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Including mental and autoimmune illnesses, stress, and psychological abuse, etc in Common App essay?

RobinsonFaithA 1 / 1  
Apr 23, 2017   #1

What should I do?

I got rejected from all my colleges this year, and it's all my fault. I hate myself and life right now. I feel so ashamed and humiliated. Towards the end of my junior year, I developed the early stages of Fibromyalgia and Lupus. I don't know if this is an okay place to post this.

It started with Fibromyalgia - cognitive dysfunction (couldn't focus/understand things quickly) and pain (headaches, muscle, and joint pain). It has taken about a year to finally get diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Lupus. Since February 2016 to now, the following has happened, progressing in severity and intensity each month or relapsing and remitting:

Hair falling out (scalp hair, eyelashes, leg hair)
Insomnia (on average, I slept 4 hours or less for months. It was making me crazy in a non DSM way. During a sleep study, my Fibromyalgia made me get aroused from sleep over 201 times and awaken 20 times in 6 hours, resulting in non-restorative sleep and a loss of 51 minutes of sleep.)

Lost the ability to read or write, speak, etc.. I had to take my SAT like that. It's a 1450/1600. Not high enough for some of the schools I applied to. I can't afford to re-take any of the tests I've taken.

Couldn't hold things without dropping them
Headaches and fatigue were so bad I could barely do anything mentally anymore. Pain and fatigue were so bad I could barely do anything physical anymore.

Chronic, severe memory loss and language impairment.
Thinning skin. You can see my veins on my eyes, coming out of my mouth down past my jaw, my legs, hands, etc..
Raynaud's Phenomenon (in response to cold, my blood vessels will spasm and restrict blood flow).
Malar/butterfly rash and subacute cutaneous Lupus rash that caused scaly circles on my hands.
Personality changes
Likely involvement of the brain with Lupus (mood changes, neuropsychiatric symptoms, etc.)
More lovely stuff like that.

Much of my senior year was spent in bed, screaming into my pillow and sobbing from the pain, fatigue, and good old feelings I had. After months of not knowing what the h*ll was happening to me, I was so anxious. Then, when I had to apply to schools, the anxiety and unease skyrocketed.

I also have Bipolar Disorder.

My main Common Application essays did not address the prompts. One was in the wrong section and was not put in the wrong place where it NOT was supposed to go. I also wrote horrible e-mails to colleges. They were horrible because I sounded like was clinically, DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), crazy. It was even worse because I told colleges I was diagnosed with a mood disorder or I even specified Bipolar Disorder. In the beginning of March 2017, after I got diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, I also told them that disorder. Because I showed signs of a systemic disorder (cough, cough, Lupus), but I couldn't be diagnosed with Lupus yet because I did not 4 out of the 11 diagnostic criteria for the American College of Rheumatology, I told them I had an unspecified systemic disorder. Wait, it gets worse. Because I did not have any medication for my disorders/syndromes yet, and I had been suffering for about a year getting sicker each month, I told them after a sleep deprived, pain-filled day, that I felt like I was dying, that I couldn't really read or write anymore (so that's why my essay to them had typos in it), and that I couldn't sleep anymore, and so on. I had typos in most of the e-mails I sent to colleges, too. I'd call them, not realizing I was calling the wrong school, so I'd have to lie and make up some bullshit excuse for calling them. I'd forget what I'd said or e-mailed. Sometimes, I'd send an e-mail and have to send like 5 more because I didn't ask everything I needed to because I didn't remember what I needed to ask.

One school I wrote to I said I felt like I was living in "squalid poverty", we are low-income, then sent another e-mail to them saying I was sorry for saying that and didn't mean to, and that I "terrified of NOT getting into X". Yeah, I got rejected. I also sent that same school the wrong information in an e-mail and had to send another one with the correct information.

Another school I wrote to, an e-mail sounded like I was being sarcastic. Also, my test scores dropped from the 97 to 42nd percentile.

It gets even worse. While I did not have the medication I needed, I wrote to Harvard, Brown, and Vassar that I just like feeling control of my environment (I even specified "not people!"), so I was anxious when I felt out of control, and that I had OCD, too!

I told them I was psychologically and psychosexually abused and bullied for a few years, which I was. It had been older men who manipulated and abused me psychologically/psychosexually. No physically sexual abuse. Just psychological.

I'm still very stressed. We're most likely going to homeless soon. I'm an orphan who's living with a legal guardian who's been suffering from clinical depression. She's shut down recently. I've often had to be the adult for the 2 of us combined. We're going to get kicked out of our apartment in about a month, we haven't been able to pack a single thing into a box between us so far. Neither of us can drive right now. She's had her license suspended due to a car insurer's error, and we can't afford to pay higher premiums for me to drive. Our car doesn't have air conditioning, and we're in South Florida. Neither of us knows whether I'll have health insurance after my birthday due to Medicaid restrictions. My organs have recently begun failing.

I had to take a drastically reduced senior year courseload. Also, the psychological abuse and bullying, a lack of connections and guidance, etc. resulted in me not having a lot of group extracurriculars. Now, because I have to be on immunosuppressants for the Lupus, group activities could be really bad for me. I will catch tons of colds and have to treat each one very aggressively. I don't know what I'll be able to do for viruses.

