The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the Editor: Wellness at Grinnell


This past week was a wreck. I rescheduled two exams and only attended one full day of classes. I slept for 12 hours straight, used over half a prescription of one of my immediate response medications and managed to not leave my house for a 24-hour-plus block of time. It’s been absolutely awful, yet when I recount this to my fellow Grinnellians, they say that they’re ‘jealous’ or think I am ‘strategically using’ this time to study. Like, what?

I realize that my wonderful friends who said those things about being lucky didn’t mean anything negative by them. But I’m not lucky that I’m “able” to spend all day at home or sleep for 12 plus hours. These aren’t choices that I’m “able” to make. They’re choices that I, like many others on this campus, have to make,as we prioritize our health above all other things so that we are “able” to be successful or at least moderately successful members of the Grinnell community.

I can’t help thinking that this says a lot about our campus culture, that we see prioritizing our health as an option, as opposed to a necessity, especially in the context of chronic and/or debilitating conditions. I can only speak for myself, but Grinnell’s culture often makes me feel bad that I have to give up time from my studies and five bazillion extracurricular activities to spend more time caring for my health. (Because Lord knows I wasn’t studying when I spent that full day at home … )

Campus culture says go big and go hard or go home, and many of us with physical and mental disabilities actually do have to accept the reality that we have to go home because it really is challenging, and sometimes impossible, trying to reprioritize, to balance and to access quality care in a rural community and to do school while also navigating the go-hard-in-every-aspect-of-your-life Grinnellian mentality.*

It’s silly. We all have the option to do what I had to do this week. Maybe it would take some major rescheduling or intentionality, but it’s possible. You matter. Your health matters, and your experience at Grinnell matters.

At the end of the day, our health and our experiences are so inseparable. Why shouldn’t we prioritize ourselves and our well-being a little more? And even if you choose not to or don’t feel able to, remember that the language that you use is important when responding and interacting with those of us who don’t have any other option but to put our health and well-being first.

—Emily Howe ’16

*I recently returned from a medical leave, and would be happy to talk to anyone considering taking a leave or navigating the Grinnell experience with migraines.

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