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. 

Advertisements

A small confession

In an earlier post I wrote about my exam, I mentioned that my attendance at Uni had been horrendous due to my mental health declining. I’m going to confess now something that only my mum and close friends know, I haven’t been in to any lectures etc in Uni since January, I just couldn’t face it. I did keep everyone who needed to know informed but just couldn’t get my butt out the door and onto the bus. In fact, I struggled going out at all, often staying in for days at a time with just a quick trip to the supermarket or local garage. I am not proud of this, I still need to recognise all the signs I guess and get help rather than hide under the duvet.

I have had an amazing about of support from friends and family and the University as well. Now I have all the equipment I need to help with my studies as well as a mentor who is brilliant, I am genuinely looking forward to starting the new academic year.

Surprisingly, I passed my exam which when you consider I missed an entire term of lectures is pretty amazing! I don’t advocate it as a study option though so don’t follow my lead.

Yesterday, I got confirmation that I can retake a module which I missed. I had a module that was only the length of the term I failed to attend. There is a cost implication but Student Finance have got me covered with that.

I eventually sought further help for myself and have now been told that the community mental health team are referring me to the psychological therapies team for treatment. Thankfully, they haven’t recommended mucking about with my medication which I am pleased about as it’s taken almost 2 years to get it steady.

I now have all of the back up and support that I need to get back to my studies, I am planning on improving on last year’s results and with all the stuff I have been given, I now believe it is possible. I still have to deal with the appeal against my benefit being stopped but at least I can do that now without worrying whether or not I will be accepted back at Uni in September.

The moral of this long and rambling post is that if you feel like your world is collapsing in on you, get help quickly, I didn’t but I know not that I should have done. Luckily, everything turned out OK but it might not have done and then that would have had an even worse effect on the way I was feeling. I look forward to the day when I am less broken, I can’t even think about being “fixed” as that feels an eternity away.

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. 

Student Finance (England) and disabled students

Lots of people don’t have an exactly positive view of Student Finance as there are quite a few hoops that students and their parents or partners have to jump through during an application. I am not in a position to comment on their performance or otherwise on that side of things as I live alone and am a part time student so I don’t get the same funding. As a part time student I only receive funding for my course fees. 

As I have a long term mental health condition, I have also recently been advised that I am eligible for DSA (Disabled Students Allowances). These allowances can cover all sorts of things, some of which I had never even considered until my assessment. Every student who applies for DSA has to undertake an assessment after receiving a letter of eligibility and my assessment was yesterday. This is entirely different to the assessment that Atos do on behalf of the DWP (I’ve got that in a couple of weeks) they are not there to say whether you are fit or unfit for university. Instead, they are there to investigate and suggest resources that enable you to continue at university and to help you with your studies. 

My assessor was really friendly and easy to talk to which I guess makes his job easy! He managed to winkle all sorts of information out of me that I hadn’t expected and his understanding of my learning style was better than my own which makes me laugh. 

As a result of the questions that he asked and the answers I gave, the following has been recommended for me; software that will read out any text imported into it, software that enables me to record presentations over the original powerpoint slides and play it back, a dictaphone to record lectures, voice to text software, access to a mentor on a weekly or fortnightly basis and a laptop and training for all the new software. This is above and beyond anything that I had considered I might have suggested, particularly all the software and the new laptop! I will also have access to a fund for consumables as I tend to study at home rather than in the library. I left the assessment feeling a little numb to be honest but hopeful as well. I have struggled a little with the work, in particular keeping my mind on the reading and I know for sure that having my PC read to me will make it easier for me to deal with as I have a fair bit of reading to do. I am not sure that it will necessarily improve my marks but it will certainly improve my motivation and, hopefully, my concentration. I just wish I had applied earlier than I did as I might have already had these things in place. The moral of that tale is that if you feel you should apply for DSA do so, if you are eligible for it, Student Finance will write to you and tell you and then you have the assessment. Once that happens, you then wait for the report which is sent to you and Student Finance and a member of the student support staff as well if you want. Then you just have to wait for Student Finance to make their decision as to whether or not you receive the recommended resources but I am assured that this is a fairly quick decision. 

In addition to feeling “looked after” in a way that I hadn’t experienced prior to this, it was also nice being open with my feelings and difficulties without them making a snap judgement of me; the assessor actively listens and encourages you to give as much information as you feel comfortable with. I am now really looking forward to starting the new academic year in September, just got to get my pesky exam out of the way first! 

I’m still here!

I guess I have neglected my blog lately, I didn’t mean to but sometimes life gets to you and you forget to be sociable either face to face or online! 

I am still here though, going through the normal stresses and strains of life, university and everything. See what I did there? 

I guest posted on another blog today, some of you may not be aware that I have a struggle with depression, have had for some time now and it’s getting tough at the moment. Life can put stress and difficulties on anyone but more so in some respects on those of us with depression. If you have a friend who you think is having a tough time then drop them an email or text them but don’t ask the usual how are you question as you’ll probably get the age old I’m fine in return. Tell them a joke or relate a funny thing you’ve seen, trust me, just laughing can make things seem better. 

Once you’ve done that, check out http://thedepressedmoose.com/ he is hugely honest and might be able to make you see the world through someone else’s eyes if you don’t understand depression yourself.