Let me count the ways in which I have dropped out of university:
Cardiff – insomnia, depression and PTSD
Bournemouth – hospitalisation for suicidally low mood
Bournemouth round 2 – anorexia
York – anorexia
I also dropped out of my A levels the first time around (anorexia, self harm) and started but did not finish an Open University degree in
natural sciences psychology physics – those courses were mostly time fillers during periods when I was too ill to leave the house much, but I did toy with the idea of doing my whole degree with the OU.
So I am equally excited and terrified to announce that I was accepted onto the counselling degree at a local college. Well, technically it’s a foundation degree and I’ll be qualified in two years – but there is the option of doing a third year at university to top it up to a full BA hons, so as long as everything goes well I will be taking that route. With any luck I will be both a qualified counsellor and a graduate by the time I’m 30. Just!
Wait. I GOT ON THE DEGREE. I AM A PROPER TRAINEE COUNSELLOR!!!
That’s better. The exciting bit nearly got lost amongst all that explanation for a minute 😛
I have to admit, part of me is saying “WTF are you doing, woman? Wasn’t York the Last Time to end all Last Times? What if you screw this up too?”. The rest of me would like to know what that part of me expects to DO with the rest of my life – give up hope and never aspire to anything again, just in case I fail? No thanks. And in any case, this course is pretty much perfect for me. It’s one full day a week for the first two years, which will fit right in with my new job. I’m already familiar with a lot of counselling theory and psychological research. I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of mental health conditions. I am becoming far more confident in my people skills, so the skills training aspect won’t daunt me as much as it would have done a few years ago. I know my mental health wobbles sometimes when various big things happen in my life, but I’ve settled down again after starting my new job SO much more quickly than was the case over the winter, when I moved house. For the most part – 90%? 99 for the eating disorder, but 90 for mental health in general – I am stable and centred and able to deal with problems quickly and easily. This might change, but I’m not going to stay indoors indefinitely while I worry about what might happen in the future!
I still get survivor’s guilt sometimes. It’s all very well to go around shouting my head off about how things are FINALLY going my way, two and a half years into recovery, and how it’s such a novelty to enjoy life rather than just survive from day to day, but I feel bad for all of my friends who are still struggling so much. I feel like I’m rubbing it in, or like it might come across as boasting. I don’t want to do that! It’s just such a nice change to have things to celebrate and feel proud of rather than endless lists of things to “cope with”. It’s not like life is perfect – my bones, digestive system and heart are still suffering the after effects of the ED (although less now than a couple of years ago), I am still finding my feet socially and in my job, and I still get anxious and overwhelmed quite a bit. It’s just so much easier to cope with now, against a backdrop of stability and health. It used to be the case that the smallest things could send me over the edge, because I was already so ill and exhausted.
So I’m happy. I’m excited. I’m proud. I’m scared. I feel like an imposter again. I am wary of the commitment of the next three years of my life. I am worried that I will be a shite counsellor and that the college will throw me out on my ass after week one. I am determined to finish this degree. I am paranoid that saying so will jinx me.
It’s complicated, this business of having emotions.