Changes

I remember sitting on a bench with my dad some time in the early 2000s talking about how England were bidding to host the 2006 World Cup and I started thinking how I would be 21 by that time, which seemed a very long way off, and that I would probably have a good job then and would hopefully be able to pay for me and my dad to go and see some of the matches. Back then people used to tell me that because I was good at computer stuff I would get a good job and have a lot of money and I foolishly believed them. As it turned out, that world cup was eventually hosted in Germany and by the time it rolled around I had already dropped out of university, gone to a virtually useless college course and was about to begin an extremely low paid (less than the minimum wage if you worked it out hourly) tech support job that I hated and have written about at great length on this site.

One of the traps that I fell into then and several times afterwards was assuming that, given time, things will work out or change for the better. Many times in the past before I was depressed, I used to think about things might be better in the future. The thing is, unless you can do something about it then nothing will change. I have wasted so much time and that’s why I still find myself in virtually the same situation (except massively in debt) as I was back in 2002 or whenever it was.

I don’t know how other people do it. There must be something (or many things) that I am just incapable of doing because I can think of no end of people who I used to know in the past who you would think didn’t have things together as much as me, but they have turned out vastly more successful than me (not that that is difficult, but you know what I mean). It sounds bitter and I supposed I really am bitter, to talk about this but I can’t help but feel defeated when I think about the people I knew at school that were very far from being the most intelligent or hard working, people who probably got bullied as much or more than me for being weird, who have managed to make something of their lives.

I hate showing these ugly emotions, but when I think about how I used to be thought of as clever and was picked on for that reason (among others) I feel fucking furious that I have absolutely nothing to show for it all. Why did I have to get all the downsides of being intelligent but get none of the supposed rewards?

What changed? How did they do it? I know what changed for me: nothing. In some ways I am the exact same person I have been for years. Hating myself, terrified of what people think and say about me. I think I might have been mistaken in the past. I probably could have made something of myself if I’d been able to get some kind of help and know what I know now. I didn’t used to be a completely lost cause, but with each passing day I crept closer and closer to what I am now.

I have written about this before but it bears repeating. The easiest thing in the world to do is nothing. Things will never change if you don’t make things happen. I don’t know how to do that any more, I don’t know if I have the chance to change things for the better. I will address this in a future post but there is a vicious cycle keeping me where I am and every part of it makes it impossible to break out of any of the other parts.

When I first seriously contemplated the idea that I had social anxiety and depression back in 2007, I can distinctly remember sitting exactly where I am writing this post now and I reading a forum about social anxiety which essentially started me off on what I think of as a new “chapter” of my life. One of the people who I met on that forum eventually gave me the courage to think about going back to university and even moving away to a different city, which had previously been unthinkable to me. The next two years saw probably the biggest changes I had been through in my life, including it almost ending.

That I have been on a backslide ever since I left university causes me a lot of anguish. To some people it doesn’t mean a lot, but even though I went through some enormously testing times including long periods of feeling suicidal, it was the best time of my life. I felt like I had a purpose. I sometimes wonder now if it was just escapism, but back when I was there I didn’t feel like I should be ashamed just to exist. I would not have described it this way at the time, but I was proud to be a university student at last. Nowadays I feel like I am looked down upon just for walking along the street. People here have an almost psychotic hatred for those without a job.

A few months ago I went back to the city where I lived while I was at university and it was the first time I had returned since I went to my graduation ceremony in 2012. I didn’t write about it here, only in a personal journal thing. It stirred up some strange emotions though. Last year I had seen a photo of the view I used to see from the road that led to my flat and I felt very sad that I didn’t live there any more but I wanted to go back there. It’s not an amazing place, just your average English town really. I thought about going back there a few times but I didn’t know if it would make me too sad.

Almost on a whim one day in July I decided to get the train and just go for a few hours since it doesn’t take too long to get there. When I got there I realised I could conceivably have started and finished another bachelor’s degree in the time since I left. I wrote in my journal that it felt like a dream, and it really did. I almost went back into the same routine, walking down the same part of the pavement I did for 4 years and almost as if I was on autopilot. It seems odd to write about it like this because it’s probably not a special or deeply significant place to anyone but me, but the whole experience was so surreal. I walked past where my old flat was in the halls of residence and up to the university building itself. It’s changed a little bit in appearance but it felt different somehow.

