Positive thinking and support helps student who recovered from serious illness

Date 31.01.2019

A student is using the positive mental attitude that helped him recover from a debilitating medical condition, as he starts a new journey across ‘the country of the mind’.

Cai Onraet, from Gravesend, Kent started a degree in Psychology after a four-year battle with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Symptoms of the condition, which include extreme tiredness, insomnia and nausea, first arose as he was playing the sport he is most passionate about – football – at the age of 14.

His subsequent recovery included visits to numerous health practitioners, from doctors to hypnotherapists and osteopaths, and was recently featured in the national ‘i’ newspaper.

But for Cai, the two years spent almost completely bedridden allowed him valuable time for reflection that helped prepare him for University life: “Because the main symptom is over-whelming tiredness coupled with pain, most days I couldn’t get out of bed until midday.

“Thankfully, I’ve always been a ‘glass half-full’ person and that outlook really helped me deal with the days when it was difficult to get my head off the pillow.

“I had time to think about my values and priorities in life, about the things and people that matter, like my family who have been massively supportive. Keeping them at the forefront of my mind helped me to cope.”

This focused approach formed the beginnings of a professional interest in psychology. Visiting the University of Northampton convinced him to apply to study here: “I was looking at a few universities and came across Northampton by accident – a happy one as it turns out!

“I came here for an Open Day at the old Park site and was really impressed by how professional and friendly everyone was. I liked it enough to travel back for a second look.”

University life has also helped – after a painful start: “I’d only been here for two days when I was trying out for the Uni’s football team. All was going fine until I dislocated my shoulder!

“Going to A&E during Fresher’s Week made for a great, if unusual, bonding experience with my new flatmates but, following advice from the doctors, I’ve put footy on hold for now. I’m pursuing a new fitness activity and have joined the Uni’s boxing society! It helps that societies are all free at Northampton, making it easy to try something different.

“I really like the independence of being at University and starting to find my own way in life – something that would have been unachievable just a few years ago – and pushing myself that bit more for my studies goes hand in hand with keeping fit and well.”

Support has also been more than forthcoming from Cai’s lecturers: “I want to focus on the good things in life, so it’s been refreshing that the University have given me a sympathetic ear and fit learning around my needs. Recently I used my computer for a mock exam, making it much less physically exerting. And having a free lap-top from the University, as all new undergrads do, was a God-send!”

In terms of his future goals, Cai is continuing to keep his feet firmly on the ground and has some words of wisdom to impart to his peers: “I’ve never been money oriented – helpful if you’re a student! – but I keep my focus on what I’ve always wanted out of life: good people, good health and to be a good person myself. As long as you have these in place, you’ll be happy.”

Find out more about Psychology courses at Northampton, both undergraduate and post graduate.