In another of our student experience features, Laura Borst explains how studying with an illness, while challenging is an achievable goal.

"My Name is Laura Borst.  I am 38 and I am studying HNC Business Management. 

This is my fourth year at college and I have worked my way up, from level 4.  I have two children age 12 and 9 and I am a single parent.

I was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 14, I have back problems due to slipped discs and I don’t have the best mental health, but this has improved during my time at college.

When I started college, I was scared.  I was a mature student, a single parent and returning to education after a long time.  I felt alone, isolated and I didn’t know anyone.  I started to develop relationships within my class and in College. 

I panicked about college work and my epilepsy was an added anxiety but staff were so supportive and reassuring, “one step at a time”, I was told.

Epilepsy affected me quite a bit whilst I was at college.  When I was in level 6, I took petit mall seizures, which meant I took many small seizures quite regularly.  It looked like I was in a transient state during these times, and I felt I disrupted the class, as the tutors had to stop and get a first aider. 

A seizure is a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain. It can cause changes in your behaviour, movements or feelings, and in levels of consciousness. Having two or more seizures at least 24 hours apart that aren't brought on by an identifiable cause is generally considered to be epilepsy.

I was attacked when I was 14 and this affected the right side of my brain triggering epilepsy.

Most seizure disorders can be controlled with medication, but management of seizures can still have a significant impact on daily life.

Epilepsy has affected my daily life for some time.  I currently take medication to manage this and I have been seizure free for over a year, although, it still worries me. 

The College has been very supportive.  They created a plan with my medical history and action on what to do if I have a fit.  This really helped my anxiety about this.  I also felt safe to know that staff were aware and knew what to do.

The College also purchased a special supportive chair, for my back, to help with my pain management, and this has made class time so much more bearable.

In December 2020, another Covid lockdown was announced which meant all classes were moving to online learning again.  

I initially found online learning difficult, but as the time has gone on I am finding it easier and easier and getting more confident.  Parts of my course, research for example, I find easier online.  

I am able to manage my back pain and learn in my own time which really helps me.  It’s much more flexible and I can manage my time and breaks better. 

Travelling to college by bus added to my anxiety, so studying from home has been easier and helped to reduce this.  I have however, missed physical contact and the laughs we used to have in class.  But, home learning has helped me do things at my own pace and my lecturers have been so supportive.

The Student Association have also been a massive support and all of this combined has really improved my confidence and my mental health.

Last year I even applied for the position of Student Vice President.  Unfortunately, I was not successfully elected. However, I didn’t let that deter me and I applied to become a Student Association Ambassador.  This has given me so much confidence and I love being part of a team. It makes me feel great, ensuring that I give students a voice.

I have worked on a number of campaigns which include epilepsy, LGBT and mental health, as well as support events and help to create an online community. 

I have applied for HND Business next year, and I have been offered a conditional offer to return.  I will definitely be part of the Student Association Team next year and continue the work we are doing. There should be no barriers to education.  Look at me.  Remember there is so much support out there, all you have to do is ask."