The University Diaries : The Hardest Decision

It's been a while, hasn't it. I don't really know where to start but to cut a long story short, my degree took over my life and that's why I haven't been writing. I have such admiration for people who can keep up with their degree and still find the energy/brain-power/motivation to write in their blog too. I just couldn't do it.



So. I made it into my final year, somehow. My grades were shit and I was dragging myself through purely because I didn't want to fail. Not so much in an academic sense, but by letting my depression/anxiety and chronic fatigue affect me. I know that's absurd because it's not something you can really control at all; if it's going to flare up, it's going to happen and that's why we have drug treatments. At a low level, yes you can keep plodding on and using your mindfulness/CBT/whatever therapy and that's what I have been doing for about 9 months. 

I don't think I will ever be able to explain just how much of a challenge it is to go to university when you have mental health and/or physical health problems. You're already been challenged so much to function on a basic level that the extreme stress a degree puts on you is like putting a propane tank next to an open flame. At some point, shit could get really bad really fast and that's exactly what has happened. 

Now, I love my university and I am so thankful to them for their understanding and patience and bending over backwards to help me when exam time rolls around. I don't do well with them. I can revise and revise and revise and practice and revise some more, but put me in an exam room and my brain will projectile vomit everything I have ever read all at once in an incoherent mess and there is nothing left to use to answer what is being asked. So, we tried take-away papers and essays which worked beautifully.

The exam period that has just gone by was different. I had 2 modules from third year plus a module I failed in second year to do. This was following lectures and an inhuman amount of work on my dissertation. I was mentally spent. I think people forget that health conditions of any variety have an impact on your cognition. My request for alternative modes of assessment was accepted, and following a series on confusing emails my arrangements were sent: TEN THOUSAND WORDS IN FOUR WEEKS, plus 1,500 for a piece of coursework. 

I did it. I don't know how, but I did it. However, on 21st January I ended up being 6 minutes late to submit around 7000 words of the 11,500 total, thanks to Southern Rail and their oh so reliable service. On that specific day, I was not in the financial position to give a taxi driver £50+ to speed his way to campus, and even then at that time of day there is nothing to say that I wouldn't have gotten caught in traffic from people picking their kids up from school. I was stuck and frantically calling and emailing everyone in the university I could think of. If I wasn't there by 4pm, tough shit. 

So. Following a lot of ranting and exhausted tears, I had a decision to make. The initial thought was that resitting the missed deadlines and graduation in the winter with a 2:2 was the only real option, which devastated me even more than the fact that all that work was flat out rejected, and I still had more to do. I was beyond exhausted and couldn't think, so I went to bed and slept. And slept. And slept. When I woke up, my first thought was: "I can't do this anymore", which I have experienced before but the context and end result was quite different! For months I had been feeling my depression getting worse and was in so much pain and exhaustion I was already reduced to writing my essays in bed because I couldn't sit up anymore. This isn't what I wanted my degree to be about: working myself into a non-functional mess. Nothing is worth compromising your health, especially when you have worked for years and years to get you to this point. 

I had to withdraw. I went back and forth for days, trying to convince myself that I could do this final semester and I'd make a 2:2 work for me. Haha, nope. I would much rather graduate with a smile on my face and the ability to function than keel over at the finish line and spend the next year or so of my life trying to put myself back together again. 

Maybe this is a blessing in disguise, I don't know. My request for temporary leave went to my school yesterday. I'm still going back and forth beating myself up over this, but my instinct has never steered me wrong and this just felt like it was the right choice. Time will tell I guess. Hopefully they will let me come back in September so I can have another run at a 2:1 and actually be able to do it! 

For now, all I want is sleep. 
Samantha Nicholls. Powered by Blogger.

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