At school I was always the clever one. When I dropped out of college I became the girl who could have done anything, but did nothing. The truth is; I struggled all through school, some days I just couldn't face people and skipped lessons, whole days, and sometimes even weeks. I got really behind and at times missed out on entire modules. My coursework varied erratically from top of the class status to 3-weeks late and barely-scraping-the-barrel bare minimum. When the time came I did brilliantly on my written exams, but my coursework dragged down my marks and I know my parents were disappointed that I didn't get the high grades I was predicted. The grades that we all knew I was capable of, I’d let them down and let myself down but little did they know it was a miracle I passed any of my exams at all.
Still, I had the grades I needed to get into college and so life went on. I still struggled on and off at college but I battled through 18 months of my 2 year course. But then I had a severe depressive episode and was off for weeks, by this time I had moved out and was living with my boyfriend so my parents weren’t aware of my prolonged absence. When I tried to go back I found I was so far behind and out of sync with what was going on that I couldn’t cope with it; the exams were coming up, I had stacks of coursework and revision to get through and I didn’t even have half of the lecture notes I needed, I was totally overwhelmed and so I gave up and dropped out with just 3 months of the course to go.
From the age of 15, I was on and off anti-depressants, for years I hardly slept, had horrific nightmares and flashbacks, I was excessively paranoid, suffered frequent panic attacks and regularly self harmed, but you’d never know it; I hid my illness very well. On the outside I was the chatty, funny and slightly quirky girl I vaguely remembered being, but on the inside I was total wreck, trying to be brave and cope alone with the fallout from a traumatic event and a mental illness I didn't even know I had.
I went full time at my job and decided to pursue catering as my career instead, telling myself and everyone else that it was what I really wanted to do. And so it became what I wanted to do, I loved to cook and I loved the camaraderie in the kitchen where I worked. I quickly moved up through the ranks and became second chef, taking on more responsibility for not much more pay, but I didn’t mind because I loved what I did. But despite being madly in love with my boyfriend and loving my job, the depression still crept in and kept me off work at times. Years later the manager and then the head chef left and were replaced. The new staff were not exactly understanding and viewed depression as something people got when they just couldn’t be arsed, especially as I was usually so enthusiastically happy and outspoken.
I put up with it for a while and then one day I just flipped my lid. I screamed in the face of the head chef and told her my rather derogatory view of her, grabbed my stuff and headed to the office to tell one of the new managers what I thought of him. I stormed out through the front of the pub, flipping off the other manager on my way out. Despite my outburst, my manager later phoned me telling me to make sure I was in the next day. Looking back that day, my behaviour had only been slightly more erratic than in the past.
I didn't go back; I found a new job and started a cycle of job hopping every time I had a bad episode, without really paying much attention to why I was doing it. I started several different NVQ’s but only ever finished one, because when the Bipolar kicked in I packed up and changed jobs, sometimes taking time out from work completely to hide under the duvet for a couple of months. I told myself that I was just taking on too much and couldn't deal with the stress very well. Or that it was because I didn't like the people, the money was rubbish, a hundred and one different reasons to move on but never the real one. It was down to my diseased brain.
At 27 I find myself crawling out from under my duvet yet again and wondering where the hell to go from here. I’ve spent the last 2 and a half years working in a care home and I was toying with the idea of going to university to study nursing. But doubt stops me from taking the leap. The course lasts for 3 years, but I’ve never even managed a year of stability. What if I get 6 months in and have a meltdown? Whereas I’m sure some universities have support in place for people with mental illness and may make allowances with deadlines and such, I’d still most likely have to live on campus or at least nearer to it, how would I manage if I was unable to work? I could always commute but that would rip hours from my day deeming them useless and I would still need to work to pay the fares.
Sometimes I look at my life and think, all I've really achieved, is a high prestige on
Call of Duty Black Ops and the knowledge and experience to write a book called
How Not to Live Your Life. It’s not really the way I’d thought my life would turn out.
Sometimes I think screw it, I should just throw caution to the wind and go for it! I tell myself I could have finished college if I’d tried harder and not given up and I can go to university if I just pull my socks up and get on with it. But I know it’s not true. My depressive episodes are completely crippling and no matter how much I want something, it’s impossible to reach when I’m trapped in sinking sand. Sometimes I look at my life and think, all I've really achieved, is a high prestige on Call of Duty Black Ops and the knowledge and experience to write a book called How Not to Live Your Life. It’s not really the way I’d thought my life would turn out. I don’t want to be impulsively reckless and add more mistakes to the ever growing list, but I don’t want to miss out because I’m being over-cautious. I want to change my life, I want things to be better, I just don’t know how to make it happen. I know I should be grateful that for the most part I can still function, but I can’t help wondering; is this the best I can hope from life, is this all I’ll ever be?