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Archive for the ‘education’ Category

As you are undoubtedly perceptive enough to realise from the title, I’ve been wasting time. Not doing what I should be doing. Both here on the group blog (sorry, group blog) and in real life, where I live in my carbon/ water body.

Fellow students will know that it’s been deadline and exam time at universities. Actually, my university fulfills its manifesto of ineptness by having deadlines at unpredictable times from november to late jan, and has 3 full weeks of exam time this month. As a devoted procrastinator I’m not complaining about the lack of teaching, but it’s still somewhat lacklustre.

So, I’ve had some deadlines to meet, and an exam. Two of the deadlines out of 3 I met, leaving them perilously close to the last minute (yesterday I managed to write slightly over 3000 words from 2-10pm). This is a dreadful habit, and I wish dearly that I could find some way of motivating myself so that I would faithfully and steadily work on assignments, little bits at a time, until I reach the deadlines without feeling like my heads about to explode.

Here’s my pattern:
I leave reading and research work during the semester ever so slightly late, though I have the best of intentions to catch up with it soon, honest!
I don’t, preferring to read feminist blogs online, watch Dexter and reassure myself that whatever catching up I need to do is still achievable.
I make a comprehensive timetable detailing deadlines and assigning subjects to days.
I fail to follow said timetable.
Time rolls round to about a month before the deadline (often less), and by this time I am too anxious to even *look* at my task description. Every time I sign into the student portal online, I feel physically sick. I rarely have enough nerve to press the link that will show me my task specifications.
I tell my psychologist that I can’t cope. He tells me to use TIC/TOC methods as we discussed (task interfering cognitions versus task oriented cognitions).
I further reassure myself that I have time, really I do, and perhaps I can just start really early tomorrow and work rilly rilly hard every day till the deadline and I’ll be fine.
I avoid going anywhere near anything that reminds me of my work for the next week.
Finally, FINALLY, a day or two, maybe even a week, before the deadline, I manage to sit through the itchy, nervous, sick-with-fear, mind freeze task of looking at my coursework documentation. Sometimes I can’t read it all in one go. Sometimes I have to print it out without looking at it because I’m so afraid to look at the actual words.
I lose myself in spiralling panic – there’s so much to do! I’ll never get it done in time, why WHY do I keep doing this to myself? Occasionally, this is as far as I’ll get – my fear gets the better of me and I hate the thought of all the mental effort and anguish it’s going to take to produce a piece of work that’s not completely awful this close to the deadline. I take the cowards way out and decide to resubmit when the time comes.
When I’m feeling braver, though, I push through the anxiety and start to try to get anything done that will somewhat meet the brief and get me a passing grade. Pushing through the anxiety is incredibly hard; every minute or so at first, I’ll get the powerful, nagging urge to get up and do *anything* other than what I’m doing. I’ll feel too sick to continue, or wander around aimlessly, or lie with the dog. If it gets really bad, I’ll start to feel as if I’m going to faint imminently; my neck feels tight and horrible, like blood isn’t getting to my brain, my skin feels tingly and every time I sit down and assume the position for keyboard work it gets lots worse.

So, in retrospect I’m proud of myself for getting 2 assignments out of 3 in. The third, I admit, overwhelmed me. My psychologist is helping me get mitigating circumstances for it.

Anyone got any tips for studying well for the new term?

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Walls

Last night I was listening to Steve Martin’s narration of his book, Born Standing Up (I would add a link but I don’t know how… how rubbish is that? And I’m meant to be computer literate!). I was suprised when he started to describe his experiences of anxiety and panic attacks in his early twenties. What he was saying hit so close to home I felt close to tears (why is it that when other people describe painful experiences that we recognise it’s so emotional? Is it because we feel less alone?) – how even though he was in such a high state of anxiety he was convinced he was about to die, he kept silent and maintained a veneer of coping and control.
To be honest, if it hadn’t happened to me so many times, I’d have a hard time believing that anyone could feel so terrible yet keep shtum. But, for some reason, we do. Is the stigma of mental distress so great that we can’t even admit non-physical disress when we fear we may be dying? Or is the need to keep the part of us that relates to the outside world upstanding (nomatter how many cracks our psychic walls may have) so vital because inside we feel like we’re falling apart, into chaos? The desire to show a sane face to the world is understandably compelling, even when it feels like our smiles and small talk are so thin a shell they could crack any second.

