Standardized Tests and Chronic Illness

Frustration. That’s the emotion I find myself coming back to recently. Frustrated I can’t study for longer than three hours without the next day being a flare. Frustrated when I wake up and immediately know studying is not in the cards at all. Frustrated that I can’t seem to fall asleep no matter how tired I am. Frustrated that everyday seems to bring a new battle. Frustrated, when all I want to do is rest.

I started studying for the LSAT in April and it has been a long couple of months. While it has been hard, it came at a fairly opportune time. The pandemic means that I am not distracted, and I don’t feel pressure to fill my day with the social obligations of a “healthy” person. Instead, I can structure my entire day around studying. I can wake up late, study for an hour, and take a nap if needed, and be in a better position to study that night. It’s a silver lining. I also feel endless gratitude that I am functioning well enough to even consider taking this exam because there was a time when it would have been out of the question.

But recently, its been a struggle. The LSAT is a demanding test that is broken into 35 minute increments, and every second of that time requires 100% focus. I definitely do not have that. I am able to get through a handful of questions, but then my brain will freeze, and I am stuck rereading a section four times before I absorb any of it. I’ve had to find ways to limit those lapses and work faster in other parts of the test to make up for them. Similarly, I get fatigued incredibly easily, so by the time one of the sections is over, I am ready to lie down and doing another is a daunting task. Thankfully, the test is now being administered online for the month of July because of the Coronavirus. This means there are three sections instead of five. If there were five, I’m not sure I would be able to get through it.

Pushing my brain this hard on a daily basis leaves me spent. All the energy is sucked out of me. My body feels like it going to collapse in on itself. The weight in each of my muscles seems too much. I am sure this frustration is common among those with chronic illness when studying for college or graduate entrance exams, so here are 5 tips I’ve picked up these past months:

  1. Spread out studying as much as possible
    • If you, like me, need to study everyday, then listen to your body. Split your study blocks in half and plan to take naps in between.
  2. Make a schedule, but prepare not to stick to it
    • I make a schedule at the beginning of every week. Writing out what I need to get done each day make the process seem more manageable. However, with chronic illness, everyday is an adventure you didn’t sign up for, so I understand tasks will be shuffled around throughout the week. I’m becoming more okay with that.
  3. Set intermediate goals
    • If you are a perfectionist like me, and you similarly have a Eugene telling you that your score needs to be prefect from the minute you start studying, breathe! Set intermediate goals that are actually achievable, this will help quite your inner-Eugene and give you a taste of success and fulfillment.
  4. Remember that your health is more important than your score
    • The test is not worth the deterioration of your health. You fight too hard for it. Prioritize taking your medication, working on detox therapies, and eating + drinking enough. The strength I get on a good day brings me hope to push through the really bad days. It makes me feel light. Those days will not come without prioritizing my health.
  5. Give yourself grace
    • There is no doubt that it is hard. It’s harder than it should be, and some days I find it helpful to be frustrated, to cry about it. However, one skill I’ve acquired from living a life of chronic illness is adaptability. We are incredible at adapting circumstances to better suit our health. We can adapt to studying for these tests too!

As always, be kind to yourself and others! Scroll to the bottom of the page to subscribe to the blog for more information on Lyme Disease!

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