6 Pieces of Advice for Starting University With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

This month I finally submitted the last of my university work. It was an incredibly challenging process, however, I am extremely proud of myself for making it through. Over the course of my studies I battled my various health issues, one of which was chronic fatigue syndrome. By the end of my degree (particularly the last few months), I was hanging on by a thread. I struggled to come up with a system which worked for me.

A lot of it for me was trial and error, which I am sure is the case for most people. That being said, I have compiled a list of advice I wish someone had given me before I started university:

1. Your health and well-being should come first. It can be tempting to put your health to the back of your mind. Trying to live the student life can be unhealthy – stress, late nights or even all-nighters, skipping meals and the like. But remember you will likely regret it, especially if you get post-exertion malaise syndrome.

2. Speak to your tutors and lecturers. Find out if there is any support available for you. At first I was very hesitant to speak to someone about my struggles. However, my senior tutor was extremely helpful. After explaining my situation I was able to get a much needed extension. Find out if there is any extra support available for people with disabilities or health issues. In my university we have a well-being support team. Once you find out who to contact, it is extremely helpful to keep in regular contact with them, particularly if you are struggling.

3. Organization is vital. Keep a calendar or diary for all your important dates and set reminders. These dates include classes, deadlines, due dates for library books and other various appointments. This can be extremely important when that dreaded brain fog hits. Personally, I prefer to keep a calendar on my phone so that I don’t need to remember to bring an extra thing with me each day. I also keep a cute little travel bag with all my essentials, such as my medication, muscle rub and a heated pack.

4. Start all your work early. This follows on from the previous point. For me, this one was quite difficult. I had the bad habit of calculating how much time it would take me to complete my work based on how long it would take if I kept having good days. I later found that it was vital for me to take into account that I would probably end up spending at least a few days bedridden.

5. Ditch that oversized bag and invest in luggage with wheels. I spent a lot of time in the beginning of my studies causing myself a lot more pain than was necessary as I insisted on bringing my heavy backpack. When my partner first suggested I bring my carry on suitcase, I laughed him off. But honestly, it really does make a difference.

6. Don’t be hard on yourself when you are struggling. It can extremely difficult to not compare yourself to others on your course who may be progressing sooner than you, or who finds things easier than you do. But remember you are not in the same situation as others. You may not be able to do things as quickly or find it as easy as other people.

Out of everything, I think the most important thing is to know your limits and take care of yourself. Your health and well-being are important!

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