Like Steve Martin, I’ve suffered in silence through my own years of horrendous panic attacks. At different points I would have several during the course of a lecture, several more during the day then find myself incapable of sleep because my general levels of anxiety were so high. I lived from one fraught moment to the next, constantly in fear of the next trigger (cruelly, my worst attacks would happen each and every time I went to the loo, with intense anxiety and spiralling derealisation converging at once in a dizzying wave so strong it could leave me shaking).
Yet, despite the awfulness of my daily panics, I never told a soul. For a hyperchondriac, that is strange behaviour indeed, and honestly, I can’t explain it today. All I know is that I had been coping with intense moments of anxiety and derealisation/ depersonalisation since I was very young (and more than this, been told that my anxious feelings were foolish and weak), and perhaps the worsening of these symptoms seemed nothing more than my lot in life.

I suppose what I am getting at is how strong we must be, and how resilient, to endure so much throughout our lives, and indeed every day. Stuff that would send someone used to a more normal brain running to a doctor.
But there’s also tragedy here. How many people never get diagnosed? Helped? Supported? How many people continue to suffer in silence? An informal poll taken at my OCD forum suggests that the majority of us waited until we had experienced at least 1 (self defined) breakdown before seeing a doctor. This was certainly the case for me – I thought I was going mad directly before I got my own diagnosis, but that’s a tale for another time.

What have your own experiences been? How long did it take you between first suffering mental distress and seeking help? Why do we leave it so long, and why isn’t more done when we are young (and now) to make us aware of these disorders, that, statistically ,many of us will live with?

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I am a student panicking about my future. I am not untypical. However, living with a disease that robs me of my energy and motivation makes it incredibly difficult to picture my future. I know I do not want a job I am not passionate about. I am a creative person. I care about issues to do with mental health and feminism. But in looking at my options on the many, many career websites pushed forward by my university I can’t help but feel confused and isolated. Many of the options open to me (as someone who is undertaking a degree which does not lead to a steady job) seem difficult and in most cases impossible when I take on board my depression. The whole ‘Kick Start Your Future’ campaigns and adverts featured on these websites (magazines, leaflets etc), usually accompanied by pictures of smiling, bright-eyed young people, only serve to make me feel nervous. When considering my options, I seem to only meet a series of dead-ends. Should I go postgraduate? Bang! It’s too expensive, I’m not sure which subject, should I do creative writing again? But then will I end up with a career after that etc etc. Should I try and get a job? Bang! No idea what job that would be, where would I go, how much would I earn, would I need to take time off for my illness etc etc.

I am a little clueless about what kind of careers there are available to people who want to work in fields of mental health/feminism. Feminism, especially. With the current culture of girls wanting to grow up to be glamour models, where is there information available for those who want to work to make things better for women? I have always been interested in mental health, but then is it a good idea to pursue a career in this field while I am still in therapy myself?

My university has a welfare office and a careers office but they run completely separate from each other. If I mention my career at the welfare office or vice versa, they simply refer me to the other office. As if the two things are not interlinked…

I have had discussions about this with a friend who is in a similar position to me. We are both young (early twenties), both in full time degrees and both only with vague ideas what we would like to do afterwards. We both suffer with clinical depression which limits our work options, and neither of us can rely on family members or partners for support. I feel like maybe there are more people out there who are suffering in silence under the same conditions, unable to come forward and admit it because of the current extremely helpful (note the sarcasm) governmental incentives to get everyone into work immediately, regardless of circumstance. If you don’t know what you want to do, or if you’re not currently in the position to find out, then God help you…

I’d like to throw open the discussion for anyone else who feels the same way, or anyone who has experienced similar feelings in the past. Anyone stuck? Anyone finally found their dream job? What kind of things do you all do and how does it affect your mental health/feminist principles?