I'm absolutely lost as to what I should do. I have to take an extra year of highschool. I want to use the QuestBridge application this fall to re-apply to many of them and re-apply for Harvard through the Common Application, but I'd applied to many of these schools this year and f**ked myself over with them. I don't know whether I should just hope they don't remember me or write about my experiences in my essays. Lupus and Fibromyalgia are chronic and have no cure. I don't know what to do if they google those conditions. I could have a stroke from Lupus in my early 20s. It's not uncommon. They might get these links which may make them think I can't handle the stress:

Here's the summary for Fibromyalgia:
"Just getting through the day can often be hard for teens... Add in the challenges of living with fibromyalgia, and coping with school can seem like one giant hurdle."

Quote from student: "Even getting to class was incredibly difficult on many days,"
"Living with fibromyalgia can bring a host of difficulties when it comes to success in school. Symptoms may include aches, pains, headaches, fatigue and sleep disturbances as well as anxiety, depression, and difficulty concentrating."

"Fatigue leads to general reduction in school performance,"
"I just graduated from college with my bachelor's degree. It was a hard-won battle and involved me dropping out of school, twice."

Here's an excerpt from a woman with lupus:

"it will take a lot longer before you realize your accumulated physical investment is landing you in the red and you owe hours in sleep debt. It doesn't feel great. It feels like fatigue even after you sleep eight hours. It feels like lower back pain that's not bad enough to be immobilizing, but still hurts enough to be your every third thought. It feels like feeling bad for just sitting and resting because you had tried to convince yourself you could operate at the same physical level as your peers. And... you just can't."

"If you're returning to school after a lupus flare-up or are newly diagnosed and quite ill, it may be a good idea not to take a full load of classes. As lenient as teachers can be about deadlines and absences, you also won't be able to pass a class if you can't keep up with the work." I told Harvard I might just have to ask to be able to attend part-time.

I don't know whether they'd be able to spot BS if I imply there's virtually no chance of a relapse in my Lupus. There's absolutely NO guarantee. In fact, stress will make it go crazy. I don't know if I should mention anything it all. If I don't they'll be left with tons of questions... I just want to cry. What if the colleges remember I said I was Bipolar, and they think I went crazy during that time? I was NOT manic!

What do you think I should do?
Holt  Educational Consultant - / 13,223 4319  
Apr 23, 2017   #2
Faith, are you planning to apply to the same college and universities this time around? If you plan to do so, then explain about your illness in the extenuating circumstances essay that asks why you failed to gain acceptance the first time or how your situation has changed since you last applied for admission. That should help you to explain why your first application went so badly at their school. For the fresh universities, you can probably use the background essay prompt to describe the illness and its effect on you / you and your family. You should definitely share the history of your illnesses with the university because the professors need to take note of your "special needs" as a student and thus, make accommodations for any shortcoming that you may have in their classes. Pick the prompt that will best allow you to explain the background of your illnesses this time around but do not go overboard the way you did here. Control the information and release it only a need to know basis, depending upon the prompt requirement.
OP RobinsonFaithA 1 / 1  
Apr 23, 2017   #3
Thank you. I want to use the QuestBridge application this fall to re-apply to many of them and re-apply for Harvard through the Common Application. Unfortunately, there was no way I could've controlled the information, not with everything I was under. I didn't have anyone to help me. No guidance counselor, no parent who can help, nobody. Even if I did, I was out of my mind, quite literally... I'm afraid to mention it, because it seems like even if I explain what I'm going through to people, none of them understand it. It's like I'm talking to a wall. People look or (don't) listen to me and think I'm not so sick, so why couldn't I have just done XYZ? That's what I told one of my doctors after I was diagnosed. She told me to get a job so I could pay for her services not covered by insurance like it was the easiest thing to do. Months of sleep deprivation, non-restorative sleep, bodily damage, etc.. do things to a person that "normal" people never have gone through :/. None of the schools ask if I've applied before, I believe, so I'm still not sure if I should even mention it. If accepted, I could talk to the professors myself. If I have a relapse of the illness, I may not be able to control it and suffer the same fate as I did this time. That's why this happened. I thought including the information here would be good because this is what they'll find if I even mention I got Lupus and they looked it up, and I didn't know who here would know what either Fibromyalgia or Lupus is. Most people in the U.S. and UK don't. Anyway, this information is practically on the first page results on Google, but it's scattered through many websites, so I thought I'd summarize which of it applies to me because it could really hurt if they think anything beyond "Huh, what's Lupus? Whatever: next!". For example, Raynaud's is bad because the schools I applied to are in the North, which means cold weather could cause my blood vessels to spasm and start my tissues decaying. I guess I wrote some of the other stuff because I haven't told anyone the full extent of the stuff I did. I can't talk to anyone in real life about it because I'm so ashamed that I had no control, I literally can't talk about it. It hurts too much.

Edit: Do you also have advice for whether I should mention the stress I was under, and the psychological abuse + illness' effects had on my courses and extracurriculars? There's a lot of intertwining issues that addressing the issues alone wouldn't wholly address because the timeline wouldn't end up.

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