12.01.18: 2017, Stage 5.

Well hello again,

We’ve made it! We’ve submerged ourselves in the tale of my higher education and have finally reached the finale: Stage Five, my fifth and final year of my undergraduate degree. It has been a long, hard road to get to this point. It has also come round surprisingly quickly- it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was a wide-eyed Fresher, but there you are. I always have to remind myself of how well I have done to get to this point- loads of people have dropped out or decided five years is too much of an undertaking- but I made it. That is an achievement in and of itself. This year “bumps up” me degree to an ‘undergraduate Masters’, whatever that really means- so I will leave with a MPsych- Masters in Psychology. It’s not as good as an MSc (which I why I am going on to do one of those!), but it’s better than an BSc. Lots of people ask me why I am doing ‘another’ Masters, thinking it is a waste of time- wrong. When we’re all applying for the same jobs, you have to be the one who sticks out. An MSc trumps an MPsych every day of the week. It sounds selfish, but in this field, you have to be willing to go the extra mile.

This year, I have specialised. I am undertaking a particular pathway called “Foundations in Clinical Psychology”. It’s all coursework based, so whilst there is no last minute revision to be cramming in, there is a lot of underlying stress. I have four deadlines this month alone, so don’t let anyone tell you coursework is easy! So far, the lectures haven’t been marvellous, but my grades haven’t been too awful. We have small classes now, which makes the lecturing seem a bit more personal, and I have a good friend who I can discuss the work with. I am also in a university society, and that keeps me busy.

This year, though, my main concern is my mental health. We’re getting to my “danger zone”, where my mental health is most likely to take a beating. February is really bad for some reason, I’m still trying to figure out anyway. Anyway, I am making sure I have plenty of time to look after myself- I go to the gym a lot, I do other things I enjoy (like the theatre), and I am keeping a close eye on my mental health. I use scales used in mental health assessments to see where I am at. By doing so, I can figure out what helps me feel better and what makes me start the downward spiral. For me, it’s keeping busy (very, very busy, so I have no time to think!) and routine. There is a time for everything, there is an order to everything and everything has a plan. That helps me feel in control. And so far, it seems to be working. I feel surprisingly okay, and knowing that I have some measure of control over my mental health, something I haven’t had before, is really making a difference.

Now I must abandon you for a few days- my boyfriend is down and I just won’t find the time to write. I will be back Monday, so I hope you all enjoy your weekends!

Love,

B.

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11.01.2018: 2016, Stage Four.

Good morning!

If you made it this far on this little blog of mine, then congratulations! You are either extremely patient or extremely bored. Either way, you are very welcome here.

So now I am getting much closer in time to where we actually are, my fourth year at university. Overall, this was a pretty good year. I lived with the girl I lived with in second year who I didn’t majorly fall out with, and we got on like a house on fire. That aspect was great.

My mental health, though, eh. Suffice to say, it took another tumble.

I think what freaked me out so much about it was its similarity to what had happened the year before (except without the added strain of a death in the family). My grades weren’t fantastic in the first term, and I also was working again at my placement (for the experience, and for a bit of extra money). The stress of working, plus the not-so-great results wasn’t a good combination. I was also getting a little restless- lots of people who had been in my cohort had now graduated, were free of these God-awful lectures and deadlines. They had jobs and money and freedom. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I didn’t have yet another year to do after the fourth one! At the time, this made me feel really low. So back to the doctor I went, this time a little weepy, and back on the anti-depressants I went. I’m still on them, actually, just to keep me ticking over.

Like I said before, mental health comes in cycles. Good times, bad times, even worse times, and so on. It’s a wave we have the dubious pleasure of getting to ride, a wave that we will be on for the rest of our lives. Depression doesn’t stop with the anti-depressants, honestly. Someone once described it to me as being like physical fitness: you don’t go to the gym, say, 20 times and bingo! You’re not physically fit! Physical fitness is something you have to be constantly working at.

I am not so restless, anymore, you’ll be pleased to here. I am comfortable with my life choices at the moment. I know the field I want to go into is crazily competitive. I know that I need to make myself stand out from the crowd, and the more education I have, the better. I have a clear trajectory as to what I want to achieve. I no longer compare myself to anyone, because it simply doesn’t help.

By the end of the year, I was feeling better, and my grades had gone up, so it wasn’t a complete disaster of a year grade-wise. I am hoping to do even better this year to pull them up some more. I mean, they were never terrible, but I have really high standards that I want to achieve. That’s one of the hardest things I find to live with when it comes to my mental health difficulties: the perfectionism. I desperately want to learn that just because something isn’t perfect, doesn’t mean that there is no point to it. I am trying, honestly.

