Living Life, Within the Limits of Chronic Illness

Category: My Open University Journey Page 4 of 16

The End of T320 and Plans for Summer!

Well I did it. I’m not sure how, but I got my End of Module Assessment submitted a week early. I can’t say I’m 100% happy with what I submitted, but it’s too late to change that now. I’m glad I got it in that early as the following week there was DIY happening in the house; when you have M.E. just coping with the noise and disruption DIY causes is exhausting in itself, let alone trying to finalise an assignment while it’s going on!

So yes, my EMA is in and it’s that time when I reflect on the module and declare my plans u til my next module begins.

T320 has been an interesting, engaging and challenging module. I can’t say I found it easy, even though it was the only module I was studying at the time. My health (or should that be lack thereof?) as well as other circumstances, including the sudden loss of my Nan, have made this module more of a challenge. But it’s a challenge I’ve risen too, and I hope I have done enough to achieve a result my Nan would be proud of.

The module itself, I thought was well written. I have learned heaps about eXtensible Markup Language (XML) and its uses, along with XML Schemas and Business Process Engineering Language (BPEL). The practical side of this module I loved and hated in equal measures; when something wouldn’t work and I couldn’t work out why I hated it with a vengeance but when I finally worked out the problem, fixed it and got it working there was an amazing sense of achievement and I loved it!

Like I said, this module hasn’t been without its challenges but overall it hasn’t been as difficult as I anticipated based on what I’d heard about it. Here’s hoping I can say the same thing at the end of my next module!

No sooner had the official deadline for my EMA passed, than I decided to look into some free courses to complete during my break. I’ve found a couple online which I’ve signed up for and registered interest in a few others. One in particular I’m hoping might help with my next module: TM470 The I.T. Project, which is my final compulsory I.T. module of my degree. It is an individual project, and the free online course I’ve signed up to later this month is all about developing a research project. I’m hoping it will help me prepare for TM470 which starts in Jan 2016 but if it doesn’t, at an hour of study for about four weeks I won’t have really lost anything.

On the subject of my next module I’m still nervously waiting for news on finance for it. I had to resend the forms after the university said they hadn’t received them, and now it’s just a waiting game. Whatever happens I will find a way to fund my next module and the one after that in order to gain my degree. But any financial support I can receive, makes things a little easier and less stressful.

Anyway, health wise I’m not doing too well right now. I’m remaining positive and still smiling but my energy reserves are low and symptoms are high. I probably shouldn’t have jumped in and signed up for these extra courses so soon, but then again there’s no real pressure to complete them, or get a particular result. Hopefully I’ll still be able to get enough rest for my health to improve while completing those courses. For now the wait for results has begun, I plan on doing a few blog posts during my break including some about the courses I hope to complete and of course one about my results when I receive them!

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Feeling the Pressure

It’s that time of year again; examinable component time. This year I’m really feeling the pressure, I don’t have an exam but an End of Module Assessment (EMA)  although that reduces the pressure a little; I haven’t got to be well enough to complete an exam on a certain day, I’m still finding it difficult.
I think it’s because last year’s module result was lower than I had hoped, if you’re a regular reader you’ll know I only just scraped a pass. At least this year I have had a few months to look at and prepare my EMA which makes up the examinable component of my current module. However similarly to last year, these few months haven’t been without their difficulties, not only has my health declined to the point I’m needing help with basic tasks again, but I’ve also been dealing with the sudden loss of a relative. I have coped better than I did last year, managing to work on my EMA throughout this time, even if it was only little bits at a time. Last year my exam revision plans went to pieces and I seriously considered giving up on my degree altogether. That hasn’t been the case this year.
Yet I still feel a huge amount of pressure on me, all self-inflicted by my perfectionist nature. I know this  module result has a big bearing on my overall degree classification, and despite knowing that gaining any class of degree while living with a debilitating illness like M.E. is a major achievement I’m still aiming as high as possible and heaping pressure upon myself. Which in turn causes said illness to cause more debilitating symptoms. But I can’t stop myself.
I’ve accepted getting the highest class of degree is nigh on impossible, and I also know a third class degree with honours is a perfectly possible outcome of  what will be seven years hard work. But I also know a 2:2 is achievable. It’ll be tough but it should be possible. And despite my health being a right pain in the…everywhere! I’m still aiming for that. 
I’ve still got two modules left to complete after this End of Module Assessment, and they too will have a big influence over my overall degree class. That’s two more years of hard work. Two more years until I complete something I never dreamed I’d be able to. And still I’m beating myself up, making things harder for myself by aiming for a class of degree a healthy person would be proud to achieve. Let alone if they were also dealing with all the symptoms of M.E. that I find myself coping with.
I’m making real progress with my EMA, despite everything that is going on and the pressure I’m heaping on myself. The only thing is I’m not sure I’m writing what they are actually asking for. You know nothing major or anything! I’m hoping that the fact I’ve received good marks for assignments I’ve felt this unsure of in the past is a good omen. But only time will tell. 
Anyway with two weeks til deadline day I’m confident there will be a report to submit. Whether it scores highly or not is another matter entirely. All I know is I’ve done my best under some difficult circumstances. That will have to be enough to keep me happy.
Good Luck to any other students going through a similar thing. If you have an exam and want some revision tips you can find my tips from last year here.
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The Question Of Why

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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A Little Step Backwards

Things had been going really well with my health and studies. Ok so my marks haven’t been their best for this module but I’m on track to pass which is all that matters after all. But these past few weeks have seen my health take a bit of a nosedive.

A virus and dizziness on sitting upright have left me unable to sit at my beloved desk for very long at all. So I’m back to studying on the sofa…for now! I’m determined it’s just a temporary thing, I miss working at my desk more than I ever imagined I would. And relaxing on the sofa after studying there is rather more difficult than I once found it to be; probably because I’ve got used to leaving study behind at the desk. But like I said it is only going to be a temporary solution.

I am going to get myself well enough to work at my desk again. Somehow.

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