by Tayabah, SU President
My Journey With Multiple Sclerosis
I have always been a listener. I like to sit with people and hear about what’s bothering them and how they’re feeling, which I suppose lends nicely to my role as SU President. For me, it has always been about finding some level on which I can relate to people, really talk with them; empathize with them, and show them compassion and understanding.
While I love to connect with people on this level, I haven’t always been so open about my personal experiences. Not necessarily out of fear or anxiety, but rather the attempt to maintain some sort of privacy; something that has hugely influenced my growth in mindset. I’ve learned to be fully present while listening to others and not equate their unique struggles directly with mine. After all, every person has a vastly different background and experience, none of which can be an accurate comparison of another. I’ve always tried to avoid being a mirroring reflection of pain but rather a welcome solace for those suffering. Setting boundaries for my own privacy has helped me reach this point and made me realise that there can be beauty in the hidden experience.
My Multiple Sclerosis (MS) diagnosis came during the early stages of development, and this was naturally accompanied by a lot of confusion around the symptoms and effects of such a diagnosis. At that age, I didn’t realize the permanence of these effects, particularly that of visual impairment. This meant my ‘normal’ quickly changed and my physical perception of the world became very different to the average person. Additionally, having grown up with a brother with Down Syndrome, the notion of inclusivity was organically embedded into my life, learning a lot about accessibility in daily activities and the importance of communication through means other than verbal language.
My Collaboration with Aston Students’ Union
I had never really seen anyone talk about their MS experience openly, so when I came across a LinkedIn post from Balraj, Aston Students’ Union President discussing his journey with MS, it immediately resonated with me. To see someone from a similar background, in the same position of SU President, being so transparent about their struggles motivated me to do something similar and allowed me to see the value in being more open with my experiences. I was never ‘hiding’ my disability, but before this I didn’t recognize quite how impactful sharing my personal experience could be and if I’m able to effect even one student’s experience, then that’s all that matters.
Balraj and I decided that this, in alignment with Disability History Month, would be the perfect opportunity to join forces and spread awareness. We hope that by collaborating in this way, it may motivate students to reach out at the various stages of disability and improve their individual experience at university, showing what they can achieve greatness and be proud to see someone with a disability representing their needs to the university. On November 29th 2021, we will jointly host a panel discussion at Aston SU to highlight our individual experiences and discuss tackling university life with a disability.
This collaboration has made me realise that yes, there can sometimes be beauty in hidden experience, but there can also be beauty in shared experience, motivating other people in their journey. Navigating life with a disability can often be isolating, but I hope to play a role in continually raising awareness for MS, both at a university level and in daily life.
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