Current Affairs, Original Writing

‘Afflicted’ – A Netflix Original Series

I did all of this work just to get sick and not be able to live my dreams

A new Netflix series aired recently surrounding the stories of people suffering from chronic illnesses, undiagnosed or “unspecified” by medical professionals. Symptoms were extreme, leaving most of the participants of this docuseries unable to perform any of their daily activities.

Each person differentiates themselves from another through their symptoms, and the symptoms present themselves as different illnesses entirely – from the offset. The words “psychosomatic” and “Lyme Disease” are thrown around often through the episodes, suggesting a potential link between the participants, their symptoms, and the disease. I’ll leave the opinions of other participants to the general public, however. There’s one person in particular that I want to focus on.

We’re introduced to Jake in the third episode of the docuseries; an aspiring musician whose career was suddenly cut short due to the onset of symptoms linked to Lyme Disease. The beginning of the episode features Jake’s struggle in articulating his current symptoms to the camera, and as the episode progresses, the viewer is lead to understand the events which took place in his life but most importantly, how his life has been dramatically impacted because of his illness.

22 minutes into the episode, I had to stop watching. Any documentaries featuring people struggling with chronic illnesses hit a nerve, so to speak. The intention of this post, however, is most definitely not to associate my condition on any kind of level with those in the series. This post was to highlight the unimaginable trauma of those who may look physically well but are struggling with an uncontrollable and unpredictable illness, of which there is no cure yet and treatment which consists entirely of trial and error. Watching a relatively young man’s life turned upside down due to something both entirely out of his control and entirely unanticipated is definitely heart-wrenching. To see the ambitious light in his character gradually diminish – it puts everything into perspective.

Learning about stories such as that of Jake’s really makes me realise how lucky we are, how lucky I am. I can call myself a survivor, but am I really battling a condition of no known cure? No. Has my life been stripped from my hands overnight? No. I agree with one thing, in particular, the docuseries mentioned; those who are sick have a tendency to associate their identity with their illness. They’re not just a person anymore – they’re a sick person. I, too, have fallen victim to enshrouding myself in self-pity when, in retrospect, my health is improving, I am most certainly not bed-bound, and I do not rely on medication to essentially live. Those who have suffered from chronic illnesses, and/or chronic pain can definitely identify with the overwhelming trauma it leaves one with, even once they’ve overcome the worst of it. And perhaps this motto isn’t the healthiest to live by, but the documentary showed me how people undeniably have it much worse than people such as myself. Granted my health isn’t the best it could be at the moment, I’ve learned that relatively stable health is often taken at face value.

I intend to bring myself to complete the rest of Jake’s story. And he’s taught me just how lucky I truly am, to be able to live my life to its fullest potential – he’s given me perspective. I sincerely hope from the deepest of my heart that his story has a happy outcome.

The transience of life is all too often overlooked and underestimated. We have an overwhelming ability as a society to conceal ourselves behind issues which are ephemeral in comparison to others.

The series, in general, verges on the side of sensationalism as opposed to information and fact, but the stories of the participants raise some interesting questions in relation to chronic illnesses, pain and an array of unspecified symptoms.

A x

Featured image: Afflicted, Netflix Original Series (2018)
Life Updates

Internship 2017

This summer I’ve had the privilege of working as an intern for the very first time. I still can’t quite believe just how lucky I got, bagging myself an internship in my first year of university (perks of studying at Reading!).

The company I work for are based in central London, and they work with the top universities in London. My role is working as a Media Coordinator for the company, which is many ways perfect considering social media is my forte. Being in charge of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for the company in addition to visiting these universities, talking to students and scientists, and creating case studies for the students has been a rollercoaster of excitement and adrenaline, and 100% worth it.

The best part of this internship, however, is the people I’ve worked with. The environment is based on putting the staff first, being as flexible as possible for them, and making sure they are happy in the workplace. These are contacts I can honestly say I would love to keep for the future.

