‘You’re sick? Don’t you mean hungover?’
This was the recurring rebuttal I experienced during my first few weeks of university. Unfortunately, the stereotype that all students are teetering on the brink of alcoholism did not help, and neither did the eagerness of many to quickly assign any absences from class to too much partying, or sheer laziness. I even got warned by the receptionist not to waste her time when I asked her to call the doctor. However, it wasn’t until people realised I was not simply suffering from fresher’s flu that they started to take me seriously.
Tonsillitis. I got it for the first time just after freshers. I, having never had tonsillitis before, struggled through an incredibly busy week of lectures and work, despite not being able to concentrate because of exhaustion. I was unable to sleep, with a fever so high that I had to change my PJs in the night as they were soaked with sweat. I somehow managed that first week not to miss a class, though I was barely able to drink, let alone eat. I had no idea what was happening to me.
Surviving on a diet of water and yogurt, I eventually took a three-hour train back home to see friends and family. No sooner had she caught sight of me than my mum dragged me to an out-of-hours clinic in the next town, where they prescribed me antibiotics. However, that was simply the beginning of my struggle.
The problem with antibiotics is that, in the process of eliminating the infection, they also kill all of the beneficial bacteria in your gut. This not only results in nausea and vomiting, but also causes your immune system to take a hit in the weeks after. I entered a sort of hellish cycle where I would recover from tonsillitis, and then get it almost immediately. Each time, the symptoms worsened and my body got weaker. My worst experience was throwing up on the pavement in the middle of a crowded street because the pus on my tonsils made me so nauseous. At my sickest, my mother was forced to drive all the way to Aberdeen to take me home because I was unable to get out of bed.
To be frank, I was miserable. My assignments were shoddy, I had to give up my part-time job and I was unable to really make the most of my university experience. There were a few times I considered dropping out altogether, as the stress of being so behind was making me depressed.
Some good did come of it, though. Sheer determination got me through the year and out the other side, with me somehow managing to pass all of my exams, and that is something I’m really proud of. I learned who my true friends were – some people got so frustrated with me never managing to hang out with them, that they just stopped speaking to me entirely. The snide looks and biting comments were hurtful, but the friends that stayed by my side will never know how grateful I truly am to them. They made my days in halls enjoyable even while I was ill.
As a student moving to uni for the first time, it can be hard to know how to look after yourself. Make sure you always trust your instincts and go to the doctor’s, something I wish I had done immediately!
Living on your own for the first time means you don’t have anyone breathing down your neck to keep you in line, so it can sometimes be hard to remember to take responsibility. Here are a few tips to make sure you take care of yourself:
- Remember to register with your local GP – you never know when you might need it!
- Respect your body enough to know when you need to take a break from partying, and just have a quiet night in. Especially when in halls, viruses spread quickly, so it’s really important to keep yourself healthy.
- At least once a week, try to ditch the pizza and eat something nutritious. If you can’t manage that, Vitamin C tablets are a good way to keep your immune system strong.
- Most importantly of all, listen to your body, and take care of it. Remember, you only get one!