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6 Items Chronically Ill College Students Should Always Have


I won’t lie to you, college was extremely hard, but it was also vastly rewarding. At max, I held three to four on-campus jobs on top of my school work and my volunteer work. I finished college in three and a half years. I pushed through so much to achieve what I had set out to do, but there were countless times when I skipped class, called out of work, canceled plans with friends and fell into this deep dark abyss of what I now know as fibromyalgia.

Living with a chronic illness isn’t easy. It is especially difficult when you are a college student.

Here are a few items I could not live without during college.

1. A water bottle. It is important to stay hydrated with a chronic illness. It is also helpful to have something to do while you sit through a lecture while trying not to fall asleep because you were up all night in pain. Camelbaks are my absolute favorites. I’d sit in class and just rest my mouth on the mouthpiece and every time I’d feel like I was going to fall asleep I’d take a sip.

2. Variety of snacks. Along with staying hydrated, I found that an empty stomach would trigger my symptoms to start rearing their ugly head or make them worse. I’d typically take a couple packs of fruit snacks and peanuts to keep the hunger at bay till I could eat a regular meal. (Be sure to check with those around you if they have any food allergies. Bringing peanuts around a person with a peanut allergy could be deadly.)

If carrying around snacks isn’t the best option for you, I’d suggest keeping your wallet within reach. If your college has a dining hall, take advantage of those meal swipes. If your college has different dining options, like a coffee shop or a smoothie bar, drink up.

3. Fuzzy socks. You think I’m joking? I’m not.

woman wearing red fuzzy socks in the library

I have sat countless times in class and in the library with my fuzzy socks on. Even in August. I have no shame. Fuzzy socks are great because they can help you feel comfortable in places you might feel uncomfortable, like class or the library.

4. Something to keep you warm. I am always cold. I probably looked like a little 2-year-old because I always had a blanket strapped to my book bag and I’d pull it out in the middle of class and get cozy during lecture. I bought this one from Amazon. It rolls up perfectly to fit across the straps on my North Face bag.

5. Which brings me to having a good book bag. You have or you probably will spend countless hours walking around campus, in the library and dining hall. You need something that will carry the weight of all your stuff, but not do more damage to your shoulders and back. I love my North Face book bag. I could fit a laptop, two notebooks, fuzzy socks, meds, a water bottle, mini umbrella, my wallet, my pencil laptop charger and my blanket without always feeling like I was going to collapse because of the weight.

If you’re a college student, I hope this list can help you not just survive but thrive during your time at college.

You’re not alone in this. Don’t beat yourself up because you skip class or miss one homework assignment or cancel on friends. You have to do you. Let me repeat that.

You. Have. To. Do. You.

Take care of yourself first.

You can’t give of yourself to your education if you’re not OK.

Also, if you feel up to it – talk to your counseling and disability services coordinator. You can find out what getting accommodations might look like in your particular situation. It might help with your symptoms or help your professors understand why you didn’t show up to class. I did and received accommodations that benefited me. I want you to know it’s OK to ask for help.

From one warrior to another, you got this, my friend.

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Photo via DragonImages on Getty Images