The skills I’ve acquired are also incredible. After working in retail for two years, I was desperately craving the taste of a degree-related job. The friends I’ve made working in retail, I’ve made for life and whilst I appreciate the somewhat relaxed attitude towards working in the fashion-retail industry, it became tedious. Folding shirts everyday and analysing stock reports is alright but I wasn’t challenging myself in any way. I was physically drained after spending 8 hours on my feet, but this internship has mentally drained me, which is exactly what I love.

I’ve been pushed to work as hard as I can, to meet deadlines the day they’re set, and these are invaluable life skills I can carry forward with me into the future. This may sound awfully cliché, but now that I’ve had a taste for working in an environment related to my degree, I can’t bring myself to go back to retail. Of course, a job is a job, and when it comes to starting my second year of university in a month’s time, I will have to go back to retail part-time in order to pay for university costs, but my passion has now shifted from specialising in menswear to working in the marketing industry.

I take pride in the fact that I have put my free time this summer to great use. Thank you, to the University of Reading and to the company I’m working for, because I’ve had the best time. I definitely would love to do this again next year, and cannot recommend it enough!

A x

Life Updates

My (Nightmare) Experience with UNITE Students

In March 2016, I received the email I’d waited pretty much 3 years for – the unconditional offer at Reading University, to study English Literature. The only problem that remained was my accommodation. Commuting was out of the question: I was living in the middle of nowhere at the time (South-East England) and did not fancy travelling 2 hours each way, everyday. Unfortunately, by the time I’d received my offer, the accommodation deadline for halls of residence at Reading had come and gone. So my parents and I headed over to the university website, and looked at their recommended list of external, private accommodation options. That’s when we came across Unite Students.

I guess because I was in such a panic to find a place to live during my first year, I didn’t think to look at reviews, as it was recommended by the university. The rent certainly wasn’t cheap either – we assumed for the price we were paying, we wouldn’t need to worry about a thing.

When I first checked in, in September 2016, I was terrified. My mum was terrified. My dad was terrified. The concept of living away from home hadn’t really sunk in until I was standing at that reception desk, filling in the forms. The receptionist ensured both my mum and I that I would be well looked after at Crown House, and so I felt slightly more secure in choosing Unite Students.

Up until January 2017, I had absolutely no issues with Crown House/Unite Student management. The kitchen was kept tidy fortnightly by a cleaner, if there were any maintenance issues, they were resolved literally the next working day. I was happy to be living there. However, unbeknownst to any residents in the building, Crown House was to undergo a major emergency refurbishment, beginning in January, due to “white render” falling down outside the building. There was no warning of this when I moved into the building in September. Now, I’m no builder or contractor, but I’m fairly sure that organising this building work, and bringing in a whole team of builders must have taken months of planning. Which means, Crown House management must have been aware of this PRIOR to the building work beginning in January. I feel cheated of the money my parents had paid for my rent, as we were never told of the major disruption that was about to begin during my residency at Crown House.

The noise was horrendous. I can’t even begin to describe it. They’d start at 8.30am, drilling holes right outside our windows, and they’d finish at 5pm. That’s a whole day of drilling, constantly. Not to mention having men standing right outside my window every morning. A month into the refurbishment, I complained. My friends who came to visit would complain about how bad the noise was, so I knew I was justified in complaining. After a couple of meetings with management, I was given an upgrade to a studio flat on the fifth floor of the building, on the opposite side to where the builders were working. The noise was therefore significantly reduced, and I was finally able to sleep and study again. Considering I had a health condition which meant I needed to be able to rest whenever I was in pain during the day, peace and quiet was absolutely imperative for me. Anyway, I moved into the studio, and I was finally happy.

