Young person’s takeover: ‘Being chronically ill meant lockdown actually made my days easier’

PUBLISHED: 14:30 15 September 2020

Sophie Mattolie. Picture: MAP

Sophie Mattolie. Picture: MAP


Sophie Mattholie, 17, is co-chair of the Broadland Youth Advisory Board (YAB) and is one of many chronically ill and disabled students across the UK.

City College Norwich logo. Picture: CCNCity College Norwich logo. Picture: CCN

My chronic illness has an enormous impact on my day to day life and functioning and causes symptoms like chronic pain, fatigue, dizziness and nausea. It greatly impacts my education - when my pain levels are high or I’m especially fatigued, I can hardly think properly, let alone do chemistry.

It also makes me stick out in many little ways. I can’t always bring my history folders in for folder checks because they’re too heavy to carry, and science practicals feel like a race against time, or until my legs give way.

When lockdown happened, I was frustrated at not being able to go to school just like everyone else. How was I supposed to get A-Levels and apply to university without even being able to leave my house? I can’t deny that it was difficult, but it also felt easier in so many ways.

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When I was in loads of pain, I put the work down and did it later rather than having to push too far. I planned my days with regular rest rather than double periods, because I was setting the timetable. I didn’t have to lug textbooks any further than from my shelf to my desk, which was a literal weight off my shoulders. All of these things seem quite small, but cumulatively they made my days a lot easier. This also meant that I was producing work to a higher standard - I had more headspace to think about it when I wasn’t struggling to get through the day.

The return to sixth form provided a sharp reminder that my body is not built for this. The ache of hours on lab stools, sore legs from not being allowed out of my seat, and the feeling that I’m constantly a little bit behind came flooding back.

I’m still really glad to be back despite this, and I know I’m lucky to have a sixth form that does everything they can to mitigate the effects of my illness. Others are not so lucky.

Some days, it still feels like an uphill battle just to keep up and make it through the day. It’s those days, the ones where I shuffle uncomfortably in my seat and struggle to understand content that should be easy, that make me wonder. If my education in lockdown was paradoxically freeing, why can’t I have some of that all the time?

- The impact of Covid on young people is the subject of a special online debate involving teenagers from the region. Sponsored by City College Norwich and in association with MAP, it will be hosted by EDP editor David Powles tonight (Tuesday, September 15) at 5pm. To watch or take part in the debate click the link here .

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