Tuesday, April 28, 2015

One Degree Smarter

In a couple of weeks, I am graduating from McHenry County College with my Associates of Science in Administrative Office Management. Not only will I be receiving this degree, but I will have five certificates that display my name Leah Baird proudly for the world to see. Being a 23 year old graduate might not seem like a major accomplishment. But when I was in middle school, I was told from a counselor that I would never graduate from college. You might be wondering what could possibly give a counselor the foresight to predict such complicated and discouraging declarations.

During seventh grade my world changed, I developed into a child who was extremely tired all day every day. I would often sleep in class and when I got home from school. People around me thought I was having a growth spurt. I remember the first time I felt the uncontrollable need to sleep, my father a photographer took my brother Kyle and I up to Wisconsin to take photos of the beautiful landscape, and I slept the whole time. My dad would be trying to get me involved but I felt an insatiable need to sleep that no amount of sleep could correct. I have always enjoyed laughter, but at a certain point humor became a problem. I would collapse to the floor paralyzed during moments that I found funny many times a day. Hitting my head on my science textbooks or collapsing all the way to the floor from a standing position. This could be concerning to many parents, but mine considered I might be seeking attention since I am their youngest child of five children. Later in the summer, I started to have vivid dreams that frightened me to the point of nightly terror. I was so terrified at this time that I would cling to my father every night and in the process ruined his sleep cycle. This is what led my father to search for answers, one night he stayed up googling the phrase “night terrors and falling down laughing.” During his search he discovered something known as narcolepsy, and by morning with absolute certainty woke my mother up and said I had narcolepsy.

My middle school counselor took the fact that I had a severe sleep disorder to mean that I would never graduate from college which is quite sad of her narrow minded view. It seemed to say to me that regardless of my drive, purpose, and decisions in life I could never overcome my sleep disorder. I find this honestly comical today, and it reminds me of how far I have come on my journey. In my late teens, I was deeply troubled by this new diagnosis of narcolepsy not only because of the daily challenges it brought on but because of my worries about the way I would be perceived by others. I have blossomed from the shy teen that was fearful of others in the ten years I have lived with this sleep disorder. My purpose in life was refined by developing narcolepsy. I have taken a burden and decided to use it as a gift. In the fall of 2015, I will be heading to Rockford University to become a registered nurse. I plan to specialize in sleep medicine and specifically help the patients and parents of people with narcolepsy understand that life does get better. My journey is not over yet, but I will continue to fight daily for every accomplishment. My future is very bright and I am looking forward to continuing my journey!  

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