On Thursday 22nd November 2018, I graduated from university with a chronic illness.
Before I tell you about why University is incredibly difficult to do with a chronic illness, let me say one thing: it is possible.
A Bit of Background
4 years ago, I didn’t think it would be. I started Uni straight after finishing my A Levels, and just 2 months after being diagnosed with ME/CFS. 6 weeks later, I left, never imagining that I would return. Fast forward to now, I’ve graduated with a First.
I’m not saying that University is for everybody, it definitely isn’t. There were moments when I questioned whether it was the right decision for me, times that I was so ill that I just wanted to give it all up and weeks were I barely left my bed because of the fatigue. Having said that, just because you have a chronic illness, doesn’t mean University is not for you.
If you haven’t already, check out this post that gives you 10 tips for the chronically ill student (it’s one of my most popular blog posts!). That will give you tips to help you if you do decide to go. But in this post, I am going to give you 5 things to think about before going to University with a chronic illness.
5 things to consider before going to University with a chronic illness:
- If you think “I might as well, everybody else is doing it“. Just because everyone else does something, doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for you. You are not like everybody else if you have an illness to contend with. It is more than ok to want to focus on your health and either put off going to Uni, or not go at all. In hindsight, that is what I should have done in the first place.
- If you aren’t realistic about your health. That was my mistake when I first went – I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t expect to struggle anywhere near as much as I did, hence, dropping out after 6 weeks. University puts a lot of stress and pressure on you, which can often trigger a flare with your chronic illness. So ask yourself, are you really prepared for this? Do your research about the Uni, about the course, about any support you can get, the expectations of you when you’re there and anything else related to your health.
- If you are a people pleaser – bear with me. I was a people pleaser, I still am! This is difficult when you’re ill because saying yes to please people can have dire consequences for you. DO NOT go to University, if you know you will say yes to every night out, say yes to joining every society that exists, say yes to every late night trip to the shop. And then end up spending the next 2 week barely able to leave your bed because you did too much. If you’re going to Uni, you need to be going for the right reasons, to learn, to study and to (hopefully) graduate. Prioritise that over anything spontaneous that might cause a flare up.
- If you don’t have a specific course you want to do. If you’re just going for the sake of it, to put off the real world, to avoid working, University is not going to work for you. It is a HUGE investment, in both time and money, to waste because you don’t know what else to do. Only go to University if you genuinely and passionately want to study something specific. Other people might get away with going for the sake of it, but if you have an illness, you need to LOVE your course, otherwise motivation will die quickly and when you’re ill, you will find it even harder to find a reason to carry on.
- Don’t go if you don’t want to. If I really think about it, when I first went, I didn’t want to be there. It was too soon for me, and I wasn’t ready. When I returned the following year, I was. Don’t go just because it is expected of you, if you know it will be too much for you or if you’re expecting to drop out. Your health is much more important than whether or not you go to University. Go because YOU want to, and you will find it much easier to push through the hard times and get to the other side.
I hope this post has been somewhat helpful to you. Now is the time a lot of students are thinking about whether or not they want to go to University. You might have already made the decision; you might be nowhere near. Either way, I hope I have given you some things to think about.
I do want to say though, do NOT let this put you off going. I do not regret going to Uni at all, and full recommend it. Just make sure you’re going for the right reasons and you have the support you need before going. If you want any advice at all about going to University, please leave me a comment below or you can email me on my Contact page.
Until next time,