Politics & Society, University Life

Alex Hunt: “I have Chronic interstitial cystitis, but I chose to do something with my life”.

Written by Emily Herbert

When people are healthy, life is taken for granted. But for some, the illness is with them forever.

Chronic Interstitial cystitis (otherwise known as painful bladder syndrome) is a chronic in-flammation of the bladder wall. The cause of the condition is not known yet, however, indi-cations suggest the condition could be due to a defective bladder lining. It is thought around 400,000 people in the UK suffer from IC, 90% of whom are female.

Alex Hunt, a second-year ancient history student at the University of Leicester, talks to me about living with this condition and how he “chose to do something with [his] life”.

At the age of 14, Alex began noticing pain in his bladder, which led to him being unable to sleep and battling fatigue. “I became anxious around people and would isolate myself in my bedroom for days at a time,” he says.

A short time later, he was diagnosed with chronic interstitial cystitis, but struggled with the lack of support and quickly fell into a depressive mental state. “It felt like a never-ending waterwork infection, with the pain like a burning and stabbing sensation coming from inside my body.”

When he was growing up, living with the condition there was not much support for his ill-ness as its uncommon and rare in males. He became “very reliant on painkillers” and soon after started steroidal medication injecting into the bladder internally. But this only gave him a limited amount of relief.

“People close to me gave me lots of sympathy” Alex describes, but “I did end up losing many friends as I spent so much time off school.” When I asked him if he found that there was a negative stigma attached to someone who suffers from a chronic illness, he replied: “Yes! Some people assume you are making it up, especially if it’s a non-visible condition.”

This made it very hard for Alex and has battled anxiety and depressive thoughts due to his chronic illness. He started to see a councillor at the age of 16, who taught him to “question my anxieties, rationalizing them.”

He soon realised with the time he had missed off school from being ill his grades were not sufficient to be accepted into university. “I set goals and focused on them”, and spent four years studying for an IT course, finally giving him the grades to apply for university.

“I always try and make the best out of better days, as it was what helped me move out of the cycle of depression and emptiness.”

Currently, Alex has his condition under control. “COVID-19 has had an overall negative effect, though it has made it harder to get out of the house and see people. I’m using the time to focus on my university work.”

For a bright future, Alex wishes that people will take an “understanding that not all conditions are visible, as people can be quick to judge if they can’t see an illness.”


Emily Herbert is a first-year student of Journalism at the University of Leicester, with further aspirations of pursuing a career in TV. You can find her on Instagram @emilykateherbert

Photo on Unsplash