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‘I have PCOS, I cannot focus, and I am hanging on by a thread’

Editor’s note: This column by Forest Hills Central High senior Lynlee Derrick first appeared in The Central Trend, where she is editor-in-chief. 

Lynlee is starting her final year in the midst of all this COVID-19 chaos, which is fitting for her strange luck. This year has proved there is no guarantee, but that hasn’t stopped Lynlee from enjoying what this new normal consists of. From laggy Zoom calls to attempts at vegan baking to writing imperfect poems, she’s still finding a way to smile, a way to live, a way to take up some space each and every day. 

I am one for dramatics — I can admit my fault like that. But when I say this past month has been awful, I truly mean it.

Not only is there still a nationwide pandemic rendering my comfort spot of the cafe at D&W unusable, but I am losing every ounce of motivation. Like water in my hands, it tantalizes me; I can grasp onto it — grasp onto the 4.0 (grade-point average) student image that I’ve taken pride in for the past years — yet she slips between my fingers that are knotted from typing and so, so tired.

It’s like I’m becoming someone else. And I’m all for change. I like it when the leaves become a mosaic of color, and I like it when I can see emotions wash over my friends’ faces as a sign of humanity and sincerity. I like seeing myself grow as the years pass and when the ticks on the door frame climb up the wall.

But I don’t like regression. It is bitingly bitter and a cacophony of pleads from the old me and everything I used to pride myself on growing from.

Now I listen to Twenty One Pilots again far too often, now I find myself in my room for all of daybreak, now I find myself taking hours on assignments because no matter how hard I focus on the lessons — no matter how long I shut off my phone and tear away all distractions — I can never seem to focus.

And now I am diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). And now I am seeing a therapist. And now I am barely completing assignments.

It’s this constant stream of “now, now, now” that inundates my mind in hopeless waves of despair and a defeating feeling of drowning. Maybe that’s on me; I never learned how to swim — and this is not a literary device: I seriously cannot swim.

Yet no matter how many times I furiously knock on my head as a form of the lifejackets I know far too well for a 17-year-old, I am not being saved. Rather I am dragged farther beneath the water by my own monster: my Riptide of Recklessness. Every time I breach the surface with my knotted fingers grasping at the sky for answers and aid, I am pushed back under by Her grasp.

When I was finally becoming confident in my academic accomplishments and self-worth during my freshman year, I began to develop focus issues. And no, you boomer, it is not because of teenagers using phones. Instead, I fall so hopelessly behind in my classes, spending hours to reteach lessons and to make the seemingly opposing puzzle pieces fit, but it feels so futile when the clock screams to me that it is 3 a.m. and that I am far from done.

When I was finally getting comfortable in my schedule, trying every tactic my therapist gave me to focus better, I was met with weeks full of appointments. From Monday to Friday, I would see four different doctors. My jaw was unaligned, my armpits were un-Botoxed, my body was, well, not doing well, and I was devastatingly tired from being picked at, prodded at, and being questioned beyond my wits’ end.

And when I was finally over the appointments, I was given a decisive diagnosis: PCOS.

Yes, a weight was lifted from my shoulders knowing I wouldn’t have to monitor my body as closely as I had before. I was relieved to finally know the answer. But now that gratitude is far gone, running as soon as it got tough — I’m jealous of its ability to do that. I am instead left with medication upon medication, an ultrasound with surprisingly warm jelly (popular to contrary belief yet comforting for the exam), and all the side effects ranging from crippling abdominal pain that makes me vomit to hormonal imbalances that have ruined my body.

All in all, this was a long-winded way to say that I am irrevocably exhausted, falling behind, and one more pull from the Riptide away from throwing in the towel.

And somehow I feel guilty.

I oversleep classes because my medications make me drowsy. A biology lab took me five hours because my mind just wouldn’t shut off. My cystic acne has shattered any remnant of my self-esteem to the point where turning on the camera is an indomitable task. And honestly, there is a mountain of mental work I cannot get into in this column.

So I ask of you, dear reader, that you be kind. This time is so difficult for everyone; we have never experienced a pandemic before, and with our country’s poor handling of it, we have fallen behind. It feels so hopeless when caught in this situation, and I am far from a stranger to this feeling.

But beyond this, we have our lives still going; time is still ticking, a menace more now than ever. I am a testament to this. My world hasn’t stopped, and arguably, it has tilted and spun more now than ever while college apps, online learning, and countless exhausting final projects are thrown at me.

Please, please be kind to yourself, to others, to everyone during this uncertain and rocky period of life. Respect your time, and respect others’ time as well. Listen to your body. Give yourself grace.

Now more than ever, we must have grace with ourselves, and I certainly have.

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