Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Learning To Let Yourself Be Saved


I like to think that 20 years from now, I can look back at my life and regard the 17th September 2014 as the day my life changed forever.

What begun as any ordinary day and finished as little more, turned unexpectedly into the day in which I learnt one of the most profound lessons of my life so far, the day that the ignorance I had been clinging to for so long was gently prised from my fingertips and I finally faced the music I'd been persistently shunning.

The 17th September 2014 was the day I realised there are times in life where you simply have to let other people in, so they can help you, to help yourself.

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University has always been a subject of dread for me. 

It was a dread when I screwed up my A-Levels and didn't get into the place I'd pinned my hopes on, it was a dread when I went through clearing and accepted a place at a school I'd never even heard of, it was dreadfully brilliant when I finally got there and fell into the Freshers trap of partying too hard and drinking too much, which quickly turned to dread when that bit me in the arse and I ended up screwing up because of it.

Even when I re-discovered myself, buckled down and set to work to build a future, it remained a dread as I struggled to find the enthusiasm to complete the pointless, repetitive box-ticking required to pass and I instead focused my attention on work experience, internships and blogging, again, ultimately screwed up.

And so in the way that I frustratingly always seem to do when shit goes wrong, this summer, I closed off my mind to the acknowledgement of that dread, and I straight up chose to ignore it. In my mind I'd already completely given up on university, and so after term finished in April and I knew, as usual, I'd screwed up, I didn't tell anyone and refused to check my email account where my Uni correspondence was directed and carried on with my life in ignorant bliss.

It was stupid and foolish, and boy did I know it, but I physically could not bring myself to do it.

But with the arrival of September, that little part I'd been repressing since April started to stir and fidget, nudging its way to the front of my brain until I reached a point where I simply couldn't ignore it any longer. The pressure had been mounting for days and I knew I now had no choice. So with shaking hands, a pain in my chest and a shortness of breath, I finally went through all 2000 odd emails in that account.

The physical reaction I had was absolutely terrifying, and I genuinely felt seconds away from a panic attack when finally I stumbled upon a cache of emails that I really should've seen earlier in the year, and a string of increasingly desperate messages from my personal tutor.

I responded as quickly as I could, as if my hurry in that moment was going to somehow atone for weeks upon weeks of silence, and we arranged a meeting to begin to tackle this whole academic mess I'd created.

And so on the 17th September, I went up into his office, and I sat down tentatively before him.

He laid the facts on the line with brutal honesty.

You've failed this, you've failed that, you can't retake that again and you only just passed that.


A sickness crept through my stomach, but this was not news to me - what else had I been expecting to hear?

"And the thing is, Katie," He said, reclining in his chair, scratching his head a little. "Your case was put forward to the academic board, and they say you only have one strike left." My stomach dropped. "They don't see why we shouldn't be kicking you out."

The breath left my lungs and I cast my eyes downward to my fidgeting fingers. But I hated Uni... surely this is what I wanted? 

No, I thought, not like this.

"However, looking at your academic transcript," He brandished the ominous piece of paper which had haunted me for years now. "To me, it's evident that there's something else going on here."

My heart stopped. 

Because I knew exactly what he was referring to, and I had no idea he could tell. But then again, he was a journalism professor, I guess he was naturally astute to the not-always-obvious.

"And so, at your hearing," He paused, leaving his words and my future hanging in the air before us, "John and I stood up in front of the board, and we told them that they were fools if they were going to let one of the most talented writers this institution has seen in years slip away, because they are not medically well."

His words rang out into the following silence and I stared at him, speechless.

To add here, I'm not writing this to brag or to gloat. But after 3 straight years of being branded a failure, unintelligent, a drop out, a fuck up, constantly trying to fight my battle in saying that is not the case, that it's just my brain is not suited for an academic situation, I can't quite express my astonishment and sickeningly intense gratitude, that not just one, but two of my journalism lecturers had been able to see through the test scores and grade boundaries and just have faith in me.

I know I'm not the greatest writer in the world or god's gift to literature or whatever, but you see, writing is the one thing I've always had, my saviour and my solace, the one thing I've always known was the best thing I could offer the world. And to finally have that recognised by the people I've spent so long trying to prove that to...

I can't even find the words to explain it. How ironic.

I was in complete shock, unable to believe that he would have done that for me.

"And so we managed to come to a negotiation." He continued.

"Oh?" I muttered weakly, quite unable to muster a sufficient response.

