Finding Perspective as the Key to Joy with Health Challenges and the Pandemic

By Mariel White, AN (University of Florida)

This week, we are thrilled to feature Mariel White, a member of the Alpha Nu Chapter (University of Florida), who suffers from a rare autoimmune condition, EGPA. Read how Mariel has overcome many setbacks as she strives to inspire others.

Mariel White and her service dog, Lassie (Molasses).

Perspective is the key to joy. Cliché, but true.

It can be so hard to take a step back and appreciate where you are, especially in this pandemic, but it’s always important.

While in college, I’ve experienced a lot of life-altering circumstances that have truly taught me this cliché, and although my new situation is hard and something I can never imagine being grateful for, I am appreciative of the perspective I’ve gained from coming out the other side alive.

I joined the Alpha Nu Chapter in the fall of 2016. At the beginning of my sophomore year of college at the University of Florida in 2017, I fell unexplainably ill. After returning home and searching for a diagnosis and treatment, my condition deteriorated, resulting in four strokes that left me paralyzed and wheelchair-bound, with vision loss and with new learning disabilities. I had to drop out of school, hopeful to return two years later in the fall of 2019, but with a long road of recovery ahead of me.

Alpha Nu sisters visited Mariel while she was in the hospital.

With hard work and persistence, I was able to become independent again and adapt to my new lifestyle. I returned to college two years later, and despite changes, difficulties and the fact that everyone else’s lives had continued while mine had been on hold, I was so excited and grateful to be back.

I took it easy my first two semesters, only taking 2-3 courses and focusing more on my health than anything else. This led to times of ease and boredom, and others of stress and feeling overwhelmed, but I discovered that regardless of whether I had a million things to do or nothing to do, I was happy.

Alpha Nu sisters have been a source of support for Mariel.

Despite what’s going on in my life, whether I’m in the highest of highs or lowest of lows, I’m able to take a step back and look at my surroundings and feel so grateful that I made it here. Regardless of how I feel in the moment, I’m thankful for that.

Of course, it can still be hard in the moment, when everything feels like it’s the worst thing in the world, but more often than not, that’s not the case.

For the most part, everyone’s life is on hold right now. There are so many things we can’t do, at least in the way we used to do them, and that can be so devastating. I’m trying to remind myself that just because things may look different in this season, it doesn’t mean they can’t still be good.

Ariel and Lassie participated in Alpha Nu’s formal recruitment.

It may go against our nature to take a pause like this, but it can be just what we need, and it’s important to try to appreciate that. There is a season for everything, and even though this timing may not feel right for us, it is still perfect timing.

Now is the time that we can appreciate our work if we are still employed; relax when we would rather be out and about; enjoy the time we have with our families; the time we have to try new things and catch up on our hobbies, play games, watch movies and enjoy the outdoors from our own backyard.

We can feel bad for ourselves, or we can take advantage of this time and what it holds, and it’s ok to feel a little bit of both. Some days I feel sorry for myself and hate these circumstances, and some days I embrace them.

Even with her health challenges, Mariel has been able to enjoy many Phi Mu traditions, including being a Big Sister.

This time is so hard, but if we shift our mindset and perspective, it can make things a little easier each day. Take a step back and appreciate where you are, because you wouldn’t be where you are today without everything you’ve been through, and you won’t get where you want to go without going through hardships (something I’m definitely still trying to come to terms with). Try to take advantage of this time and enjoy every day – there’s really nothing better we can do for ourselves.

Mariel White, AN (University of Florida), will graduate in December 2021 with a degree in sports management and aspires to work in sports communications. She suffers from a rare autoimmune condition, EGPA, that forced her to withdraw from school during her sophomore year and caused her to have four strokes, resulting in paralysis, vision loss and learning disabilities. We are proud to have her in our steadfast sisterhood!