The old bird graduated

I finally graduated with a First-Class honour’s degree at the age of 43. It was the most challenging thing I have ever done, but also the most satisfying and life changing.

 I realised I had a skewed view of myself and my capabilities / abilities. As I stated in the negative voice, I would work really hard on assignments, but never felt they were good enough to hand in.  I believed I would fail every assignment I handed in and every exam I sat. I was referred to the university counselling department, there a counsellor told me he was concerned that whatever I achieved it would never be good enough. This led me to have cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Despite my fears, the result was always an A or B, I only had a couple of C’s throughout the degree, but the expectations of myself never changed in the four years I studied. Up to the last assignment and exam, I believed I would fail. It was so stressful; I was covered in eczema and my eyebrows fell out.  I was petrified waiting for the post on the final results day, I was so shocked and happy when I opened the letter, I had achieved a first.

Whilst I do not underestimate the academic achievement, for me that wasn’t the most important thing I gained from the experience.

Friendship

I have two amazing friends – Lisa and Lulu – who let me stay at their house during the week, without this I would have been unable to commute to my university of choice and would have had to settle for a university closer to home. I think it fair to say there were some issues in the early stages, I felt uncomfortable as I had never stayed with people like this on a regular basis. They had issues with me, I was still unable to sleep in the dark and the light kept them awake. Generally, I would say I am difficult to live with, with all my funny, quirky and my moody ways. But thankfully they persevered, we found our routine and made compromises and I shall forever be thankful to them both.

As I mentioned in the lonely playground, starting secondary school and starting full time employment, by nature I am a loner that finds friendships very difficult. That said with these two friends I learnt so much about real friendship, with them I felt part of something, I felt like I had a family. A family that allowed me to be me, I didn’t have to try being someone else. I felt comfortable and happy there. When I visit them, it feels more like home than any house, I have been in – sometimes including my own.

I have never liked to be touched, have always needed people to keep a far distance from me and so hugging was a definite no from me. I’d blow them kisses when I arrived at their house, but over time it somehow evolved and I was finally able to hug them, this has led me to be able to hug others. I am selective about who I hug, but I am able to hug the few people in my life who I truly love and care about – and that feels great. I need to remind myself of this far more often than I currently do!

Trust

I don’t trust many people, very few really. But I learnt to trust Lisa and Lulu. I think talking open and honestly with them, has had a significant impact on my life. They supported me, through the anxiety as a studied. Through talking to them I learned that I wasn’t mad, and I realised that my husband told me everything was in my head and I was wrong to believe him. The also made me realise that my childhood, particularly my mother wasn’t necessarily the norm. They tried to tell me it wasn’t all me, something I am still working on.

Independence

Independence is a funny word to use, I suppose I have been independent in a way. But in many ways, I was also dependant on my husband and / or others. Despite coming along way since I was suicidal and sectioned I still lived a life full of constraints and restrictions. I struggle to walk in somewhere on my own, a pub, café or shop are all fairly challenging for me. Ordering food and drink for myself is a struggle – I do know how ridiculous that sounds – I feel so self-conscious that I often walk away because I just can’t do it.

Independence is a funny word to use, I suppose I have been independent in a way. But in many ways, I was also dependant on my husband and / or others. Despite coming along way since I was suicidal and sectioned I still lived a life full of constraints and restrictions. I struggled to walk in somewhere on my own, a pub, café or shop are all fairly challenging for me. Ordering food and drink for myself is a struggle – I do know how ridiculous that sounds – I feel so self-conscious that I often walk away because I just can’t do it. Although I did improve in this area whilst I university out of necessity, I still struggle with this issue today.

I did a sandwich degree with a year working in IT, which gave me the confidence to start a new job in a different industry – regardless of the fears I would fail the degree and struggle to find work.

I learnt that when I really out my mind to something I can do it and I really need to remind myself of this more often. I can do whatever I need to do to achieve my goals.

The biggest thing I learnt was I am not an idiot, because idiots do not achieve a first. The only problem is my negative voice disagrees.

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