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Getting a Degree With AS 

I started college before my AS symptoms started. I was lucky enough that my AS symptoms started during lockdown as college lectures were moved to virtual. This meant I could continue my studies, even if it meant finishing college from the comfort of my bed.

If college did not move virtually, I would have had to drop out, or at least put a pause on my degree for a few years. That would not have been ideal, especially since I hadn’t started my degree straight out of school.

After school, I did go to college straight away, but I began studying a degree I had no interest in. I studied business/marketing for 1 year and then I dropped out. For the next two years, I worked part time and did courses to see what I was really interested in before deciding what I would do a degree in.

I realized I was really interested in psychology

I have always liked helping people and found learning about how the mind works, and how different people are, fascinating. So, I began my degree in social work.

I really enjoyed this course. We had work placement every year, and I quickly came to the realization that if I pursued a career in this line of work, it wouldn’t just be a career, it would be a lifestyle. As I said, I love helping people but I’m an extremely sensitive person. I would bring all this work home with me, which would quickly lead to burnout, plus the money isn’t great. Not that your career is solely about money, but when the money doesn’t match the work, part of me thinks it’s not worth it.

Anyways, let's get back to the point. Completing a degree while living with a chronic illness is not easy. It is especially not easy when you are finding your feet with how to live and manage this illness.

I am more than proud of myself that I stuck at it, put the hard work in, and didn’t let this illness jeopardize my education. I completed four years and got my degree. Not just any degree, I graduated with a first-class honors degree.

Normally, I’m a modest person

But I pat myself on the back for doing this. I mean, a first-class honors degree! That’s the best result that you can get! I did that, me, with the help and support of my family, but I did that!

It was hard, it was stressful, and all that stress caused so many flare-ups. But I got through it, during flare-ups I watched YouTube videos in bed, and I continuously educated myself from my bed. I pulled all-nighters.

And most importantly, I did a dissertation. I researched the correlation between AS and mental health and the proof is in the pudding, even though we already knew this. AS affects one's mental health, and vice versa. Mental health complications and AS come hand in hand. Having AS affects your mental health...But then, having poor mental health affects your AS, it exacerbates your symptoms. It’s like a vicious cycle. There isn’t a lot of research out there.

I surveyed 50 individuals with AS and those of you who did my survey, I can’t thank you enough for being part of my research!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AxialSpondyloarthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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