At the time I wrote how I felt as though people knew I shouldn’t be there any more, this was no longer my place to be. I walked along the roads I still knew so well but I didn’t feel welcome any more. Nobody said anything to me of course, why would they? but I felt so sad that this was no longer home to me, I was just a visitor now. I was glad I had sunglasses on because I actually got tears in my eyes.

As I returned to the train station this feeling was underlined. I used to go there most Friday’s to come back to my parent’s house for the weekend but I knew I’d be heading back to uni in a few days. This time I was going back for good though, I was only here temporarily. In my journal I wrote that, with hindsight, I was wanted here. I was welcomed by people I never thought would want me to be there, they asked me to share a house with them. I had members of the university staff fight for me to get my fees waived for the year I had to re-sit. I didn’t know how lucky I was at the time and I feel a deep sadness now that has all passed.

I don’t know if I will ever have anything like that again. I did not appreciate it at the time and I now feel like an idiot for ignoring all the good things I had back then.

I sit here, right back where I was in 2007, on the same bed, feeling the same feelings of hopelessness. This time I am older and have let another chance at making something of my life slip through my fingers. I was ridiculously lucky to get a second chance in 2008. I don’t know that I will ever be afforded another opportunity like that again.

Time keeps on slipping away

I’m not sure how long I managed to try and stay in the positive (kind of) mindset I wrote about in my last entry but unfortunately it has long since passed. It is clear to me now that the isolation is no good for me at all. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the only time for probably 2 years where I have felt any semblance of self worth was when I got to spend a few hours with some people who I can almost convince myself liked being with me. Last night I was thinking about how the best time of my life was probably from mid 2011 to mid 2012, my final year of university (it is probably no coincidence that this period was a big downturn in the number of posts I wrote here, I tend to only write when I am feeling bad). It was a strange situation because the sociability of my living arrangements had decreased more and more: I started off in the halls of residence, then shared a house with 2 of my flatmates and ended up living on my own. This let me spend time alone when I needed to though, and I still saw my classmates so I wasn’t totally isolated. Compared to most people I was still practically a hermit, but this was the most comfortable I have been.

My current situation is constantly deteriorating. I have always had a decent relationship with my parents despite their ridiculous situation of being separated but still living in the same house. Things have started to get on top of me lately though. I don’t want to badmouth them because it would seem massively ungrateful since they let me live with them but things have begun to get a bit strained. I can’t stand to listen to my mum going on about things she has read in the Daily Mail (for people outside the UK, a hateful newspaper) and making horrible comments about people she works with (too fat, too thin, too lazy, too obsessive. You can’t win). It makes me depressed to think about what she would say about me if I wasn’t her son. I keep spending more time alone in my tiny room whenever we are all in the house. I remember a time when all I wanted more than anything was to be at home but now I cannot wait to escape this place. Sometimes I feel as though I am going through life 10+ years behind schedule.

To put it simply: there’s no way I can see my life getting any better. I know it doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things but my birthday is coming up and I remember this time last year how determined I was that I wasn’t going to let the year just slip away into nothingness but that is exactly what has happened. I have achieved nothing in the past two years, they have been a complete waste of time during the part of my life when I should be getting things done.

One of the very few people I have on facebook from the “before time” prior to when I tried to restart my life in 2007/8 is a girl I went to primary school with and we were friends when I was very young but lost touch after we started secondary school. I can quite vividly remember an early time I felt what I would describe now as social anxiety, was when someone told her that I had a crush on her. Anyway, I saw on facebook the other day that she got married. I didn’t feel jealous, I have not even spoken to her in person for over 10 years, but it did hammer home how much my life has diverged from the people I grew up with. When I occasionally see them they look like adults but virtually nothing has changed for me since I was in school.

It is impossible not to feel like there is something irrevocably broken about myself that I can let things go so wrong. I remember when I first started writing the entries in 2007 on another site that I transferred over to here, that one of the main things I was depressed about was how I had missed out on key development in major parts of my life. I am in pretty much the same situation now, 7 years on. I am still the same loser that I was back then except now I don’t even have time on my side. I thought 23 was too old to change things but I was wrong about that. I wish I was that age again. I don’t know how I would do things differently but at least I had time. Now I don’t have that, I don’t have any hope.

