Invisible Illnesses Awareness

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Hello Readers!!!

Please persevere and read to the very end and then share!

On October the 12th approximately 400 words was written about the topic “Why do people flunk courses? Best excuses for missing deadlines and how to avoid using them”. Following on from that topic title I want to share with you a reason why some students flunk their courses that is very important and close to my heart.

Invisible Illnesses

Many students “flunk” due to illnesses that cannot be seen physically. To everyone else they do not look ill, in fact they often look physically well, pretty, well dressed, articulate, intelligent and so on. However, often these are the students that are often absent from lectures and seminars. They often miss appointments and meetings without informing anyone or they send an email or text message cancelling these appointments and meetings. Not just in the academic world but these students often miss medical appointments and social meetings and get togethers due to their illness or illnesses that is not visible to the naked eye.

Types of Invisible Illnesses

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Chronic insomnia
  • Irritable Bowel/Bladder Syndrome (IBS)
  • Chronic Muscular and/or Skeletal diseases
  • Chronic Asthma
  • Allergies and Food In-tolerances.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis.
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
  • Fibromyalgia and Chronic Myofascial Pain.
  • Depression and Mental Illness.
  • Diabetes and other Blood Sugar Issues.
  • Digestive Disorders (such as; IBS, colitis, Celiac, etc.)
  • Lupus

These are just to name a few there are many more illnesses that are invisible which can be researched online by searching the key words: List of Invisible illnesses, Symptoms of Depression, Symptoms of Invisible Illnesses because often those who suffer any one invisible illness are also suffering a multitude of other invisible illnesses also.

For example I myself have been diagnosed with Fybromyalgia with this illness comes many other symptoms that are also invisible illnesses. It is like a vicious cycle. When I am suffering a Fybro Flare Up a term used by us sufferers of this condition with it my symptoms of Insomnia increases, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, IBS and restless legs syndrome. The level of pain that I will be experiencing is off the scales.

I was an undergraduate at Loughborough and hardly ever attended lectures or seminars. I am now a post graduate student.

It is because of all the fantastic support services available at the university that has given me the courage to now continue as a post graduate student. If it was not for the support services available, all based at the Bridgeman building for Mental health and Disability and also student finance support and advice; I would most definitely have flunked! I have several times come very close to quitting!!!!!

The fantastic staff and tutors and admin team have been supportive once they knew my personal circumstances. Shout out to my personal tutor Deirdre O’Byrne that has over the past 5 years been a constant steadfast believer in what I can achieve and supported and encouraged me.

Yes five years!!! That’s how long it took me to complete my degree from the day I registered as a part time mature student. However, I am now a very proud 2016 Bachelor of Arts graduate!

I want to highlight that students do not flunk their degrees from just partying boozing and hangovers! That there is actually some very legitimate and difficult circumstances why students flunk. Often those with visible disabilities and those with invisible illnesses often “flunk” because they perhaps do not have the self-confidence or perhaps are too ill to seek out the facilities and support available to them at Loughborough University and almost all higher education institutes.

I myself flunked in a manner of speaking at the age of 19, I was already suffering various symptoms that I did not share with friends or tutors. I did not have the confidence to attend lectures and certainly had no confidence to seek out advice and support. In fact I did not even understand the marking system I was achieving steady 2.1 marks for submitted essays and exams that I sat. However I thought that I was failing miserably, in my head 62-66 % out of 100% is an appallingly low mark. Therefore I am failing the course. I did not have any confidence at such a young age to go and speak to tutors about my marks or the feedback. After completing my second year I became so severely depressed and ill I took a year out and never returned.

I felt ashamed of having failed and too ashamed of the stigma attached to mental health.

After having left university life in the 1990s I became so depressed I just stayed shut in my room and my family home.

Eventually I had no choice but to look for work hated the whole sign on for jobseekers allowance. Not everyone likes or enjoys being a “benefit scrounger” (look out for my next article discussing “benefit scroungers”).

I then got married in 1999 had my first child and continued working in various different jobs. In 2004 I finally settled into a job I loved and enjoyed but due to stress around job security in 2008 and how will we pay our mortgage and raise a family my ill health got worse and caused long term sick leave 3 times in just the space of 2 years.

The thought of claiming benefits did not sit well with me. So each time I returned to work too soon and ended up signed off again and again because the truth was I was very ill just and in denial. I left that job in March 2011. I had no choice.

Eventually in 2011 I was sick and tired of wasting away at home after just being out of work for 6 months and on benefits! So I looked back at my main passion and interests in life. Books and writing. I wanted to finish my degree. I first contacted the university I had enrolled at in 1993. Guess what there is “a sell by date” on those module credits achieved! I had left it too late! However they kindly issued a certificate of Higher National Diploma in English Studies and they also discovered that actually there’s an outstanding fees amount left to pay! Imagine my horror! This they also kindly waived once I explained my personal circumstance after all why on Earth had they not chased me up about a) returning to complete my degree and b) pay the outstanding fees????

So that’s my story just the top layer of it anyway.

Moving on from talking about me…

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Hana Jacobson and she has kindly written in her own words what her role is and what they can do for any students suffering visible and invisible illnesses. Also sharing photos of their most recent October meet and greet event, courtesy of Hana kindly sending them to me. I am introducing Hana and her team and committee first because I definitely think this is a good place to start when seeking support advice getting signposted and making friends! Suffering a disability of any nature is very isolating and even more so when you are surrounded by able bodied students enjoying the stereotypical student life.

“The Disability Support Network (DSN) is an association included in the Loughborough Students’ Union’s (LSU) Welfare and Diversity section. The network represents students with disabilities, by addressing accessibility issues, promoting campaigns to raise awareness, holding events, and implementing the “DSN LSU Nightlife Scheme”. The network has seven committee members: LSU’s Disability Officer and Chair, Hana Jacobson, Vice Chair Becky Coughlan, Outreach Officer Sally Handford, Campaigns Officer Hannah Whitehead, Events Officer Jasmine Blezard and College Officer Tom Wright.

We have just had our first campaign “Open Up October”, aimed at encouraging students with disabilities to open up to their friends, peers, lecturers, and reach out to support available across campus. We have provided information on services available, and top tips on how to open up in October! This year we will be working on a campaign to raise awareness that not all disabilities are visible. On accessible toilet doors within the union, we have introduced signs saying “Not every disability is visible.”

Here at LSU, the DSN Nightlife scheme provides disabled students with a discreet DSN logo sticker placed on students ID cards, granting the opportunity for queue jump with one accompanying friend (student/non-student) on a night out! The sticker also acts as a discreet way of signalling to Union staff of students’ needs on a night out, without the need for questions. Students can also be granted access to the disabled toilets, in which mag lock access will be activated onto their student ID card.

If you have any queries, feel free to contact Disability Officer Hana Jacobson, by email or via the Facebook or Twitter page, or join the closed Facebook group!

Email: W&DDisabilityOfficer@lsu.co.uk

Twitter: @Disability_LSU

Facebook Page: LSU Disability Officer http://www.facebook.com/LSU-Disability-Officer-997588830274059/?fref=ts

This page updates all students with Welfare & Diversity events and campaigns and creates an awareness of living with a disability within university and society today.

Closed Facebook Group: LSU Disability Support Network http://www.facebook.com/groups/217693988428041/

The Disabled Students Network, a closed Facebook group where you can meet other disabled students and discuss any issues or concerns you may have. The closed group will also keep you regularly updated with the DSN Nightlife Scheme”.

By Anwara Tarafdar

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