How My Diagnosis Helped My GPA

It is interesting how being diagnosed with narcolepsy has significantly improved my GPA.

I began my undergraduate career in 2013. I was a different person then — more physically active, more willing to say yes to everything that was thrown my way, and ready to take on the world.

My college experience was an up-and-down roller coaster. During my freshman year, an unexpected family emergency resulted in missing a week of classes. This event triggered anxiety that followed me throughout my college years. I was misdiagnosed with thyroid problems and depression which was used as a reason for my constant fatigue.

Working myself too hard

Sleepiness was a dark cloud looming over me that couldn’t be escaped from. Looking back, I honestly don’t understand how I was so involved on campus while hardly sleeping at night. I was involved in the music education club, a music-service fraternity, a social sorority, and was a music education major, which involved a ton of work.

During my undergraduate years, I bounced anywhere from a 2.9 to a 3.4 GPA each semester. I struggled with staying on top of assignments and especially going to class. In my senior year of college, I picked up a part-time job at the local coffee shop. I distinctly remember posting on social media asking for advice on how to wake up early because I struggled to get up for 8 AM classes, let alone wake up at the crack of dawn to go to work.

Years of uncertainty

In spring 2017, I graduated with a general degree, not the music education degree I had studied for. This was a hard time in my life full of uncertainty and questions. It wasn’t until the fall of 2018 that I finally got some answers. Receiving a diagnosis of narcolepsy was something that I didn’t realize at the time would be life-changing.

Even though I wasn’t a certified teacher, I was hired at an elementary and middle school where I taught music for almost 4 years. After the pandemic had begun to settle down and we returned to in-person classes, I started to wonder if this was the time to return to college and complete the degree I had spent 4 years working towards.

Seeking accommodations for my narcolepsy at school

The first big hurdle I had to overcome was taking a long and difficult standardized test. It was during a narcolepsy support group call that my peers recommended I get accommodations for that test. At the time, I had never considered needing accommodations. “Just because I’m tired all the time doesn’t mean I’m stupid,” I thought. However, that isn’t entirely true.

Receiving accommodations for that test, and later receiving accommodations for my post-bachelor's degree classes, was the best thing I could have done for myself. For this entire school year, I have managed to keep a 4.0 GPA, which is something I have never done in my entire school career.

From struggling to succeeding

Since returning to college, I’ve had conversations with one of my professors about how difficult my undergraduate years were. She agrees with me and says, “Gabrielle, you were asleep the whole time. Now you’re awake and truly taking in all this information you couldn’t ever before.”

My professor is right. I am so proud of myself and what I have been able to accomplish. Since returning to college, I know what my body needs and how to truly listen to it. I am able to progress towards my goals in a way I haven’t had the ability to in the past.

Only 1 more year and I’ll have my master’s degree finished.

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