Friday, 27 April 2012

How To Survive University With An Illness

vivatramp how to survive university with an illness lifestyle book blog university advice uk


I am an English and Creative Writing undergraduate with a chronic illness. Whilst those two things don't often work in harmony, I have managed to survive my time at university so far with the help of some simple steps. Naturally, everyone's experience is different and individual so, first and foremost, listen to your body. However these steps on how to survive university with an illness may just help you out. 


1. Don't feel as if you have to follow the crowd
You don't have to do as others do. You don't have to drink excessively or go out all the time. If you want to, go for it. If you don't want to, don't. Don't feel as if you have to jeopardise your health and wellbeing to fit in with others. The ones that respect you and truly care are the ones who will understand wholeheartedly. I limit my nights out, try and get a good night's sleep, eat a balanced diet and drink soft drinks when I go out but that's just what works for me. 


2. Alert your seminar leaders and disability support 
The first thing to do once you've got your timetables is to email your seminar leaders and the head of your department to let them know a bit more about you. It can feel a bit embarrassing but it seriously makes a difference. My seminar leaders have been really respectful and understanding, making allowances for me and regularly checking in to check that I'm okay. Don't feel as if you're bothering them at all. It's their job! It's also a good idea to get in touch with disability support. They can give you lots of advice and they also offer services that will make your time at uni a lot easier. 


3. Go at a steady pace
For christ sake if, like mine, your illness feeds off of stress, don't be one of those people that leaves everything to the last minute. I'm not suggesting you spend a month prior to the deadline nerding out but it's clever to get yourself ahead of the game, in order to account for the days where you wake up unable to face the world. It also prevents stress from making you ill. Not a day goes by where I don't feel seriously fatigued so I find that, in order to get the perfect balance, I accept the bad days, that limit me to working from my bed, and really make the most of the good days where I'm able to run errands and have a bit more fun. Which brings me on to my final point...


4. Have fun and make the most of it!
You take a billion tablets a day and your monthly check up at the hospital consists of a five minute conversation with your specialist about the regularity of your bowel movements, so what?! You can still get out there and have fun! If you're having a bad day, lock yourself away and have a weep but follow that up with a busy good day. Get outside, meet like minded people and never ever let anyone tell you that you're incapable of anything. 

Even if this has helped just one person, I'll have succeeded in my mission to soothe people's anxieties. That's more than enough for me. Don't ever feel like living with an illness means you can't reach your goals, you can go for it...just at a steadier pace! Furthermore, if an illness has meant you couldn't meet some of your prior goals, don't feel as if you're to blame, or as if you cannot eventually meet them. Take time out to look after yourself and then look into different pathways. 

If you'd like to scroll through all of my advice posts then you can do so.




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57 comments

  1. So true. I have arthritis, and take immuno-suppressants to treat it. Fatigue, illness, mobility problems. No fun at uni, but its always manageable. I was so extra proud of myself when I graduated last year. And I hear what you're saying about feeling like its an excuse sometimes. It can be really difficult to justify the limits that you know you have to set yourself. Glad to hear that you are dealing well with it, working out methods and routines for yourself is so important. Good luck with your work! And thank you for writing this
    xxx

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    1. That doesn't sound fun at all! You should be extremely proud of yourself (: Thanks ever so much for your comment xo

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  2. This is a really amazing post, and I'm sure it will help a lot of people. While not as serious as your illness, I have a lot of problems with sciatica so my back can get extremely painful and cause one of my legs to go numb! Not the greatest thing in the world! I hope you enjoy the rest of your time at Uni :)
    xxx

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    1. Thank you, sweetpea. Ow, I can imagine the pain. Keep yourself happy and healthy! xo

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  3. Thank you so much for writing this Bee, it was an emotional read. I have suffered with various issues. for the past 6 years and suddenly my condition jumped up a HUGE notch when I arrived at uni. All of a sudden BAM. I was 10x worse. I was disabled. I was ill. My first year at uni has easily been the hardest year of my life, I've been at the doctors every other week throughout the year, the hospital practically every month, the physio blah blah blah... And now I've had to come to terms with the fact that, for now, I can't live independently so I'm transferring to a uni in my hometown and living at home next year. I was feeling a bit rubbish (understatement) about it all this week but reading this really helped! I'm really sorry you've had to deal with all of that, it sounds horrible and I'm so glad that you're doing better than you were :) I only recently discovered your blog but I love it already! xxx

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    1. Thank you very much for this comment. As I told you, you really inspired me to share my experience. I adore reading your blog! I honestly hope next year is much better for you and that you settle in well! Thanks again xo