That’s all for today. I have basically caught you up! I am sure I will go back in the future to tell you about some more aspects of my story in detail, things that might be of interest to you. I would also like to add, if any of you want to talk about mental health in any form, my door is always open. It is something I am passionate about, it’s the area I want to work in. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Love,

B.

10.01.18: 2015, Stage 3.

My third at university was my first ‘optional’ year. I undertook a year in industry, which means my degree comes with an extra certificate. I worked for the Research & Development Department of my local Mental Health Trust. Overall, I really enjoyed it. It had it’s more challenging moments, both the work and the people I worked with, but that’s the same in any team. It was my first time doing a ‘proper’ job, and I did a lot of growing up that year.

To get to my placement, though, which I didn’t get paid for (though I was working full time), I had to get up at 6am every morning, get a bus (I couldn’t get a car parking space) that took an hour to get into the hospital where I worked, do a full day, then do the same in reverse. Now, to the majority of you, that probably sounds like what you do all day, every day. To all of you, I salute you. I honestly don’t know how you do it. Because, honestly, it nearly killed me.

I became exhausted pretty quickly. I started my placement in September, and by February had completely crashed. I was desperately emotionally and physically exhausted, I was irritable and found very little enjoyment from my life or work. I cried all the time, and just wanted to sleep and sleep and sleep. To wake up in the daylight. To see my home in the daylight (leaving the house at 7am and coming back at 6pm didn’t allow for that). I felt completely out of control of my own thoughts and emotions.

To add to this, a close relative died in mid-March. Now, she wasn’t young or particularly well, so there wasn’t a sense of shock. But it was the first close death in my family for me, and I didn’t know how to process it. It’s getting on for two years, and I don’t think I have entirely processed it. Maybe we never do, not really. Bereavement is a very, very odd thing to experience. They talk about these stages of grief- you know, denial etc. I honestly felt all of them every single day for a long, long time.

I felt like a failure, again. For the third year in a row, I had simply been unable to just…deal with life like a normal person. But I knew I had to do something, or I would end up dropping out of my placement, and all of my hard work would have been for nothing.

So, for the first time ever, I went to a doctor to talk about my mental health. And she told me she thought I was suffering with depression and anxiety.

I might just add here the doctor was wonderful. There was no judgement, no sense that I was wasting her time, nothing. Just understanding. That, in itself, was healing. If anyone reading this is considering going to a doctor about their mental health but is scared to, I can tell you I have never experienced anything but complete kindness and care. I would tell you to be brave, and that you are not a failure. You’re a warrior, simply for getting up this morning. Please believe me.

For a time, with medication and therapy, I got better. But what they don’t tell you when you’re given the gift that is a mental health problem, is that it’s with you for life. You’re never completely free. But it doesn’t have to be a curse: with training and maybe some medical help, you can control it. I’m still learning to do that now.

Once again, thank you for reading. I love you for it!

B.

09.01.18: 2014, Stage 2.

Hello again.

Now I don’t want this blog to become a diatribe of sad events, or for you to think my life is completely miserable. Truth is though, that my first couple of years at university weren’t the best that they could be. I am now an awful lot more content with my life. I feel more settled and peaceful in and of myself. I enjoy life more. But to get to the smooth, we have to go through the rough.

In my second year of university, I moved in with two friends that I had made in my first. Now one of these people is honestly one of the best friends I have ever had- she is kind and funny and tells me exactly what she is thinking, which is surprisingly refreshing. We would live together in our fourth year, and she has asked me to be one her bridesmaids. She got me through a lot of bad times, so I want it written here what follows is absolutely nothing to do with her.

The second friend, turned out different. When we first met, we got on really well. Through a series of events which I shall not divulge in detail here, because even I respect her privacy to an extent, she made me feel like a horrible human being, simply because I wouldn’t always do exactly what she wanted. ‘Compromise’ was a word she didn’t understand. It didn’t help that a third friend, who didn’t live with is, would back her up on everything she said. This ‘friend’ became rather threatening and I believe emotionally abusive. I had to resort to some pretty extreme measures (leaving the house if he was there, deleting my facebook) to get through day by day. My parents don’t live very far from my university, I ended up staying there more than at our house.

I left that year and house feeling worthless, evil, and with a sense that life should be so much better, which is an awful sensation. The depression, which I thought I had killed when I left my awful halls, seemed to have resurrected itself. I experienced my first panic attack that year. After a second year of terrible relationships crashing around me, the doubt started to creep in. A little voice, quiet and first, but getting gradually louder and louder until it was shrieking at the top of its lungs:

“Maybe it’s you.”

