Thursday, 15 August 2013

A-level results - and how they're not the end of the world!

Hundreds of thousands of teenagers are today frantically (or very slowly) opening that dreaded envelope - A-level results. You may have gotten what you wanted today, you might not have done. You may have surprised yourself, excelled over and above your standards, or dropped a little and didn't receive what you expected. I'm just here today with a little short post to say that whatever happens today, it's OKAY.

I received my A-level results a year ago now. I 'should' have received my results the year before that, technically, yet as you are no doubt all aware, my illness resulted in me dropping the year to get well and I then resat my final year of A-levels beginning in 2011. There was already a sense of failure looming inside of me knowing that all of my friends and the people I'd grown up 'got to university' before I did. 

I worked really hard during my A-levels, and I did well. I achieved an A in English Literature, followed by a B in Psychology and Media Studies. I beat myself up over the B in Psychology and still do to this day, many complications regarding this subject meant this could have been prevented (had it not have been to do with some teaching staff) and although I did well, the perfectionistic aspect of my nature (which more often than not excels) shone through and told me that I should have done so much better, even though inside I knew that the result was due to circumstances out of my control.

When I look back and see how much my life has changed in that one year, it's sheer proof that sometimes, life doesn't always work out the way you originally planned it to. I was so excited to finally get my chance to go to University, and yet moved home after a month, feeling helpless and desperate. I saw myself as a complete and utter failure and was lost. I didn't know what I wanted and still don't to a certain extent. I've never been the type of girl who has even known 'what they want' - I change my mind more often than I change my underwear in some cases because I often find it really difficult to set my heart on one decision.

This year, I'm returning to University (although not the same one), starting at the age of 21 years old (which I will be by the time I get there!) and am determined to make it right this time. I'm not going to University because 'everyone else is' - I'm going because I feel that I'll regret the choice to not go. I love learning and my education, it comes as a close parallel to how much I love my boyfriend (seriously!) and I know that learning in a University environment suits me well. I just hadn't found where, yet. And when the 16th of September comes around I'll be attending University, yes, 2 years late, but with life experience and having gone through things that have made me stronger as an individual. And it's only my past and my mental health that in a very strange way, I can thank for that.

A lot of people will be getting their results today and will be ready to embark onto their first year of University. Some will be getting full-time jobs, and some will be disappointed, lost and confused. Whatever situation you might be in today, it's okay. Your life and your self-worth should not be measured by three letters on a piece of paper. Your life is what you make of it and is what you make of a bad situation. I am a firm believer in the phrase 'everything happens for a reason' and it is genuinely something I try to tell myself each and every day. When one door closes on you, another shall open. Life will find it's way, some how. Be patient with it and let it guide you. I'll be very surprised if in 10 years time I'll look back and find that I really did become an English teacher. It's what I'm keen on doing now but I always need to remember that we as individuals change. We are constantly changing, growing and learning each and every single day. So I'm going to keep my options open and let life guide me a little bit.

If I'd gotten all A's in my A-levels at the age of 18, went to the perfect University, got the perfect job, and lived a 'perfect' life, in all honesty, my life would be boring, and more importantly, I'd never have learned what it feels like to go through hardship and pain, and all those emotions that although tough, teach you SO much about life and what it is really about. If you're disappointed with your results today, remember that with hardship and disappointment, we can find strength within ourselves to fight back against what has happened and do what you feel is right for you. And no doubt, you'll look back on yourself in a years time and wonder what on earth you were worrying about! Many people I know who went through Clearing or decided to get full-time jobs due to not getting the results they wanted are so much happier at their current stage of life and are doing a variety of things they would never have done before!

I could go on ALL day about the pressures that Sixth Forms and colleges place on teenagers to secure places at top Universities. My Sixth Form did exactly the same and I decided to fight back by securing a place at a University which wanted grades lower than what I received, even after being offered places from Universities that were somewhat 'better'. You need to go with your gut and what feels right, in life. Which this time round is what I've done. What's done is done now and you need to keep moving forwards, always.

