Being a student with a physical illness is difficult, especially without a support system. Although most colleges have counseling services, these services lack in providing an encouragement system for the physically ill.
As a student with a physical illness, I am in constant search of comfort and consistency in my life. Each day brings new challenges, but that does not equal insufficiency. The media likes to label physical illnesses as “disabilities,” but as a member of the physically ill community, I despise that label. Personally, I do not like sharing that I have a physical illness; which is problematic when searching for similar afflicted students.
By definition, physical illnesses cause an enduring health problem, such as diabetes, cancer, arthritis and congenital failures. Along with physical illnesses, those with health problems typically become plagued to suffer from depression and anxiety.
Oklahoma Christian University has a program for the “disabled,” that lets us ask for accommodations for classes; however, that is the extent. I believe that physical illnesses need more consideration when it comes to the development of new “health” programs. With the continued concern of mental health and weight management, the physically ill feel left behind.
According to research, the physically ill receive the majority of their comfort from community. Bonding with similar sufferers can help validate physical illnesses and help blur the boundary that “others” the physically ill. Feeling alone and dependent on others causes grief, “people who are ill often feel dependent and often resentful about that dependence.” Reducing the burden of dependency can help relieve the strain physically ill people feel upon others.
Finding a support group can appear difficult, especially since most of the physically sick are “embarrassed” by their illness. Students like me feel like they are walking on a tightrope between embracing their illness and completely concealing it.
A while ago, I tweeted out a search to find other students that were physically ill. Only three people replied to me, which was not comforting and made me feel even more isolated in my illness. Ultimately, I suppose finding a support group is more difficult than it appears, but the only way to succeed is by uniting as a team of afflicted students. Together it is easier to provide support for each other.
I hope to make students eventually realize the importance of recognizing the significance of physical illnesses and the weight it casts upon students. The physically ill are not burdens to society, nor are they searching to be “fixed.” Both the physically ill and mentally ill are important and deserve equal consideration and support
Changing this epidemic will not be easy and might never happen. All I am trying to say is that students with physical illnesses should not be ashamed. They need to find a supportive environment and learn to accept and grow, rather than conceal and suppress.