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.