Balancing Chronic Illness and College in Nepal

Published On: May 29, 2023 10:30 AM NPT By: Shreya Roka

Shreya Roka

Shreya Roka

The author is a fourth-year law student at Kathmandu School of Law, Bhaktapur.

Living with a chronic illness is like playing a video game in hard mode and you are stuck in it forever.

Until high school, I was someone who never missed a day of school. However, as I was diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses in college, missing classes have been quotidian. I struggle with attending classes, assignment deadlines, and at this point even board exams.

As you start college, you have a general expectation to make college the best years of life where you can finally catch the train of your career. However, college can be highly daunting if you are someone living with a chronic illness. You have assignments every day, exams every month, and you are expected to excel in extracurricular activities too. After a while of struggle with these, you start grasping at straws just for a semblance of relief.

The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) defines chronic illnesses as, “Conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both.” For most people, physical illness and mental illness are in a reciprocal relationship with one another. When you have a chronic physical illness, you start questioning life and reality, which could trigger chronic mental illness and vice versa.

Balancing chronic illness and college can be an arduous task, especially in Nepal, where colleges providing online classes, online notes, and online reading materials are hardly a thing. When you miss a lecture, you fall behind in notes and when missing classes becomes a regular thing, you fall behind in everything and everyone in college. In addition, the nescience of chronic illnesses among professors and faculties of college can be exasperating. I specifically remember a professor telling me to “strengthen my immune system” when I told him I had an autoimmune disorder. I have heard similar stories from other people with chronic illnesses where the professors and faculty have dismissed them and their concerns by invalidating their illnesses. A friend of mine who is suffering from anxiety disorder was dismissed by a professor because she “talks and laughs a lot in class”. These kinds of experiences can make people hesitant to reach out and seek help. However, there is help available and it is necessary to reach out when in need.

Many colleges offer accommodations and support services for students with chronic illnesses. However, navigating these resources can be a challenge. Being proactive about seeking out resources such as disability services and communicating with your professors and advisors about any accommodations that you may need is the first step to surviving and flourishing in your college life.

The stress and anxiety of balancing these two can be testing. Here’s my advice for college students with chronic illnesses:

 Find a doctor:

Find a specialist doctor who is genuinely willing to help and listen to your problems. Ask them any questions you have in your mind about your illness and change the doctor ASAP if they get annoyed by your multiple questions. You should be updated with your doctor on all the possible treatments and medications. Do not hesitate to go to another doctor for a second opinion.

Compile your medical reports:

Compile all the medical reports into a file and even keep a scanned copy of them so that you can easily access them wherever you are.

 Communicate with professors before the term begins:

Section 21 of the Act Relating to Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2074 mentions “The educational institutes shall make provisions of disability-friendly educational materials, having regard to the needs of persons with disabilities.” Communicate with all the professors about your chronic illness before the semester starts and make full use of this right. Inform them about your limitations and ask for an extension on deadlines if necessary. Also, it is highly important to ask them to send all the reading materials they have available online and make a photocopy of paperback notes.

 Communicate with classmates:

Ask your close classmates for the notes they have taken in class and discuss the subject matter. Occasionally, try to arrange group study sessions.

  Exercise and meditate:

Exercise and meditation can provide varying amounts of relief and comfort depending on the nature of your illness. This is easier said than done. However, you should still try to do some light exercises and yoga, and short sessions of meditation.

  Embrace your chronic illness:

Adapting to a new reality after your diagnosis can be highly overwhelming. This could leave you feeling high and dry. However, try to understand and accept the fact that nothing is permanent. We always have good days and bad days. Always rest on the bad days and make the best use of your good days. This is how you can balance chronic illness and college in Nepal.

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