My old therapist used to ask “How would you like your life to be different?” or what I would like to change about my life and it used to leave me stumped. You would think that someone so unhappy would have a huge list of things but I could never give concrete answers and I still can’t. Part of it was that I knew what they would do if I could think of something, they’d try and come up with some way of working towards it so I would always be second guessing about what my answers would lead to. If we restrict it to the realm of things that are actually possible, then I can’t really envisage anything that could make things OK. This is my major problem, I would much rather just not be alive than to try and patch up this ridiculous life that I have made for myself.

I sometimes wonder if anyone could be so far gone as me and still manage to turn things around and not want to die. I know there are people with much, much harder lives than me and that I have things extremely easy but they must have some kind of will to fight on that I don’t have. What is the point? If it came down to being as miserable as I was at my first job in order to survive then I would vastly prefer to be dead. Other people might have the comfort of coming home to someone they love or seeing friends but I know that will never be possible for me.

There is nothing for me that would make the awful parts of being alive worth going through.

I apologise for such another rambling and depressing post. I still have not been able to make a doctors appointment, I still have no job and I haven’t spoken to anyone outside my family in any sort of social situation since when I last posted in September. There is not much else for me to report.

Five years on

warning: contains frank discussion of suicide

It is five years ago since I tried to kill myself. In some ways a lot has changed in that time. I just read back on some of my posts from around that time, something which is difficult because I honestly hate myself more after reading what I was thinking around that time.

I can’t remember exactly what was going through my head in the days leading up to it. The pills must have really done a number on me because there is a total black hole in my memory (which is otherwise very good) from that point up to a couple of weeks later. The only record I have is what I posted on this site. One thing that surprises me is how many people commented and offered their support. God knows why, I really don’t think I deserved it. It looks like I had some kind of upswing right before crashing and it scares me to think about how I don’t even remember what caused me to actually start taking the pills. I remember quite clearly the fact that I had researched what I intended to do and had the stuff stockpiled for months in advance. There wasn’t any major event that tipped me over the edge.

The thing I have often thought about since is how I feel about the fact that I wasn’t successful. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to die and had done for quite a long time. Do I wish that I had died? To be completely honest, despite the fact that I have had some good times since then and even knowing that I did finally manage to graduate, I still can’t deny that I do. I will concede that at the time there may have been some part of my subconscious that wanted me to be discovered and that’s why I slipped up, but in retrospect I just wish that I had been more thorough.

My situation is no better, in fact in a lot of ways it is objectively worse. I still live in the same place and have no friends or life to speak of. I am older, more in debt and I have nothing to look forward to. If you showed me back then how my life had turned out then I would have been more sure than ever that there was no point to carrying on except for other people’s benefit. Upsetting my family was the only thing holding me back for a long time and I don’t know how much pain I should have to silently endure to keep them happy.

I don’t feel as actively awful as I did back then. The acute feelings of despair are less frequent and I mostly feel a dull all-consuming ache rather than a desperate desire to be dead. I can tread water for a while longer.

There is no future for me though. Each passing day is another wasted one. I have missed the boat on ever having anything like a successful life, wasted whatever potential I may have had. People like me just aren’t compatible with what the world wants.

I don’t want to worry anyone who may be reading this. Please believe me (and I am always honest on here, even if it does make me seem terrible) that I am not in any danger right now. I can’t really describe what I am feeling right now. Disappointment, maybe. Melancholy.

I don’t have anyone to talk to. Nobody wants to put up with someone as permanently miserable as me and I cannot convincingly act as though my existence is constantly permeated sadness for very long. I may finally be getting closer to going back to my doctor. They have a new appointment system where you have to speak to them on the phone first which is awful for me, but I am tired of being stuck just spinning my wheels. It’s sad really but I have slid backwards so much. I remember sitting here in this exact spot at the end of 2007, contemplating the fact that I was going to be alone at new year and making my first forays into contacting some other people with social anxiety. Since then I made a few online friends and even met some of them but that has all slipped away from me and besides a couple of people I occasionally talk to on twitter, none of whom know anything about my problems, I am back where I started.

