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"What’s my superpower? I have Conversion Disorder. Not 'convulsion', CONVERSION. The hidden disability."
Author: Transformation Office | Disability Unit | AfriNEAD
Published: 26/08/2020
​“Ooh, is that a group of potentially eligible bachelors? Now's the perfect time to cause some chaos."

“Is this that class you failed last year and are desperate to pass this year? There hasn't been a more suitable hour for a little chaos!" 

“You poor thing, are you trying to walk to another building in 10 minutes? It's a pity; I'm seeing the perfect opportunity for some chaos."

That's my body telling me it's under a bit of pressure. The chaos reaction is a full-blown, limb-twitching, head-banging, teeth-chattering seizure. Yes, I occasionally have grand mal seizures that can last anything from a minute to half an hour.

What's my superpower? I have Conversion Disorder. Not “convulsion", CONVERSION. The hidden disability. Hidden because I look perfectly healthy until I start vibrating and my eyes start rolling. There is no known cure for it, but it can become a thing of the past with a few years of therapy. But nobody knows how many years or with which specialising therapist or how long you'll spend with every specialising therapist until something somewhere clicks. But I must say, in my case, although therapy hasn't made my symptoms disappear, it sure has lessened them. Psychology working hand in hand with psychiatry and lots of patience.

I was diagnosed with Conversion Disorder in 2016, in my final year in high school. In 2017 I was introduced to an entirely new environment: stairs to reach my bedroom, paced 10-minute walks between buildings to get to lectures and having half my high school's amount of students in one lecture hall. It was exciting. I loved the buzz. My body didn't quite agree, though.

I spent 2017 having lectures cut short because of the chaos caused by a seizure during a lecture. I was carried up flights of stairs, made friends with the sisters at Campus Health and soon enough was known as the person to be cautious around in my faculty and residence. Never too much excitement. Never too much pressure. It was unreal. It was boring.

This was all before I was introduced to the University's Disability Unit. The superheroes. I only requested a way to have my classes recorded for me, instead of me walking all the way, only to disrupt a lecture. The Disability Unit quickly came to my aid, arranged top-quality equipment for my studies and for the recordings to be made and covered all the costs. They immediately contacted all my lecturers and made all the arrangements for me to have an assistant that walked with me to all my lecturers to explain. Getting podcasts from some lecturers was like pulling teeth from a tiger.

That's how I can say the Covid-19 lockdown rescued me. Along with the support of the Disability Unit, online learning made my studying much easier. It forced lecturers to post all the details online on time, the assessments were done online and whenever I had a seizure while working, I could rest and work at a time that suited me.

​​​SU's Rector and Vice-chancellor, Prof Wim de Villiers announced late last year that 2020 will be the university's Year for Persons with Disability. It will culminate in the sixth African Network for Evidence-to- Action in Disability (AfriNEAD) conference, a prestigious international network that will be hosted by SU from the 30 November to 3 December 2020. To honour this the Transformation Office and the Disability Unit, along with AfriNEAD, will publish monthly reflections or articles by persons with disabilities. Our sixth piece was written by Lathi Msi, a BA ​Humanities student.