Exam days

I’m currently sat on my couch watching Minority Report and not at work. Today I sat my first exam since 1988 at the age of 16. Well sort of…

Last year I finally took a maths test I could pass so I have the equivalent of a GCSE but that doesn’t really count as I had a calculator the whole way through. And it wasn’t really taken in exam conditions. I also vaguely remember taking an exam in 1998. This is my fourth attempt to get a degree. I tried when my son was about two. I was accepted onto a hospitality management degree course at Leeds Met but dropped out before it started as he had started tests which would eventually lead to him being placed on the (low end of) the Autism spectrum.

Then I started a part time degree at Leeds University. The proviso for having the fees paid for that course meant that you had to be on benefits and caring for someone in some fashion. They paid for the first two years and any further study would then be paid for by yourself. I completed the first year which is where I sat another exam although for the life of me I cannot remember anything about it or the topics studied. In year two however I had the confidence to find myself a part time job. Sadly the hours worked meant I had signed off benefits and so I had to pay to continue the course. There was no way i could raise the money so bye bye to attempt number two.

Years passed and I had my first attempt at Open University. However my depression was too strong and I dropped out after only a few weeks. Which brings us to present day. By some miracle in June I will be exactly half way through. This year to keep the lower fees I am having to double up on modules to make sure I finish for 2017. It’s been a year of hell. Since the start in October I have had to apply for a new job, learn how to do the new job, found out my estranged father had died and lost an uncle! I’ve taken my first exam in a very long time today and i 11 weeks I have one for my other module

I’ve sometimes been so stressed I’ve wondered why I even started on this journey (for personal achievement) and often wanted to quit (this weekend gone was probably the worst) but I’m still here. I’m amazed at how far I’ve come and while it’s often hard, how much I can cope with and get through it. I have amazing friends who listen and who know how to take me out of myself. And despite the drama I know I’ll be continuing and in years time have the cap and gown just like my son will this year.

 

Moving On Up

In mid January I wrote a blog all about how positive the year had started. And it carried on that way for another couple of weeks until the beginning of Feb when everything seemed to go wrong. There’s another blog about it but I found out my natural father had died. This was followed by the stress of having to do two university assignments on top of my job, a virus then the death of my uncle! A lot to deal with in one month for anybody, even worse if you have mental health issues.

Several years ago a month like that would have floored me. I would either have lost the plot completely or just done what I had always done which was fret I had no one to talk to about it before pretending there was nothing wrong and burying the pain. It’s no wonder I broke down.

However this past month has made me realise just how different a person I am now. I have good friends to talk to;- some will make me laugh, some let me talk and cry, some were just down to earth and no nonsense helping me make decisions. Different friends for different mood swings. I’ve also spotted the good things in life which I would not have done before. Little things like walking to walk on a sunny day, laughing during my two book clubs. The discussions we have at book club from Building a Boyfriend to Adult adventure playgrounds complete with no-kids-allowed bouncy castle. Going to the theatre, seeing The Lego Movie and laughing like a five year old. Going to the medical museum and well…behaving like a five year old!

So even though it’s been bad, it could have been worse. But there’s always a bright side to life. I’m so glad I found mine

My other blogs

https://kirstywhite33.wordpress.com/   all about the yes and being positive

http://travelpalooza.wordpress.com/    Travel

http://kzwhite.wordpress.com/   family ties

Memories

The blog below is the first thing I produced when I started writing again. It had been sat in my dropbox waiting for the right time for me to show it to anyone and I’m not sure why anymore. So here it is.

Enjoy

MEMORIES

Mental illness is a cruel thing. Some people are left unable to live a normal life, anything from not working to running around town chasing dragons like Robin Williams in the Fisher King. Others have a functional depression that allows them to work and go about normal activities and the general public would never know unless they were told. Me? I functioned but with a twist. Always one to do things differently after my first breakdown at the grand old age of 23 I boxed up all my memories and talents, the physical parts were thrown away and the rest was locked away deep inside with a huge wall built round them. Memories so precious that I could think of no other way to protect them and over time they were lost and forgotten like Sleeping Beauty in her castle. Occasionally something would stir then be batted away and life would go on. After all I’d been told that I had to grow up, sort myself out, life moves on and you deal with things. Right????

The second breakdown occurred in 2010 and this time things were different. People listened this time. I had help. A doctor offering a time out, work with skilled professionals, and lots of ears to listen. This is a positive tale so we’ll skip over the people that are no longer part of this story.  There are many new people now to replace them.

In the last few years I learnt to heal. I let go of the immediate issues, I dealt with the grief of lost ones, my guardians – my nan and a family friend – the people who shaped my life and made me a better person. I started to fix my money issues, at least to a point where I no longer worried about them but it will take years to be financially secure again, I made new friends, I started open university, I learnt who I was now motherhood wasn’t priority. I stopped hating and let love in. And then funny things started to happen.

It all started when watching a TV drama whose name I cannot remember. In it the young girl is playing her walkman (it’s set in the 80’s) and blasting out tunes of the day and one of these songs is Story of the Blues by The Mighty Wah. What a blast from the past. It was like going back in time and I remembered how much I loved music. I still love music, it has always been a saviour in difficult times but I seemed to have a musical gap from the 80’s to mid-90’s – the time of locked memories. Suddenly I needed to listen to those songs. A very desperate need that I couldn’t put in words. So I did. Thanks to modern technology I found lots of them on i-tunes and you tube and there I was, wandering around at home, on the bus, around town, with these golden oldies blaring out, a strange smile on my face and sometimes tears too. But now they are good tears. I can tell a release has started but no idea of the extent.