It’s taken literally years, and a new set of friends and experiences, to know this isn’t the case. I am human, that means I am flawed. I will write here in black and white that I probably didn’t handle some of the events that occurred that year as well as I could have. I have regrets, but I honestly do not believe that I was the main culprit. I know, having made new friends and been through difficult times with them, that I am not a particularly unreasonable or horrid person, as the two people mentioned above would tell you. We’re just…different. Have different beliefs about life, have different attitudes. And that’s okay, that’s what the makes the world go round. But it isn’t helpful for shared house living.

Now I promise that this is the end of my rant against other people. Second year ended my (major) relationship issues, I am very grateful for that.

Again, if you read all this, you are incredibly patient and I think the world of you 🙂 🙂

Love,

B.

08.01.18: 2013, Stage One.

Hello again,

Firstly, thank you to everyone who has already come to this tiny little blog and ‘liked’ my post, I honestly didn’t think anyone would pay any attention to it! I will have to now behave myself knowing some people might really read this!

I wanted to start at the beginning of my journey as the Eternal Student, which means taking you all back to September 2013. I was 18, had a pixie cut and was wholly unprepared for the undertaking I was about to start.

I should start by saying I loved my degree from the word go, and have done all the way through. I have been incredibly fortunate in this regard- so many people I know cannot stand what they studied at university and couldn’t wait to graduate. Me, I’ve never had that experience. I am still as in love with Psychology as I was when I first started studying it when I was 16. Sure there are parts I am completely uninterested in, but that’s the same in any subject. Psychology is my calling, I know that now, sure as I know my own name.

No, the reason I want to go back to 2013 is not because  of the degree itself, it’s because of being a Fresher. I was an absolutely hopeless Fresher. Back then, I didn’t drink. For now, I am not going to get into my reasons why, because they’re private and I don’t owe an explanation to anyone. Some people thought I did, though- the five girls I lived with for the first four months of my degree thought I was a complete non-starter. I was shy and nervy and didn’t want any part in their rowdy, immature nonsense. It didn’t take long for them to start making fun of me, laughing at me when I left a room, playing pranks on me, making me feel worthless and filled with self-loathing. All because I wasn’t like them. You wouldn’t think that we were all supposedly adults, but there you go. I was meant to be the most free I had ever been in my life, but I felt like I was in prison, for a crime which I simply couldn’t understand.

After Christmas, in January 2014, it got so awful and I felt so terrible that I moved blocks to a different flat. This is basically never done at our university, students don’t just move. I had to pay a surcharge of £50 for the privilege of getting away from my harassers (something that the university took absolutely no interest in), and I can honestly say that was the best £50 I have ever spent. Sure, I didn’t really make friends with the people I moved in with, I was too scared of them to be their friend after my first awful experience, but they were accepting and non-judgemental, and I was free.

This last year at this university, I am a Residential Assistant in one of halls, because I want to make sure that, under my care, nothing like what happened to me happens to another vulnerable young person. That 18 year old pixie-cut girl is gone, she can’t come back, they killed her with their jibes and side-eye glances. But another girl rose, the one who took on second year, which was almost as dramatic as the first!

I will leave you with that cliff-hanger. If you got this far, thank you for reading!

B.

07.01.18: Hi there, Internet.

Well hello there.

No one is actually reading this, so it kind of feels like I am just talking to myself. Oh well, I mean I am pretty weird anyway, so talking to myself won’t add much.

In this first post I just wanted to introduce myself, this blog and why I am doing this.

I am in my final year of my undergraduate psychology degree, and my word, it’s been a journey and a half. This is my fifth year here- no, I have no had to repeat any years, but I added in a couple of extra years, because I thought at the time that would be a good idea. So, a BSc, a Certificate in Professional Experience and an MPsych later, I am about to plop out the other side. I won’t lie, I’m nervous. I was 18 when I started this. I am 23 now, I feel like I should be more prepared for the world. Through this blog, I want to look back on what I have learnt, as I know I have come a very long way, in many, many ways.

I am not jumping straight into “Adult Life”, oh no. The world is not ready for me yet. I am leaving my current university to start a MSc in Applied Clinical Psychology at another university in September 2018. I am incredibly excited about this. New city, new start. Another reason for this blog is to keep a record of that year, because I am sure it’s going to be one to remember.

And, of course, I wouldn’t be a psychology student if I wasn’t riddled with mental health problems. I suffer from Mixed Anxiety & Depression, and have done for quite some time. This is another place that I can explore this, and to keep a record of how my mood progresses.

Sorry if this was an awful ramble. Wait, no one is reading this, so who am I apologising to?

B.