In September 2016, I graduated with a First-class honours degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. However, when reflecting, there were times when I never thought I would achieve this.
I enrolled at the University of Hertfordshire in September 2012, and like many other students I was apprehensive, but I was also fearful because I decided to study at my local university and to commute there due to ill health and family circumstances.
During my first year, I got to know many people from the Humanities School; attended daily lectures and seminars; and occasionally socialised at the Elehouse and The Forum. I was diagnosed with dyspraxia at the age of eighteen by an educational psychologist, and my dad’s health declined rapidly due to his primary-progressive multiple sclerosis. Despite the ongoing commitments, however, I passed with 2.1 and 2.2 grades.
It was at the beginning of the second year in October 2013 when matters shifted. On my second day, I experienced a very serious Crohn’s disease flare-up, where some of the ulcers inside my inflamed small intestine burst which caused abdominal bleeding. Consequently, I was admitted to hospital for nearly a week and during this time had a colonoscopy, was given intravenous drips, and an emergency drip as my potassium levels fell dangerously low. Instead of resting in the hospital bed, I decided to spend the afternoon trying to study the topics I missed and sent emails out to my tutors.
The following week I returned to class, but it was at the weekend when my mental health declined.
I remember sitting at the desk in my bedroom, trying to type my name into a document but found myself screaming, swearing, crying and throwing objects around the room. When my mum arrived home, I told her I wanted to leave university, and so we agreed to defer the second year. These twelfth months were one of the hardest times of my life. I was irritable, anxious, rarely socialised, and there were moments when I wanted to end it all.
But, I received treatment for this, and I am so thankful to my family and close friends who supported me, and the understanding I received from the School of Humanities and the disability services.
Returning to the University of Hertfordshire in September 2014 was challenging, as I re-joined a new year with people I did not know. Despite the scary lows and the extreme highs, I met some lifelong friends and, through the mentoring scheme and having a study-skills tutor, my grades and confidence soared. I also joined the Poker Society and Trident Media, and I loved them so much I kept with them and even won ‘Radio Presenter of the Year’ at the award ceremony in April 2017 for the radio show Jake Borrett on Trident Media Radio.
What I have learnt is that it is okay not to be okay. To all of you who may be going through difficult times, know that the darkness can and will lift. Believe in yourself, and remember there is always someone who is willing to listen. Thank you for spilt laughter over pints of coke at Club de Havilland; the games of Monopoly and Ring of Fire; and all the hugs.
Thank you for listening to me.