This is a re-post from my Facebook page, so spologies to those who’ve already read this.
19-25 July, 2014 University of Bath Campus:
Last week I was at an Open University Residential school, as a compulsory part of my psychology degree. It was one of the most challenging and toughest weeks I’ve had so far on my OU journey, mentally, physically and emotionally!
I had expected my fibromyalgia to flare but it didn’t until the weekend, and I managed to keep it under control. But what I had not expected was for my mental health conditions to flare up and go haywire! We had been warned it would be intensive and I had been in long discussions for many months with the Disability Resources team about whether I would go or not. I decided to do it at Bath University and I had hoped I could’ve stayed off campus and travelled in daily, but they were not keen because I had to make 80% attendance and I couldn’t guarantee being there at 9 a.m. due to being a slow starter in mornings due to fibromyalgia.
I had a panic attack on the first day because I felt completely disorientated and confused as to where I was meant to be what I was meant to be doing couldn’t find even the loo and so that wasn’t a great start nor end to my birthday. The days were extremely long from 9 o’clock in the morning till sometimes late into the evening obviously with breaks for food. First couple of days we spent revising previously studied topics, as well as introducing new research methods and analysis which I found at times hard to grasp.
One of the problems with fibromyalgia is it’s not just the constant pain and fatigue, but cognitive dysfunction which includes poor short-term memory, word retrieval difficulties, poor concentration, and an inability to process information quickly. I found that the pace at which they were cracking through things was too fast for me to process information quickly both with reading texts or trying to comprehend the statistics.
I kept having emotional meltdowns and was really struggling both to fit in socially and cope with workload. I totally lost it in the middle of the week and just couldn’t stop crying one breakfast time because I just felt so overwhelmed by it all! My mental health mentor stayed in touch regularly, which really helped me keep on top of things, and without whose support I wouldn’t have found the strength to continue and complete the week. I found the tutors were really supportive and helpful, and had a meeting with them to raise awareness that I was struggling, and to find ways in which I could take time out and rest when I needed to or what support they might be able to give. I said that if my mentor judged it necessary she would insist on removing me from the course, so I think my tutors were keen to try to help me hang in there if I could. I did hang in there and complete it, and came home Friday afternoon. I’ve now got to write-up a report on my experimental group project in order to pass this module.
Not surprisingly my fibromyalgia has flared really badly this weekend with extreme fatigue and pain firing off like fireworks all through my body as a sort of reaction to the intensity of last week. So I’m back on bed rest, with heat pads on my back and my arms wrapped up with Tubigrip supports like an Egyptian mummy!