I am 21 and studying Politics, Psychology and Sociology full-time at Cambridge University.
I became ill with glandular fever when I was taking my A-levels and this triggered my M.E.
At my worst, I was sleeping 16-17 hours a day, had constant headaches and found it difficult to make myself get up. As a result, I was missing lectures and struggling to hand essays in that were of a decent quality.
I only realised I had M.E. during my first term of university.
When I went home for the Christmas holidays after my first term, I saw a specialist who recommended that I didn’t go back to Cambridge that year.
I contacted my college to tell them that I wouldn’t be returning and they said they would keep my place for me.
Having completed my first term of my first year, I had to take a break for the rest of the year and start all over again. When I started again, I switched courses, so it didn’t affect my studies much at all. In fact it was more my social life that was affected.
In the year that I didn’t return to university I did a course called the Lightning Process which helped me significantly. When I returned to university last year I felt much better and didn’t feel that I needed much support.
However, this year I have been struggling and my college nurse recommended that I use the free university counselling service which offers Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions.
CBT sessions have been helpful, although without continuing sessions both in and out of term, I’m not sure how effective they can really be.
The university counselling service is good but will only offer students 4 - 6 sessions since they are very busy and I’m not sure this is enough.
I’m not sure my supervisors are aware of my illness. My tutor always asks after my health, but other than this, I’m not sure my college is aware how much I am affected at times.
This might be more of a fault on my part though, as I am keen not to have to miss another year and so try to cover it up at times.
My tutor and director of studies are understanding and do ask after my welfare occasionally, but as I rarely admit to them I’ve been feeling ill - as I don’t want to have to miss another year - it’s hard for them to do much else!
My friends know about my M.E. and they’re good about it but since it’s the sort of thing that can be fine for a while and then flare up, I think it’s a little confusing for them.
I haven’t applied for any type of financing, although I could do so under the Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA). No one made me aware of this though – I just know that from my own research.
The most difficult/challenging thing I have found about having M.E. whilst studying is completing my work to a standard that I want it to be when I hand it in.
Sometimes this just isn’t possible when I’ve had a bad week and have been feeling really ill. I’m reluctant to use the M.E. as an excuse and so never do.
At the moment, I’m on holiday and haven’t been feeling great, but I hope that next term will be better.
My plan is to finish the last year and a half of university and then to find a job or do a masters degree.
I really hope that M.E. won’t continue to affect and dictate my life in the way that it does now.