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Disability at university: what help is available to me?

Being disabled in any walk of life can be a challenge.

From college to university, there are systems in place to make learning with a disability easier, but is it enough? What about if you suffer from an invisible ailment, what’s available for you then?

Emotional problems and youth are almost synonymous. But, sometimes that bout of depression, or the struggle to eat feel like more than just hormones.

Once turning 18, you’re considered an adult and can be diagnosed with conditions such as BPD. It also means; if you were getting help from CAHMS it’s now time to move on to adult mental health services. Getting appointments amidst lectures, parties, relationships can add to the mood swings and provide even less time for self-care for the average student.

Relatable! 🎨 @gemmacorrell I’ve got a big talk on Friday and I’m really nervous about it. Will they like me? Am I going to be too boring? Am I going to talk too fast? . I used to put ice cubes in my tea so I could drink it without burning myself. Anxiety is like too hot tea. It can burn us if we drink up all those negative thoughts. How about using something to cool it down? Here are some things I’m trying today: . • Alternate nostril breathing • Dancing in my living room to a favorite song (not a super huge fan of T-Swift but Shake It Off is a favorite for this) • Tapping or EFT • Affirmations in the mirror • Taking things slower than usual on purpose . What other things help you? Good luck chilling the anxiety today! . #anxietea #anxiety #anxietywarrior #recoveringperfectionist #edrecovery #mentalhealth #copingskills #chillout #justbe #yougotthis

A post shared by Kate Sutton, LPC (@counselorkate) on

For most people, university is the first time in a young person’s life that they are self-sufficient. Adult life provides a whole bundle of new aggravators, from financial worries to relationship concerns, the support of family seems far behind you and support from school is no longer as concentrated as it once was. If you’re already suffering from a pre-existing condition—especially one that’s considered “invisible”—uni life can be 10x harder with a whole group of new people to educate on your condition.

I am one of those people. My story began during sixth-form when I was diagnosed with Myoclonic epilepsy.

To cut a long story short, I was prescribed a medication (Levetiracetam) that didn’t prove too beneficial for me and I was almost entirely housebound due to severe depression. By the time I got to university, I was diagnosed with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), life was becoming impossible and I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I didn’t even realise my university offered help for someone like me. The waiting list for therapy was taking me out of lectures, the thought of my disability hindering my education was preventing me from doing anything—my epilepsy and my BPD loomed over me like a dark cloud.

… "What is Boderline Personality Disorder..? _____ Symptoms include, an extreme fear of abandonment, partaking in dangerous or risky behavior, feelings of emptiness, difficulties managing emotions and extremly unstable relationships. _____ People with BPD tend to have trouble maintaining their identity and tend to have difficulty knowing what they value, believe, and enjoy. They are often unsure about their long-term goals for relationships and jobs. These difficulties can cause people with BPD to experience feeling "empty" and "lost". _____ People with BPD may tend to dissociate, which can be thought of as an intense form of "zoning out". _____ Substance abuse, depression and eating disorders are commonly associated with BPD. Self-harm occurs in 50-80% of people with BPD. _____ The types and severity of BPD symptoms differ from person to person. Individuals with BPD have different predispositions and life histories, symptoms often fluctuate over time. _____ About 1.6% of people have BPD in a given year. Females are diagnosed approximately three times as often as males. BPD typically emerges by early adulthood. _____ Check my previous post to hear from somebody with BPD directly." Follow @learn_psychology_ for more _____ Happy Friday! Via: @learn_psychology_ #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealthadvocate #mentalhealth #breakthestigma #psychology #psychologist #psychologystudent #sad #psychologymajor #therapy #therapist #psychiatry #artwork #art #instaart #psychologie #authorsofinstagram #wellness #health #picoftheday #instagood #progress #motivation #love #BPD #boderline #interview #feelings #eatingdisorder #selfharm

A post shared by AP (@_ap65) on

I eventually decided to open up to those around me, as I could see my condition was affecting them.

One thing to note is, although your condition may affect how you treat people; it is never an excuse to push away those who truly care about you. I lost a lot of friends during one of the worst depressive episodes of my life. It wasn’t just me, however, some didn’t understand my struggle, with one of my friends saying how “a man with one leg can still climb Everest!” Even with all the information out there about mental health, people still find the need to compare it to physical disability. As if the man with one leg didn’t have months of coaching and support from his friends and family. A man with one leg doesn’t JUST climb Everest.

However, Some people did turn around and share their stories with me. They expressed their feelings of depression and share their struggles with self-care. The wave of relief that washed over me when I realised that my disabilities didn’t make me different. To know you’re not alone is the first step to getting better. That warm hug of understanding was a huge stepping stone for me. My first bit of advice for those struggling; is to share what’s bothering you, surround yourself with people who understand or at least want to understand.

All universities have a disability service.

This can offer both help with learning but assistance in self-care. Specialists can offer advice and basic training to make life on your own that little bit easier.

I’ve heard from a few students and it seems that even though university is a more independent; the help they’re receiving is beyond what that could have expected at school. We end up passing up help as we’re pre-conditioned to expect the minimal amount of care. One autistic student at The Open University admitted “I was allowed complete privacy during my exam with the exception of the invigilator, have been given permission to use my laptop for essay writing.” they go on to say they’ve had” the option to go to physical lessons, but it has never been a requirement as there are online classrooms available that you can use, along with recordings of said classrooms that you can use if you can’t make it to a session.”

The disabled student’s allowance offers you a grant for equipment and professionals that can help you through your university career without your disability getting in the way.

It can provide you with the funds for recording equipment or specialist help; should your condition affect your ability to catch up with lectures.

If like me, you didn’t receive the help you should have done at school—or you if you hadn’t been properly diagnosed until now—it’s time to reach out and get the help you deserve. It’s not your fault you’re struggling and there is help out there that means it doesn’t have to go on like that.

Without a tangible ailment to show it’s hard for suffers from mental illness to stay positive or to continue to fight. Giving those around us the benefit of the doubt; it is hard to believe in something that’s not there. It takes courage to accept who we are and take a step in making it better.

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