Balancing your personal life and completing a degree can be challenging for anyone especially during a pandemic. It may not always seem possible – but I want to show everyone that anything is possible if you put your mind to it!
When I first signed up for my psychology degree, I was struggling with my mental health more than ever before – I repeatedly ended up in general and psychiatric hospitals and was sectioned by the police more times than I can count. This is the time that I realised that I wanted to help other people who are struggling just like me and therefore signed up to study psychology at the OU and started working as hard as possible with my recovery.
However, I never knew what other challenges I would be facing while studying for my degree. A couple of months after I started my degree, I ended up homeless, living on the streets for a few weeks before ending up in a homeless hostel which had a huge negative effect on my mental health, and I started relying on drugs to control my emotions and reactions which took me a very long time to stop. I moved out of the hostel during my first academic year into a new one due to threats from other people in the hostel. The new hostel I was put in seemed so much better at first – but I was wrong.
I ended up homeless again with nowhere to go due to experiencing domestic abuse/violence from my partner who also lived at the hostel. None of the staff believed me due to the stigma associated with my mental health diagnoses especially my BPD/EUPD and therefore I had to leave while he was able to stay. After a week or so I ended up moving out of town to a refuge for women who have experienced DV leaving my friends, family and all my mental health support behind and I still lived there a few months into the second year of my degree.
I moved back home during my second academic year into my current flat and hoped for a new start from everything previously. A few weeks after I moved back, I got admitted to general hospital due to my anorexia and my weight being dangerously low which caused me several physical health problems most of which I am still suffering from today. After this admission, I ended up in specialist eating disorder services, with a community mental health team and my return to DBT therapy was delayed. During these past few years, I had also ended up in the hospital several times with other physical health problems and had to undergo so many tests and treatments which affected my mental health but one step at a time I battled those as well.
I decided that since my recovery was going well, I would start my journey of helping others and therefore I started volunteering with the Samaritans as a listening volunteer and the NHS in several different settings including helping out at a COVID-19 vaccination centre, telephone befriending and volunteering in a psychiatric ward. These are all opportunities that I never thought that I was going to get due to my mental health diagnoses and therefore have always been grateful for the opportunity and working with amazing people.
Throughout all of this, I have managed to complete the second year of my degree with a Distinction (1st) and a Pass 2 (2:1). The main message from this story is to never give up – if you have your mind and heart set on something you can accomplish it. I think that my purpose in life is to help other people and despite all of my struggles, I am accomplishing it one step at a time and resilience is key! If I can do it – so can you!