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Question Time!

I am thinking about writing a report or possibly a book in my next year of uni, regarding how personal friendships affect people who live with mental illness. I also want to focus on the role of the internet in outreaching to others in search of help, whether this is good or not, websites specifically for people who live with depression etc

I’d be really grateful if you could all fill in this questionnaire. Obviously, if not enough questions apply to you, don’t worry, but have a look through anyway. Please reply to this post with your answers. Also, if anyone has any ideas for questions I’ve missed, do let me know!

 

How do you classify your mental illness?

 

How long have you lived with it?

 

Are you receiving treatment for it? (therapy, medication etc)

 

Do you feel that your friends and family understand your illness?

 

Have you ever been a member of a real life non-medical group or organization specifically for people who live with mental illness?

 

What was your experience of this?

 

If not, why not?

 

Have you ever been a member of an online non-medical group or organization specifically for people who live with mental illness?

 

What was your experience of this?

 

If not, why not?

 

Do you feel that it is good for people who suffer from mental illness to seek out people with similar problems to help them get better? Why?

 

What do you think the effect of the internet has had in the role of reaching out to others?

 

 Do you think that the internet is a good way of gaining support with your illness?

 

 

 

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Our Dark Passenger is a zine produced by anarchists who live with mental illnesses, about their experiences and about ways for the community to support those with mental health problems. I havnt finished reading it yet, but I thought it may interest some of you. It is available to buy from Katipo (Aotearoa) or you can download and print it from here – inside, outside.

PS – It comes with this warning:

WARNING

Parts of this zine are likely to be triggering to those who have a history of self-harm or mental illness, so please use your own discretion when deciding to read.

If you think you are likely to be affected negatively by this zine, please DO NOT read it!

Please see here for more information.

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Suggestion To My University/Universities In General/The Government: Money, please?

 

I have a part-time job, which I was extremely lucky to get. I work in a lovely shop, with good people. It has a fairly relaxed atmosphere and I don’t feel under pressure. In fact, I actually look forward to being there most of the time. I was worried about getting a job while being at uni because I knew that there would be time, and most definitely energy, conflicts. With all my uni work to do, I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to handle it. I can’t say it’s easy, but generally having this job is a really positive thing and helps with my mood. The thing is, like most students with part-time jobs I’m on minimum wage and am actually told by my uni not to work more than 15 hours a week. I earn roughly £56 a week… and I pay £37 of that to my therapist.

           

As most people who have tried to obtain therapy through the NHS know, it’s basically impossible. All through my teenage years I was kept on waiting lists, offered counselling instead (which I didn’t find helpful at all) and given anti depressants which generally made my mood drop even further. I started seeing private therapists a few years ago, and eventually I found someone I felt could really help me. And she has. In the year I’ve been seeing my current therapist, I’ve seen such significant changes to my mood that I actually feel like I won’t always be depressed. I’ve felt positive about my life. This is a huge thing.

           

When I look back over my bank statements for the past year I cannot believe I’ve survived up until now without getting (even more) massively into debt. I pay for rent, bills, a monthly bus ticket (which I need to get to my therapist’s office), food, books and my weekly appointment out of my student loan and my savings (which are rapidly diminishing). I’ve bought basically nothing for myself in the way of treats (clothes, CDs etc) because I just can’t afford it.

 

 

I applied for Access to Learning (a grant you can apply for if you are struggling financially). This took forever. I had to obtain bank statements from the last three months, my housing contract and a letter from my therapist’s office, photocopy the whole lot, fill in a ten page form and return the whole lot to the welfare office. This is great when you’ve got little to no time/energy/willpower to do anything… */sarcasm* They took weeks to process it and then sent me a letter telling me I hadn’t included a copy of my Disability Assessment Report which they had right there in the welfare office. I finally had to go to the Welfare office to talk to someone who informed me that I needed to provide them with another piece of evidence before they could begin to assess the application. I was exhausted and feeling terrible. At this point, I hadn’t been eating properly because I basically couldn’t afford food. I broke down in tears in front of the man I was talking to. He didn’t really know what to say. I finally obtained the last bit of evidence and after more time had passed received a letter stating I would receive a lump sum of £691.

