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Surviving University with a Chronic Illness

Having a chronic illness can impact every aspect of your life and make basic tasks difficult. Starting university is a huge life change. It is important that if you have a chronic illness, you are constantly taking care of yourself to ensure your academic success. The idea of moving away from home and starting your post-secondary education when you are dealing with a chronic illness may seem overwhelming, but there are many things you can do to increase your chances of a successful and enjoyable experience. 

  1. Make sure that your health is always your number one priority.  
  • Even if you are in remission, you should take proactive steps to prevent a flare up and to make life easier if you do end up getting sick. Stress can cause a lot of chronic conditions to flare up, and university can be a very stressful environment. Take advantage of the support offered by your school even if you don’t feel like you need them right now. If you do flare up, the last thing you need is to be struggling to obtain the documentation required for accommodations.  
  1. Be sure to tell the appropriate people about your illness.  
  • Get in touch with the accessibility department, they can tell you exactly what accommodations you qualify for. If you are comfortable doing so, it can also be helpful to tell your professors. They are required to follow any accommodations set in place by the school, but it can be helpful when building your rapport that they have a bit of an understanding of your situation. Again, if you are comfortable, tell your friends. This will prevent assumptions from being made to account for things like fatigue or brain fog. What you share is up to you, you can tell someone that you are chronically ill without telling them your exact diagnosis if that makes you more comfortable. You do not owe anyone your life story, but sharing can make your life easier. 
  1. Plan your schedule with time to take care of yourself.  
  • This may look like a spaced-out class schedule with time to nap during the day, or even a reduced course load. You may be eligible for a reduced course load through accessibility that won’t affect your standing as a fulltime student. Remember, life isn’t a race. If you have to take your academics at a slower pace in order to take care of yourself, that’s okay. You can also take summer courses to finish up faster while still taking fewer classes at once.  
  1. Know your limits and don’t push yourself too hard. 
  • If you are struggling, it’s okay to ask for help. Get connected with the wellness center and they can help guide you to the services you need. If you end up struggling with your school work due to your chronic illness, just remember you are more than your grades. Maybe consider getting a tutor to help you keep on track with your academics.  

Always remember to take care of your physical health. If you are too sick, you will not be able to do your best work. If you ever need to take a break from school, that’s okay too. It will still be there when you are feeling a bit better.  

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Kaylyn Heine

Laurier Brantford '22

Hi, I'm Kaylyn! I'm a social work major at Wilfrid Laurier University. My passions are reading, coffee, and social justice.
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