In May 2017, I received an email that the builders had finished up on that side of the building and so I should move back to my old flat. Now, I understood that the studio flat was a temporary measure, but I received this email the Friday BEFORE my first exam, which was almost laughable. I told them there was no way I was moving right before my first exam, so they gave me a one day extension to leave the studio (also laughable).  To save any hassle and stress during the week when my exams began, I decided to just move in the weekend before my exam, on the Saturday. To my absolute pleasure (please note the heavy sarcasm) I had a new tenant next door to me! Considering I had an exam on the Monday, it was important that I was well-rested. Funnily enough, the Monday exam was one of the hardest of the year. Saturday night saw my charming next door neighbour hosting a party in her room. I figured, since it was a Saturday night, I’d let her make an abundance of horrific noise (including her and her friends singing, screaming and then, eventually, screeching) until just after midnight. Then I really did need to sleep, if I was going to get any last minute revision done on Sunday. 1am approached, and she was still making my ears bleed with noise, so I complained. The security team knocked on her door and told her to keep the noise down. She said “ok” then turned up the volume for a whole other hour before her friends left the flat. I was pissed.

Sunday saw me sleep-deprived, nervous for the following day’s exam and stressed. I’m pretty sure everyone knows by now how badly stress triggers my pain. Anyway, I assumed as it was a Sunday, I’d have no problems with my noisy neighbour and could get up at 6am on Monday morning, ready for my exam, with no issues of sleep deprivation. Oh, how I was wrong. On Sunday night, I was greeted with more screeching, more screaming and howls of laughter that could be heard from OUTSIDE the flat. This time, she wasn’t throwing a party and so I had no real right to complain, or so I thought. In hindsight, I should have complained. By the time I fell asleep, it was well after 3.30am. I needed to be up at 6am. I was a mess. That Monday, the day of my first and hardest exam, I was running on 3 hours sleep and pure adrenaline (and caffeine), all because my new neighbour was an absolute nightmare.

2 weeks passed, and I was getting furthermore frustrated with my new flatmate. I spent all day at the library, simply because she’d wake me up in the morning by having her laptop on full volume and howling at the top of her voice. I kid you not, she would HOWL.

The third week of exam season had approached, and the lack of sleep as a result of my neighbouring flatmate had resulted in my stress levels rocketing through the roof, my sleep deprivation also significantly stressing me out. Then the inevitable happened: I got sick. In fact, I somehow managed to contract a 24 hour flu. I was unable to even get out of bed, let alone revise for the 3 exams I had coming up. My new flatmate had caused me so much distress as a result of disruption, I had to go home with my parents. I spent the next month at home revising, coming back to Reading only to sit my exams, then go back home.

During this time, I informed Crown House management of my situation. I attended multiple meetings, in which I was promised some kind of reasonable outcome. I was told by one of the managers that she would try her absolute hardest to get me some compensation for the one month I spent at home, resulting from my neighbour. All of this was absolutely pointless.

Crown House management brushed my one month of utter distress under the carpet, and told me that “because the new tenant didn’t realise the distress she was causing, the matter is now resolved.” I didn’t receive any compensation. The tenant didn’t even receive a warning.

As soon as Summer Ball was over, I moved out of Crown House. I couldn’t bare to live in that building a minute longer. I told them I’d be looking for a tenant to take up the rest of my tenancy because I could never live there again. Unfortunately, and I should have really seen this coming, they’ve thrown obstacles in my way ever since. I found a tenant willing to take up the rest of my tenancy, only for them to create a “rent issue” with my room, and so they showed him a studio flat INSTEAD. They essentially took my client away from me, so they could get more money.

Overall, I would urge everyone and anyone to NOT live under UNITE students. Their main concern is for themselves and how much money they can squeeze out of a student, not the student at all. They’re unbelievably rude, and do not care for the distress of a student living in their residency. I’ve lost out on 4 month’s rent because they’ve been so difficult, and showed no regard for my suffering when it could easily have been resolved.

I’ve looked at reviews for UNITE students online, and I was horrified at the sheer number of complaints ACROSS THE COUNTRY, by students who were scammed by the company. Please ensure you thoroughly research your accommodation and its reviews before moving in.

Thankfully, I’ll be living on campus next year, and so will never have to deal with them again.

A x