For some reason this is the hardest thing for me to write about, but I want to be able to see some way out of all this. I don’t know how I can ever be able to be free from these feelings or if it’s even possible. By admitting this to myself I am opening myself up for more disappointment, hope is more dangerous than giving in to despair. Maybe there is some way for me to survive. It’s painful to think about, but I hope that there is.

No Progress

(warning: suicide discussion below so don’t read if that bothers you)

I didn’t realise I had left it so long to update, time seems to pass very quickly when you don’t have a lot happening in your life. Throughout 2013 I don’t think there was a single time when I met up or spoke to anyone who could remotely be considered a friend. The last year I have slid backwards so much, it’s so disappointing compared to how relatively well I was doing in say, my last year of uni. I am practically back to 2007 levels of isolation but in a way it is a lot worse because at least back then, I know with hindsight that I had somewhere to go. I was younger and I had that opportunity of going to university as a second chance at life. I was yet to meet some of the people who, despite only making the very faintest of a connection with, at least didn’t mind spending time with me and didn’t go out of their way to make me feel worthless. Unfortunately the circumstances that led to that, being at university or talking to them online, have now evaporated and I’m back here on my own again. It is impossible, for example, that any of the people who I lived with at while I was away at uni would ever have got to know me under any other circumstances than us being randomly assigned to share a flat. The people I knew online have either moved on entirely and no longer need to talk to a disastrous loser as me or I have neglected to talk to them for so long they have forgotten about me. I don’t have anything to say anyway. My life is empty. I don’t have anywhere to go or anything of note to contribute to anything.

It is strange to look back and think about how strongly I felt my life was over and wanted to die so much during the time when I tried to kill myself. Strange because everything was immeasurably better back then. It took another 3 years, until I was in my final year of university to realise how much I actually benefitted from being there and appreciate all that I had built up over those few years from when I felt at my lowest point (before I started blogging) and now it’s all gone. There’s no way I was worse off in 2009 than I am now. I wasn’t hurting for money or unemployed, I had people who would spend time with me. I had friends online.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about how I tried to die and I have very conflicted feelings about it all. I feel bad for all the trouble I caused other people but I don’t think I was unjustified in what I did. Some people might expect me to be thankful that I was unsuccessful and that I ought to be glad to be alive but I am not. Do I wish that I had died? I would have missed out on some good things but none of them really make up for the pain and disappointment that I feel having to be me. If I could choose to change things, I wish I hadn’t been found and everyone could just put me to rest and get on with their lives.

I don’t feel fully justified in using the word ‘pain’ to describe how I feel but I don’t know how else to word it. I feel more of a sense of crushing inevitability and a dull ache than serious pain. I hate being the awful, worthless person that I have become. There are few bigger examples of wasted opportunity than me.

It was my birthday in January and it was one I have not been looking forward too. I don’t think I will be able to stand reaching a milestone age next year and still being the same unaccomplished loser. I have a suspicion this year may be my last. Back in 2009 I could have been convinced that it wasn’t too late, that I could have turned things around because I had time on my side. Looking back, I can admit that I was wrong about some things because it wasn’t too late at 24 to do anything. I’m rapidly approaching passing the point where if I was to die it would be considered a tragedy and reaching the stage where people would wonder what took me so long.

Describing Anxious Feelings

Something I used to struggle with immensely during my therapy sessions was finding the words to describe how anxiety made me feel. A big component of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is identifying thoughts, feelings and behaviours related to anxiety and how they interact with each other. I always found it difficult to describe feelings in relation to the anxiety I feel in social situations accurately. I honestly think the English language lacks the vocabulary to fully describe such personal things and my own feelings are more complex than just simple fear or whatever.

I ended up having to leave my CBT therapist because I was so depressed at that time that working on my anxiety with CBT was becoming impossible and he didn’t think it was effective. I wasn’t sure about how well I would get on with it either but lately I’m starting to think that I might benefit from it now even though I am still depressed, it is not quite so all-encompassing as it was in 2009/10. One thing that springs to mind is the cascade of horrible thoughts and feelings that overcomes me whenever I have to look at job listings. I tried to put it into words but some of the things are just too hard for me to verbalise.

