I apologise for being quiet of late, my health has thrown me a few challenges but I’m getting myself back on an even keel now.

There are times I’m hit with a sense of disappointed. A feeling of ‘what’s the point in doing this degree?’ Not because I’ve become disillusioned with the course. Not because I don’t want to do the degree. But because everything has gotten so much harder again.

Why am I pushing myself to do this when essentially it’s unlikely I’m ever going to go into a career which requires the degree? What’s the point?

Well I’m going to answer that question here today, and hopefully be able to look back at this post whenever I’m questioning my decision to do a degree.

I’m doing this degree for so many reasons. To gain a qualification. To prove to people I have got the brains despite being ill. To prove to myself I can manage the demands of education. To prove you haven’t got to just give up when diagnosed with a life limiting illness. To gain knowledge and experience which will hopefully help me find a job. To gain the knowledge to be able to set up my own business if I can’t get a suitable job.

There are so many reasons I decided to embark on this degree journey, and yet I often find myself questioning myself. When my marks drop because my health has declined. When all I seem to be doing is sleeping and studying. When I read the same sentence from materials over and over again but it won’t register in my mind because of brain fog. When headaches leave me unable to even contemplate studying. When sitting up becomes such a challenge studying has to be done laying down. These aren’t the usual challenges of studying for most people, so how do you deal with that?

Friends and family are an amazing support, as is the Open University Student Association via social media. They manage to pick me up when I’m feeling down. When I’m gutted I’m not submitting my best work, it’s ‘only’ the best I can manage with my health the way it is. The reassuring comments of “you’re trying your best and that’s all that matters” work wonders at putting my mind at ease. The written cries of “You can do it” when I feel like giving up, boost me up and give me the courage to continue.

For the most part family and friends are the driving force keeping me going when things get tough.Like I said, they pick up the pieces and encourage me on when it seems too difficult to continue with my degree. But there is also a part of me not prepared to let my illness force me to give up anything else; it’s forced me to give up so much I used to enjoy and stops me from doing lots of things people my age experience. I’m determined my illness will not prevent me from gaining a degree, at least not without one heck of a fight!

That determination of not letting my illness win drives me on. Even when times are tough, I’m reluctant to give up any more of my activities due to this illness. Instead I tend to adapt them to how I am. This includes studying. The trouble is I then have to deal with feeling guilty that I’m not dedicating enough time in my degree; I know I’m dedicating all the time I can without making my illness even worse but at the same time the perfectionist in me feels guilty about it. That’s something I’ve had to get used to.

So for me, the way of dealing with the challenges I face is adaptation, determination and most importantly of all support from my friends, family and the Open University Student Association. Without them I don’t know where I’d be right now so this post also stands as a MASSIVE THANK YOU to all of them who’ve picked me up when times have been tough.

I’d love to know how you cope with the challenges you face, feel free to leave them in the comments or tweet me @SmilingClare

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