Time to change and time to talk

Some of you who know me well will know that I am being treated for depression and anxiety, both mental health issues. I also have a slipped disc in my neck but that’s less of an issue to some point. Before you stop reading, this is not a pity post, far from it. 

My mental health problems started around the time I separated from my (now ex) husband, not that it was all because of that, I was also having a tough time at work. The combination of these two events took their toll on me and when I went to the GP after a few weeks of having a cold/virus I broke down in tears and gabbled my problems at him prompting him to sign me off work and prescribe anti depressants. Fast forward a year, I am divorced, living in a small but cosy flat, fostering a cat via a charity and studying Criminal Justice Studies part time at the University of Kent. Life is pretty good, I am in a new relationship with a previous partner however, I am still being treated for depression and beginning to struggle again. It takes me ages to recognise it this time and I eventually admit defeat and hide at home rather than going into University. Weeks become months and I miss a whole term. I eventually go to my GP who increases my medication and I am now on an even keel. This does take a bit of time but I do manage to sit the only exam I had for the year (and I pass!) and I start looking forward to the new academic year. Around this time, I also receive confirmation of my disabled students allowance which you can read about here. This helped shift my mood a lot and I started enjoying life a lot more. It seems a bit wrong to say that as someone who is depressed I shouldn’t be enjoying life, right? Wrong, just because my brain is a little bonkers at the moment doesn’t mean that I can’t have fun or even laugh at a great (or terrible) joke. 

For the last few months, I have been following Time to Change on twitter and they have a campaign called Time to talk. The campaign is all about encouraging people to talk about mental health. I was born in the 70s when this was a hugely taboo subject and, having seen the looks of pity in some people’s eyes, I struggle to talk about it at times too. It is not easy to tell even your closest friends or family that your head is messed up, you’re starting to struggle again or you are just plain exhausted, fed up and worried you’ll never be yourself again. Luckily, I can talk to my mum and friends but try not to do that too much after all, who wants to hear me whinge all the time? 

Does a conversation with someone who has depression have to be about depression? Nope, call me and tell me what you had for breakfast or what you watched on telly last night. Send me a text or post a joke on my facebook wall, I will probably laugh and repost it or, if you follow me on twitter, tweet a cute kitten picture, I love those! 

As important as it is to start a conversation about your mental health issues, it is just as important to start a conversation with someone who has a mental health issue. In addition to this, look at the time to talk campaign and mention it to 1 other person and ask them to do the same. The further we get the word out there, the better. 

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Getting back to study

I have been on summer break from Uni since 17th June, 9 weeks so far and my first lecture of the next academic year is on 30th September, just 6 weeks more to go! I am not going to say I am bored exactly but I am keen to get back to studying. I have read the details online of one of my modules and bought the required text book as I am really looking forward to starting it. It amuses me to think that I am excited and keen to get “back to school” when 30 years ago I would have been dreading the end of the school holidays. I am desparately hoping that this doesn’t mean I am becoming a proper adult, I don’t feel old enough for that yet. 

The year I am about to embark on is actually the other half of the first year although I am classed as a returning student so all future blogs I write about my studies will refer to stages instead, much easier to keep track of! I will spend 2 years at each stage as a part time student so no counting is involved. I am in stage 1 at the moment and, luckily in some ways, the marks that are achieved in this stage don’t go toward the degree classification. However, I do wonder that knowing this may make me take my foot of the gas sometimes. I am going to do my utmost not to let that happen this year and to start working as hard as I know I can but without breaking my brain anymore than it is already. 

I have had my disabled student allowances agreed for the next year, as I already have the equipment, it is just a case of them agreeing the additional incidentals that I will receive. And, once Student Finance England and my University have sorted their communication problems over my course code and the funding for my fees approved, I will be a very happy bunny. 

If you are older than the average school leaver attending University and are wondering whether you should obtain a degree, I would say if you can, go for it. Be aware though that part time students only get their fees paid, no additional grants or loans are available. Don’t let that put you off though, if you can work it financially and are determind to do it, do it. I have done a fair few things I would never had done if I wasn’t at Uni, such as attending a wine reception at the House of Commons and taking on an active voluntary role with SERV Kent, I didn’t feel useful enough before. Following your heart’s desire doesn’t have to be something that only the young can do anymore, I am doing it and enjoying it more day by day.