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  4. hello and thank you for following me! i've just read this post and found myself nodding vigorously throughout. i'm sorry to hear of your illness, but am glad you're fighting against it to make sure you have as good a time as anyone else. i understand how you're feeling - whilst it's not as serious i was suffering with a severe wheat/gluten intolerance for years and was only diagnosed a few months ago. i finally feel like i can get on with my life and start making the most of things now that i have a better idea of how to make the best of myself and how to adapt my lifestyle. i'm now trying to live through the pains and aches that come from damaging my intestines unknowingly and have finally regained the confidence to get back out in to the world and do things!

    also, as a fellow english student i definitely understand the piles of books creeping their way in to pictures.. my room is covered!

    lots of love,
    jade. xx

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    1. I adored reading through your blog (: Ah, that can be horrific when it's gone undiagnosed! I think it's so unbelievably terrible that doctors are so reluctant to take stomach pain seriously. It's been so damaging to so many people!! Ah, I didn't know you studied English too! I had to buy a specific university book case just to house them all!

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  5. I have a friend at uni with Crohns, he's found it a massive struggle and has had to re-do his second year as he's missed so much with hospitals appointments etc. But he stays positive and loves to party! Keep enjoying life! xx

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    1. He must have it quite bad. I have a medium case but it's not reached such lows. I feel quite lucky. Will do, thanks :)

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  6. I loved reading your post. I had to go to hospital to have tests for Crohns but it turned out to be IBS but I can completely relate to what your saying. It seems as if illnesses like that can't be openly talked about too, I get so embarrassed sometimes about having to go to the toilet a lot and can't cope with stress well either.

    Definitely agree with you about staying positive :) x

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    1. I can completely understand you. It really isn't easy to live with a bowel illness. Just keep yourself happy and healthy. If you ever want to chat, feel free to email me xo

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    2. Thanks so much, same to you too :)

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  7. This is such an inspirational post.

    I hope you continue to do well in every sense - both your health and at University. xxxxx

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. They mean a lot xo

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  8. Uni's tough enough without having to deal with health problems on top of everything else, it's fab you've made it through your first year successfully, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your course healthy and happy :)

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    1. Thank you so much for being so lovely :) xo

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  9. this post is amazing bee <3 so much admiration for you talking about it (i think the thing that i found the hardest throughout uni was not being able to talk about it!) i'm so glad you're doing well at the moment, you're amazing for working through uni :) and i think in an odd way, long term illnesses can actually help people- i've learnt so much from being ill and i think it totally changes your perceptions of life! xxx

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    1. Thank you so much, sweetpea. I've always spoken about things, even if they aren't easy to talk about because it helps people and it also helps me to clear my head. I can see what you mean, it sort of makes you think differently. A lot of the time I wish it was a bit more manageable though. Hope you're well xo

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  10. It sounds like you've reached a very positive place. I'm glad you managed to get yourself back on your feet after taking some time to rest and regroup. I hope your readers consider the advice you've given because you're absolutely right.

    I wish I had been less self critical with my illness, which is also a long term one I've had since I was nine. I hid the extent of it until I was seventeen. Then I kept everything a secret and always pushed myself to ridiculous extents at uni but by the time I'd reached my third year, I crashed and so very hard. I had to tell my lecturers what was going on and I think if I hadn't I would have failed. Similar to your experience, they were very helpful and understanding. As it stands, I don't even know or understand how I managed to get along rather well and still enjoy my uni experience.

    You're right in saying that people with a health condition need to understand it and most importantly know how their body reacts to it, and be careful about what they do or don't do.

    I won't lie, I still don't feel comfortable discussing my health with anyone. I don't know you but I feel so glad that you were given the right care and that you seem brave enough not to be afraid to speak out. It took twelve years for my doctors to find the right medication for me and that was three years after fully diagnosing me and giving me things that worsened it.

    Anyway, sorry to ramble. Once again, I think you come across as a very positive person and evidently you are very brave and it's a great example. People need to know that a health condition can alter your life but it doesn't have to permanently affect your quality of life.

    P.s. I love The Castle of Otranto! Are you an English Literature or Creative Writing student?

    xxxxx

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    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave this comment. It meant a lot to me. Mm, I wasn't given the right care at first. I now have a medium case of my illness because they misdiagnosed it ;/ I'm sorry to hear that they took so long to give you your diagnosis, sweet.

      Haha, I love that book too! I'm currently just an 'English' student but that involves both creative writing and literature!