"The Uni will go a hell of a lot easier on you if you can prove to them that you're trying to make a change, Katie. That you're trying to get better."

I fidgeted uncomfortably as my gratitude swirled menacingly into something resembling that familiar dread, but this had been a long time coming, and I knew the moment to turn this all around was now or never.

"Okay." 

And so together, me and my tutor who had put his reputation on the line to give me a second chance, walked down from his office and across campus to one of the admin buildings. On the way I told him of everything I'd been doing on this blog, and all the opportunities that had arisen from it. To be honest, I think he was relieved. At least I wasn't entirely up shit creek without a paddle. He even bought me a coffee on the way.

And there we sat down with one of the University therapists and we explained the situation. 

I filled out some forms as they spoke, and then just like that, they'd shaken hands and my tutor had left with a casual 'Bye'. I must admit, I felt kind of odd, I wanted to run after him and almost give him a hug and profusely thank him for everything he'd done, but he'd already left - back to work for him. Perhaps I was just projecting some Dumbledore-like character upon him, when really he would do this for any of his students.

'Thank you!' I called out, hoping he would hear. I think he knew anyway.

And so right then and there, for 45 minutes I sat down with a therapist and began to explain.

I've always been quite frank when discussing my mental health issues on this blog as I think it's a very important thing to bring to light, but there's a boundary between discussing and celebrating, and whilst I'll always be honest about it, I don't think there's any need to constantly and unnecessarily draw attention to it, so I don't talk about it all the time.

But I began with telling the therapist all about my life alongside depression and anxiety, and the particularly debilitating way in which it was manifesting itself as of late. 

You see, the trend I have noticed recently, is that I go through these periods of intense radiating positivity where I believe I can do and achieve anything and everything, but then something just switches and I become anxious and depressed to the point I can barely even muster the energy to get out of bed to eat - I just stop functioning.

 The best way I could describe it, was to use an analogy of plastic carrier bags.

Throughout the ups and downs of my life so far, unfortunately I've gone through quite lot of shit. Although these things are in the past and finished and forgotten, in the present I am subconsciously holding on to these things, carrying them around me with me all the time and letting them permeate through and interfere with current situations. So it's like on a day to day basis I am carrying these straining shopping bags - but most of the time I'm more than strong enough to do so.

But then when I least expect it, these bags will suddenly split and all the contents which have been accumulating for years will go tumbling all over the pavement and I freak out and I'm desperately trying to pick up the pieces again and hastily stuff them back inside the bags while everything is falling apart. Then finally after I've picked them all up, I can put them in new bags, dust myself down and carry on and be totally fine again.

It's exhausting, it's demoralising and it just can't keep happening.

I don't want to live my life constantly just waiting for the moment when it's all going to fall apart and I'm going to be left to pick up the pieces as quick as possible.

I want to be able to just put those bags down and walk on alone, free from the weight of these ill-collected burdens.

And explaining this to the therapist, she then interjects;

"Or, maybe we can sit down with these bags, take each and every item out and look at them in the light of day and you can decide if you need them or not. And if not, you can put them down and you can move on. And if you do, you can put them in your backpack and you can still move on. They will become a part of your character and what makes you, you."

And as I looked at her then, I felt like I wanted to cry. 

It was what I'd needed to hear for so long.

For years and years I have co-existed alongside these demons which are perched upon my shoulders, waiting to strike once I've finally got something good going, and I guess I've just gotten so used to them that I know it will always get better again, it's just a matter of time.

But there is a way that it can always be better, that I don't have to take the crushing hit to feel the soaring high.

And for so long I was too afraid to let anyone in, assuming everyone would just think I'm crazy, making excuses or just being a drama queen.

But at 21, I am just beginning to grow into the person that I will be for the rest of my life. 

I'm going into my final year of University (thank the heavens above hallelujah), I've just started performing with a band, I have a new house, a new job, I've finally found 'my people', my career as a writer is really starting to take off, and I'm just beginning to forge my own personal identity. Arguably this is the biggest 'fresh start' I will ever have.

And I don't want to carry all these negative things with me, I don't want to let past problems and traumas contaminate future situations which have the unlimited potential to be nothing but great. I want to be able to launch myself head long into this beautiful complex world, completely free of restraints and qualms, keeping this constant passion and enthusiasm without the periodic breakdowns to follow.

I'm ready to be better.

