Taking Medical Leave From University

Deciding to do a part time degree, while working part time, and living with ever changing chronic illnesses has always been tough. I may never have got the best marks but I have somehow managed to complete three full years with the Open University and overall my scores were good.

The latest module started in October and was the first level three, or third year for full time universities. I cannot describe the change between second and third level, it was so much harder. But I found it so interesting having the freedom to independently study and use my research in essays. Despite being persistently behind I achieve the best scores in my university career to date. However it got harder and harder to keep up. As my anxiety greatly worsened at the beginning of the year I found my studies were only adding to the exhausting endless turmoil in my mind. I certainly don’t need help feeling exhausted, and I got to the point when I knew it wasn’t doing me any good, in fact I felt it was being detrimental to my health.

I chatted with two good friends about my thoughts to defer and take medical leave, which gives me the option to return and use the credits I have within twelve years of starting. It took a while to sit with my thoughts to know what was truly the best thing for me, and my health, both mental and physical. It was on the short walk home from a coffee shop, whilst propped up with Sticky (my latest walking stick) that I made my ‘executive decision’ (I always call important decisions executive, I think it gives them a bit more oomph!).

I called the university on Monday, a call back never came, so stressed out and pacing I called again on Tuesday and finally spoke to someone who said I wouldn’t be entitled to a penny back of the hundreds of pounds I had paid for the year. After pressing the matter more, I was told I would urgently need a letter from my GP to state it was is not in my best interests health wise to continue studying. My GP have advised this will take three weeks and will cost me £20. I have never requested a letter from my GP for any reason, not for any type of benefit, not for work, never, so I am saddened and angry I’m expected to pay yet more on top of my taxes and prescription charges.

The first days after cancelling my course and getting those dreaded emails through were hard. I had a sudden realisation at work that I was no longer a student and that it is probably for the longer term, if not for good. But as the days have gone on I feel a great sense of relief, a huge weight feels as if it has been lifted off my shoulders. I am free to use what little spare time I have doing what I love; reading, taking photos, spending time with family and friends. And most of all I don’t have to feel guilty for napping, for sleeping, or for taking entire days in bed with cups of tea, my cats and a steady supply of painkillers because that’s what my body needs.

So I’m not a student any more, and I may never graduate. And that’s ok. Because I come first, education will always be there, and I have already achieved so much despite all the things set against me. So if you don’t mind I’m off to stick my head in a magazine and have another cup of tea.

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5 thoughts on “Taking Medical Leave From University

  1. I went through a similar thing so understand what you are going through. My tutor kindly ‘interupted’ my studies for 6 months which gave me breathing space. I was due to start my dissertation but have decided not to do it. Like you, the sense of relief was immense and I’m so glad that I took the pressure off myself. At the end of the day, you have to do what’s right for you. Happy relaxing. Helen♡

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  2. I understand your stress around this and went thorugh a similar thing when I get pregnant and couldn’t attend University. I felt grief and remorse and anger at the system and then relief when it was over. I can’t believe your dr charged you for the letter but I live in Aistralia where we can get our medical visits bulk billed which means they are free. I hope you do eventually finish the course. It is 25 years later and I am sad whenever I drive past the Uni as I di not complete the course. Please make sure you check the amount of time you have left to complete the course in as it may run out as it does in Australia.

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    1. I have eight years until what I have done so far runs out. I will never return to the Open Uni however as if I do improve I know they won’t support any relapses and keep yet more money. I am enjoying life with a weight off my shoulders however! I’m sorry you didnt get to complete your course, perhaps one day more opportunities will open up for you x

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