The main thing that fills my mind is how I am almost the exact opposite of how people need to be to be successful. I am so inadequate in almost every way when it comes to work. I don’t feel confident at all in my own abilities and I can say with 100% honesty that I cannot see why anyone would want to hire me over anyone else who happened to apply for the same position.

I am immediately taken back to my first job where I could not cope at all with the demands of working there and I dread (and I really do mean dread) having to be in that position again. I would end each day completely mentally exhausted and not have the mental strength to do anything else once I had finished work. I hate being there so much, before I left in the morning I would have to fight myself from thinking too much about it because I would uncontrollably get tears in my eyes. I am not someone who cries a lot but there were several times I had to hide in the toilets when I was working there and fight back tears and there is nothing I fear more than being stuck like this.

I won’t have to opportunity to leave like I did when I was working there. At some point I will have to support myself and that would simply not be an option. I couldn’t handle being trapped like that and I don’t know what I’d do (or rather, I fear I know too well what I would do) if I was stuck in that situation.

All of this and more comes to me in a flood of sickening anxiety. Needless to say this makes job hunting quite a daunting task. I am already feeling extremely guilty because of how long I have been unemployed despite having good qualifications on paper, this just adds to my worries.

Making No Progress

Following on a bit from my last post, and paraphrasing Oscar Wilde a bit, the only thing more depressing to me than going back to old places like the social anxiety forums and seeing people stuck in ruts for years is seeing people who you used to know and relate to have moved on and aren’t like you any more. I know this is a selfish sentiment and I feel bad even admitting that in public but it’s probably not too uncommon for people to feel that way. I am quite a jealous person, I suppose.

Recently I was talking to my mum about some people we used to know from my old primary school (she used to work there) and it brought some bad memories back. I know how ridiculous it is to obsess and ruminate over things that happened so long ago but from a young age when I was practically forced to make friends with those people up until I dropped out of university when I was 19, these were the only people outside my family I spent any real length of time with. Since then I have never formed any kind of long lasting connection with anyone who I see on a regular basis. These people were around for my formative years and as I’m sure anyone who’s read any of my many previous posts on the subject knows, contributed enormously to the mess I made of my life and why I hate myself so much.

I keep thinking about how different everyone’s life is now from back then, yet I am still largely in the same situation. I live in the same place, have the same bedroom, have little life experience to show for the 10 years since I last spoke to them. I feel terrified that one day I might run into someone who knew me before my decade of virtual isolation and have to try and explain away why I am such a failure. My life is a prime example of how not to do things. It’s difficult to explain how I have ended up like this to any normal person, I think most people would struggle to understand how anyone could end up like this but given enough crippling self loathing and fear it is possible.

Since my last birthday in January I have been preoccupied with getting older and how little I’ve accomplished. When I started writing the stuff that formed the early entries on this blog in 2007 I was young enough that a lot of things could be sort of written off, like there was still a lot of time for me to fix things and get on with having an actual life. Getting closer to 30 (it actually pained me to write that because putting it into words really hammers home the reality of it) I no longer have that excuse of youth to hide behind. Every single passing day brings me further and further away from normality. [this is an aside, but I have this awful habit of obsessing over time in a weird way. When I would have time off, from work or school for example, I would always be dreading going back and I’d think things to myself like “I still have 3 more days where I can not have to worry about not being able to sleep that night” and stupid things like that. It’s hard to put into words.] I honestly don’t know what I’ll do when I actually am 30, I am abnormally preoccupied with this because in addition to all the usual things people worry about crossing a milestone age, I have the fact that I still only posses the life experience and ability to deal with things as a child, not even the average teenager. Unless something dramatic happens in the next 2 years (unlikely) then I honestly can’t see myself living to experience it. I don’t want to alarm people but I think if I am still like this at age 30 then I will have given things long enough to not feel bad for giving up on life.

I can’t pretend I am a good enough person not to feel anger at the people who first made me despise myself so thoroughly and forced me to withdraw from society. The first counsellor I used to see would ask me if I felt angry, and back then I didn’t really. Nowadays I do feel a lot of resentment towards them.

For many years, the majority of my life so far, I 100% believed that everyone would have the same attitude towards me. That they would at best see me as a figure of fun and someone to quietly mock. At worst, I feared being hated like some people back then used to hate me. This kind of mental beating that went on from when I was 11 ground down any self esteem I had (and believe it or not, I was quite happy up to that point) and I have never recovered or had any reason to like myself since.

