Our supporter Laura contracted meningitis whilst a student at the University of York two years ago. She shares her recovery experience with us to help raise awareness for Student Awareness Week.
“During my first year of university at York in 2017, I contracted meningococcal meningitis, despite having the ACWY vaccination.
“Coming back to a university environment after this experience was overwhelming to say the least and I wouldn’t have been able to have stayed and graduated if it wasn’t for my incredible support system.
“In a conversation about what I had just gone through, someone used the word ‘trauma’. I didn’t feel comfortable using that word; it felt too powerful and daunting to use. When returning to university, I realised that I was in survival mode, not processing or dealing with what I had just experienced. I thought I could go back to life as normal.
Out of my depth
“But slotting right back into the life I had before was not helpful for my recovery. I felt overwhelmed and out of my depth, quickly realising I didn’t know how to navigate my life at university, post-meningitis.
“This led me to reach out to friends, family and Meningitis Now and the support they gave me was invaluable.
“After asking for help, it became an issue of how to find my way through. How to navigate the day to day in the larger context of what I had been through by finding coping mechanisms and building a support network. Part of my recovery process included understanding what I had gone through, to start to see my experience as something life changing. I realised it is not over-dramatic or reaching to use the term ‘trauma’, as I had previously thought.
“This change in my thinking allowed me to take control of the narrative of my experience and was one of the ways I began to recover.
“There were many times when I was nervous my recovery wasn’t conducive to a university setting. But it was actually my university environment and experience that ended up helping me, giving me the most supportive friends that helped my recovery.
“I wouldn’t say that I am ‘over’ this experience, but I have navigated my way through and continue to do so. Every year in January I celebrate with friends and family and I look forward to celebrating another year of finding my way through life after meningitis.
“I hope to let others know that whatever your journey looks like after trauma, it is valid and okay. No-one’s recovery looks the same and it’s all about finding what’s best for you. As clichéd as it sounds, go to therapy because you want to, not because people tell you it’s what you need. Meet people who have gone through the same because you want to have shared experiences. Or do nothing and just celebrate your survival, because sometimes that is also the only thing you need.
“Whatever form your trauma takes, go at your own pace and take the little victories. Whether that is opening up to a friend, going to therapy, sharing your own story or just acknowledging your own trauma. It’s a cliché for a reason; that recovery looks different to everyone. Share your feelings and your thoughts with those around you and make sure to reach out for help.”