The University Diaries : Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Examination Nightmares

I hope this post will be useful, and serve as an apology for my absence!

Those that are currently at university, and those who are graduates will know that January is exam time. I can't think of anyone that likes this part of our education, but apparently it's a necessary evil. I disagree. Universities would have vastly better rankings if their students were permitted to be assessed on coursework alone... but I won't tip over into a rant about exams just now.

So that's partially why I have failed to make much noise here on the blog of late. January has been a cycle of books, colourful pens, listening to boring lectures in painstakingly careful detail and crashing into a heap of exhaustion and pain afterwards.

The trouble with chronic fatigue syndrome, is that it is spectacularly variable and it can take years with the condition to learn what you can handle from one day to the next. For example, I've learned that if I study hard for exams for 48 hours, sit the exam and then stop, I won't start again for a week at least. If I try and start again before I have sufficiently recovered, the price is pain and being a cognitive train-wreck.

Obviously, during exam season this doesn't bode well for a 'good' performance. It is a super-shit condition to try and study with. It's not just about energy and pain management. You become sensitive to light, noise, pretty much anything... Concentration becomes quite a novel skill to have. My memory has been significantly damaged from the past few years when I was very unwell, so trying to recall details from lectures or journals is damn near impossible. At it's worst, you find yourself unable to read. You can see the letters but have no concept of what they are, like being presented with a page that has been written in Chinese. 

I had three exams, and they were all multiple choice and only an hour long. That was something of a saving grace. Since I was assessed by the DSA I was meant to be in a smaller room, but they didn't get the instruction in time so I had to either submit mitigating evidence and sit the exams during the summer re-sits or just grit my teeth and pray that I can claw a pass, and not freak out in the exam hall. As much as my perfectionist side hates it, I can't put unnecessary pressure on myself. It's "only first year" so all we have to do is pass. It's practice for the rest of my studies. If you screw up, it's alright because you're new to this. 

Three exams. Each got 48 hours of intense revision. I have no set 'method' as yet for what works with my ridiculous brain. All I know is I like colours and writing things out helps me remember, slightly. So it was gel pens and endless writing. If I hadn't had done the little bit of revision I could manage I would absolutely have failed. I wanted to shout out "Thank GOD" when I saw that I recognised some aspects of the question. By the end I had such a horrible headache, but that's probably my own fault for not wearing my glasses! 

The only two modules I'm really concerned about are Human Physiology - I did terribly in that exam! - and 'Essential Skills' by which I mean, maths... The results are released on 7th February so there's a bit of a torturous wait before I find out how badly I screwed up. 

The upcoming semester is super busy, but I am looking forward to my modules: Biological Chemistry, Cell Biology, Neuroscience and Behaviour and Research Methods in Neuroscience. We seem to have more lab work which is awesome, and of course finally getting to study neuroscience is a real boost. The crucial factor is going to be getting the balance right. 

As I've spoken about recently, I am tapering off my medications. I can't afford them and I think they're having a more negative than positive impact on me now. Hopefully I won't end up having to re-take exams. That would really kick the depression stuff up a gear. 

Everything is a learning curve. I have a lot of support in place with the university to make life as easy as possible, but the fact remains I do have this shitty condition and I need to be careful. As much as I would love to take part in societies and dance, it's energy I just can't sacrifice right now.

 Blogging is hard work. That's something else I have to learn to factor in to my surplus energy stores. It frustrates me to no end that I have all these things I want to do and talk about, but my body is about 20 steps behind. 

I'm doing the best I can, but in the pit of my soul, I know it's not good enough...


  1. Well done you for getting through it! I have one more assignment to go, though 2 weeks of intense working has left me with a brain full of cotton wool (had a presentation today where I managed to read my notes, but somehow forget my own name when asked) and my freaky hypersensitive nerves are making my hands throb and twist up like a creepy claw at the thought of writing. It's a fun old time isn't it. Well done you for talking so honestly too, much braver than I! xxxx

    1. Aw, thank you sweetie! Really hope you get through the assignment without too much extra damage! Brain fog is the worst... I'm sure they have seen exhausted students forget their own names before. You've just done a brilliant job talking about the joys of CFS! Take care lovey! Maybe see you for a tea date at some point? ;) xx

  2. Sorry you're having such a tough time but well done for getting through it. Have you thought of filling out an HC1 form; it lets people get free prescriptions if they're on a low income. It's proved invaluable for me as also covers opticians and dentist! hope the results are ok, I get mine the next day! xx

    1. Thank you darling! I've got claim back forms to send back, but I'm not sure if I'll get anything.. The boyfriends earnings are above the threshold for low-income support - not that he has the spare cash to fund my medication. A pre-payment certificate is the next option but that's a lot of money to shell out... Life on a student loan is so hard to manage! >.< xxxx


Thank you for visiting my blog! :) I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment! :) xx

Samantha Nicholls. Powered by Blogger.


Back to Top