Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Week Three Merriment

Week three of uni has been on gone. My one feeling about it right now is: grateful. That's the sum of it.

I'm grateful for the chance to go back to university.
I'm thankful that my third year friends a) haven't forgotten me, b) still talk to me and c) genuinely ask me how I am, and repeatedly asking how I am just to make sure.
I'm humbled by some of their words.
I'm grateful for their words of advice, support and encouragement.
I'm thankful to the masters students who let me crash their lunch room so I can moan to my friend on the masters course.
I'm thankful that the guys I'm mapping with are all decent, sound, funny guys. I think the six weeks on Arran will be a right laugh (unless we gang together and kill Jordan).

I feel a lot better right now.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

End of Week Two

I have been back at uni for two weeks now, and I really don’t know how I feel about it. 

I am stressed over financial things, which isn’t a good start. I am stressed over catching up with learning and revision of the semester one modules. I am stressed about geophysics and my total inability to follow what is going on in the practical sessions. I nearly cried in class yesterday. I feel totally alone and stupid in a world full of clever second years. I feel like the outcast who doesn’t have her own friends. I wish I was in third year with my friends. I haven’t even done a bar shift and I’m contemplating quitting my job, purely so I don’t have to worry about fitting shifts in, even though I only need to do one once every two to three weeks. I am stressed because I have lots of things to pay out and SFE haven’t paid me my loan and won’t be doing so for another 3 to 4 weeks. I am stressed because my Access To Learning Fund application won’t be processed until I can find out what the hell Student Finance England are playing at. I’ve had to apply for an emergency loan from the university so that I can actually live for the next month. I am stressed because of the pressure to find accommodation on Arran for my summer mapping project. I haven’t even started to think about how I’m going to get there.

I really don’t like the way I feel right now. I feel stupid. I feel like a loner. I feel like I’m out of my depth. I feel like I haven’t done enough prep work. I feel like I’m stretching myself, despite not doing yoga or pilates or loads of shifts at work. I feel like I need to go for a long, fast walk to clear my head and then start again.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

First Week Back At Uni = Done!

And so! Week one of university has been and gone. I attended all my lectures, which I think is more than I did this time last year. I’ve been continuing with the work/revision that I started over the Christmas holidays and I’ve begun the extra reading for my lectures (which is WAY more than I did last year!!).

I’ve not quite gotten into a routine yet – I had a lot of general errands to run this week to get things finalised and sorted.. coursework marks, counselling, meetings at work etc., so hopefully this week things will settle down and instead of going to find my friend for a gossip, I’ll sit down and do some work.

I have nearly the same amount of free time as a do lectures (on a weekday 9-5 timetable) so I really need to use this time and use it wisely. I can’t afford to mess up again. I’ve worked in set revision times that I’ll do during the day, staying on campus, and I’ve built in errand-running time, yoga/pilates time, shift-at-work time and also volunteering. I intend to start and get into the habit of being on campus from 9am – 6pm… a few reasons for this. Home atmosphere is still tense since the events of last May; I need to get used to long working days; if I stay at uni I’m more likely to get the work done etc. I just need to use the time available to me. I don’t want to get to exam period and say ‘I wish I’d spent more time on this module’.

I’ve also got my name down to do my dissertation mapping project on the Isle of Arran. 6 weeks on Arran! I’ll be with three guys, I don’t even know them, so this week’s mission is to find out who they are! I also need to start stocking up on field equipment.. I need new boots and waterproofs, and some general stuff like mapping pens.

So, after my first week, things are going quite well! I hope this next week will be more settled as I won’t be doing as much running around to sort things out. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

January 7th.

Tomorrow is January 7th, 2013.

My grandmother on my mother’s side will be 95.

I will be returning to my undergraduate studies after a 10 month break.

I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m scared, I feel underprepared but better prepared than I felt this time last year. I feel ready to take on the challenge and the workload and the timetabled academic lifestyle, but I don’t feel 100% ready.

I’m still trying to get out of the mentality of paid employment before a degree. I need to change this so it is degree before paid employment. I need to balance my time much more carefully this year so I don’t overdo myself and don’t burn out again. I feel like I have more on my plate this year – yoga, volunteering at Stirchley Stores and having a dedicated allotment day. I need to balance my shifts at work now that I have two jobs to ensure I don’t overdo the work. I will aim for one bar shift a fortnight and one learning centre shift a week (they pay more and it is easier work, and I can catch up on course related work while I am there). It will of course simply depend on my availability and how the rotas are drawn up.

I’m calm at the moment, I don’t think I’ve realised how soon I am going back to uni. TOMORROW. I go back TOMORROW.

