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Wellness

Surviving School with Chronic Illness

It’s that time of year once more, Golden Hawks! Last-minute cramming, late-night study sessions and scrambling for appointments at Learning Skills and Development. The hectic nature of exam season hits us all in some way, and rarely is it pleasant. Unfortunately for those living with chronic illnesses, this time of year can take an even greater toll on physical and mental wellbeing. Navigating the stress of academic pressure can become a mountainous task when coupled with prioritizing your health, ranging between medical appointments and procedures, determining how to pay for these things and taking a giant nap when you just don’t have the energy to do so.

In all, living with a chronic illness is not only exhausting, but it is time-consuming and, for many, expensive. That is why I want to use this opportunity to empathize with fellow students going through it at this time of year and to raise awareness about caring for yourself when the list of papers, presentations and exams doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller.

Personally, I live with various chronic illnesses, some including asthma and anemia. Though anemia is not traditionally recognized on the common list of chronic illnesses – like asthma, diabetes, mental illnesses, etc. – I think it is important to understand the term chronic illness relative to your own situation; you know your body better than anyone and all that you experience within it.

That being said, anemia has certainly taken the greatest toll on my physical health and has sadly not improved over the last few years. I deal with all kinds of symptoms: some annoying, like being cold 24/7, being short of breath (on top of asthma) or having an Olympic sprinter for a heart; and some more scary, like claudication, nauseating migraines, and variant angina.

That, of course, is just a snapshot of the effects of one illness on one person. People’s lived experiences of chronic illness will be as individual as their fingerprints, and I believe that is important to acknowledge in medical conversations. Therefore, I don’t want to spend this time dictating a bonafide set of key steps to success for chronically ill students, because it simply doesn’t exist: doing the work to protect your wellbeing is personal, and entirely up to you!

One thing beneficial to ask yourself is, “What would it look like for me to care for myself right now?”. After collapsing on my bed in times of great stress, at some point, I usually ground myself enough to question what it is that I need at that moment. I feel that those living with disabilities and chronic conditions are often infantilized, being repeatedly told from various forms of authority what we need, rather than being asked. Simply doing this is a powerful way to show yourself you are trustworthy and can act on the autonomy you hold!

If there is one thing you get out of this article, I want it to be the reminder that self-care is necessary, not selfish. It is okay to take medication. It is okay to nap. It is okay to have a night off. When I was a child, my mom once said, “If you don’t give yourself a break, who will?”, and this has never been more relevant for me. We live in a culture that privileges constant hustling and grinding. But beware – if you don’t reserve time for your body’s health, it sure as hell will choose that time for you.

So, take heed, fellow Hawks, and remember to tune into your health as much as those final grades! Wishing everyone a successful exam season – HCXO!

Destiny Pitters

Laurier Brantford '21

I'm a 3rd year English student at Laurier Brantford, and the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus LB for 2019-2020! Beyond my love for writing and reading, I enjoy dedicating time to volunteering in the social justice sector, watching sports and making art. Follow me on instagram @_destinyeden!
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