You go to school and at playtime you run around. Inevitably, you fall over and scrape your knees. It happens because you don’t know. You don’t know what you can do, what you’re capable of.
At the same time though, you don’t know what you can’t do. You still don’t really understand the body you’re trying to run around in.
What are your limits?
What the hell are limits?
You’re seven. You just want to run. Run as hard and as fast and as far as you possibly can. So, inevitably, you fall over and scrape your knees. You stumble.
Nobody ever tells you off for that. Or at least they shouldn’t. We don’t make kids feel ashamed for struggling and stumbling, simply for doing what is expected.
So when we grow up, and we stop being seven but are maybe seventeen, eighteen or in my case now twenty-one, we shouldn’t feel ashamed if we struggle to do what is expected of us.
Stumbling is not a sin.
We should not hide our scraped knees just because we are now deemed adults.
It turns out that the people we ran to at seven will still gladly open their arms to us now.
I had no idea how hard leaving home, leaving my parents and leaving my sister was going to be. As amazing as University has been, this first year has also been difficult. My family has gone from being two floors away at the very most to four hours by train. As I’m not allowed a driving license, due to my acquired brain injury, that’s my fastest option.
So we Skype.
We Skype a lot.
But you see the thing nobody told me about depression and anxiety was how devastating a spiral you get in when you feel the need to hide your depression and anxiety. When I was fine I Skyped my Mum every day, so I need to keep doing that. If I don’t keep Skyping my Mum every day, she will know that I’m not well and she’ll get in the car and drag me from Uni.
I will have failed at Uni.
I will have failed at life.
Depression and anxiety will have won.
Acquired brain injury will have won.
Meningitis will have won.
It’s mad right?
It makes no logical sense but once you are in that spiral, it is totally rational. You can’t struggle, or stumble or scrape your knees. Or if you do, you sure as hell can’t let the rest of the world see.
You’re at University with thousands of other people who are all doing this. It’s what you’re expected to be doing to, no matter how much you’re told that everybody finds it difficult at some point. I mean we’re all here, so we’re all expected to do it right?
So I plaster a smile on my face or an hour and Skype my Mum. Pretend I’m fine. I’m not having panic attacks at least once a day. I’m not on beta blockers. I’ve not been diagnosed as depressed.
After an hour though, of lying and pretending to the most important people, because it seems like I’m protecting them, I’m exhausted and I can’t get any work done. Along comes depression about lack of productivity and feeling completely useless along with anxiety about missing deadlines.
Skyping should be fun and it should stop somebody from missing home. By the end of first term, it made me feel like crap on the bottom of someone’s shoe. I never felt bad for falling over in the playground, so why did I feel so rubbish now?
When you think about it, leaving home for the first time and going to University is the equivalent of running around when you are a kid. You’re testing your limits. Only it’s not your speed and strength you trying to push, it’s your weekly budget and how many jager bombs you can handle before you fall over.
The point still stands.
Everything is new and everything is more so of course we’re going to struggle.
I’m happy and lucky to say that at the end of my second term, I’m on anti-depressants as well as ant-anxiety medication and both are working. I’m going to the gym regularly and I eat so healthy it annoys everybody I know. The University of Portsmouth has an amazing wellbeing and support service as well as disability support and they’ve helped me too. In fact anybody with a disability or mental health issues, I would advise looking into Portsmouth.
Basically, my scraped knees are beginning to heel but I’m well aware I could easily fall over again.