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  11. lovely post bee, I'm glad youre feeling more yourself since starting uni. When I found your blog a few months ago I read it from the beginning and just wanted to send massive hugs when reading posts where you were feeling low. I suffer with M.E and have had to go down the Open Uni route instead but I'm so proud for doing that on top of coping day to day with fatigue and you should be too. Plus I can tell from your tweeting that you work bloody hard on all your essays, its genuinely inspiring :) xx

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    1. Awww, wow! I can't imagine reading it all the way back. Thank you so much! Ah yes, the OU is such a great source for those with illness. Haha, I do work hard but saying that, I should really be doing work right now! Oops. Thanks again, sweetpea xo

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  12. Brilliant post hun, I'm sure this is going to many of your readers...those with similar illnesses to yours and the many other illnesses out there that can hold people back from living their lives! Very inspirational and you should be so proud of all you have achieved.
    xx

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    1. Thank you! I do feel proud, as silly as that is to say!

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  13. Such an inspiring post, my friend has Crohns and she's just had a year out of uni for a string of operations including having a colostomy bag fitted. I can't begin to imagine how physically tough it is, but it sounds like your head couldn't be in a better place to help you reach your goals. All the best with your studies, look forward to reading more of your posts :) x

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    1. Thanks for your comment (: I hope your friend gets a whole lot better, it's a nasty business. xo

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  14. This was such an inspiring post to read, Bee! While I'm not ill as such, I suffer from fatigue and often pass out due to stress, hormones and body sugars, so I can still relate to this post to an extent. 'Go at a steady pace' is such great advice, it can be so easy to get swept away in the Uni craziness with trying to juggle life and studies! It's been so nice to read along your first year at Uni, so proud of you gurrrl ;) xxxx

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    1. Thank you so much, sweetpea. Thank you for linking it in your amazing post too!

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  15. EVERYONE WITH ILLNESSES: LISTEN TO BEE.

    This is such a great post, Bee. It's so nice to know someone is out there and gets it! I have somatization disorder which is super fun, naaat, and also not very treatable, so it's a 'management' kind of disorder. I also took a year out to do something different and get treatment under way before going to uni - I'm so glad I did this as I would never have coped if I'd accepted my place.
    It's difficult at university to explain to people that I can go out sometimes, but mainly I want to stay in bed because I'm exhausted, or that yes, I do need the ridiculous amount of sleep I make sure I get.
    People are all about going out (and spending a lot of money! eurgh) and drinking etc, but I can only cope with this every so often. Luckily, I've found a couple of friends who like staying in and watching cool stuff and making things, so I get some fun in too, even when I have to stay in.

    Sometimes when I'm feeling bad about things, it helps to remind myself of all the things that I DO manage to do, compared to some people who have my condition, and to try and be grateful for that. Focusing on the positive sounds really stupidly obvious but everyone forgets now and again!

    Your point about telling the advisors at university is SO important. I didn't for a while, and then when I found myself unable to go to lectures (and getting a warning!) I realised that it's actually beneficial to go, and they aren't so scary.

    Still yet to take the advice of planning ahead and getting work done early - in time hopefully that'll come! The unfortunate combination of relying on stress to get things done and stress making me very ill...

    Congratulations on your first year at university, I'm sure you're going to do fantastically. xx
    (Epic post, sorry.)

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    1. And ew, just spotted Robinson Crusoe. Damn I hate that book right now.

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    2. Baaaaaaaaaaaah, I love you. Thanks so much for leaving this comment! Much appreciated. Haha, Robinson Crusoe is shite. I'm glad you've found some friends who are like minded (: Hope you manage to keep your illness under control for the foreseeable future and continue to be as awesome as you are!

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  16. To be completely honest with you, I think you're inspirational. This is the first time I've visited your blog (link from daisybutter) and this is the first post I've read, but I think it's great advice to people with or without a long term illness. I'm now going to work my way through the rest of your blog and have a good read ha!

    Brilliant post :)

    love, Nicola xxx
    nicolabooklust.blogspot.com

    p.s. good luck with Castle of Otranto, I attempted it in Sixth Form and read maybe 3 pages.

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    1. Oh wow, thank you so so much for your kind words. They honestly mean the world to me!! Hope you like my blog. Oh, I loved Castle of Otranto!

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  17. I got pretty sick quite towards the end of my time at high school, and this advice is pretty much perfect. Luckily for me it wasn't a long long-term kind of thing, but I was definitely down and out for several months, not to mention the time it took to get back to normality once I had recovered.

