a large lecture hall full of students

My First Day of University

Read about how Hali prepared for her first day of school with NMO here.

My first class was to start at 9 AM. It took around 45 minutes to get to the university on the bus. I refrained from using public transport since Covid still exists, and my immune system is suppressed. But now I really have no choice but to take the bus to university because of my NMO. However, I still make sure to wash my hands quite frequently.

Going to school with NMO has some hurdles

The campus has several different buildings, and some buildings are on steep hills. My leg wasn't recovered from my attack, which meant that every time I walked a lot, it started to hurt. The pain was quite difficult to get rid of.

Being slowed down by the pain

Even with painkillers, sometimes the pain is still present. Along with my leg, being home for so long means I’m just not used to walking a lot anymore. The first day consisted of several different classes, so I was quite worried about how I would hold up throughout the day.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, I was tired, but the pain wasn’t as severe as it is sometimes, and as soon as I did feel any discomfort, I took painkillers.

Making friends

The main thing I was worried about was making friends. Obviously, I wasn't expecting to have a new friend group on the first day, but my expectations were too high. I felt like I didn’t fit in at all. It was awkward to be around that many people for the first time in forever (it felt like forever, but it was over two years). I don’t remember ever being in a lecture hall with this many people. There were over 200 students!

I spoke with many people, but nothing really clicked. Things just felt off or awkward, and I felt horrible about myself.

The overflow of anxious thoughts

Was I the problem? Was I unlikeable? Why was it so hard to make new friends? What if people judged my weight gain, how I spoke, or how I couldn’t walk as fast as them? What if they noticed my tremors?

I felt like this for an hour into my first class. I was overthinking too much. I didn’t want anyone to know about my disease. I wasn’t ashamed of it, but I didn’t want to be looked at differently before anyone could know me for my personality.

I felt so different from my classmates

I felt different, even though people around me didn’t know it. I couldn’t keep up with the walking. It was too painful to walk for a long time. I couldn’t remember things like everyone else because of the brain fog. I couldn’t sit still because of the tremors and couldn’t be careless about hygiene and distancing like the others. I’m on immunosuppressants, and I catch things so easily. It’s tough to get rid of a sickness once I’m unwell!

My anxiety cut my day short

Because I felt so bad about not making new friends and being different, I left to go home early. I went home and cried. I hadn’t felt this much anxiety ever.

I spoke to my mum and told her I wanted to drop out. I told her how I hated being around people, how I hated this disease for changing my appearance and making my life so difficult. If it weren’t for this stupid disease, I wouldn’t have been stuck at home trying to recover, and I wouldn’t have gained so much weight because of the stupid medication. It felt like the worst day of my life.

Feeling the love from my mum

My mum is the only person that can make me feel better. She told me that it was obvious I wasn't going to make friends on the very first day of university. She said there are so many other people with body image issues, and I should love myself for who I am. Just because I’m heavier than I have ever been doesn’t mean I’m not beautiful or unlikeable.

She gave me the option to do anything I wanted but to give university a chance and attend for another two weeks.

The healing power of giving my emotions space to be felt

That talk made me feel better. I just had to vent. I decided to attend an event for new students later in the day, and it was the best choice I made that day.

I made so many new friends. They were so kind and made me feel much better about myself. I didn’t want to drop out of university because this was everything I dreamt of! I want to become a lawyer, and I'm not letting my NMOSD take that away. The only reason I wanted to stop attending was the fear of not being liked, being different from my peers, and being judged.

Taking it day by day

I gave it a chance, just like my mum said, and I love university now. I’ve made friends and also started feeling better about myself. Some days I’ll be physically drained because of the disease, but I still pull through.

Allowing the bad days to happen

The other day, I came home, and my whole body was aching. Painkillers weren’t helping, and it just felt awful. Because of traveling in buses and being around many people, I’ve caught a cold and feel awful. But that’s just a part of life now.

Only sharing certain parts of myself helps get me through

I don’t let anyone in my courses know I have this disease, so I have to act like the ‘old me’ and just pretend nothing is hurting or that I’m able to walk without feeling agonizing pain. However, having a social life and a purpose makes me feel like I have control over my life again.

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