Safety at this school has to shuttle me anywhere, I'm going to have to make sure to arrive extra, extra early in order to make sure I get to my exams on time, all because I can't freaking walk to the building from the parking lot in Guam.

My exams themselves pose further problems. Sitting in a chair and typing furiously for three hours with no break or a super short bathroom break is not nice when you have arthritis in an ankle, a knee, and an elbow, as well as degenerative disk disease in your spine. I constantly have low-level pain throughout my body due to the EDS, and adding the inability to really move for three hours definitely doesn't help matters. As a special bonus, my fingers sublux constantly as I type, and I get horrible muscle pain in my arms from trying to keep my movements controlled. Thankfully, it goes away after a few hours.

Now, don't get me wrong: things could be so much worse. All of these things are relatively minor inconveniences - at the end of the day, I can still take my exam and go home. But as much as these complications are small in the grand scheme of things, they are still complications. They still can and do present additional challenges that I have to overcome in order to accomplish the same seemingly simple task as every other law student - taking finals. It is frustrating, and it's the type of thing I don't just deal with during finals - EDS affects my everyday life in so many ways. Tasks that most people don't even think about can be a challenge for me, whether it's something as simple as brushing my hair (painful wrist subluxations mean constantly dropping the brush while hissing in pain) or getting a drink of water (my shoulder dislocates when I have to get the water jug down from the top shelf of the fridge). I'm so grateful that my problems aren't worse, but at the same time, I wish more people would take the time to understand that a non-obvious disability is still a disability, and it still has the power to impact someone's life in an extremely significant way. Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Do you think people should be more aware of the existence and impact of non-obvious disabilities?

See you all in a couple of weeks!