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What It’s Like Living with a Chronic Illness in College

For most people, going to school is trivial, filled with boring lectures and uneventful classes. But for college students with pre-existing conditions, every school day is a struggle. I personally have been living with an autoimmune disease that has affected my central nervous system, neurological system, and other parts of my body for over 2 years. For everyone that has ever gone to class with a migraine, stayed up late finishing homework only to get a headache the next day, and has passed out during a sports practice on a hot day, I feel your pain; and thousands of other kids on college campuses across the world do too. Yes, I am jealous of kids who complain about a headache and feel better after taking two Advil as well. 

The hardest things throughout your college experience are going to be, going to class, getting all of your homework done, studying for exams, and getting the right amount of sleep. For students that have chronic illnesses in college, the most important thing is going to be prioritizing your time– something that I am still getting the hang of myself. Something that I can not stress enough is to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. This is vital to your success in school. Do your studying in between classes throughout the day, and on the weekends. Plan to write a page a day of a paper that is required to be 5 pages in length. And know when to turn down friends so you can study, and when to treat yourself to down time. You need to find your own personal balance of work, play, and sleep that is specific to you. 

You need to remember what your goal is, a college degree. So many things can side track you and set you back, even missing one class because you need more sleep. But the feeling of earning a degree later is better than the feeling of sleeping in and missing a class in the present. This is what I tell myself everyday. 

Some kids turn to coffee and Redbull during their first semester of college, and continue it as a habit to keep them awake in morning classes and to study at night. But for all my college kids out there that have heart conditions and can not tolerate caffeine– we know drinking water, Gatorade, or orange juice has the same effect. Replacing toxic drinks and food with natural and organic options will greatly improve your health and won’t give you a false sense of energy, only to make you crash later in the day. 

To be successful in college while managing a chronic illness you need to have determination, self awareness, goals, a support system, and a plan of action for when you are not in control of your health. I understand that sometimes what you’re doing is not enough and you can not control you health, but it is important to have a plan when you are not feeling well; especially if you are living on your own. Appoint three people you trust to keep your emergency contacts in their phone so they are prepared to help. This could be a friend, roommate, an RA, or even public safety. 

For the students that need 8 hours of sleep, have food allergies, can not tolerate caffeine, have to stay hydrated, have chronic fatigue and suffer through class no matter how they are feeling– I have experienced your pain, mental stress and emotions, and I am proud of you. I want you to know that someone is here for you, someone is proud of you, and someone is rooting for you to succeed. 

Kathryn Andes

Sacred Heart '21

Hi! I'm Kathryn, I'm majoring in Communications with a focus in Journalism, and minoring in Fashion Merchandising and Marketing. I sing in the SHU choir, I'm the President of College Democrats at Sacred Heart, and I'm a global ambassador for the Office of Global Affairs. I love writing about fashion, beauty, life, and politics, and Her Campus gives me a great platform to do that!