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10 Ways to Survive Getting an Education With a Chronic Condition

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I keep it no secret that I’ve struggled with balancing my education along with my health. I went from a straight A student to one failing everything when I first became ill. But, I pulled it up and ended up passing everything and securing myself a place on my dream course at university. As a future teacher I wanted to share my top 10 tips on how to tackle education whilst dealing with a chronic health condition. I’ve been taught in a range of school environments, from a high-pressure grammar school to the local comprehensive, and I think each of these tips can be applied to all of them.

1. Don’t just let them know about any health issues, show or give them a copy of medical evidence (such as a consultant letter) so it cannot be disputed or questioned by any teacher.

2. Find your learning style, whether it be visual or auditory. Once you discover this learning “hack,” (there are loads of quizzes online you can take to help you find your style) you can tailor all your revision or work to that style to aid your memory and speed it up!

3. Learn when to say enough is enough. Leaning this is the hardest thing of all. Whether it be cutting your day short to avoid a flare, or taking a rest day. Take care of yourself first. Health is overall the most important thing at the end of the day. Education will always be there for you to continue.

4. Engage with your Additional Learning Needs and Education or disability department. I know this is always a scary part, but I can tell you one thing – the word of these people is law in the classroom. They can let your teachers or tutors know of any adjustments you need and get you extra time or rest breaks for deadlines or exams. To have them on your side is a massive asset, and at the end of the day, they only want you to succeed.

5. Adjust your timetable or cut it back as much as you can. For example, I only took nine General Certificate of Secondary Educations (GCSE) instead 13 or 14, like some of my friends took. The less subjects means the less material to stress over.

6. Find something you enjoy doing or something that relaxes you that is completely unrelated from homework or school. Everyone needs something that they can do to “turn off” – whether it be watching a great TV show or something arty.

7. If you feel like giving up, remember why you started. I cannot tell you how many times I felt like throwing in the towel. I was convinced I was going to fail everything, and I didn’t fail anything. In those moments of stress and despair, think about the end result. There is no better feeling than the day you finish your exams, knowing you couldn’t have done anything more.

8. The three golden rules of revision:

  1. Stop revising at 10 p.m.
  2. Drink as much fluids as you can.
  3. Try and get out in the fresh air and sunlight every day.

9. Ask for help. If you’re struggling, please reach out and ask someone for help. Personal tutors are especially trained for this, or if you have a teacher you feel is easier to talk to or you trust. They really cant help you unless you ask, otherwise they may not even know you are struggling. I credit my maths GCSE to my year 11 teacher who used to let me come in at lunchtimes to go over lessons I had missed.

10. Finally, breathe and remember it will all be OK in the end. Pass or fail, exams are not the end of the world and if you really need to, you can repeat them. Grades and marks do not define you as a person. You’re a superstar for dealing with a chronic condition anyway. Exams and education can be a major source of stress for those with a chronic condition, but remember to take a step back sometimes and keep a positive perspective.

Your health should always be your priority – there is nothing in life more precious than it. Education will always be there for you at any age. I started University at 20, not at 18 like all my friends, but I’ve still had an amazing experience this year.

Getty Image by Rawpixel

This story originally appeared on The Chronic Pain Life.

Originally published: June 1, 2018
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