I was dreading Monday. I had three appointments; my uni support worker (who is amazing so that was fine), a private counselling assessment, and my university supervisor. It turned out well. The counselling assessment was easy peasy. I am not sure what my expectations are, nor how this will go, but I can say that compared to an NHS mental health assessment it was pleasant, not at all overwhelming and it left me feeling optimistic – they are now in the process of selecting a counsellor to work with me.
The mental health team I am under expect to know EVERYTHING. They want to be in the loop. They want to know about university, my eating, my sleep, my family, my self-destructive behaviours, hospital admissions, friendships, activities… you name it. Not telling them something is usually interpreted as not engaging, as avoiding being open and honest and overall as a negative way to be. Counselling seems (so far) much more relaxed. It felt like I could say what I wanted and that I did not have to say anything I did not want to. Due to it being non-NHS they do not have access to my lovely medical notes; it feels completely in my hands what I choose to disclose and talk about. It feels like starting fresh with a blank slate. There is a key symptom/behaviour that is always central to my NHS treatment and is everyone’s top priority, and yet I did not even mention it in my counselling assessment. That is not to say I will not bring it up, but it feels like it is up to me when I do. I feel like the control is completely in my hands as to how I use the counselling. Counselling, at the end of the day, is not specifically for people with mental health problems. Anyone and everyone can have counselling if they feel they want, or need, to.
The appointment with my university supervisor was much more productive than I was expecting in more ways than I could have anticipated. I thought I was going to leave feeling confused, overwhelmed at how “bad” I am at work, and stressed. I was anxious about it being the first time I have been into university since my decrease in, lets say, productivity and my hospital admission to the acute psychiatric ward in January. I actually left feeling extremely clear on what I am doing next, feeling a bit better about some of the areas that have not been so great (i.e. presentations), and much less worried about what people are thinking about me, to the point that I feel more relaxed about doing my presentations now. It is amazing what talking can do compared to avoidance!
I went to my Mum’s that night, which is the first time since Christmas (which did not end well, understatement). I had a good time; we went to see Beauty and the Beast (if you can get over the singing, it is a very good film! I cried, but I cry at films more than I do life), we went out for lunch and I spent lots of time with my cats, which is basically my favourite thing about home. I also had a meeting with a police detective and she is now going to come to Leicester to see me again, and I met up with my best friend of 21 years!
I came back to Leicester early on the Thursday and had another strangely productive day; university work, cleaning, the gym and the doctors. Friday, the same, plus an appointment with my support worker again. I also managed to face up to a medical issue I have been avoiding. I was referred to orthopaedics and I am seeing them on Monday. I do not want to deal with the issue, but I also know it is not optional.
Thursday evening things got especially positive. I did an internship in January/February. It was just for 6 weeks. I missed the first 2 weeks, but managed to make up most of the missed hours. I absolutely loved it – everyone was saying how much happier I seemed. I think they saw the difference in me more than I did. It was all pot luck; I applied through a scheme at my university. They found the placement for us, and they paid for it rather than the placement paying. I was lucky because I was placed in the kind of place I would love to work for, working with really amazing people, doing really amazing work (campaigns and communications for a charity) – the “feel good” kind of work. Basically the dream.
Well, they emailed me asking if I am interested in working for them part-time for 4-5 months! I did not have to think about the decision at all. I have been looking for part-time work as I miss the structure of the internship and although I can survive financially without a job, the extra income would be useful. I have been applying for a lot of retail jobs, and while I would have been happy doing that because I am usually happy doing most things, working in campaigns and communications is without a doubt just beyond perfect. It is a “career” job, rather than just a job. I actually cannot even put into words how lucky and honoured I feel. I still kind of cannot believe this opportunity has come up. I keep kicking myself; I spend so much time being hard on myself and thinking that I am never going to get where I want in life and I often self-destruct because I do not feel like I can achieve what I want to achieve and then here we are!
I am worried I sound dramatic. To some people it might sound like “just” a part-time, temporary job, but to me it is everything. I care so much about their work and the campaign. It is all so ridiculously perfect for me that it is unbelievable, including the fact that it is part-time and temporary.
I just feel like I could not have asked for a better thing to happen to me right now, than this, and I never expected it at all.
I have also learnt something from this experience. Towards the end of 2016 I was in a very self-destructive place which resulted in the hospital admission in January. I could have carried on as I was, not done the internship, and not be stood here. I could have missed those amazing 5 weeks, and never met the people I did, or felt so inspired as I did. I would have missed out on an opportunity that made me realise I actually want to work next, rather than continue in education (and I was 100% sure I wanted to continue in education). I would have missed out on the route to this job.
I did not miss out because I fought to get myself out of hospital, rather than turn into someone who spends their life as a “patient”. I forced myself to be brave and do the internship. At the time I had no idea just how much good it would do me.
There are a lot of lessons in this, lessons that are definitely going to stick with me.