Fainting In The Duderstadt: A New Approach To Research

Image Description: A visual journal entry, featuring my adorable emotional support cat, Poppy. I prefer journaling by drawing, as I think in images more quickly than I do in words. It also helps me to discern my thoughts if I represent them abstractly first.

I’ve always had some level of fatigue and lingering pain, but it’s taken a new form after lockdown ended and the world kept turning like nothing ever happened. Falling asleep while actively having conversation, missing my stop on the bus after dozing off, and thinking I’m awake when I’m actually dreaming (and oversleeping my alarm) have become a quirk to brush off to people that witness it, and a secret to keep from those who haven’t. My body finally gave up on me just over a week ago, when I started blacking out at the library and incoherently called the one person in Ann Arbor I know with a car, begging her to come pick me up. All of my nerves felt like they were on fire. My muscles felt like they were turning to stone. Quickly realizing that this mammoth-sized “inconvenience” could no longer be swept under the rug, I called my dad to ask for advice. He was quiet before telling me that my symptoms are reminiscent of my aunts when she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. 

I cannot jump to conclusions here, but the prevalent link between chronic conditions like fibromyalgia and ADHD cannot be ignored. In the wake of my little episode, my general physician gave me a referral for blood work, and my psychiatrist referred me to a sleep specialist. I took several COVID-19 PCR tests, all of which were negative. I’ve started the painstakingly slow process of eliminating issues in hopes of finding something — anything — that could help me feel better. 

Naturally, after going off the grid post-library-blackout, the residual “are you alive?” emails started trickling into my inbox, and I started pushing the “I am alive and I am sorry” emails through my outbox. As a result, I was able to schedule a Zoom call with one of my professors who, luckily for me, has a level of expertise in all things mental illness. Towards the end of our long talk about research and swapping stories about living with ADHD, she said something that I have not stopped thinking about since. In response to my dismay over not having a lot of research done for my IP class due to juggling school and health, she said something along the lines of “sometimes, you get to be your own research.” When you are living with the condition that you are creating about, sometimes keeping yourself alive is research in and of itself. Forcing myself through the healthcare system, going through medication change after medication change, and even just finding creative ways to get myself out of bed in the morning is all “research” that inspires my making. 

Pictured here is some visual journaling I did about this idea. I’m slowly unpacking how I am feeling about this past week, instead of pushing my own processing aside for the sake of trying to catch up on what I’ve missed while battling this Goliath symptom. I am taking care of myself. For research purposes, of course.  

Calin Firlit

My name is Calin, and this semester I’m going to be taking you all with me on the wild ride that is my Senior Independent Project (IP). As the title of this series suggests, every Monday I will be uploading Polaroid photos that show my process, and writing about how my work for the week is progressing!

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