For context, degree 1.0 amounts to 2 years of Biochemistry at Queen Mary, University of London. Degree 2.0 refers to Children's Nursing, at King's College London. Oh, and not to be a massive cliche or anything, but the picture is one from a day when I laughed all night and distinctly remember thinking 'this could be about to go very wrong'. To prove a point, I guess, that even I wasn't sure that I knew what was going on.
Today I am angry.
It's not a huge surprise to me, because I am constantly a little bit angry with depression. Let’s not forget anxiety because that also made Degree 1.0 distinctly more difficult than depression ever did.
I am constantly a little bit angry that when I was about to commence degree 2.0 someone said to me ‘okay, you know you have to pass this one, right?’. Like I couldn't be bothered before, or like I hadn't fully prepared myself for what I was going to undertake.
I am constantly a little bit angry that, while I was in a lab for one of my modules in degree 1.0, someone said ‘don’t you think you’re just being lazy’. If you wrote that into a film in 2017, someone would say it was unrealistic because nobody really thinks like that any more.
I am constantly quite angry that parents all around me seem to be, almost invariably, unable to have a conversation about the mental health of their children. I am angry that people are proud, and that people still do not think that mental health is something that should affect them.
I am angry that there are still people who think that ‘Biochemistry just didn’t suit me’ or ‘I just didn’t like my degree’. Maybe it was just too hard.
I am angry that I have no reason to be depressed because I am not in an ethnic minority and I am well educated and my parents are still alive and together, and I have not suffered some kind of horrific abuse and basically, nothing bad has ever happened to me.
I am angry because for the £9000 a year I was paying for my degree, Queen Mary, University of London, could not afford us a register for our classes, which probably would have saved me in themselves. Either I’d have gone to lectures because the anxiety induced by not going would have been greater than the anxiety of going, or when I didn’t go, someone would at least have noticed.
I am angry because not everyone who becomes unwell in the same way, gets treated in the same way. I'm angry because as much as I have a hundred problems with the analogy that you wouldn't deny a broken leg so why deny a slightly faulty brain, no one who couldn't go to their lectures because their leg was broken, would end up trying to take their exams and failing their degree.
I’m angry because other people get help, and believe me, I’m angry with myself for being angry about that. I'm angry that I was allowed to carry on. I'm angry that nobody stopped me and said 'Em, you don't have to keep going. Sleep, don't feel guilty about it, get better, and do this degree when you know how to be okay again'.
I’m not saying nobody helped. Of course people helped, and of course I could have gone and told my university myself that I couldn't do it and I needed to not do it. Except I couldn't, because did I have depression? Sure I had a diagnosis, but maybe I was just 'feeling a bit down' because 'degrees are stressful'. Was it bad enough? Was I suffering enough to be granted such a privilege of being allowed to stop? No, of course I wasn't. I didn’t get what I needed and I’ve got no idea who the blame lies with. I imagine nobody, but I'd like to think it might be different 'next time'.
So today - and this is the bit that I hate - if you’re handing in your dissertation, i don’t want to know. If you’re finishing your exams, I don’t want to know. If you’re spending 8 hours in the library, I don’t want to know. If you're being allowed to slow down, to stop, to find something too difficult with absolutely no relevance to the content or your usual capabilities, I don't want to know. From the bottom of my heart, I am happy for you; I am glad that you have achieved wonderful things in your life and I'm glad that it's something that is allowed to happen, but I can't deal with it.
When I was first told that I couldn’t continue degree 1.0, I held onto two things - ‘God knows what He’s doing’ and ’These weren’t two wasted years, I have experienced things and met people that make it worth it’.
a) I could have experienced more of those things if I wasn’t crazy
b) I now don’t regularly communicate with 80% of those people and
c) I know God knows what He’s doing, but I’m unsure why on earth He thinks that it’s a good idea.
So it's a struggle. It's a struggle to keep holding onto that when frankly, it seems rather irrelevant.
I'm also not unhappy doing what I'm doing. I love nursing. I love children. I love the people on my course and I love the options which are going to be open to me for such a long time, yet. I love that there are so many different ages of people going into nursing so no one has ever even batted an eyelid at the fact that I started a degree at 22. But, today, I'm angry.
Make sure people know that they don’t have to carry on. Stop replying to peoples messages with ‘aww’ or ‘oh :(‘ and start replying with ‘What do you need’ and ‘what can you cope with and how do we get rid of the rest’. Make an effort. If you don't know what to do, don't do nothing. Ask. Do something.