2015 is/was tough

I can’t believe how long it is since I posted!

Tonight, I am on control duty for SERV Kent and, as I was logging an earlier call, I realised that it will soon be a new year. Now, I am not stupid, I realise January and 2016 happen in a few weeks but seeing January 2016 pop up on the calendar made me realise just how close a few weeks seems.

This set me to thinking about 2015 up until now. It has been tough but also fun; sad but also happy. At the beginning of the year, the new neighbours showed just how noisy 2 skinny girls can be. I’ll gloss over the neighbours a bit as legally, there are things I can’t say and morally, things I won’t. They’re beyond noisy, music, fighting, all sorts. Some of the other neighbours and I have been forced to call the police on several occasions and, thanks to all the stress, lack of sleep etc, I gave up on uni for the rest of the last academic year. It’s been a tough ride with them and isn’t yet finished. And that is all I have to say about that.

At the beginning of the year, my lovely step nan died which was really sad (that sounds so lame!) I felt hugely guilty about being happy to reconnect with various members of the family at her funeral but that is what happens. I loved her so much but hadn’t really been able to put it into words with her, I hope she knew.

A couple of months later, I was made head controller with SERV Kent, a massive honour and responsibility which at the time, was a much needed boost. I hadn’t realised just how much work went on behind the scenes but I attacked it as I always do with new learning curves and am thoroughly enjoying it.

Then, in the summer, something that I had been thinking about a for a while got given a sudden push, I dumped my boyfriend. He had been there for me in the days after I filed for divorce which was great but our relationship never developed which was not so great. My only (and I mean only) regret is that I didn’t tell him face to face. I couldn’t, not because I didn’t want to but because he didn’t turn up to see me when he said he would which was becoming a regular occurrence. I am no longer a notch on someone’s bedpost (sorry to my family for that sentence!) I had spent a long time, several months, now I look back, feeling less than important to him but hadn’t had the courage to do anything about it for way too long. The speed with which the musings about it became an action hit me like a truck but, thankfully, I didn’t fall apart over him, far from it. That tells me it was absolutely the right thing to do and the right time to do it. I actually smiled when I met with my university mentor and told her what I had done, I genuinely feel like a huge weight has been lifted and even admitting that doesn’t make me feel sad.

I am back at uni, my attendance thanks to ongoing lack of sleep hasn’t been anywhere near great but I am doing OK. My first essay got submitted on time and, despite me convincing myself that it was the worst one I had ever written, I got a mark of 62% which I am so proud (and a little suspicious) of. It made me remember that I can do it, that I really do deserve to be at university and that I actually do have a reasonable amount of intelligence in my brain! All those doubts will come back in a day or two, I’m waiting on the mark from my second essay and a plank would be able to tell me that was nowhere near as good as the first!

I sent my mum a text telling her my essay mark for what I described to her as a crap essay and her reply made me giggle:

“You clearly have superior and higher goals than your lecturers. Well done”

Thanks mum and, I think you’re right. In case she’s reading this, yep, I said you were right! I am unbelievably hard on myself when it comes to my studies, I constantly berate my own work and abilities and this absolutely needs to stop…now! Ah, who am I kidding? I will probably never stop it but will do my best to be less hard on myself.

So, a tough year but also, in a weird way, one of the best I’ve had in a long time. That reads weirdly, even to me. How can a tough year be a good one? Because I am still managing to function, I am coping with all the crap being flung at me by others as well as by myself. And, get this, I AM strong. Until today, I had never believed that but now I do and I will remind myself of that every time I feel like just giving up and hiding under the duvet forever. I expect I will still fall every once in a while but I know that I won’t stay down for long and that every trial that gets thrown at me from now on will lead to me getting even stronger.

I hadn’t planned on such a long post, it just turned out that way so I will end it with this:

2016, bring it on, I am ready for you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exams…pfft!

Yesterday I sat my introduction to criminology exam. I was not in the slightest concerned about the exam; my attendance in the last term has been horrific due to my mental health decline but even though I didn’t attend like I should have, I was still determined to sit the exam. 

My mentor talked me through what to expect while there, where the bag room was and how I would find my desk, the 2 most essential things to me. 

I got on the bus, switched on the ipod and switched off my brain. Well, until the bus driver decided that he needed to sit for 5 minutes at several bus stops leaving me almost homicidal! The one thing I hadn’t thought to ask my mentor was whether I would be allowed in the exam room if I was late. However, due to my speedy little legs and amazing knowledge of the building the exams were held in, I arrived a minute or two before the exam started! There were quite a few of us in the room, at least 5 different exams were being sat in the same room, 2 of those lasting just 2 hours and the rest of us lucky people had 3 hour exams. 

I read all 12 questions on the sheet, of which I had to choose 4. I chose my first question to answer and I was off and writing. In the end, I managed to choose and answer 4 questions with 40 minutes to spare. I toyed with the idea that I should sit there and re-read my answers until I fell asleep but decided not to so I raised my hand and asked to leave. 

