College, interrupted

Being chronically ill in college requires help

My stomach ached. I had not had anything but Gatorade for days but the pain persisted. I could barely open my eyes around the aching migraine I had. I was in my first class of the day but I was already thinking about skipping the following two and calling in sick at work. 

What did I do in this situation? 

I went to class and did my job. To compensate I slept the entire next day and went to the Emergency Room. It’s always a gamble. I’m open about my challenges because they are shared by others just like me navigating their 20s in college. 

For some context, a flare up of the illness I live with is like being dehydrated for two days, having your blood drawn, being hit in the head and staying up for more than 24 hours. I’ve had to stumble out of class so no one would see my hands shake or notice my skin blotch like a Rorschach test. 

Having a chronic illness in college is tough. You have to shape your college plans around your health. Luckily there is a disabilities service office on campus that exists to help but a lot of people on campus don’t know it exists. 

On bad days when I stay home in pain, my bed feels like the eighth wonder of the world and having help that makes me feel less guilty about taking time off for my health is a win in my book. 

I won’t lie—it’s hard to ask for help. The reality is that your body doesn’t care what you think. Illness or injury can strike at any time and when you least expect it. Perhaps there are some lessons in my experience. To that end, I have some advice. 

The best time to ask for help is as early as possible in the semester—it’s easier to have accommodations on the books in case you need them versus not having them at all. 

Find a doctor in the area and get your medical records in place. You’d be surprised at how many people function around you that have some sort of invisible injury or illness. Our differences matter and there is help for those that need it. I have never encountered an instructor who was not understanding about my situation. 

Self-advocating is the name of the game when you have to even the playing field. The moral of the story is that asking for help to live your best life is extremely important. Just because we are young doesn’t mean we are invincible. 

If you find yourself in a situation where you need accommodations in some way on campus, visit the Educational Counseling and Disabilities Services office in Starr 313.

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