People go to university for a number of different reasons. Some go to get a qualification that will help them get the job they want. Some go because they don’t know what else to do for the time being, and university seems like a convenient way to decide what to do over the course of three years. Some forget about the qualification all together and just go to party and get ‘life experiences’.
For me, there was a number of motivations that brought me onto the path of studying at university. The topic I chose rose from my life experiences outside of education – my real life struggles and what I learned about the world changed my values, which ultimately changed my life goals too. I also see going to university as a recovery and rehabilitation project for me. As someone recovering from a complete disruption in my life due to mental health, going to university is teaching me more than the lecture content.
I am learning to be busy again. I have had to adjust to actually doing things, and there being consequences if I don’t do them. This is a valuable life lesson because when you are off work due to mental health, and there is no expectation of yourself – it is easy to not commit to anything. Sometimes, we need to step back and sometimes this was necessary, however, after a while however, it became increasingly difficult to commit or get going again.
I am learning to regain structure in my life, and to use this structure to help myself regain and re-build my life. Whereas a year ago, the thought of this was overwhelming for me.
I am learning to go outside of my comfort zone quite literally. I regularly leave my home borough now, compared to years ago when I wouldn’t go much further than an hour walking radius. I regularly get the train to Central London, out to Surrey and out and across to my university campus. I have learned and gained confidence in myself to travel to new places. Sometimes, I would even go as far as to day that I can quit enjoy going to new places.
I am learning how to problem solve around my mental health difficulties and anxieties. With the help of support, I am learning how to overcome the hurdles that I would have previously been barriers. Attending lectures in the big lecture hall at the start of the year was a really awful experience for me – now though, with exposure and support, and being told about a nifty side door that means I can avoid the crowds has really helped.
As a part-time student I have the luxury of time to utilize my university experience to help me continue growing as a person and rehabilitating myself ready for a life beyond being unwell with my mental health.
I spent my first year learning to go to uni, gain a routine, use a routine, and re-learn how to focus my mind. It hasn’t been plain sailing by any stretch of the imagination – and a medication adjustment alongside my mental health treatment has really helped as well. It is important that I don’t downplay the role these factors have played in my progression throughout the year because it is not a matter of will-power. It is not a matter of ‘just overcoming’ barrier and hurdles. It is not a matter of going to uni part-time is the solution.
It is a combination of factors and learning opportunities. It is the start of a journey – and judging by how much I have learned in this last year, and how much I have changed I have a feeling that this path is going to lead to good places in the long run. I feel as if I am on a path moving forward with my life, and learning to live in partnership with my mental health rather than being ruled by it. Here’s to starting to see the beginnings of rehabilitation within myself.