Let’s do this.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

2012 Summary; Part Three

I feel as though I’ve grown a lot this year. Mentally and emotionally. Little things like being fully financially responsible for myself (and at the start of the year I was renting a room, had food and energy bills and had to budget accordingly). I went out and got my volunteering placement. I got a job. I came to my own decision to quit that job. I got myself another volunteering placement. I haven’t spoken to my dad since the incident at the start of summer. I’ve never felt more alone, both in terms of family and in terms of friends. But overall, I feel more in control. This year has shown me just what it is I need to do to be happy, and stay happy. I know what to avoid. I know what to do more of. I know that this degree is more than just 3 years of hell for a BSc. It’s a stepping stone to a new chapter of my life, a better chapter. A career.  A life.

My counsellor said it sounded like, when I started the sessions, that my life was all about this degree, all about this part of my life. I was so focussed and stressed over this one aspect of my life; I had neglected the rest of it. I had neglected myself and my hobbies and my interests. Now, I can fully see what she means, and I can also see that this degree, yes, it is what I want. It’s taken me a fucking long time to get to this point, and I’ve still got a way to go, but I WILL get there, under my own steam. So I won’t graduate until I’m nearly 26. Who the fuck cares? I’ll have my health and my sanity. I’ll have the memories of this year to power me through. I’ll have the volunteering placement under my belt. I’ll have more than someone else straight from school – college – university will have, and that’s saying something. Yeah, I drove myself insane, literally, and I really really fucked up my health back there, but I’ve come through it. I’ve come through it knowing I have a massive support network waiting for me to fall back on, I know I can do anything now. Nothing can and nothing will stand in my way.

There’s so many songs that I could use to perfectly sum up my attitude and my life. So many songs that whenever I hear them, I go into this little bubble of my own, full of love and life and laughter and sun and yellow and happiness and joy. I just feel my heart rate go and my eyes light up and widen and my heart just bursts with positivity, and it’s as though I have never been afflicted by the black dog, that I have never wanted to die, that I have never been so low that I saw no other way out. There are so many songs that suit my life right now, the change in direction, the change for the better. I’m constructing my own little positivity playlist to keep me going, and I believe this will be the year to make or break me. This will be the year where I take whatever is thrown at me, and come out the other side, bigger, better, braver and stronger. More able to deal with the world.

I had planned to write more for this summary.. the usual stuff like highs and lows, gigs, meeting my favourite bands, going on their tour bus, having a guitarist from my fave band saying he likes my hair, road trips to Oxford, Bournemouth, Leamington Spa, London (multiple times), Cardiff, Nottingham, Kingston. Volunteering at two different places, launching my Etsy shop, getting in touch with old friends and making some new ones… but I think I shall leave it here. It’s been a horrible year, and the ending hasn’t been particularly nice either, but I think I shall leave it. In the past. Where it is, where it belongs.

Friday, 28 December 2012

2012 Summary; Part Two

I have no regrets about taking a leave of absence, none at all. It’s something I needed to do in order to save my life, quite honestly and literally. I physically couldn’t cope with being in that environment. I was convinced I was making everything worse by being there, and all I could see was bleak, dark, negative fear. There was no hope. I couldn’t see how I could possibly carry on, and do reasonably well. My biggest fear is failure. I was absolutely terrified that I couldn’t meet the standards expected of me. I was terrified that I wasn’t cut out for university, that I wasn’t cut out for a science degree and hence a science career. I was terrified I’d never reach the end. I was terrified I’d only get a 2:2 and therefore never get a job. I was shitting SCARED. I don’t think I’ve ever known a fear like it.

Crying my eyes out in the dark, by myself on Bournville Green after being dumped was quite the turning point.

I spoke to everyone I needed to speak to, got the paperwork filled out and then submitted it. It felt like such a relief! I can’t describe how good it felt to have that weight off my shoulders. My boss from one of my jobs was really really brilliant and understanding and I can’t thank her enough for that. I made plans to move back in with my parents and just completely chill the fuck out.

At the end of May, my brother and I had a massive row with our dad, which resulted in me being cornered and threatened. I packed my bags and left. A lady I used to work with came and rescued me, a guy I work with now offered me his house to stay in, my sister offered use of her sofa to sleep on, and a few people I’ve never met on twitter offered me showers, floor space and sofas. I’ll never, ever forget the support I had that weekend. I’ll never forget the love that was shown to me when I really needed it, and although I didn’t use any of it, the fact that it was all offered meant and still mean so much. Massive, huge, big, giant hugs to everyone who sent me love.

A few weeks before this incident, I started counselling. I hate talking. I hate counselling. I hate people asking questions. I hate people prying into my life. I hate talking about it. After the first three sessions I spent ages talking to a friend about quitting. For some reason, I never did quit. Week after week I returned, and cried, and had a new tension headache. I was booked up for 16 sessions, so 16 weeks. One thing after another (me not turning up, counsellor off on courses, me being ill, her being ill etc.) and I only finished the 16 sessions in late November. However, one of my three aims for this year out of uni was to get some form of treatment or therapy so I’m proud that I sucked it up and did it, and continued to go despite me really hating it, and I’m proud of myself for going through with it all the way and getting to the other side. I really didn’t expect it to be useful; I was and still am waiting for the eureka moment, but I think I’ve come to accept that that isn’t going to happen – and I’m fine with that (also something I didn’t think I’d ever say).

