In July 2012, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Whenever I tell people that, the first question is usually: what is that? Here is my layman’s terms, non-scientific, only-way-I-understand-it way of explaining it:
Basically, your nerves are covered by a protective covering called “myelin,” and what multiple sclerosis is, is a build up of that covering. I had an excess of myelin on my spinal cord that take form in the form of lesions. Now my body doesn’t recognize these lesions, and so like the good body it is, likes to get rid of anything it thinks doesn’t belong. Unfortunately for me though, the excess of myelin isn’t harmful, and since it’s right on my nerves, when my body attacks it, my nerves are also affected.
Since my lesions are right on my spinal cord, a key component of my nervous system, each time my body attacks it, I have a what is called a “flare-up” in which my nerves decide to do something wonky. I’ve had relapses where my limbs go numb, my eyes go out of focus, I have a loss of appetite, balance, energy… Basically it can mess up whatever it wants.
So yeah. That’s what MS is. I don’t have flare ups often (thankfully), because I’m on medications (three cheers for vitamin D and subcutaneous daily shots!) but when I do, they’re quite annoying.
Now that you know (kind of) what MS is, here are my tips about dealing with MS and being a university student!
1. Manage your Stress!
Be careful with how much you put on your plate! For me, stress is a huge trigger for flareups for me. I’ve had times where I get stressed very quickly and my arm will go numb right away. Making sure you practice self-care is super important! Take a nap, watch a funny movie for fun, or journal: whatever destresses you, make sure you keep that in mind.
2. Seek out your Community!
I’m a huge advocate for getting involved with your community, and when I found the online MS community, I instantly became involved. I follow the #multscler and #multiplecsclerosis hashtags to get involved and join the discussion about it. I also blog for Someone Like Me and Comme Moi, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada’s Youth blog under the name Lioncoeur! (Can you guess how I got that name?)
3. Connect with Resources
The Career, Counselling and Disability Services at Glendon is a department that focuses on easing university life. Whether you want to attend one of their career workshops or Career Day in the cafeteria, want to go see one of the personal counsellors to discuss whatever is happening in your life or register as a student with disability through their office, the folks there will help you out! As a student with disability, the counsellors there, will help you work through anything stressing you out, and help you make alternate arrangements should you need it! Make sure you check them out! (There are also a bunch of scholarships and bursaries set up to help cover additional costs incurred if you have a disability!)
Living with MS and being a university student can often be stressful, and it can feel like yet another wrench is being thrown into the works. However, with self care, community and resources, it makes it easier to deal with and to get through.