 

This sounds like a good result (and don’t get me wrong I’m grateful!) but all it meant was that I didn’t go overdrawn. Within two months I was right back where I started. The money had disappeared: rent, bills and weekly therapy took it all.

           

About a month ago I made the decision that I would try and cut my therapist’s appointments from once a week to once a fortnight. I was not happy about this decision at all, but my situation being what it was, I didn’t feel I had a choice. I had survived a couple of breaks like this when my therapist took time off last summer so I thought that maybe it would be all right…

           

In short, it hasn’t been. Turns out there’s a big difference between weekly and fortnightly therapy sessions. In no time at all I’ve felt hopeless, suicidal and like I’m sliding back into my old ways, how I felt before I started therapy… It has made me realise that I need to keep seeing my therapist every week. There’s no other option.

           

But can I afford it? I’m currently trying to apply for my loans for next year, screaming with frustration because it looks like my parents earn just over the amount required for me to get extra financial help… My financial situation doesn’t seem to count for much. Even though I’ll be 21 this year and I have moved out of their house, I am still apparently dependent on my parents. They help out as much as they can, but to be honest I feel awkward asking them. My father is currently in therapy himself and is having to halve his working hours because of his own depression and my mother is retired. I don’t honestly feel like I can just ask for money as and when I need it.

           

My Disability Allowance doesn’t seem to cover things like therapy. It covered my laptop (definite plus) and my fortnightly (or thereabouts) sessions with my mentor but not much else of use. I guess it’s assumed that if you turn your nose up at the NHS, then you have to fork out for private therapy out of your own pocket. Never mind that the NHS have either ignored me or treated me with disbelief regarding my depression for years… My point is, if my Disability Allowance is willing to provide me with things like ‘textbooks specifically to help with my disability’ (which is what? Self-help books?) and ‘taxi journeys’ (presumably when I don’t feel I can get the bus, but to be honest phoning for a taxi is even more difficult, let alone having to ask for a receipt to photocopy and send off for reimbursement), then why isn’t it possible to gain help with my therapy costs?

           

The reason for the title of this entry is that I’m sure this is a government issue rather than one personal to my uni, but it is infuriating nonetheless. Why should I have to put a price on my own sanity? I’m not saying it is my university’s responsibility to pay for my therapy, but if they’re willing to give money towards other issues regarding disabilities, they’d do better not to make it so complicated for me to gain financial help when I need it.

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Suggestion To My Uni: Better organisation in the welfare building Pt 2

 

Update from last entry: I received an answer to the questions I wanted to ask Finance Guy and the answer was basically… ‘I don’t know’. Great… He gave me a bunch of other numbers to call and I was finally told by another Support Lady that I’m not entitled to any money to pay my therapy costs. I’m pretty worried about this because I know I have to keep seeing my therapist every week. My mother has suggested I bypass the welfare office and go direct to the people who assessed me for Disability Support in the first place… Watch this space…

 

I have a learning mentor who I see occasionally and because of poor planning, we rarely have a private room to meet up in. Obviously, the welfare building would be the best place to meet in but the few times she was able to book a room for us to use for an hour at a specific time, the following things happened:

 

    We arrived to find the room already in use and no alternative available.

         We began using a room, only to be interrupted by the university chaplain who apparently used it at that exact time each week!

         We had to resort to using someone’s office because of a double-booking, which meant that another person was in the room working while I was talking about my problems.

 

(There’s really nothing worse than trying to talk about personal problems with someone shuffling papers in the background and whispering, ‘Don’t mind me!’ at various intervals…)

 

One morning we had a room booked for 12 o’clock, only to arrive and be told that the entire building was shut until 2 o’clock due to the Easter holidays! I admit this is a problem that at the moment may not have an answer just because Bath Spa’s campus is not very big, but there’s a definite communication problem here. I was asked recently why I haven’t complained yet but my answer was just that I don’t know who to complain to. The admin is so confusing, I have no idea who sorts anything out. Most of the staff have no idea who each other are…  

 

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