The power of people.

Sometimes I really do wonder how I’ve survived. I don’t mean that in a dramatic way but I spend so much time feeling like I am failing at everything which has become a normal way to feel, that the rare moments when I think ‘heck, how have I done all of this and survived?’ are the most startling times of them all.

When we focus a lot on the things we haven’t done it’s easy to forget what we have. We have expectations in our minds, expectations that are often great, and so when we don’t meet them it feels like failure but today I am recognising that what I have achieved, what I am achieving, although it doesn’t meet what I think I ‘should’, it’s actually a big deal.

I got through my second presentation today which I think went better than my group one yesterday. I was anxious going into the class, but remained very calm while I was doing it. That’s new. I’m feeling a great deal of relief right now and I am so utterly proud of myself, which is rare. Although I do care what grade I get and it will never be what I want, especially as presentations are my weakness and this semester has been a struggle, I think I will remain happy with myself for the fact I even did them. I really expected myself to not turn up, bottle out.

I’ve been thinking about how I manage to keep on going, and so much of it is down to other people. I was so close to interrupting my studies and going into hospital. My attendance was going down and down, and I was utterly convinced in my mind that my lecturers think I am an awful student. Being totally honest I thought they all hated me. The reality is they don’t hate any students, it’s not their job to have those kind of opinions but my head blew things up as usual and it stopped me from feeling able to attend, and it stopped me from feeling able to speak to them for the reassurance that I needed.

Until I started seeing the mental health advisor, and she spoke to my course lead on my behalf, and then I had a couple of chats with a few lecturers. The mental health advisor today told me the one I thought completely hated me actually really cares and was concerned. I still find it hard to believe. I think the biggest thing is that I do really want people to think good of me. Don’t we all? I really want to give everything my all, and when my mental health problems make that difficult at times, it’s hard accepting that sometimes I just have to do my best in that moment whatever that is. Sometimes it’s doing super well, attending everything, getting involved in class discussions. Other times it’s keeping myself in the house, having to miss a class but doing the work at home. Others it’s managing to go in, but sitting there and just listening. They’re all massive achievements depending on that day, and I have to start being ok with that.

The mental health advisor really has been amazing, I don’t know why I never sought more support before. She opened things up with my course so I felt more able to talk about things with them. My course lead is the absolute best, I mean I don’t think there is a better course lead in any university any where in the world, but maybe I’m bias!

The biggest surprise for me is how amazing everyone is. Literally everyone. I don’t know if I am just really lucky and I am always landed with amazing tutors but from school to college to uni to mental health services to A&E to my GP surgery, everyone is just amazing. My bad experiences are rare.

It’s truly amazing, and it really keeps me going. People have so much power to make a difference though I’m not sure those people always realise how much they do. It’s tiny little things, but they make such a massive impact on me and make me feel a million times better. Things that most people probably wouldn’t think much of, to me mean the world. From my lecturers just being understanding, to them offering to chat when I need it, it’s just made me feel so much less anxious about being at university. I am beginning to feel like if something was worrying me, I could speak about it.

I was given time by the mental health worker at A&E yesterday, and the difference that has made is beyond words. My GP surgery are amazing. Everyone is. I know I am repeating myself but I am just amazed by how wonderful the people in this world are, and although I know that a lot of my achievements are because of what I have done, it’s the support of all of these people that make the difference. I wouldn’t be where I am without it.

I remember a guy working for apple. Tim Cook. He took over from Steve Jobs as CEO, and is openly gay. He said this:

“Of course, I’ve had the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people’s differences. Not everyone is so lucky.

I’m one of the lucky ones. People have embraced my difference. Or maybe that’s not correct, actually. Maybe I don’t fully agree with that quote. I am surrounded by people who, despite my problems, my ‘difference’, they don’t see that as a reason to not believe me in, help me or as a barrier to me being able to succeed, be a student, get my degree. We are not yet living in a society where everyone would be this way. I remember one person in my previous education experience saying that he didn’t believe students with severe mental health problems could achieve A Levels. By not believing in those students, he was hindering them from being able to achieve. You’ve got to believe. My university does, my support network do. It’s that, that keeps me going.

Many assume a mental health problem can alter a persons ability to succeed, especially academically speaking. The reality is I am just as capable as any other student, and I am more determined than I can explain.

People just have to believe in you. I am nothing special, I am not extra-ordinary, but I am not by any means less of a person because of my problems. Neither are you. I really do hope that everyone is this world has at least one person who carries hope for them, because when you struggle to hold hope for yourself on your darkest of days, someone else believing in you makes all of the difference.

Sometimes I get a bit irritated when my psychiatrist says things like “you can be better than this, life doesn’t always have to be this way” because in that moment I think she is the deluded one and I am angry. I think ‘why can you not see how awful I am feeling?’. The reality is she does, but she has also seen another part of me that can do well and even though I lose sight of that, she doesn’t. As much as it irritates the hell out of me in that moment, I also know that a while back I nominated her for an ‘NHS Hero’ award, which she won and in the nomination I said how she had carried hope for me when I had none for myself, and how that had kept me going. So as irritating as it is, I know she’s never going to turn around and say “yep Natalie, give up, your’re hopeless” and deep down I am always going to be glad of that.

She has the award pinned up in her office, I don’t think she knows it was me who nominated her. Sometimes when I am struggling, sometimes when I feel like I don’t agree with her for carrying on believing in me, I look it and remember the fact at one point, I was glad she did, and maybe I will be again.

Also, it makes me realise that I can have that impact upon other people. You can. We can all be that person for someone else. Don’t under estimate how important little things can be to people. That hand on the shoulder, that “I believe in you” or just simply listening. The tiniest of acts sometimes save people. The things that have kept me alive haven’t been big amazing acts of kindness or anything grand. It’s the tiniest of things, the most seemingly unimportant things.

When you can’t hold hope for yourself, I hope someone else will hold it for you. But I also hope that you can hold it for someone else who might need it.

Whatever happens in this world, in our lives, we are all human. It’s our humanity, are kindness, that makes us who we are. It’s the way we all pull together in tough times that make us who we are. The world is full of people with a whole multitude of differences but when it comes down to it, irrespective of our skin colour, home country, sexuality, health problems, age, gender..anything..we are all humans, we all feel, and we are all connected by this.

Don’t ever think that you, as one person in this world, cannot make a difference because it’s individuals, coming together, that do.

I apologise for being so soppy! I am just feeling utterly overwhelmed by the kindness of people. I feel like I am the richest person in the world. Not financially (definitely not financially) but in the care, love, compassion and just kindness of people. I am drowning in it and it’s the most amazing feeling to have.

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