Studying with a chronic illness: PCOS awareness month
In light of PCOS awareness month, I wanted to touch on the study experience while living with chronic illness.
Since I was a tween, I have been dealing with a nameless chronic illness. Back then, I didn’t know what it was or why I was feeling certain symptoms which was quite distressing. It can be really difficult to feel separate from your peers but you can’t put a name to it!
When starting my degree at university, I became much more informed on my condition. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a reproductive, endocrine and metabolic disorder that is estimated to affect 13% of women worldwide (according to the World Health Organisation). More alarmingly, it is also estimated that 70% of affected women remain undiagnosed across the globe.
Symptoms are often hard to delineate from others and there is also a lack of research and understanding of the condition, making it difficult to reach a consensus. I was lucky that I received my diagnosis in my teens when many women are only just receiving it in their 30s and 40s.
It is partly because of this condition that I became so interested in mental health and came back to study psychology. Of course, this comes with some challenges too. With any chronic illness or disorder, it is important to prioritise rest and balance responsibilities. This can be really hard when you have goals you want to achieve and fear slowing down because you might fall behind your peers.
The thing is, it’s not a race and you have to look after yourself! Health is important and you can only achieve your goals if you’re taking care of yourself too. However, some conditions are more manageable than others and I am lucky I have found a way to function well with mine.
This was thanks to a culmination of reaching out for free counselling support at university, talking to friends, using the university disability support service and creating a management plan with my doctors that works for me. If you’re struggling with a condition too and trying to juggle your studies, it’s okay to seek help. You’re not alone.