And in some ways I am so, so lucky to have had these problems, and to have been able to realise them right now. The therapist even said to me 'I don't think I've ever seen someone with such an extraordinary level of self-analysis.' which I think pretty much sums me up haha - I overthink everything so much that I know exactly what is wrong with me, just not how to change it.

But that's the beautiful thing, this is just the beginning.

And sat there in that office, I knew this was the start of the rest of my life, the start of a life of  positivity, light and hope, and instead of being scared like I was before, I found myself excited to see her again, excited to expel this negativity once and fall and lay my demons to rest.

And I owe it all to that one little professor who had faith in me.

At this I'm reminded of a quote I once saw by Ada Lovelace, a writer of science, philosophy and spirituality;


"Though I see nothing but vague and cloudy uncertainty in the foreground of being, I fancy I discern a very bright light a good way further on, and this makes me care much less about the cloudiness & indistinctness which is near."


Life might seem confusing, screwed-up and perpetually fucked right now, but if you can visualise a solution, if you're convinced you can see that light at the end of the tunnel which you know you'll get to one day, then it's an impossibility that you won't reach it.

Because the first, the most important, and arguably the only step toward everything getting better, is wholeheartedly believing that it will.

And from now on, that's all I'm going to be working towards doing.





36 comments :

  1. This is one of the most beautifully, heart breaking piece of writing I have ever read. I relate so much to what you have just written, it is nice to know I am not alone. xxx

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    1. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you're okay x

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  2. This made me tear up a bit - a good reason why I shouldn't be reading things when working! - but I'm really glad you wrote this and I really hope this is a true fresh start for you. As to why I cried, I have been resisting any type of counselling and therapy for the last seven years due to unhelpful experiences in the past, but your plastic bag analogy and the way your therapist responded to it has made me want to give it all another try. Struggling shouldn't be the only way of survival.

    x

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    1. Thank you so much for this comment, because I was in the exact same boat. I was diagnosed when I was 16 by this doctor who literally could not give a single shit. He was completely void of any empathy or bedside manner, and just put me on this really patronising online CBT course and I felt almost like... betrayed by it. It just said to me that no-one cares, everyone's got problems.

      And I thought that right up until my professor said that to me, and I think that's why it gave me such a shock. People *do* care. And not just for a paycheck - this was a free service.

      I'm just so so grateful to him that he was able to guide me in the right direction, which I was too afraid to do myself, and I can only hope that this post might help someone else finally go and seek help.

      Thank you Dani, and trust me when I say this was the best thing I've ever done x

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  3. Even though I've only been reading your blog for a short while, you're a fantastic writer and I'm glad your professor recognised that and fought for you. It's not often that people stick up for you like that. I hope everything gets better and you have an easier final year.

    Saskia / girlinbrogues.com

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    1. You really have no idea how amazing and reassuring this is to hear, thank you so much Saskia! I know, I still can't quite believe they did that for me, I think I'm kind of in shock, especially as I've always regarded uni with such distaste and thought they regarded me like that too.. it's certainly been an eye-opening experience x

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  4. That is amazing. I am pleased that you've been given a chance, guidance and faith. Hope that will make everything easier for you. You deserve it!

    Katrina Sophia

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  5. This was beautiful. I'm so happy that somebody had the faith in you that you deserve and I hope that one day I will find somebody to have such faith in me. I am at university studying English and truth be told I hate it, but there's nothing else for me to do. Nonetheless, I found this deeply moving and inspiring and I hope to one day be even half as talented a writer as you. It's wonderful that you didn't just give up and that you are giving it another shot I know that you will do brilliantly!

    hellomissjordan.blogspot.co.uk xx

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    1. Thank you so so much Jordan, this is such hypocritical advice but I'd say just stick at Uni! Don't let yourself screw up did because I can tell you not only is it a pain in the arse but it's so mentally debilitating too. Good luck and thank you so much for reading x

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  6. That was truly amazing, K! You're indeed one of the most talented writers I've ever stumbled upon and I'm so happy to hear that you're now ready to move on and change your life for the better.
    Sending you lots of kisses and good luck!
    And remember - you're already amazing and an inspiration for all of your readers (including me).
    A.
    www.letterstoa.com

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    1. ah thank you so so much Antoinette, truly. It was so lovely to meet you in NYC and hopefully we bump into each other one day x x