    You're so inspiring.

    x

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    1. I'm glad you've recovered! Thank you so much. I don't think of myself as inspiring but thank you very much for saying so xo

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  18. It's really nice to read a post from someone whose uni experience wasn't centred around clubs and drinking. I have a blood condition that means I take daily tablets and have blood tests every fortnight and I can appreciate how infuriating it is when sometimes you just want to go out and be like everyone else.

    Your advice is really inspirational, honestly written and realistic. I like to think that in the long term, the friends you make and the experiences you have while sober and being able to keep yourself healthy while you're studying is probably more worthwhile than a night out getting wasted would be. :)

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    1. Thank you very much! Ah, how I love blood tests. I completely agree with you. I've definitely changed in many ways.

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  19. Oh Bee, Damn YOU! I am wedged up on the sofa today, with my duvet, half a ton of books and my laptop trying to revise for my exams because I could barely get out of bed today, and I wish I had known every damn thing you've put in this post 18 months ago.

    All of this is so true, living with an illness- even if it's not quite as long term as a disease like Crohn's, is so applicable, and key for me has been understanding that I have to look after myself as a priority- eating when I know I need to and making the most of good days, but that doesn't mean I have to be isolated, without friends or unable to have the kind of fun that I'm interested.

    You're a frickin inspiration to us all Bee, keep it up, super proud to see your progress in the last 12 months.

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    1. Hahaha, I wish I'd fessed up to all this stuff earlier too! Hope you're well, sweetpea. As well as you can be when you're revising. SNORE! Aww, you're tooooo kind, gorgeous :)

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  20. Very, very inspriring, thank you :)

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    1. Thank you very much for commenting :)

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  21. This was such a refreshing read. I have IBS and while it's not an illness in the same category as yours I do still struggle some days where I feel quite ill and worn out. This only started on my first year of uni so I had to spend my first year and some of my second year going to hospital and having serveral tests. It took the hospital over a year to confirm it was IBS and I finally got some medication to help me out. In this time I really did wonder how I'd cope with my first year at uni but luckily I got by and now I've got things under control more I'm having more good days than bad ones. You should be really proud at finding a healthy balance of work and fun times and dealing with your illness :) xxx

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    1. Thank you! Ah yeah, they originally thought I had IBS. It annoys me how much they dither with stomach illnesses. I wish you all the luck with coping with your illness xo

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  22. You're such an inspiration, Bee. Honestly, this was such a refreshing, honest read, and it was nice to hear about your Uni experiences and I really do wish you all the best. You should definitely be proud of yourself :) xxx

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    1. Thank you so much, sweet! This comment really made me feel unbelievably happy.

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  23. I’ve lost touch with you this past year, but I have always followed from a far, and I know your determination and passion to succeed is completely admirable. You always make those around you happy and you never for a moment judge or look down on a single person. And I have not once heard you complain, life throws up its obstacles, but they should never hold us back and you are living proof that anything is possible xxx

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  24. Such a beautiful post Bee, your passion and determination is SO inspiring! I thought I had it rough with arthritis, but nothing like what you have faced. I wish I had your strength! I wish you all the best at uni and with your health :)
    XOXO.

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  25. You've written such a well thought, great post here. Whilst it orientates around yourself and your illness, I think the majority of advice you're written here can be used by all university students, with illnesses or not. I don't have an illness, but I tick all of the boxes in your advice list. Whilst it can be fun getting absolutely blathered, I enjoy my steady drinks and being able to remember what I do.

    But well done to yourself for your determination and dedication to excel in your education, whilst also controlling your illness!

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  26. I love you and you have been a constant support and friend through my illness! You are an inspiration! xxx

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  27. This is such a good post! I really struggled at university, and a massive mistake I made was not telling my tutors about my disabilities. I felt like I could do it on my own and just like you said, didn't want anyone to feel like I was using it as an excuse. Well I failed my second year and if I'd have had the support I'd needed I think it would have been a very different story! Sounds like you're doing everything amazingly, especially with the food thing. It's so difficult to eat enough on such a small budget!

    Big love, Chloe x

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  28. Really nice to see someone blogging about something as important as this, I suffer with migraines, and wish I listened to my body in my first year but thankfully I seem to have reached a better point in that journey, so true about accepting the bad days and making use of the good! Really inspirational and sort of a relief that other people my age have disabilities and are attempting to cope with them too.
    Chloe rose x

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  29. Great advice. With over 20 years experience myself with Ulcerative Colitis I know exactly where you are coming from. I wish you the very very best with your education.

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  30. I don't have a long term illness but I found this inspirational and I hope you're feeling well xxx

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  31. This is such a helpful post for me because I do have a long term condition and am looking at going to university in September so thank you so much. Hope you are keeping okay! xx

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