College at 38 years old

Cora Kearney
Apr 13, 2018 · 3 min read

At 38 years old and starting my first year in college I had no idea what to expect, I had a pair of trousers older than one of the girls in my class and there was only one other student that was close to my own age.

I didn’t know how much I should tell people about having brain damage from benign intracranial hypertension or pseudo Tumor Cerebri as it is sometimes called, how much they needed to know, would it change how they treated me if they knew what was going on in my head. I didn’t want anyone to think I wasn’t able either.

I had to inform the lecturers, I am sure some of them used to wonder why I was falling asleep at ten o clock in the mornings. I would blurt out questions sometimes because my brain would sometimes be less than selective with what it should and shouldn’t say out loud.

I found it very difficult to cope with noise in college and there were a couple of instances when I stormed out of a room to go cry somewhere just to relieve the tension in my head. Concentrating was difficult at the best of times but if it got noisy I just couldn’t cope. Bright Sunny days were particularly difficult, just as well we don’t have too many of those in Ireland. Hypersensitivity can be very debilitating. I still can’t go shopping in shops with music.

I had the best classmates anyone ever had, I know the mature students in any class are a bit difficult because of the generation gap but I was never left out of anything, and although I wasn’t able to socialise like the rest of them they would always invite me.

My social life in college was through the Welfare Crew, The Students Union, badminton, table tennis and roller derby. All of the sports were about trying to improve my fine motor skills. The roller derby was purely for fun but everything else was about fixing things that were wrong.

I spent 4 years in college, it was a difficult 4 years, every written assignment I had needed to be done practically as well or I couldn’t learn. I choose a couple of companies at the beginning of my course and did every assignment around those companies so that I wouldn’t have to research new companies all the time. My mind map was a one for all, I had to study every aspect of my course as a whole instead of studying individual subjects. They had to link to each other in order to learn.

Throughout the 4 years there are a couple of lecturers that deserve medals, any that had to teach me anything that involved numbers, and any that had to teach me IT modules. Every time I would switch on the computer it was like for the first time.

When I was in college I would frequently remind myself of how far I had come. When I was first in recovery my language skills needed a lot of work, I would struggle with English. People would be speaking to me and I would be trying to find the meaning of each individual word, trying to translate but not having anything to translate from. I had a particularly bad episode one day when I was in the shop and couldn’t figure out the where, when or how. I was like an alien being that just was with no concept of anything, just nothingness. I was without understanding of anything.

I finished college, I graduated and then it hit me, while I may have an honours degree in my back pocket I still had brain damage, how was I going to find someone to employ me?

That’s a whole other story.