A typical college student has to balance classes, job searches and extracurricular activities. But if are chronically ill and in college you not only have to conquer tests and interviews, you have to fight a constant battle against your own body! School and especially college is like a full time job. Now take your full time job and add another full time job and that is hat it is like attending colllege with IBD.
To put this in perspective, each day I take 10 pills, make at least ten trips to the bathroom, have to flush my two lumin PICC line, make at least three elemental shakes, and sleep for at least ten hours. Now subtract almost all your energy and any source of food and add lots of nausea and popping... Sounds fun right. Well it's not fun, but I've got some tips for making it through college, alive, with IBD!
First and foremost, sleep is important. It's important to everyone, but it is especially important to those fighting with IBD. If I don't get enough sleep, I am physically sick and feel like absolute crap. So I've learned that sometimes sleep is more important then perfecting a homework assignment. I know that most college students pride themselves in their ability to function on little sleep, but I am not a normal college student, so I really can't afford to act like one.
My second piece of advice is learn to minimize stress. I am a total type A personality so I tend to stress about everything. But, if there is one thing crohns has taught me, it's that I can't control everything in fact there is very little I can actually control, so I HAVE STOPPED STRESSING ABOUT THINGS I CANT CONTROL. Do your best and then move on. Not getting the grade you want is not worth making yourself sick over.
To add to that. Time management is key to handling a disease in college. I have so much to do on top of school work, that if I don't plan, then I end up stressed out, and we all know how bad stress is on the body. This means that procrastinating is not for the crohnie! I have doctor appointments and a home health appointment every week so I have to know what I have to do and when I plan on doing it.
I personally have chosen to give up a social life in order to stay at college. I almost never go out, and spend a lot of time in my room. This isn't something I want to do, but I've learned that trying to push myself to be social is not something I can afford to do when I am this sick.
As far as actual academics go, some semesters I have to under load in order to survive, but even when I am under loading, I communicate with all my professors. I tell them as much as they are willing to hear, because truthfully my life is hard and when I share how much I am going through most professors want to help. My ability to talk to my professors is partly due to attending a small college. Hanover has truly been great with dealing with my illness. All of my professors have supported me even when I have had to miss class! So finding the right schools and maintaining good relationships with your professors can make a huge difference!
Lastly, I survive college by leaning on my wonderful support system both here at school and at home. These people know all the intimate details of my disease and still want to be around me! They are truly a blessing and help me out so much. I absolutely could not be at school if I didn't have my loving boyfriend and wonderful sorority sisters supporting me every step of the way. Also, my families unwavering support and my doctors who want me to succeed play a huge part in my success!
To sum it up, college is hard and tryin to navigate college with a disease is infinitely harder. Sometimes it feels like too much, but I'm not one to give up, in fact I will never stop fighting! So even though these tips are aimed at those fighting IBD, most of these things are just good rules to live by for any student! Hopefully now you understand a little more of my fight to survive college with crohns in my not so normal life.