The other day, at my Digital Marketing internship with Docere and SS Healthfoods, I was talking to one of the Marketing Executives about my long-term goals and all things Universities and careers. It made me think about how long it has taken for me to finally have those dreams/goals, and then I started to consider why I felt there should have been an age for me to have all these things decided.
I don’t remember even thinking about a ‘dream job’ when I was younger until Middle School when a teacher told my Mum that she thought I’d end up being a Journalist (do you think ‘Blogger’ is close?) but I never really held onto that so much. When I came to the point of choosing my GCSE subjects, I didn’t really have a career in mind then either; I just chose the ones I was interested in – History, Media Studies, and Textiles. Then, when I was excluded from High School, I met a Lawyer specializing in Education and that became my goal – to be like her. I wanted to help children avoid experiencing everything that I had, when I was at School.
So, at A Level, I took Law, Philosophy, and History, and with the abuse having ‘finished’ months before Sixth Form started, I threw myself into my schoolwork in a desperate bid to block out the memories of it. I also started working at my local Primark store in Newcastle city center but in the end, my mental health deteriorated to the point where there was no blocking anything out and I missed all of my final exams and quit my job because I attempted suicide. Even though I had an offer to study Law at Newcastle University, being sectioned under the Mental Health Act, I instantly didn’t want to work in anything to do with the law and after two weeks in a psychiatric hospital I decided to pursue my other interest; fashion and enrolled on a Summer course. Before I had a chance to attend the induction session, I was sectioned again. After my second longest admission in October 2009 to February 2010, I became interested in the notion of helping others and attempted to enroll on a childcare course but when my DBS came back with notes of my interactions with Police (occasions when I’d been sectioned or had ran away from Hospital), I was denied access to the course. In the end, I developed the belief that if I couldn’t look after myself then I shouldn’t attempt to look after anyone else.
For a little while, I took a Access to Higher Education course with Northumberland College in a bid to begin a mental health related course at Northumbria University – I hadn’t decided between Psychology with Criminology and Adult Mental Health Nursing; but I liked the idea of seeing services from ‘the other side.’ When I took an overdose whilst there, I quit that and finally resigned myself to the fact that my mental health was going to impact my career/education life.
Then when I was admitted to Cygnet Hospital Bierley in 2012, I lost all motivation or pressures to think about education and employment because none of it was possible while I was in there. Beginning my blog, in 2013, I didn’t imagine it ever becoming anything more than somewhere I could vent! After a year or so, I enrolled at Bradford College for a Creative Writing course and enjoyed it but the staff had struggled to ensure I had an escort to it so I ended up enrolling on their distance learning courses so that I could do the work from my hospital room! When discharge was finally being discussed, I had found a new, dream career; Visual Merchandising. The staff were very supportive and bought me everything I needed to create a portfolio to go into interviews for college courses and stores for work experience placements. But then I ran away from Hospital, overdosed, and ended up in Intensive Care and lost all hope of a future and all passion for a career. When I progressed through Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and trauma therapy, I learnt that I could accept things the way they were whilst also still working to improve them.
Moving back up North, I continued with the Bradford College distance learning courses and after a small break from blogging, I realized it was going to be a larger part of my life than I could have ever imagined. Now that I’m in recovery and still having blips, I’ve been fortunate to be able to tailor my education and ‘career’ around this. I’ve realized that classroom-based learning really isn’t my type of education so I’ve continued with the distance learning but through FutureLearn, and my ‘career’ has taken the shape of blogging, attending events/meetings/conferences, having a voluntary job (with LEAPS), and now my Internship (with Docere/SS Healthfoods).