I also finished work at the end of May so was signing on, but the job centre weren’t paying me (I still maintain that they owe me £500). I managed to find a small job, part time, cleaning at a local pub. I figured it would tide me over until I returned to uni in January. Minimum wage but it meant I could pay off what I had to, and still have some pennies left over at the end of the week. After two months, it became apparent that the people here had no concern over their staff. I had no formal training, regarding either health and safety, COSHH or fire. I had no PPE provided. At the end of the second month, the other cleaner and I were buying our own toilet cleaner because the boss kept delaying putting an order through. Things got really bad when we had a note left for us saying we should be unblocking the urinal drains and checking the cisterns for narcotics and needles. WHAT? I made the decision that I couldn’t stay there anymore – it was degrading and we never got any thanks for it. I gave my notice, did my last week and left. I was there for three months. I can honestly say that it was the worst job I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a few jobs! The job itself wasn’t so bad, I can deal with cleaning. It was the people and the atmosphere and the environment. I couldn’t take it there anymore, so I cut my losses and left.

While I had this job, I had also applied for a volunteering placement at the Museums Collection Centre, working on behalf of Thinktank Science Museum, as a Natural Science Volunteer. A week after starting my job I learned that I had been accepted onto this placement! Happy times. For ten weeks I helped to catalogue the mammals and birds collection, and it was super fun and I’m really glad I got accepted. One of my aims for this year out was to gain work experience in a degree-related area, and I learnt so much about museums, how they work, how the storage facilities work, how cataloguing and databases work. It was really good experience!

So come the end of September, I had no job, no money, no volunteering placement, no uni course, seemingly no friends… life was.. great. 

Thursday, 27 December 2012

2012 Summary; Part One

It's that time of year again..

What a fucked up year you’ve been. You made me happy, you made me sad, you made me cry, you made me smile, you made me cry even more. I dumped someone, I got dumped and I dropped out of uni. All before Easter! Must be a record. A good start to the year rapidly became the shittest start to a year, ever. I was mentally, physically and emotionally all over the place, and I don’t think any of this was a good thing. I seem to recall lots of double and triple vodkas being consumed, neat. I remember downing 15 pints of cider before moving to the next pub for the next 15. I remember raiding Cotteridge at 2am for emergency pizza. I remember getting it.  January was a complete and utter balls up from the get go. I had 6 days off for Christmas while the rest of uni had 4 weeks. I was absolutely fried and not at all ready for the avalanche of work that was heading my way. I really thought I was having it too easy, and it turns out I was.

February I went to a ska gig, one of my friends was there. Cue lots of alcohol and a drunken kiss at 4am and we decided it’d be good to get together. I still maintain he was, and probably still is, my perfect guy. For whatever reason it didn’t work out – we wanted different things. I wanted support and comfort and reassurance, he wanted moar vodka. Honestly, it destroyed me when he called it off. Yeah, we were only together for three weeks, but I felt royally fucked over. I needed a friend and got treated like shit. I knew it was coming but did nothing to halt it. Start of the year = ruined.

Lots of stuff was also going on.. best friends love life falling apart, other “best friends” family issues, me and my mental health, me and my vodka habit, me and my financial woes. It all came to a head and I had a spectacular meltdown. I continued attending university for about a month but it took all my strength not to cry on a daily basis. I don’t think anyone knows or can understand the balls it took for me to carry on going, to just turn up, to put on a brave face and just pretend I was having a bad patch and would be ok soon. Who the fuck was I kidding?  Sitting in the freezing weather, in the dark, by yourself on Bournville Green in the winter, crying your eyes out really isn’t a good look. Massive love and kudos to Chris for coming to get me. I owe you so much, you’ll never understand just how much that meant to me. Ditto with turning up to my house with a wheelbarrow when I first told you he’d dumped me. You’re an actual life saver, several times over.

So in February I decided to drop out of uni. I had been turning up to lectures but I wasn’t really ‘there’. I was doing my best to hide from people and not be social and basically trying not to be seen. I know I screwed some people over with regards to dissertation work, and I’m still truly sorry for that, but it wasn’t easy for me to do. It was the hardest choice I’ve ever had to make. It took me over a month to decide if this leave of absence was the course of action I wanted to take. It was the worst thing I have ever had to contemplate and settle on a decision to do. I hated it, but I had to do it.

Realising that I had a major problem took a lot of courage. I refused to acknowledge it at first, I tried to carry on thinking it was just a bad patch and that I’d pull through. I can see now that I was in a dark, horrible place. I can see that I was just bumbling along and fucking up along the way. I can see now that I had no interest in doing anything. It took all my strength and energy, both physical and mental, to get up, out of bed and to campus. I hope I never get to that state ever again. My life had become a geology degree. I ate, slept, thought, did, acted out, talked a geology degree.

More later..