It is only in the past few years that I have found anyone who didn’t regard me with such negativity. Sadly I don’t live near any of them but even if I did, it is probably only my limited contact with them that stopped them from becoming bored or tired of my horrendous self doubt and sadness. I already drove away most of the people I used to speak online with.

Even this small glimmer of acceptance makes me sad though. I keep wondering what my life might have been like if instead of being surrounded by people who always wanted to put me down and make me feel worthless, I had been around some of the people who don’t hate me. Maybe I would have some friends in real life? Perhaps if I didn’t take every opportunity to shut myself off and hide away I could have developed some confidence and not be completely unable to cope in the work place. I’m not a stupid person but any intelligence or skills I have are going completely to waste. It is incredibly depressing to think about the potential I have wasted over the years.

There is no real purpose to this post, I am trying to verbalise the thoughts that have been swimming around my head so much but it is difficult. It’s like there are certain ways that people learn how to act and how to cope with life that I have completely missed out on because of how much I screwed everything up and it’s already too late to ever catch up. I felt this right from when I started this blog but it is slipping further and further away and at a seemingly quicker pace than ever. I really need to start getting help again.

Same Old

Recently I checked back in on the SA forums that I used to read regularly and interact with people somewhat more than I had in other online communities where I am mostly just an observer. It’s always strange going back to places you haven’t frequented in a long time, I often feel a strange mix of familiarity sadness because a lot of things don’t change much. There are some people who have been on those forums longer than me (I registered in late 2007), are older than I am and are still stuck in life situations they hate. I don’t want to sound like I’m being down on them because I am very sympathetic to their problems and goodness knows I’ve let things hold me back a hell of a lot, but when I read their posts it’s like looking into my own future and this is what depresses me. It is the reason I stopped going there about 2 years ago. Back then I felt like I had moved on quite a bit from the person I was in 2007/8 – I had a semblance of a life. Now though, it seems as though I’ve slid back into the same old state.

The last few years were very eventful in one way or another. I reached low points for sure but I also had probably my biggest achievement in graduating from university. This was very important to me, although it may not seem like much of a triumph to a lot of people, I found it extremely hard work both academically and emotionally. My graduation ceremony itself was one of the very few times I have been proud of myself and I was happy to be there.

It has been quite a few months since then and in that time I’ve kind of slipped back into depression and withdrawal from life again. For various reasons I haven’t been able to find a job and it’s beginning to feel like I am right back where I was in 2007. There is probably too much on this blog already about how much I hated the job I mercifully had to leave in January 2007. It was genuinely the worst time in my life, I hated the people there that made me feel awful. I hated working afternoons until late at night. I hated the 1hr30 it took for me to get there. There has never been a time when I was more anxious than the months I worked there and I am constantly filled with dread when I read job listings and they remind me of that. It’s hard for most people to find a job in this economy but lots of other things are holding me back even more. Even though I have a degree now I just don’t feel confident in my abilities and I know that there are so many people more knowledgable and better equipped to deal with things than I am.

When I left the place I worked over the last couple of summers, the boss said that I could come back if I wanted to and I did get on OK there (at least compared to the previous job) but I don’t know if I could go back now. It’s been so long since I left uni and I haven’t got anything to show for the last few months, I don’t know if I could face them because I seem like such a failure. Again, I have done the same stupid thing by putting it off for so long until it becomes harder and harder to deal with. I should have known months ago that I would not get a better job and gone back then but now it has dragged on too long.

I’m going to leave it here for now but hopefully I will have another post up soon and won’t leave this site abandoned for months at a time.

End of an era

Wow I’ve been out of the loop for a long time. I guess I haven’t been in much of a writing mood for the past couple of months, perhaps because of all the work I had to do on my dissertation kind of burned me out.

Finishing university was a big event for me. It’s taken me much longer than most people, after my first attempt ended in failure it was probably the start of my mental health beginning it’s lasting impact on my life. That was a very difficult time for me, I was pretty much still in the same place mentally as when I was at school/sixth form. Most of the same people were still around me and I didn’t feel like I could express my true self without being open to further ridicule and I felt trapped being around those people. I’ve written about this at length before so I’ll spare you the details.

