Dealing with a chronic illness, getting a steady 2:1 and having a social life

University is touch for everyone; moving away from home, endless deadlines and trying to balance being a good student with actually having a social life. However, if you have a chronic illness there is an added level of stress of managing your illness in and around all of this. 

Over my three years at university dealing with my chronic illness, getting a steady 2:1 and having a social life, I’ve picked up a few tips along the way on how to get a good balance! 


1.Get in touch with your university’s disability service

You may not even see your chronic illness at a disability but don’t let that stop you from getting the help and support you may need. Through the disability service (it may be called learner development or student support) you can meet with someone who will help make a personal learning programme. Your PLP will contain pretty much everything you’ll need at uni and it can set your mind at rest too. It really helped me when it came to exams. Not only did it help me get special circumstances when I was in hospital and not able to sit them, when I finally did take my exams I was in a smaller room, was able to take rest breaks and could take food and water into the exam if I needed to. Even if you don’t think you need any support, it’s always worth making one of these meetings and having a plan in place, just in case! It means that your tutors will know about your illness without you having to go up and talk to them so if you need time off, they’re hopefully going to be more understanding!

2. Apply for Disabled Students Allowance

When I applied to uni, I applied for DSA on a whim, I really didn’t think that I’d get anything but what’s the harm in trying! In fact, it was really worth my time applying and going to the needs assessment because I managed to get a printer (and ink and paper) and I get the difference between en-suite and non en-suite accommodation paid for, too. Whatever your chronic illness may be, have a go! They can supply special chairs, travel expenses, computers, reading equipment…everything! So I really urge you to go and apply.

3. Listen to your body

This is a tip for everyone at uni! In freshers I went out every night and I drank. Not a lot, but more than I normally would. I didn’t get drunk but the alcohol and fizzy drinks caused me to flare more and exhaustion got to me. I felt pretty dreadful. In one case, I thought I’d gotten a stomach ulcer from drinking with my tablets which I never normally do but for once, I wanted to feel like a “normal” teenager/fresher. I ended up at the walk in health centre panicking and feeling pretty stupid. I hadn’t given myself a stomach ulcer; I’d just caused myself to flare even more. I didn’t drink from that day on! The moral of the story was that I started listening to my body and not going on mad nights out too much because I found them exhausting. I was lucky that I had a good group of friends who understood and there was plenty of other things for us to do (in the day time) and we still had a great time, probably better! I know I did. 

4. Speak to your doctors/specialist nurse before you go

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a great relationship with your doctor because of the amount of times you go. Because of this, I didn’t feel too weird asking for an appointment to see her before I went to uni just so I could get some help/advice for setting up prescriptions and signing up to doctors and whatnot. Whichever medical professional you have the best relationship with, try and have a chat with them because it could put your mind at rest

5. Have Fun!

Yes, you may have an illness which makes life harder for you but don’t let it win by stopping you from doing things. Make the most out of your time at uni, have fun and make great friends!

And there we have it, 5 tips to help you at university if you have a chronic illness! I was so worried before going to university, worrying about how I’d cope on my own and how I’d manage my illness but it’s honestly really doable and I’m so glad that I didn’t let me stop me going to university! 

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Written by Katie Chesworth, 11 months ago
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