When I was in school, I had a pretty crap time. Bullying, both verbal and physical, was a part of my everyday life. I was quiet and preferred to read a good book than having the latest fashion trends. I had a little tiny group of close knit friends, none of which I am in contact with now may I add, but at the time I suppose they were my 'escape' from the name calling. If I had them, I wasn't a lone target. I did reasonably well at school because I preferred to get stuck in and work hard than chat and gossip. I wasn't 'in' with crowds, so I naturally put my energy in to studying. I came out with 10 GCSE's, all between A to C grade. Whilst I had to drop one subject due to my poor mental health, I came through okay. So going to college was the norm. I would do my family proud, and study A Levels and go on to university, the first in my family. I'd prove that working hard is more important than being in the social scene.
But when I turned 18, and my support from the mental health care team stopped, everything else stopped. College was impossible. I couldn't study when I didn't even have the energy to get out of bed. Even though I was doing well academically, for some reason I didn't believe it. I had to quit.
I got a job, earned a good wage, and decided to try again. I got on to a creative arts course at the same college. But it became too much - it was the first year it had ran, and I felt like a human guinea pig. I had no stability from the course, and I didn't have anything to work towards. Yet again, I had to quit.
Having the opportunity this year to study with the Open University was a massive thing for me. I chose Law, something I had always been interested in since studying Criminology the previous year using a distance learning provider. The material was interesting, but I wasn't doing as well as I thought. I found my relationship with my tutor was pretty much non existent, and working full time and then coming home and working full time was too much for my health. I had to quit.
The past few months, this quitting has really tired me. I have had to face up to the fact that I have let me anxiety hold me back, when I always vow that it won't. I have always argued and campaigned that mental illnesses do not make me any less of a person, but letting everything slow me down was just proving I was letting everything beat me.
Today, a member of my family told me that at my age, I have so many doors and options open to me and I need to 'pull myself together.' I managed to hold back my tears but inside, I hurt. I didn't get much sleep tonight, and tried to shrug off my feelings as I can become overly sensitive when I'm this tired. I came home, and trawled the internet looking for possibilities for my future, but I've realised I ALWAYS let my illness get in my way. I always doubt my abilities to do something or other, and I always find a reason to NOT do something. And then comes the comparing. 'I'm 21, I should be partying! I should be at Uni! I should not have any responsibilities!' But these thoughts are ridiculous and I needed to write this post to give myself a kick up the bum.
One bad day does not mean that everything in life will be bad. I have done well in the past and I will do well again in the future. I am 21, my life isn't over, and if I need to restudy to get to where I want to be, I will do it when I am ready to. I know I can do it, I just need to realise that there will be days where things are harder than others, and to make sure I give myself breathing space for when this happens. Things will be tougher financially if I study when I'm older, another worry that I have, but what is money if it doesn't bring you happiness long term?
Right now, I am proud of who I am. My successes might be different to everyone else's, but I HAVE succeeded. So I might not be like the average 21 year old but look of what I have achieved. I have my own home (rented, admittedly!) which I pay the bills for, I have a car which I pay to keep, and I have the most wonderful fiancé who I am marrying next year. They are the things that matter, as they are the things that make me happy. My education will come when I have the space in my mind to make way for it, and I'll know when that time will be when I feel it. It is never too late to do anything.
If you're reading this and having a bad day? It's okay to have a cry, it's okay to have some more chocolate and it's okay to wear your pyjamas while you're cooking the tea. But remember what you have achieved today, this week, this month... and that tomorrow is a brand new day. And give yourself a big pat on the back, just for being you.