I started seeing signs, long before I asked for one to be sent. Little things would trigger more memories. Magazines had the biggest effect. The first one was a spiritual magazine. Despite being laughed at this was something that lingered and refused to be locked away. We’ve always been a spiritual family, my nan was a big believer in spirits and there are relatives who claim to be psychic. The magazine led to me attending mind, body & spirit fairs, talking to people about feelings long dormant. A new feeling of belonging started and I started to feel like I was healing and that I was for once, surrounded by people that “got me”, where I didn’t always feel like the odd one out, trying desperately to fit into things I wasn’t comfortable with. I started to remember more, I was the girl with tarot cards, palm reading books, dream analysis. I started to write a journal again. Logging weird dreams, thoughts, ideas, memories…

Then there was the knitting magazine. I loved to knit as a youngster. I would knit anything but especially dolls and toys but I’d locked those talents away, marked as twee and not cool. It didn’t fit in with the hard girl of depressive times. I tried to avoid buying the magazine for a few weeks before giving in. After all who can resist free gifts? Needles, wool and xmas decoration patterns. After discussing the burning need I now had to knit with my mum I was given a bag full of odd balls, bought some ore needles and in the next month finished two projects, a dog blanket for a charity and a witch for Halloween. And there were many more projects in the pipeline. I feel like there’s an obsessive need to keep going. But it doesn’t end there. I’m learning to make jewellery. And this weekend I saw a magazine I know I’ll go back and buy that had a cute felt bag to sew. I’ve never sewed but I think I might start.

The frustrating part is the half memories, the feeling like you should remember something but can’t quite grasp it. Watching a film with friends and I had a memory jolt. This time the feeling like I knew the lead actor, like he was my friend. Surely now I’m being silly, maybe the depression really has messed with my brain, I’m making up friendships with celebrities. But it wouldn’t go away. I turn to my good friend Joanne, my alternate memory bank, the woman who remembers everything when I remember hardly anything. Helping me work things out without mocking, well not too much anyway and never in a bad way…

Turns out I did know him once, briefly. We weren’t really friends but at least I wasn’t crazy. A list of names given and I can vaguely see the faces. People on the edges of my life that went on to make some very big things of themselves. And the ones that just carried on. Joanne told me a tale of this actor buying me ice cream. I can only picture it as a cartoon, cute children the boy sharing his dairy products with the girl. Strange but I cannot get this one.

Other tales are easier, A game we played “What would you do?” that at first I struggled with but suddenly remembering some of the daft and often cruel things – red hot pokers anyone? Finally having that Aha! moment on the bus though was probably not the best timing. Then laughing about it for the next five minutes probably didn’t help either.

I asked her about writing. I’d seen a creative writing magazine a few weeks back that again made me feel like I should know something. I remember teenage stories we wrote together, silly things, typical teenage girl type stuff. But I felt there was more. Don’t you remember, she says, you wanted to be a writer? I remember thinking about journalism. That was something I briefly re-considered in the mid 90’s. There was a flurry when I tried to get better. I started a part time degree then, at night school, got mad when they advised me I was too old to switch to writing, that I could never be a journalist now. With the advent of the internet and blogging, now everyone can be a writer but not me, not back then. But I wasn’t strong enough at the time to continue the fight and I gave in. I remembered now the novel I tried to write, the stories for school that I would fight tooth & nail to be recognised and be respected. I remembered an idea for a silly space story on planet Zorg. Or was it Zog? It was never finished that one not surprisingly.

The journal I’ve been keeping has ideas in for stories and even a dissertation idea for a course I’m not even taking! But maybe one day it will evolve into a different story. Maybe I can do something with them in time, maybe I can put my over active imagination to use finally. I think I’ll buy the magazine, see what happens.

It’s nice to go back, to revisit events. It’s good to finally start to remember who I am and what I can do and to feel like I’m healing, like I can be myself again. But I don’t want to return to all of it. We went to see a band this weekend that we followed religiously as teens. A small venue. Standing only. It’s dingy. Standing up for an hour plays havoc on the calves and spine. I’m bored. I used to be able to sit outside a stage doors for the whole day waiting for a glimpse of heroes. Now I’m thinking of my PJ’s and cuppa and worrying about the last train home. And they look terrible. They’re old! But then why should I age and not them. I couldn’t do it now nor do I want to. I think this would’ve happened over time anyway. It was fun way to revisit the past and helped restore some more memories but not every week.

Some things I’ve passed on to others. I don’t need to spend hours searching for new bands or endlessly take photo’s. Those needs are gone. I’ve passed those talents onto my son who does it so much better than me.

I’m not sure if I am fully healed yet. I’m happy and calm. My brain no longer feels chaotic. The memory shocks will continue to happen no doubt but at least now I know what is happening and who to ask for clarification. But I like that the walls are coming down, I am learning to encourage it, to find new ways to let go. I like that there is always hope…..