Life @ U of T

Introduction

Living With Chronic Illness At University

Living With Chronic Illness At University

About three months ago, I developed a chronic stomach condition related to damage of my stomach lining. Because of my condition, I was nauseous and had stomach pain continuously, which was really hard. Today, I want to talk about some of the things which have really helped me get through the school year.

A picture of a rainbow against a purple sky

Stay calm.

Let’s face it- having a chronic illness is scary. Especially when you’re not entirely sure what’s wrong with you, it’s easy to jump to conclusions about your illness and become a lot more anxious than necessary. 

A picture of a thunder cloud with the words "bad days will pass"
creds: giphy.com

To alleviate this, I try to focus on not jumping to worst case scenarios— for example, just because my stomach condition isn’t going away doesn’t mean that something worse is wrong with me.

I also find that regularly going to my doctor makes things a lot easier. Because my family doctor is in Vancouver, I go to my doctor at Health and Wellness, who was super helpful in giving me information about my condition and helping devise a treatment plan. Talking to professionals really helps soothe my anxiety and gets me the help that I need.  

Spend time with understanding friends. 

My friends are also a huge part in helping me feel supported while ill. In addition to feeling nauseous and having stomach pains, my stomach condition also makes me feel weak and develop hot flashes easily. I find it really helped to spend time around friends who understand what I am going through and don’t push me to do things that are hard for me. Friends who understand that I can only eat bland food and can’t do anything physically exhausting are super helpful in making me feel supported and included. 

A picture of two people rolling pretzel dough
I get by with a little help from my friends!

Understand your limits. 

Living with chronic illness during university is especially challenging because I never know when I’ll be too sick to complete work or do things I’ve planned to do. Because of this, I’ve found that when I do feel healthy, it’s essential that I get as much work done as possible. That way, when I feel ill I can relax and not push myself, thus not making myself more ill and beating myself up about not getting work done.  

A picture of a grey cat sitting on a textbook
I can’t always work… and that’s okay

Get accommodations if needed.

Though I’ve never personally pursued this, it’s also important for me to remember that if need be, I could talk to professors about my illness and get accommodations related to work. Getting notes from doctors at Health or Wellness or talking to Accessibility Services are great ways to make sure your professor understands what you’re going through and gives you the necessary accommodations you need. 

Experiencing a chronic illness has been one of the most challenging periods of my life. Above all, I’ve tried to remember that looking after myself and taking whatever time I need to feel healthy is always my top priority. 

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