Taking a mental health break

So, it’s the summer holidays. I should be getting myself out there, gaining valuable work experience and what not. But am I? No. And not that I haven’t tried. Despite not wanting to be a Lawyer, I have kidded myself enough times that I do and periodically applied for vacations schemes throughout the year. I have scrolled through job sites to try and find summer jobs that I can realistically get to without a car from home home, because I’m not interested in paying for summer halls and then having to work x amount of hours just to break even.

And there is just nothing, that I stand a chance of being physically capable of doing, that meets all of the above criteria and will allow for a 2 week holiday, give or take a few days for me to go to Columbia with my university at the end of July/beginning of August.

But that’s okay. Yes I could do with the money. But it’s okay to be doing nothing with my summer.

As some people might see it, or maybe that’s my perfectionistic over-achieving mindset seeing it like that and actually, no one really cares that I materially lack work experience. Because A) It’s not like I’ve never been employed and B) I have reasons for lacking work experience compared to some of my peers.

So, to make myself feel less bad about this 3 and a half months of rest. I’m calling it a mental health break.

The reality is, even i can push through my physical health issues enough to be reliable and do a good job, the need to be reliable and do a good job and constantly not feeling like I’m good enough would be detrimental to my mental health. It has been in previous employment situations.

The reality is, even if I only worked 16-20 hours a week, I would be worried of doing much outside work incase it made me too ill to do my job. Which would mean neglecting friends, family and the wonderful summer sun. Which would aggravate my depression. I’ve learnt this from doing my degree this year. I had to take EVERYTHING else out of my life and I ended up suicidal, self harming again, falling into a pit of despair, disappointing my family and losing two of my closest friends. I don’t want to be in that position again.

Not only that but I want to be physically strong enough to manage doing everything timetabled for Columbia. Which okay, even with pushing myself to the max, could be an unrealistic goal. But the best chance of me attaining this is to spend the next two months resting and trying to build up my muscle mass through gentle exercise so walking upstairs doesn’t make my legs feel weak anymore. So I can pack more than two items of clothing before my arms start to feel weak. I want to make the most of this wonderful opportunity that I’ve worked hard to get. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Even if I do feel my dad is looking down on me for “wasting money” on going on a trip abroad rather than doing some more useful work experience with my time.

Further along the line, I need to be mentally and physically strong enough to finish my degree. Third year is the toughest and most intense year of a degree there is. The perk, if I get my module requests in on time and have passed my exams, I’ll get to do 4 really exciting modules which I’m really enthusiastic about and looking forward to.

I’m going to admit. I haven’t really been physically or mentally strong enough this year. I’ve had to study from my bed most of the time and I’ve missed more lectures and seminars than I would like to admit. I’ve pushed myself to go in a state in which I know I shouldn’t be attending even more times.

At the end of the day. I’m giving myself my best chances of getting my degree. And okay, maybe in the long term this won’t fare well but that’s okay.

This most recent academic year I haven’t really had a chance to do what I really want to do. And I haven’t really had a chance to relax. Lesson 1, forced rest and relaxation are not the same.  I haven’t had a chance to write fanfiction, use this blog as much as I would like. Indulge in TV, especially new series of things that require following. I haven’t read a book, just for the fun of it since last summer. And not because I’ve been off having the time of my life, I haven’t even been that social this year, because my health has prevented me.

Purely because my foggy brain and fatigue means I need to put way more time into my degree with way less energy to do the degree with. Which is also okay, because I love my degree, if I didn’t love my degree I wouldn’t still be doing it, I definitely wouldn’t have preserved through the past year of it.

So actually, I think I need this time. To just enjoy summer. To find myself again, to think about what I’m doing after my degree. Am I going to run off and do a psychology conversion, followed my a masters in forensic psychology? Am I going to go for the NHS policy and strategy grad scheme? Am I going to go into social work by doing one of the  grad schemes available? Or maybe I’ll try and get my hands on some volunteering with vulnerable people and become a probation officer?

Or maybe neither of these are the path I will take, but that’s okay too. It’s okay to take time out. It’s okay to not know what I’m doing with my life and it’s okay to study law when I don’t want to be a lawyer or become an academic. This is my path in life and eventually, I’ll figure out where this is all going, where it’s all taking me.