The university where I completed my degree (starting 4 years after I left the first one) was in a different city and I made a clean break from the poisonous people who previously made me feel terrible. I won’t lie, it has been a difficult process. Moving away from home was a big deal for me and although I struggled, I am very glad that I did it. The entire process of studying was made even more difficult by my anxiety and depression. It’s hard to explain or expect other people to empathise with how hard it can be to deal with even basic things like making sure you have food to eat. There were many occasions when I would go without meals or sneak out and buy a sandwich or something because I daren’t go into the kitchen when other people were around or I was afraid other people might be there.

I constantly felt like I was swimming against the tide to try and stay on top of the workload especially in my final year where I had to keep regular attendance for certain workshop sessions that involved robotics equipment that I couldn’t do at home (which was my usual standby for missing workshops. I didn’t like the demonstrators or anyone nearby to see my work). This was my second attempt at the final year, remember. I already had a very lucky reprieve after I completely messed up in 2010/11 when I should have finished. There was real pressure to get things right this time and fortunately my depression, which was probably my biggest obstacle in previous years, was not as bad this time and I managed to cope reasonably well.

The problem I gave into so many times before was worrying about a workshop session (in the computer labs) and barely sleeping all night, then waking up and finding it easy to justify missing the class to myself. I’m sure this feeling will be familiar to some of you. I fell into the trap so frequently at college that I ended up only attending 2 classes all semester for one particular module as things began to snowball and my poor attendance weighed on my mind. “He’ll want to know why I wasn’t here the past 2/3/4 weeks” I would think and then rationalise missing the class again. Thankfully I managed to keep this largely in check this year and I only missed one robotics workshop and a small number of other sessions. Overall this year was probably my best attendance.

I feel very lucky that I managed to pull this off when it mattered most really. If you aren’t familiar with the British university system, a bachelor’s degree typically takes 3 years, the first year doesn’t count towards your final degree classification and it’s usually all based on how well you do in your final year by using everything you’ve learned to write a dissertation or create a project (this is a very general description). Everything pretty much rode on how well I could do this year. My second year grades were lacklustre, I scraped a lower second (2:2) so I needed to improve this time.

My final grade was an upper second (2:1) which is the 2nd highest you can get, and although it’s not spectacular I was very pleased that I managed to get here at last after all the troubles I’ve had. It’s been a challenging journey and my anxiety & depression has literally threatened my life at times. The period I spent in hospital, or rather the time recovering from what happened – I don’t remember much of when I was actually there which is quite disconcerting, was a constant struggle and mentally exhausting in itself. I worried that I had done irreparable damage not only to my brain but also to my relationship with my family. I still have issues with the latter but it is a relief that I have not destroyed my mind.

So, good news on the academic front. I hope you’ll allow me a long entry as it has been so long, but quite a lot of things have been going through my head since I last updated.

I had barely finished my last exam when I discovered that my dad had been admitted to hospital for heart problems. My mum had known a couple of days earlier but didn’t want to panic me before my exams which I am thankful for now but I was annoyed at the time. It came as a big shock to me because unlike me, my dad has always been very active and still cycled to work and back 6 miles each way into his sixties and he’s not overweight. He ended up needing an angioplasty to widen the arteries but he has recovered very well since. I went to see him in hospital the day I got back from moving all my stuff home and it was quite difficult to see him like that. He is not an emotional man, though he’s not cold either, he just doesn’t give much away but when my sister and I arrived he had tears in his eyes.

Even though it wasn’t life threatening, it is impossible not to think about death when it comes to hearts. Dealing with the realities of mortality is hard to cope with. Being back at the hospital, the smell and suffocating heat, brought back the vague memories I have of being in there, and the trips we took each day made me think about how difficult it must have been for my family to make similar trips to see me. I was hardly coherent for weeks and I dread to think what must have gone through their heads seeing me like that. It was very hard to see my dad in a vulnerable state and this was compounded by the guilt of what I put everyone through with my own actions.

Things have been relatively quiet since he got to go home (he’s been out a while now, I just didn’t want to write about it before I knew he was better) but recently I have started to feel like some of the old depressive feelings are creeping back. If anyone has been reading this blog for a long time, you’ll remember that my sense of purposelessness was one of the main catalysts for my depression back in the days before and just after my diagnosis with clinical depression and social anxiety.