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  7. This was an incredibly interesting read. I'm so pleased that someone realised your potential, as although we can have endless amounts of faith in ourselves, the most heartwarming times arrive when others share that faith. I'm so pleased this story had a happy ending :)

    http://aglassofice.blogspot.co.uk/

    x

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    1. Thank you so much for reading Gabrielle and I am so grateful for that one person taking a chance on me - it has filled me with such determination to succeed and prove him right! x x

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  8. You truly are an inspiration and I thank my lucky stars for the day I stumbled across your blog. Ever since then I've never missed a post and I will keep following your journey as long as this life of mine will let me. I'm sincerely rooting for you all the way :) Best of luck! xxx

    http://highstreetmannequin.wordpress.com/

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    1. Oh wow Kikka, this is a truly amazing message, thank you. I'm honestly so overwhelmed that you care that much about my ramblings! Thank you so so much x x

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  9. This was a beautiful post, I'm really glad you've started to get the help you need and that everything is back on track for you and I'm really glad your tutors saw the potential that you have and fought for you. It's a cliche but I really do think that sometimes you have to fall down spectacularly to be able to pull yourself back up again and make the best of life. The anxiety is always going to be there but once you get help it gets easier to cope with, in my experience anyway and sometimes having someone to talk to before it all builds up and explodes is the best thing for it. I've been reading your blog for a while now and I just wanted to say I really love your style of writing and the stories you tell so well. I really hope it all works out for you and you get the most out of this second chance! x

    RosalieJayne

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  10. Wow, just wow! Everything that you are saying just reminds me of myself. I've had similar feelings and been through the same problems of being greatly inspired and then the next day it's no where to be found. When I was in high school, we had a lot of motivational speakers come out to speak to us. For some, they ignored them. I was ALWAYS inspired by them but once I got home it was like reality hit me and my inner demons along with others were there to crash into me. I'd lose it and now everything that happens or is going to happen, I have doubts about it ever happening. I can't help it, I'm just used to knowing to doubt it. It sucks :(

    On the good note though, good luck on your last year in Uni. :)

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  11. This is a great piece of writing. I'm happy for you that you've taken the plunge and allowed other people to help you. Sometimes that's just what you need. Good luck with ticking off that last year of Uni!

    Lore
    www.thesundayblah.com

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  12. This brought tears to my eyes, as I can completely relate to everything your saying and being in the exact same position as you, as I enter my third year at university. its nice to hear someone being so honest ! Best of luck to you and everyone else that shares this experience! x

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  13. Everything always works out in the end, remember that life goes on xx

    http://wiltedxfaded.blogspot.co.uk/

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  14. Heartbreaking words from a strong young woman. It just breaks my heart to hear about the doubts you had about yourself although you're a talented writer, in my opinion you really are! I'm honestly sooo happy for you that you finally managed to find your own way, your way out of the negative and self-doubt. I think to write about and sharing your story was also very helpful for you and I really really admire you for being that self-confident to know that you can handle this. Whenever you struggle again, please don't let it bring you down, instead, read again those beautiful and wise words, written by yourself and go for it! You are great, remember that :)

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  15. http://news.distractify.com/mark-pygas/powerful-photos-of-women/

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  16. Katie, this post is one of the (many) reasons why I love your blog so much. These posts will help so, SO many people. Because there are many of us who deal with mental illnesses, anxiety, or general angst about our futures, and it is so hard to open up about it. Everybody loves to play the pretend game, like everything is perfect, and you fall for it. You really believe that other people have it all figured out, when in reality we ALL struggle.
    I think there is magic in blogging. It forces you to dig deep, to face your demons and challenge yourself. I am so immensely grateful for being on this journey, and only wish I would have discovered it earlier in my life. I am very happy for you that you have! Never doubt your talent or your abilities, and know that you are NOT ALONE! Way more people than you suspect struggle with the same problems you do. They are just not as honest about it.
    You will overcome them and shine bright!!!

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  17. This is a beautiful post, and I can totally relate to how you were feeling. Whenever I cant deal with anything I go into shutdown mode and push everyone away. But we just have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and just keep trying. xx

    zoea2812.blogspot.com

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  18. I finally have the time to comment on this post!

    What a beautifully written and touching post Katie. I am so glad that it's been recognised that you need help - and that you've responded well. Here's to the future. Why, if you're already achieving so much with this burden, who knows what great things you'll go on to do! I'm also really pleased to see your university helping out and understanding - mental health is such a big deal in Higher Education and it's often something which is ignored.

    All the absolute best for the future my dear.

    Jo xx

    She Wears Burgundy

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