Until then it’s time to ride the wave, remember it’s okay for me to be taking such an extended break from life. Because that’s what I need right now. A break. I need no pressure, and time to heal, both mentally and physically.

Finished 2nd year law//A year in review

Wow! First things first, that went quick. It seems like it was only yesterday when I moved into my student house and now I’m packing up and getting ready to go home for the summer, with an exciting trip planned at the end of July.

Thinking of it, it’s been such a good year, despite all the really bad things that have happened. I’ve grown a lot as a person and achieved things I never thought I could. I came into second year knowing it wouldn’t be hard, but not quite realising how much my health would affect me. Now maybe this was naïve of me, considering I’ve been ill since I was 10. But I’ve always for the most part been able to push through pain before. But pain, fatigue and all my other wonderful myriad of symptoms have been bought to a whole new level this year.

I knew it would be tough when after one day of freshers week (No I was not going round acting like a crazy fresher) I was left feeling dreadful. And everyone around me could tell, that façade I normally have, or atleast used to have that covered my illnesses from those around me slipped.

Even then, nothing prepared me for how hard. I was kinda of the perspective of well if I have do do it, it’ll be fine and it’ll get done to the standard I expect of myself.

Boy was I wrong.

Try prepping a seminar when your so fatigued that you can’t read the words on the page, let alone make any sense of them. It doesn’t work. It really doesn’t work. Everything just feels like working through this relentless fog. It’s a constant fight to try and gain some ounce of comprehension over what is going on. Or prepping a seminar when your in so much pain that you can’t even begin to think about anything else, but the excruciating pain that’s going on in whatever part of your body, and if your lucky, your entire body.

Not to mention going to lectures and trying to be an active member of various clubs and society’s. Eventually I had to give in and realise that I was way over doing it and it just wasn’t working.

This came after a 2 week migraine, when I realised things had to give. I had to stop being so involved in various clubs and society’s and just try to keep up with my committee responsibilities if possible. But even then, it seemed not to be. I started the year on two committees, and attending 2 other society’s, I’ve ended the year on one committee and barley attending that society.

It got to Christmas and I realised if I wanted my degree and I wanted to stand any chance of coming out with a 2:1 or a 1:1, that my degree had to be my absolute and No 1 priority. I’m gonna be honest, law has kinda become my life. Especially in the run up to exams. And although on the one hand it has been so bad for my mental health, to not have a life outside my degree. I have finally realised I love law.

Which sounds weird to say. Law degrees are notorious for their difficulty and intensity for anyone, but I do. I love law. Even the dreaded law of trusts has grown on me over the year.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had multiple breakdowns, a suicide attempt and I even started self harming again. It’s not all good. But if anything, it’s just made me stronger. Made me start to realise what’s important in life and also made me realise the No 1 thing that destroys my mental health is comparing myself to others. In any way, shape or form I can.

But despite the multiple lectures and seminar’s I’ve missed, I’ve done it. I’ve managed and honestly it feels amazing to have worked so hard for something. Especially when multiple tutors have told you to take a year out and you yourself have nearly dropped out on many occasions.

This year, I’ve learn’t more than just the never ending lists of cases and statutary provisions. I’ve learn’t that I am actually a capable Law student. Something I’ve never actually belived before and I still struggle. But my grades don’t lie. Last year I was only getting 2:2’s in my coursework because my priority was my extra-curriculers. This year I’ve got 2 1:1sts a 2:1 and a 2:2.

Even if I drastically messed up my exams, which considering if I had a CFS diagnosis I would have had extra time. The fact that I finished those exams in themselves is some sort of miracle. The last time in my life an exam was so painful was when I had a cyst rupture on my ovary during a GCSE chemistry exam.

And exams have never been as exhausting, never has it been so difficult to fight through that fog, because normally, any adrenaline will make up for it. It’s just a relief that I did it and I managed.

Now maybe I won’t feel the same when I get the results. Let’s face it I probably won’t because a lot of my perfectionistic mindset has come back since the first 1:1st. But right now, I’m happy. I’m happy because I’ve achieved things I never thought I would. I did my best. I might even go as far as saying I have done more than my best. I have pushed myself beyond so many limits, and I can truly say It has made me stronger.