(JACKSON, Miss.) — Meet Alyssa Benton. A 22-year-old accounting and finance double major from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Benton, like so many college students, came to JSU with an academic plan that led to her securing the position of audit associate at the sixth-largest accounting firm in the U.S. — Grant Thornton.
“Before my arrival to campus, I knew the College of Business had an esteemed reputation,” she said. “As an incoming double major, I was filled with excitement and I was determined to be successful.”
As a sophomore, Benton traveled to the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) Southern Regional conference in Florida. She recalls preparing for the conference by doing mock interviews in class and submitting her résumé to NABA officials in hopes of being selected for an internship.
“My résumé was so impressive that Grant Thornton scheduled me for an interview before I even arrived,” she said. “By the end of the conference, they offered me an internship at their headquarters in Dallas, Texas, for the following summer.”
Benton’s anticipation and excitement for her blooming academic journey soon turned into a downward spiral when she began experiencing some major health issues.
“I was in a lot of pain most days, and I was traveling back and forth to a lot of different hospitals trying to get an accurate diagnosis,” Benton said.
Eventually, doctors diagnosed her with fibromyalgia. This disorder causes pain all over the body, disrupts normal sleep patterns, causes fatigue and emotional and mental distress. The average age range for fibromyalgia is 35 to 45 years old, but as many as 4 million Americans are diagnosed beginning at age 18.
“I experienced extreme joint pain all over my body and lots of inflammation in my hands, knees and back,” she said. “I saw so many doctors who ran multiple tests, and it all became very exhausting.”
Benton admits, “I was stressed out and that led to depression and anxiety.”
Both of Benton’s parents are medical professionals, as well as pastors, and were extremely supportive throughout her journey.
Choosing faith over fear, Benton says, “I’m a Christian, so my faith in God helped me to overcome all of the obstacles that I faced with my diagnosis.”
Benton currently takes medication to control the inflammation in her body. She says, “The swelling is under control. Weather change causes random pains, but sleeping comfortably throughout the night is no longer a problem.”
The graduating senior says her life motto comes from 2 Timothy 1:7. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
“My stepmom would always recite this scripture to me as a child because I was extremely afraid of the dark. It worked. So, when I became ill I relied on it to encourage me to have a sound mind and remember that HE has not given me a spirit a fear.”