Surviving College with CRPS
By Ashley Mahoney
was always told that college is the best time of your life
and I believe that this is both true and false. I have learned
more in these years about myself, other people, medicine,
and the strength of the human spirit. Also, these have been
challenging years, both physically and mentally, because,
unlike most college students, I have CRPS. I've listed
some strategies and suggestions for having a great college
Tell Your Professors that you Have CRPS.
The RSDSA website has some great explanations of CRPS. It helps to have the printed explanation with your e-mail or phone number at the top, so that if your professors have any questions, they can contact you. Some professors have been supportive and others could have cared less, but if I am ever unable to attend class, they know beforehand why.
Make an appointment with your professors; when they speak with you face-to-face, often they are more caring and willing to help. Do not be afraid to ask for help!
Use the Assisted Learning Office.
The assisted learning office- also called learning labs-can provide extra time to take exams, or even provide a quiet environment for taking them. This has been crucial to me! Since I have been diagnosed with CRPS, I learn very differently and it can take me a lot longer to complete exams and homework. I have spoken with many other college students with CRPS and found that they have had some of the same difficulties with learning since being diagnosed. Take advantage of all assistance you can get-study sessions, individual tutoring, or extra time on a test. This is your college experience; make the most out of it!
Meet with the disabilities office so that you can park
in a handicap space.
I cannot carry many books around, and, as a biology student, my books are big. Being able to leave books in a locker or my car has helped keep the pain down. The disabilities office may be able to offer more help, such as a shuttle service, depending on the size of the campus.
How do we deal with pain and going to college?
It is not easy. Chairs scooting across the floor, people brushing up against you, or other students dropping books on the floor can be excruciating. I have learned that letting other students know about CRPS and the pain involved has cut down on these types of nuances. Fatigue is another factor. Do not wait till the end of the day to start studying. I try to take a nap, if possible, and then start my studying. I feel much better and ready to tackle my studying if my body is not aching with fatigue.
Tell your roommate about CRPS.
Most of the time, fellow students will be kind even if they do not totally understand the syndrome. Brittany Wurst, a transfer student to Samford University said, "I was so nervous about telling my suite mates about CRPS. I didn't want to be labeled 'the sick kid'; I am still 'me' even with CRPS. I finally got the courage up and they were so sweet! I know if I have any problems they will be there for me!" Your room becomes your home, and you need to be comfortable.
Although Brittany and I attended public institutions for a while, we are both at private colleges. We feel that they are more accommodating and understanding and have gone above and beyond to help us have an enjoyable college experience. However, no matter where you go to school, make sure you tell people about CRPS. By explaining it, you are increasing awareness and opening doors for yourself.
Get involved on campus.
Going from a world of doctors' appointments, it can be intimidating to plunge into the college life. Even though it will be an adjustment, I encourage you to get involved. College provides an amazing opportunity to make life-long friends! Genuine people will be compassionate and be understanding when you explain CRPS. For some personalities, it is easy to become overcommitted; it is not wise to go through college stressed out. You need to be able to rest and enjoy college life. There is a fine line; you know how much is too much for you.
These are some of the strategies and ways I approach college. Though going to school and having CRPS is very challenging, it can be done. Take a reasonable course load- stress is not good for anyone. Take your time and stay healthy. Listen to your body and have a wonderful college career!
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