Most importantly, whatever you decide to do, do what is best for you, and be HAPPY with what you are doing. Happiness is the key to success, not letters on a sheet of paper.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Chucking away the past for good

The weeks following my recent overdose have been somewhat a confusing and difficult time. Trying to come to terms with what I had done and how I was going to try and change things so this didn't happen again. Combine that with work and relationship stress on top of a mental health problem and it no doubt adds up to why I've been absent from the my blog recently - yet I've had some extremely supportive people around me recently and it's only them I can thank for continually bringing me back up when I felt as low as I often do.

I wanted to share with you a momentous documentation of another step in my recovery journey. My parents have recently revealed to me that they are thinking of moving, meaning I may be moving into Essex within the next year. Although this may not happen, just the thought gives me the perfect opportunity to gain a new start, alongside my surroundings come next month at University. I'd been thinking about having a de-clutter for a long time. (being a perfectionist I'm a bit of an organisational freak and love nothing better then a good clear out) I tend to cling onto old memories and in particular memories that remind me of awful times of my life. But when it had been suggested that I could be moving house, I thought there was no time like the present to rid those bad memories for good and to start looking forward.

On my day off today, I decided to do just that. And there were a few things in particular I was desperate to rid.

The first being the diaries that I kept from the ages of 12-16. Just reading through it brings back the pain and anguish I felt being a teenager. I'm not going to lie. I was an unhappy teenager. And I'm not saying that to gain sympathy, looking back I realised that I have struggled with depression a lot longer than I previously thought. I was incessantly bullied and tormented throughout my primary and secondary school years, developed bad eating habits which turned into an eating disorder at the age of 12, begun self-harming and cutting myself at the age of 12, and all of these nasty thoughts, feelings and compulsions I had were all documented (in, I must admit, what I can only describe as awful slang) in these diaries.

I think part of the reason why I've clung onto these for so long is because, in reality, I didn't want to let that go. It was almost like I wanted to remind myself how awful I felt, how much I was hated and destroyed by those around me, when I was looking for an excuse to harm myself. I'd look back on these words, sometimes poetry and would make myself so upset and in a strange way, intentionally trigger myself. After my close call to severe illness following my overdose three weeks ago, it seemed right at this point in my life to rid of these, and that is exactly what I did today.

I took the pages within my hands and ferociously ripped the pages apart as hard and as fast as I could, in a strange way crying and yet smiling at the same time, with pride. Of course, bad memories will still stay with me, and I'll still always be affected by the events of that time - yet I can now safely say I'm ready to move on and live my life, no matter what obstacles attempt to deter that.

Other things I found included a hospital discharge letter from my first overdose almost three years ago back in November 2010. A letter from my Sixth Form where due to my mental health, I had to be bag-searched for pills everyday, was not allowed my coat incase I was trying to hide objects to harm myself, I wasn't to consult with teachers outside lesson time, and was watched like a hawk 24/7. Letters from my old teacher who refuses to speak to me still after three years of pain trying to get her to forgive me from that first overdose. All ripped up, binned, and put behind me. I'm not clinging on to it anymore. I can't.

Instead, I'm trying to cling onto the future, and some form of hope that there is a future out there for me. Next month sees me going out into the world of University for the second time (as well as turning 21!) and I've been manically preparing, doing one thing for myself a week to pass the time and get myself more excited. Whether it be buying my new bag, some stationary, my diary, visiting my University itself or ordering my books, it's the start of a brand new chapter which I am well and truly determined not to fuck up because of my mental health.

Maybe by throwing away these items I have managed to not forget the past entirely, but for once do something cathartic and therapeutic for myself and my recovery. My past has been a shit one, yet in some lights I do thank it for shaping me. I don't need to read about it over and over again and trigger myself to know that. I'll keep what I need to keep in my head and in my heart and I'll fill it with the important things in life. Nathan, my family, friends, my degree, and my job. The things that matter.

I need to move forward now. And today I made a positive step in doing so.