There’s a lot of ‘shit’ in life that can be out of your control and I guess – to a certain extent – physical health is one of those things. I mean, there are some aspects that we can look after through lifestyle choices e.g. how much alcohol we drink, not taking drugs, not smoking, exercising, eating well… Then there are illnesses that we aren’t always at fault of getting e.g. Asthma or Diabetes, but you can then control those by taking the prescribed medication or doing the recommended treatment e.g. monitoring your blood sugar levels or taking inhalers. I’ve had Asthma since I was little, but I keep it under control through using inhalers and taking steroids in the Winter when it gets worse. When my mental health deteriorated, I stopped caring about my physical health and started doing all that I could to put it in jeopardy – I self-harmed, I attempted suicide, I even refused antibiotics for infections in the hope that it’d get worse and maybe kill me. I took big risks. I didn’t care what the possible outcome would be – or worse still, I did know, and I hoped it would happen… As my mental health has improved, so has my regard for my physical health because I recognize that, for me at least, the two are linked – when I feel physically unwell it completely knocks my mental health. It’s at its worst when I’m in physical pain; it seems to bring back all the old thoughts that I deserve it, so I still battle to stay well – mentally - during those times. So now, I take my inhalers, I’ve learnt that my psychiatric medication is important, and I even take hayfever/allergy tablets during Summer! I respect my health now and I’m very appreciative of it for letting me get this far in life even when I spent years abusing it. I’ve been told – often by Hospital staff – stories about people taking just two Paracetamol over the daily maximum and dying from liver failure and at my most poorly, I was overdosing (on Paracetamol) at least three times a week and taking at least fifty tablets at a time. I’ve been very lucky to have made this far and I have to give my body a lot of credit for that.
Another aspect I’d like to discuss is relationships. Yup, the dreaded R-word! I’ve blogged a bit about the end of my very long-term relationship last year and it’s definitely something that still comes up regularly and that I still think about quite often. The relationship lasted about ten years (on and off) so I think it’s understandable that the break-up is still a part of my life but I’m definitely not in the same ‘place’ that I was when it happened. I no longer miss the actual relationship; just the notion of it – the idea of having someone to come home to and the thought of having a whole second family still soothes me.
I didn’t really have any relationships worth talking about because I met my ex when I was seventeen so I didn’t really have the chance to have a whole string of ex-boyfriends to blog about and even on the two occasions we broke up and got back together; there was no one like him. As I got older though, I did realize that I needed something solid – I couldn’t keep going back and forth between being single and being in absolute, mind-blowingly fantastic, love. And - as relationship break-ups do - I started thinking about the kind of relationship I’d want in the future and came to the conclusion that I honestly don’t think I’d care if I didn’t have a man in my life. I just know that I’d want children, and, in this day and age, there are so many different ways to make that happen. I think that part of my not being phased about having another half is the thought of bringing someone into my life who would have to either be told or find out everything about me. Someone I’d have to tell about my mental health, what has happened to me and the biggest thing - for me - is the thought of having to tell someone all of the complicated and confusing thoughts and feelings I have around sex and that it means the actuality of having my own baby… would be completely unreasonable/very unlikely.
Another aspect of life that has definitely evolved – and dramatically changed – over time for me has been my interests and hobbies. I think that it’s quite rare for someone to find a hobby as a child and hold their passion for it into adulthood but for those who do, I’m very inspired! I think it must be wonderful to love something that much and for that long. When I was younger, I was horse crazy – I collected books, magazines, toys, stickers… I went to a friend’s Birthday party at a horse stables and loved it so much that I started weekly lessons and started collecting horse toys, books, magazines, and random things like ornaments. Then I was on a riding lesson one day and the horse I was on decided to pick up speed before heading to a jump, I think it got cold feet because it just came to a dead stop and I flew over its head! And that’s what caused me to stop riding.
Going into High School, the only hobby considered cool was smoking and drinking alcohol. The abuse occurred during High School and after that, I struggled to find the motivation to do anything, let alone actually take up a hobby and make a commitment to something. Being sectioned under the Mental Health Act made having a hobby a lot harder because any time outside of the Hospital had to be permitted by your Psychiatrist and when you have a history of going AWOL… well, they aren’t exactly keen to let you out for riding lessons! When I started to get better, though, I found my interest in fashion again and started designing and drawing – something that I hadn’t done since my Textiles GCSEs when I was fifteen!
By the time I was discharged from Hospital, I’m NOT Disordered had been going for over a year but I was yet to discover that it was actually going to change my life and turn into a ‘career.’ These days, I don’t think I really have a hobby… There are things that I enjoy doing but I wouldn’t say they were a hobby and I no longer think of that as a bad thing. I mean, I probably don’t have a hobby because I’m so busy doing a lot of other things that I really enjoy; and how could that be a bad thing?
I hope that readers take away from this post the fact there should be no pressure to be in a certain situation by a particular age; I shouldn’t be sat thinking ‘I should be working and married by now.’ You do things in your own time and the most important thing is that your life looks the way you want it to.