Education is more than grades. It’s been the stabiliser of my life.

I’ve handed in my last assignment for this semester (‘Is PR a profession?’), I’ve attended my last seminar (the attendance was pretty awful) and I am officially halfway through this year, halfway through my degree. Erm, when did that happen?

I came back to university a few weeks late, had a mad rush deciding I didn’t want to take the hospital admission and finding somewhere to live. I’ve struggled a lot, and each day has dragged and yet now I am wondering where the time has gone. It’s two years in January since I moved here to do nursing. It’s not been a smooth journey but I wouldn’t change anything with regards to my course.

When I saw the university mental health advisor yesterday I found myself saying how much I love this course. That this really is what I want to be doing, and it is. Honestly, when I left mental health nursing I was terrified of having regrets. I have none. That’s not to say I didn’t love nursing, I did, but this is better for me. Writing is my passion. Finding a career in the health sector or with a charity, working in their communications department is my dream, and it’s a reachable dream doing what I am doing right now.

I’m glad I’m not interrupting my studies. I chose not to for a whole heap of reasons from the financial to the fact that I’ve been there, done hospital before, and I just cannot bare the idea of losing my freedom. I’m terrified that if I was hospitalised I would get worse not better.

It’s hit me how lucky I am. Since I was 14 I’ve had mental health problems. It’s been a rollercoaster. I had multiple admissions to a childrens psychiatric unit, the last being for nine months. How the hell I got my GCSE’s and A-Levels I will never know. Ditto getting to university. It hit me today, I’m actually working towards a degree. I mean, in two years time, I will have a degree. It’s absolutely crazy.

I think we all have something. Something that gets us going, something that keeps us going. It can be anything. For some people family is everything, for others its their pet dog. For some people it’s yoga, others it’s running. It can be anything at all. My ‘thing’ is education.

I love learning, I love writing. I love it all. I think people worry that school, college, university, has added extra pressure. Sure, sometimes I’ve thought time out is what I need. I did a couple of weeks ago, but it’s also actually the thing that keeps me going. It’s been the one constant thing in my life. Through all of the things that have happened in my life, it’s been there. Firstly because it had to be, the law makes it such that I had to stay until I was 16. Then, secondly, it became a choice.

When my attendance was awful, when things were bad, people understood. Tutors have never given up on me. Not in school, not in college, and now not in university. I’m so glad. I could totally have understood why at certain points people may have turned around and said “you should not be here right now”. I think certain people did. Others stood up for me.

When I couldn’t attend, I worked at home. I taught myself what I could. When I’m at rock bottom, it keeps me going. It’s the one thing that is stable in my life, it’s the one thing I can trust. I can always fall back on it. It’s a world I can immerse myself in away from my personal problems and at times, the things going on at home.

I’m also extremely lucky that I’ve been able to hang onto it. It would have been so easy for me to have lost it. It would have been easy to not have got my GCSE’s. It would have been easy to never have finished my A-Levels and it’s not hard to imagine my life going another way with me never getting my degree. The risk has always been real, and it still is.

But this has been the goal I’ve had since I was at primary school, and I am determined (well, that or stubborn. It’s hard to tell which). It was always everything to me, even as a kid. It just became so much more when life got tough.

This year I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It’s not an easy one to accept. Not helped by people having misconceptions, even worse, people doubting it as being ‘real’. It is real. The only real problem with the diagnosis is it being used incorrectly or not understood.

Apparently having BPD means that I am unstable (I laughed when I wrote that, it’s not that simple). In the UK, it’s actually normally termed ‘Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder’ and that is what is on my medical records. Apparently that is meant to be a more accurate, less offensive term. I disagree, but hey ho!

Any way, although saying people with BPD are unstable is simplifying things a lot. It’s also the most god damn accurate thing in the world. If there is one word I could choose to describe every aspect of my life, feelings, beliefs (basically everything), it is unstable.

I think that instability in me now, comes from instability in my environment as a child, but that is a whole other discussion. My point is, life for me has been unstable, and I am unstable. It’s a scary world in many senses, although I don’t consciously feel scared. Anything that is unstable is scary. Imagine being on a theme park ride that is wobbling all over the place, imagine the danger and the fear. It’s constantly feeling like you are at risk of falling over, and some times you do. It’s also feeling the worst possible feelings one hour, the next the total opposite. It’s panicking and getting into a state, which can affect your life around you, and then a few hours later wondering what that was all about. Feeling stupid, silly, embarrassed. I’ve definitely sent a few emails in my time when I’ve been in that panicky state and regretted them later, or done things that have left me later embarrassed.

Education for me has been the one stable thing. When home was stressful and I didn’t know where I stood, I knew at 9am on Monday morning school or college was still going to be there. Classes would go on. My tutors, they’d still be there, no matter what. My support would still be there. It wasn’t going to suddenly vanish. At times when it could have been taken away from me, I was lucky to be surrounded by people who knew how important it was to me. Who knew that even though I hadn’t attended all week, it didn’t mean I didn’t need it, didn’t love it, didn’t care. Knew that my lack of attendance did not indicate that it wasn’t what I wanted.

It’s been my foundations if you like. My stabilisers, like on a bike. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been times when I’ve felt like it was drowning me, that I’ve felt I’m out of my depth. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been times when I’ve felt like it’s been the thing making me more stressed, making me worse. When giving it up felt like the only option. But it’s never been the problem, not really. It’s always been the solution.

I wrote about the power of people yesterday. It was the people in my life that kept it as the thing that wasn’t going to be taken away from underneath me, teachers and professionals involved in my care. It was people who didn’t give up on me, who believed I could succeed even when I didn’t.

I’ve had an amazing education. I’ve achieved the grades I never thought I could. So much of it is down to me, but so much is down to others. To the people who believed I could get the grades I did, but never saw that as the be all and end all. The tutors and my support network that wanted me to get A’s but also wanted me to be happy.

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