Back in 2007 I was unemployed and had no real prospects. I didn’t have good enough qualifications to do anything in the computing field that wasn’t helpdesk oriented and after my utterly disastrous time doing that at my first job I had no intention of going back to that. It was the absolute worst time of my entire life, I actually felt worse then than I did when I attempted suicide strange as it may seem. Going back to university gave me a goal and arguably more important to either the pressure I put on myself or I mistakenly ascribed to my mum (I haven’t decided which it is, but it’s probably a combination) it meant I wasn’t “unemployed”. I mean, yes technically I was only working in the holidays but the rest of the time I was doing something useful. This is over now of course and I am back to the same situation.

I’m getting quite tired now, it’s gone 3.30am but I will finish this train of thought tomorrow, I promise. Thank you to anyone that’s still reading and thanks for your comments.

Finishing University

Again I must apologise for leaving such a long gap between updates. The past month or so has been one of the busiest of my academic life. I’ve had a robotics project to develop and demonstrate, software engineering assignment and my final project/dissertation to complete. I haven’t managed my time perfectly, but it has been a vast improvement on last year when I only managed to get one assignment done (and had to ask for an extension for it) before messing up completely which resulted in me having to repeat the year. I’ve managed to get everything in on time this year without any extensions, so that’s something to be pleased about.

My dissertation ended up being around 17,000 words, which isn’t as much as a lot of students but I had to develop and document a piece of software too which involves a lot of technical diagrams and I spent many hours each day over the past few weeks to make sure I got everything done. It wasn’t perfect and there was a lot more I would like to have added but I think it’s fairly good. My tentative goal is to get a 2:1 (the second highest grade) for my degree overall, although I wouldn’t be devastated if I didn’t get that. To be completely honest, it’s been other factors like my mental health and personal problems that have hampered my progress more than anything but I’ve tried really hard to stay on track this year. I’m sure those of you reading this who went to college/university know what a massive undertaking it is and I was completely mentally drained by the time I had to hand it in and demonstrate my software last week. One of my classmates actually got RSI while writing his, so maybe I got off lightly.

It seems very strange to be coming to the end of my university life. I just checked back on the post I wrote when I first started here and I can’t believe how quickly that time has gone. Despite the massive problems I’ve had, especially the obvious one, I’ve enjoyed being here and it’s been a great experience. I’ll be proud of myself for the first time in a long, long time if I manage to pass and get my degree (which, barring any catastrophes, I should do). It’s a weird time and I’m not sure how I feel about it but for once I’m not depressed or anxious about the near future.

The second part of this post is to thank everyone who voted for me in the About.com poll. I didn’t stand much of a chance against the excellent Social Anxiety UK site, which I used many times myself but I did get a Reader’s Choice finalist award, so thank you all for that. You can see the other winners here.

Getting By

First a few site updates, for the first time since 2008 I have rewritten the “About” page to be more relevant and explain a little more about myself. I also added a Contact page in case anyone would like to write to me for some reason. I also updated my blogroll which was similarly out of date. Sadly, almost all the blogs I used to read have either been deleted or not updated for many months. I hope that those people are all OK. I left the blogs that still exist on there in case they come back.

At university things are going a little better. I have had some grades back and I’ve done quite well so far which is a relief. I finally managed to get the motivation to put some real hard work into my project and arranged a meeting with my supervisor who looked over my report and seemed quite pleased with it. He gave me some notes but I have been too anxious to read what he said yet. This is a strange quirk which I have had for a long time and can’t seem to shake off. It used to be the case that I would never post on forums because I’d be afraid to read anyone’s responses to what I’d said. Emails would go unread for weeks because of the same fear and I have the same worries about comments on this blog. I always fear that someone will have written a damning criticism of my comparatively inconsequential problems but luckily nobody has seriously hurt my feelings here so far.

It is a relief to feel that I am actually up to date with university work, a situation I am not too familiar with. Despite my best efforts, I often find myself behind on assignments or missing lectures but this semester I have only missed 2 lectures, one I overslept for and the other because of anxiety but this is a huge improvement on previous semesters.