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Health Chronically Ill Students: Making The Invisible, Visible
During my first year of university, I was your typical student: studying hard, partying harder, travelling the country for dance competitions, and working towards an honours degree. By the same time the following year, I was struggling to stand up on my own.
I’d been battling for answers to my mystery symptoms for years, but it was only when my health significantly relapsed that I was finally diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS). Naturally, all this took place during my very first year of university, just as my young adult life was beginning.
With plenty of support and adjustments, I managed to continue my studies and graduate, but heaven knows it wasn’t without its challenges. Adapting to life as a newly disabled student, I often felt lonely, isolated, and like nobody else in the world could possibly understand what I was going through. I remember being shocked at how hard I had to fight for what I was entitled to, and how exhausting and disheartening the whole situation seemed. Being a student can be a tough time for any young person, but dealing with a fluctuating health condition adds an entirely new dimension of difficulty.
Despite all this, however, it’s safe to say that my time at university genuinely formed some of the best, most rewarding years of my life. Therefore, my primary goal going forward is to ensure that others are better informed on how to make the most of their own student life whilst managing their own condition.
The lack of disabled and chronically ill young people in education, employment or training is becoming an increasingly topical issue in the UK. Not every chronically ill young person will be well enough to study in any capacity, however the percentage of disabled students attending university is increasing year on year. I think we can all agree that better support for this population is needed; the little information that’s currently out there undoubtedly isn’t coming from chronically ill people themselves, and it’s high time we change that.
Much of the official ‘support’ that currently exists for disabled students focusses on only the academic side of university life, rather than the overall student experience. Until now, there has been comprehensive guide that chronically ill people in the UK could pick up if they were preparing to become students themselves, much less one written by somebody who’s experienced the process first-hand: somebody who knows that your reasons for going to university often stretch far beyond only the lectures and textbooks.
Therefore, my experiences led me to write a book, to fill the gap I so painfully felt during my own student years. University and Chronic Illness: A Survival Guide is a chatty and relaxed, yet balanced and informative, resource: one that’s sincere and realistic about the challenges of studying with a fluctuating health condition, yet one which will hopefully empower future students to make informed decisions and to really get the most out of their time at university.
It’s time we ensure that this minority group have all the tools they need to thrive, and help make the invisible, visible. I hope with everything in me that this book marks an important step in facilitating change, and ensuring higher education becomes as inclusive for all as possible.