#PROFspective: How Devon Coulter Overcomes Adversity Living with an Invisible Disability

Devon Coulter posing by the trees near Bunce Hall

Today, we hear from Devon Coulter, senior biological sciences major from Williamstown, NJ (Gloucester County). Devon is sharing her story of living with an invisible disability.

Would you mind sharing your experience with your disability?

“I have a rare invisible disability called Idiopathic Hypersomnia. The best way I can describe it to someone is that it’s a sister to Narcolepsy. It is an unknown origin, so they don’t know what causes it, and I tend to sleep for really long periods of time. On average, I need about 13-15 hours of sleep to function. When I wake up in the morning, that cup of coffee is not going to help me. I am always yawning, always tired, and there are moments where I will fall asleep in class, but my eyes will be open.

“I am a transfer and commuter student, so coming to campus after the Covid-19 pandemic, I realized that I was having difficulties with taking night classes, commuting to class, and interacting with my fellow classmates. After one class, I was so mentally drained. I couldn’t get myself to attend club meetings. Being a transfer student made it more difficult because I didn’t know who was a junior or a senior.

“When I first got diagnosed in October of my first semester at Rowan University, it was devastating. Before I received my diagnosis and had an understanding of what was going on, I thought about dropping out because I didn’t think that I could handle it. My grades were slipping and this was way harder on me than I imagined it to be.

“As I was continuing with going through my classes, it was really difficult to get myself involved and invested in the material that I was learning. It was a struggle with brain fog and constantly forgetting things. Once I was comfortable enough to push myself to go to club meetings, I was able to meet a handful of different students and ask them questions about my classes. I began to feel comfortable with reaching out to other students and building connections.”

Devon posing by a wooden wall in a blue shirt and jacket

How have you overcome adversity in your life? 

“I had someone reach out to me to be a STEM transfer peer mentor. I was mentoring an international transfer student who is also a commuter. Seeing their struggles showed me that I am not the only one in situations like this. Having someone to connect with on that level was nice in understanding that I am not the only one going through this. Having that one person showed me that there are other people out there, and it is just a matter of putting in the effort to get there. I have always had high expectations of myself in classes, and this pushed me to become the best version of myself.

“I joined different advocacy and disability groups on campus, and it showed me that I have different challenges than other people. To turn around and say that I was able to accomplish this makes me feel so much better about myself. I went through the traditional obstacles as an average student and then some.”

Devon posing near pink flowers with a flower in her hair.

How do you maintain a positive attitude?

“All of my interests and things that I do align with the interests of other students on campus. You can’t differentiate me from you. If you look at me, I am an average student. I have never experienced discrimination, and students actually want to learn more about my disability. I am able to work with this group of students. I still fit in somewhere, and many people understand me. Many people have their own obstacles, so I know that it doesn’t define me, but it makes me stronger. I am always working to be the best version of myself that I can be.”

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Written by Jordyn Dauter, sophomore dance & elementary education double major

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