10th September 2021: Take a Break

It’s been quite some time since I last wrote a post. I wish I could blame it on writers block, but the reality is I physically haven’t been able to write more than a few sentences without causing pain and discomfort in my fingers. It seems typing from the first and second year really caught up with my body and it’s trying to say “no”, when I want (and need) to keep going. Finger splints and physio exercises can only help so much these days, but to be honest, it’s tough losing the capability of typing, drawing, cooking and even driving, without pain and discomfort. It saddens me that I haven’t picked up my ukulele for the past few months. I just know it’s going to be troublesome, and I don’t think I’m ready to face that loss.

That being said, there is the ability to use speech-to-text software, which I have tried using over the past year, but it just doesn’t work as well for me because the voice in my head gets kinda distracted with me talking. Therefore, words get stuck before they come out. The thinking process takes longer and I’m sat there trying to work out what I need to say, and with what punctuation the sentence may need. It’s odd having to say things such as “comma”, “fullstop”, “enter”, “new paragraph”, “Dragon stop listening” “wake up”, etc. It’s when you realise just how much you take for granted, but also appreciate the access available for those who do not have the fortunate function of hands!

Alas, we move on…

As stated it’s been a while. On the socials, you’ll see that I have finished my second year. I’m not joking when I say I’m surprised I made it to the end of the year. The months of lockdown chaos really got to me and by the second semester of Level 5, there was a lack of focus and engagement. I found myself distracted by external things, and moving away from the lessons I was supposed to be hooked to during “Blackboard” learning. My migraines increased, my eye sight was affected, my entire body in shut down mode and I still had 6 assignments to complete for the semester. It was tough, and I know that most people found lockdown tough. The support systems in place weren’t necessarily there, the vulnerable were even more isolated and those who never suffered with mental ill health, soon found themselves suffering. I don’t write this in a “woe is me” scenario. I write from the realistic, honest truths of thoughts and feelings of the pandemic and life as we knew (and know) it.

It’s no wonder I avoid writing, even when I know how important it is for our mental wellbeing. Did you know that expressive writing is a way of connecting with our emotional state and our internal feelings towards particular events past, present and future? Most often we suppress our emotions, especially those which have painful memories and feelings, and we’re often unable to fully process those events that we become ‘stuck’ and unable to move forwards. In expressive writing the wiring in our brain ends up with little sparks enabling us to fully connect to creativity and free-wheeling, fluent thoughts and feelings. This happens because as we attempt to find the words utilising the rational left hemisphere of the brain, the right side is able to connect the creativity process onto the paper. It’s pretty cool, right? I’ve spent the past couple of months studying ‘Journal Therapy’ having researched the work by James E. Pennebaker for a couple of assignments last semester. Check out the infamous journal written by Pennebaker and his graduate student Sandra Beall here.

So, where am I now? Honestly, there are times where I feel like I have my map drawn out. I even created a “vision board”, for an assignment about careers, and on that board are different pathways because whilst I thought I was certain of the direction, it’s come to my attention that another assignment of mine made me realise another pathway I’d yet to consider, and now my brain is making all sorts of crazy ideas for what’s next!

Well, what’s currently next is that I have to get through the final year of my degree, and if the next year is anything like the last, then wow. It’s going to be some miracle. I am surprised I made it through, especially having fallen behind on my work due to moving. I initially felt embarrassed and hypocritical because I’d been the student to show some ‘optimism’ for those worried about the deadlines, explaining that ‘we [had] ages’ between February and May. I just didn’t foresee what was coming, and that’s because our move was unexpected, but extremely welcome! A couple of my grades were terrible, but now I’ve worked through the disappointment, I realise that the lower grades were in research, which were not necessarily CCM based, and that made me feel somewhat confident that I am doing something right!

For the upcoming year, I’ve been able to choose an optional module which I feel will benefit my degree further, as well as enhance my chances at my current aspirations. I’m really looking forward to joining the Arts in Education group again for the module ‘Arts, Myth and Imagination’, but it’s not until the second semester! All the other modules are CCM-based or research-based, and until then, I have huge anxiety about the thought maintaining my level of grades, and the thought of writing a decent dissertation! I feel I have so many ideas, that trying to find a focus is tough. I’ve requested to have a supervisor (a lecturer) who knows me well from the past couple of years (and having given an option of two amazing lecturers, I am hopeful either one will be an incredible support).

Moving away from the talk of university, it’s been an odd few months off! I didn’t submit my final assignment until the middle of June, just before we went away to Centerparcs for a weekend break, and with the work suddenly being complete, I felt this weight lifted, yet I felt slightly unnerved.

As the world has been slowly getting back to normal, or adjusting to the new-norm, I was trying to figure out what to do next. Having planned a short getaway in celebration of my victory (completing Level 5), I hadn’t thought much further ahead. However, I did have a list of so many things I wanted to achieve before going back to university in the autumn. I wanted to see my friends now that the rules were changing. I wanted to paint and learn new illustration skills, or put on my green fingers and do some gardening, plant and grow our own veg and make rabbit treats ready for the winter months (much cheaper and healthier than the ones you get in the pet food stores!). I wanted to learn more, in preparation for my final year, by reading books, sourcing new CPD courses, and write more. And I wanted to do more ambassador work as a way to help gear me up for the year ahead, and edit my volunteering log which is still 2 years behind (Advice for CCCU students who volunteer – Log your hours on the day you volunteer so you don’t fall behind!). Yet, with so many thoughts, I found myself battling with extreme boredom, lack of motivation and a sense of not knowing where to start. There were days of darkness, low mood and depression. I was utterly overwhelmed with the options, that having to figure out a new routine was too much for me.

It’s now mid-September, and whilst I can say I’ve done most of the above, my writing hasn’t been particularly great (It has taken me almost two months to write this blog post) and I’ve barely read any of the books I’ve purchased, despite carrying them from room to room with every intention of turning the front page. I know I expected too much of myself for what should have been a joyous break. I should have embraced the moments of doing absolutely nothing. Yet, when those moments begin to make you feel numb, you have a need to question why this is, and sometimes it is too much to bear. I’ve been back with a KERS Support Worker, and we’ve visited some new places and talked about a lot of things going on. I’ve still had my regular phone call meetings with my MH nurse, and that’s been so helpful too. I’ve also have very regular musculoskeletal physiotherapy and hand therapy, and now awaiting specialist support. Still, a break is a break, and there have been a few surprises and challenges along the way. To see what I’ve been up to, please check out my socials: Linktr.ee

We start university in a couple of weeks, and before then I have an operation (it’s booked for Wednesday 15th). I have no idea how this’ll affect my performance when I return. I’ve even got things booked on the days I’m scheduled to be in university in the first two weeks, including physio and a friends wedding! I’m not sure how it’ll go, but for the next couple of weeks, I’m certainly going to give myself that break without feeling as though I need to do anything. It’s okay for me to ‘relax’. The next year is going to be tough, and I know I’m not as prepared as I’d like to be yet, but we’ll approach those steps when I get there.

The past few months have been interesting, challenging and educational. I have experienced positive growth in myself, but the anxiety lingers, so as we start with new beginnings, into a new academic year, a new semester and become faced with new assignment briefs, it is important to remain calm, and be kind to not only yourself but to others. It’s going to be tough after the year we’ve had, but it doesn’t mean that we’re in this alone.

Let’s grow together.

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