While visiting one of the world’s most prestigious universities on Sunday, I started thinking about how different my experience of being at university would have been with myasthenia.
My time at university
I was 17 when I packed my boxes in Edinburgh and moved north to Aberdeen to study English literature. Before getting my exam results, I had planned to go to college in Edinburgh to do additional highers and advanced highers in a more grown up environment (I was fed up with school). But after doing much better than anticipated, it seemed mad not to just dive right into a university place through clearing – particularly as English was what I wanted to study and I wasn’t picky about where.
I didn’t have the university halls of residence experience – instead I stayed with my partner at the time who had moved with me. That wasn’t the only thing that ruled out meeting new people; I also found it difficult to make friends in a lecture theatre with 200-300 people who all seemed to know each other – probably from halls. Thankfully, there was a place I could turn to meet like minded people, the women’s football team.
Having played since the age of 10, it was something I understood in this new world and I joined the uni team alongside lots of other freshers or people who had decided to give it a go after a couple of years studying. It wasn’t long before firm bonds were made – a few of the girls I met during those first months are still good friends and I’ll always have fond feelings for the others that have slipped away over the years.
As the years passed, I picked up a few friends in my class and a couple of others when I moved into shared accommodation. I tried other sports teams along the way – making the basketball team but not enjoying it and spent two years in the boxing team, which I loved. I joined interest groups but nothing I was fully committed too. My university life was intertwined with the football team. My lectures, tutorials and even exams came second to training, matches and socialising with my girls.
So how would it have been different if I had MG?
While I have spoken to people with MG who play team sports casually, the level of fitness and commitment required from my university team and my own style of play would have made it impossible to be the integral part of the team that I was during those four years. I may still have been involved socially, but knowing who I was at 17-21 I doubt it would have been the same.
This means that my time at university would have been less enjoyable, less sociable and resulted in less of the long lasting friendships I have today.
If I was attending now, it would be a different story as I’m more confident, have many interests, comfortable with who I am and with my MG limits (or lack of). But keeping in mind who I was then, I know that I would have been uncomfortable. Would I have been able to live away from home? Would I have met my partner at the time as I did in a bar after a few drinks?
As far as I can remember, there were no rare disease support groups but this may change in diffferent cities and if there had been I’m not sure I would have attended.
Others sharing their experiences
As this is projection on my part, I’ve asked some of the Myaware Young group to share their thoughts of being at university with myasthenia. Check out my next blog for their experiences.