One of the hardest things last year was deciding whether or not to intermit from study at University after a mental health crisis and hospital admission.
I eagerly awaited the start of Year 2 with a fresh head on my shoulders and a driving passion inside me to do the best I could in my second year. My attendance was good and I was up to date with my summer project and the start of term briefs. However only a few weeks into the term, how much I tried to not let my mental health problems affect my life, they sure did.
With a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder/Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (which I have learned to manage quite well), I can sometimes slip and lose control.
I was pushed and pulled by out of control emotions, I had a few bad dissociation episodes (meaning I would worryingly lose hours of time and would not know what I was doing) and was in complete turmoil with the thoughts and unwanted images going on in my mind. I was back in bad habits with destructive behaviours such as self-harm, driving erratically and spending money unnecessarily.
I was admitted to hospital on 3rd October, completely numbed to what was going on around me. The hospital was a holding pen; I had no therapeutic input, only a suggestion of new medication, which I hadn’t responded well to in the past as ‘treatment’.
I felt like I missed the whole of October, and I saw how behind I was in the term already. A week after I was discharged I met with my tutor to discuss plans moving forward. I couldn’t fault her support throughout my admission and after. The university itself was amazing in it’s support. I expressed the idea in my head that I could maybe take a break that term and return after Christmas after I had recuperated, however, this was not the case. As it was the first term, I would have to restart the whole year next September, in 9 months time.
What was I to do?
My throat tightened as I held back tears and my heart jumped. This was not what I was expecting. In my head, it would be a big, fat fail if I took this intermission as I felt should be capable. Suddenly, when walking through University, it felt like I didn’t belong there anymore. My mentor at University was also concerned by the lack of support I had after being discharged from hospital as if I were to intermit, my meetings with him would also stop.
It was so hard meeting my uni friends after that conversation. I had to tell them I might not be joining them for the rest of the year, or the one after, including our graduation. I was so scared I would be completely detached, but they were amazing in reassuring and supporting me in whatever decision I made.
But in myself, I still felt broken and defeated. I would be behind everyone.
I spoke to a few more people and another friend put it in a good way – if I were to fight in a heavyweight boxing match and I had the option to fight my opponent the next week with the knowledge I had, or have a whole year to build my strength, techniques and stamina, what would I do? I know which one I would chose in that context, and to be honest, this one wasn’t too different. So I went ahead and signed my intermission papers.
Who am I really behind? No one. I just need to make sure I’m strong enough and that my head is in the game.
During the time of this huge decision, the relationship with my Case Manager had broken completely and she was hardly in contact with me after I was discharged, I was put on meds with no review and my therapy had all stopped. I was completely dropped by the services and I was not really in a place to hold myself up.
Unfortunately it did get too much and in January I was admitted into hospital after another crisis, worse than before, so in hind sight it was probably for the best that I didn’t rush and go straight back to Uni. A few days before my crisis, I had expressed to my Case Manager and GP that I wasn’t feeling safe and my housemate had taken me to A and E and we were sent home again with the false promise of a bed.
Luckily during my crisis my housemate made my Mother aware, so she came up to Norwich and was there to request a Mental Health Assessment, as I may not have been so lucky to get what I needed if she wasn’t there to push it.
During my second admission, I had a lot of time to think about things, and it was then that I was certain I had made the right choice about the intermission. After being discharged, I was moved to a respite centre for 3 weeks and there I managed to get back into my drawing after weeks of total creative block and that felt so refreshing.
Now back at home, I am working slowly but surely on the skills I will need so I am prepared in September to restart year 2. Not only with my technical, creative skills but also things I felt were lost like social skills, confidence and commitment and how I can gain those things back, ready for my return in Year 2.
I thankfully have a fantastic Case Manager now who is very experienced and already has given me a lot of support and my family and friends have made this decision even easier for me and have reassured me that it was the right thing to do. So now, I don’t see it as a fail, but as a win. My health and wellbeing have to come first right now, because without those, I wouldn’t be able to carry on my education at all.
I am grateful to everyone who has made this process and huge decision easier and I am looking ahead to strengthening myself ready to return.
Lucy ‘Boo’ Davis (Hope At Hand)