As someone with a Type A driven personality, perfectionist tendencies and underlying health issues from birth; I struggled quite intensely during my Undergrad and Masters degrees.
There was always one extra drawing to be done, one more hour of sleep I could survive without and another social event I would cancel. The relentless pushing of my body unfortunately resulted in a complete collapse of my mental and physical health.
Part way through my Masters at the University of Westminster in 2015, my life was put on hold due to a rare, painful illness (Mast Cell Activation Syndrome) in which the individual is subjected to life-threatening anaphylaxis reactions. A genetic predisposition that was largely exacerbated through prolonged stress and lack of sleep.
Consequently, I was forced to drop out of uni, resign from my job, leave my flat and return to my family home, where I was effectively bedridden for several years.
At one point I was reacting to nearly aspects of modern life and regularly hospitalised with almost daily severe anaphylaxis. With my body shutting down, I had malnutrition tolerating only 4 foods and wore a face mask in public to protect my weakened immune system from environmental exposures/infections. (I was way ahead of the mask wearing fashions of the pandemic!)
During this time, I was also diagnosed with Crohn’s and EDS (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome), all in all a devastating blow for a young woman who was no longer able to function in society anymore. After many years recuperating, searching for relief and learning to cope with my new normal, I gradually found the strength to re-enter education and employment.
Ill health has marred my journey to accreditation and produced challenges far greater than most would anticipate at such an age.
Becoming chronically ill and living with invisible disabilities made me reassess my priorities in life. There was a period of time when I believed I would never be able to leave my bedroom again or survive the day, let alone re-enter the world of work.
I see now that the detour has only driven me to become more determined and I hope I can use my voice and position for positive change.
I wish I had known about all the help and support on offer from the Architects Benevolent Society when I was at my lowest. It pains me to look back now at how I had to sell all my belongings (and donated items from friends/family) just to get by.