When I got home, I sat on the sofa and grinned to myself, I had done it. Pass or fail, it didn’t matter, I had sat and finished an exam, my first of many I suspect. Then my belly rumbled so I treated myself to 2 bacon and egg sandwiches which I ate surprisingly quickly. The natural high of finishing the exam lasted until around 5pm when I fell asleep and woke up 2 and a half hours later! So, failure and resits aside, I am free to do what I like until the end of September when the next year starts. But, being the kind of person I am, I won’t be relaxing, I have a major de-cluttering and DIY project on my hands, it’s called sorting my flat out and painting it. What have I let myself in for? 

A little can mean a lot

As an update to my recent posts about my sofa and the assistance from the Disabled Student’s Allowance, I thought I’d post something less light-hearted than my usual posts. I am not doing this in a woe is me style or in a bouncy, excited look how lucky I am way. I am doing this in the hope that someone else going through some of the things I am going through can be reassured that there are people that can and, hopefully will, help you.

The charity that I approached enabled me to sit comfortably in my living room and, for the first time, to have a brand new sofa. I love it now that I have worn it in and am looking forward to my first overnight guest so I can get use out of the sofa bed. As I now have a smaller sofa than I used to, I have now got space to put my dining table in the living room rather than down in my bedroom. I have really missed being able to eat at a table and it’s ideal for my revision as I am closer to the kitchen cupboards and the kettle. I have still got a little bit of rearranging to do but am leaving that until after my exam.

So, some stuff at home is getting sorted and so is university. I haven’t had the best attendance in the last term so I’ve missed a lot and have had to apply for concessions from the exam board as a result. Mostly, it was my own fault, I was struggling and took too long asking for help. I realise this now of course, which I’d noticed at the time! Anyway, I have had my meeting with a disability advisor at university who has taken into account everything written in my DSA report and what i was telling her and together, we have written my individual learning plan. This plan applies to all lectures, seminars and other learning activities. Unfortunately, this year’s exam instructions have been written too late for this year. However, from next year, I am going to be allowed extra time and will be taking my exams in a smaller room. I’ve said to anyone that will listen that knowing I am about to receive all the help that it makes everything seem less scary. It is a relief to know that I am being taken seriously and that both the DSA funding body and the University are going to do everything in the power to keep me attending and get me through my degree. Being believed is a huge thing when you are suffering with a mental health problem and particularly depression. You can see people thinking that you are faking it and a lot of people don’t understand how you can be depressed but laugh at jokes or have fun. 

The university have arranged for me to have a mentor, I am meeting her for the first time next week and she has an awesome name, Sarah, of course! I am being funded for an hour a week, term time. I don’t know yet exactly what happens with this, I’ve never had a mentor before. 

In addition to this and my ILP, I am getting a fair amount of equipment and software which I was tentatively told on the phone this week. I am getting software that will read any documents scanned into it out loud to me, software that will type up my spoken words, a new laptop, laptop stand, keyboard and mouse, recording device and a few other bits and bobs that I can’t recall right now. I had never, in a million years expected that I would be eligible for help like that. I am still blown away by it and am not sure I really believe it even though I have been reassured by others that I am. I can’t wait for the confirmation letter to arrive! Once it does, I know for sure then that the equipment and other support will be well and truly in place by the start of the next academic year and it has fuelled my enthusiasm for getting back into it more than I would have believed. 

The moral of this long ramble is don’t be afraid to ask help. You may need to do a little bit of work to find out who can help you but believe me, it is worth it. I was considering giving up my studies as I felt unable to cope with everything but now I know that although it won’t be easy instantly, I have enough support in place to make the journey easier than it felt. If you are feeling like you are paddling round in a bucket of porridge, get help as soon as you can. Don’t ignore it like I did, those feelings can overwhelm you to the extent you don’t realise what is wrong until it’s affected your life in a major way. You’re not alone, according to Mind 1 in 6 workers is dealing with a mental health problem. 

Oh, if you’re wondering where my Atos update is, they cancelled my appointment as they were running late. Luckily, I was only just putting my shoes on to leave when they called, 5 minutes later and I would have been on my way!

Update to Disabled Students Allowance

My final report from the assessor has been sent to me and one of the disabled student advisers at University. I won’t bore you with all the details included in the report but suffice it to say that the equipment and software suggested is a lot and will be well used by me and is making me feel a lot more positive about my future at University. 

As a first step, I have already got an appointment arranged with one of the support officers and my mentor. These will both happen by the end of the month, I can’t believe just how quickly this is all being put in place! In addition to all this support and the equipment, I will have a specific learning plan and potentially special instructions for my exams, too late for this year but well in place for next year. I can also put this all into the request I have made for concessions for my exam and the work I have missed due to a decline in my mental health in the last term, the support that is being put into place now should mean I can reduce non-attendance over the rest of my time there. 

If you are reading this and struggling with your studies and maybe even thinking of giving it all up, please don’t. Speak to your disability advisor or student support office and tell them what’s happening, I promise they will help you. You don’t have to suffer (struggle) in silence but you do need to start the process of getting help yourself, I did and it’s looking like being the best thing I’ve done for myself recently.