How I’m Managing the Challenges of Study With MS Fatigue
Applied neuroscience I can manage, but what about stress and concentration?
Just like a surgeon’s prize hand or a ballerina’s plié, my mind has been my most valued asset. That’s been true all my life, through realizing my passion for science, achieving my undergraduate degree in biomedical science, and even keeping myself sane during the dark days of paralysis following my diagnosis with aggressive relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS).
Undoubtedly, the one thing that’s been especially challenging in the days since is managing fatigue. It was almost as though my cognition reduced as my physical ability was reclaimed.
This was a bitter pill to swallow. I felt like a lesser version of who I used to be. Especially before my disease-modifying treatment, alemtuzumab (also known as Lemtrada), when I required steroids to treat my frequent relapses.
Each time the clouds of fatigue were lifted, I was reminded of what it was like to feel “normal” and be able to think properly. And each time I could feel it fading away again, it was just another punch in the gut.
Despite this, I’ve vowed never to let MS or its co-conspirator, fatigue, stop me from doing things in life. As such, that’s why I’m following my passion and studying for a master’s degree in applied neuroscience. I knew it would be a challenge, but I wasn’t aware just how much of a challenge it would be. It’s not the content that I’m finding most difficult, but rather my studies are being challenged in different ways.
As with every aspect of life since my diagnosis, I knew I would have to adapt my approach to studying. The trial and error that came with this meant my progress in understanding the course content has been slow and steady.
This, I was ready for. I knew I wouldn’t learn as I did during undergraduate studies 10 years ago. Instead of being able to read pages and pages of scientific papers in one sitting, my optic neuritis and limited concentration due to fatigue require me to spread them out, taking constant breaks.
What I wasn’t ready for, however, were the challenges outside of the content and the studying. The mundane things in life take up so much more energy than they used to.
In terms of my degree, I’m finding it’s things like the confusion of points of contact for different queries as the university keeps changing them, or the impact of a university administrative error causing me to lose 10 days of one of my modules. These things are waging a war between my vow to myself and the decision about whether the additional stress it’s causing is worth it.
The jury is out on whether I’ll end up completing my degree due to these challenges, but the battle is ongoing.
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