Mental health and University

The BBC wrote an article yesterday regarding the link between University and mental health.

Our education system in the UK is flawed before you even reach University. From the start of your SATs in Year 6, you’re pushed into the idea that your grades are all that matters. In my borough we had to do a separate test on top of our SATs before a secondary school decided whether to accept us or not. Then for the secondary school I specifically went to, we had to do another aptitude test so they could put us into “ability bands”.

What a great message you’re sending to eleven year olds.

Then it just continues throughout secondary school. You’re taught how to pass your SATs/GCSEs/A-Levels/BTECs to get straight A/A*’s, not taught with the intention of gaining knowledge and building passion for that subject. Your ability is based, not on your intellect, but your ability to regurgitate “recall” information in hoop jumping exams. At the end of the day a year (or twos) worth of work, is solely reflected on an exam result. That result then depends on whether/what post-16 qualification you take, which then depends on what University you go to/what course you do, which then affects your career/life.

And that’s all you’re ever reminded of. It’s no wonder students are terrified of failing, throughout their education, failure has never been an option. Then there’s the constant comparisons between students abilities. In Year 7 we got so fed up of our D&T teacher comparing us to one pupil in the class, that we collectively kicked up a stink one period until she allowed us to voice how wrong her behaviour was.

At my 6th form, throughout Year 12 there wasn’t a discussion on all the possibilities once you had finished your A-Levels. It was as if University was the only suitable transition. It makes me wonder if most schools are like this, and therefore a lot more people are going to Uni because they feel they have to and not because they want to. And whether that plays a big part in the problem. There wasn’t really any guidance for those who weren’t going either.

Now a days going to University you know for the majority of courses (excluding occupational courses) just having that piece of paper with a grade means nothing. There’s thousands of others who have the same paper as you, and so you need something that makes you stand out from all the others with a degree. Which adds the pressure that not only do you need a 2.1 at least in everything, but also be an all rounder joining clubs/societies, gaining work experience or holding a part-time job and having a brilliant social life with crazy nights out. And if you don’t have all of that, then you start to internally question what’s wrong and why are you failing to do University #Thebesttimeofyourlyf the “right” way?

Personally I found University was a rollercoaster for my mental health. Although there were downs, there were many more triumphs that outshone those lows. The support I received from not only my academic tutor but the wellbeing team, my GP and the local NHS service were brilliant. I feel now in hindsight, had I not gone to university (especially away from home), I think my mental health would have suffered significantly.

Part of me wonders if the rise is because mental health is taken more seriously once you’re an adult/at uni. Depression/Anxiety at school would just be explained as ‘phases’, ‘hormones’ ‘usual teenage feelings’. How many of those already suffered before university? If so, surely our education system needs an overhaul. And not the Michael Grove’s shitty attempt at making things worse for everyone in general.

The only problem is, what’s the best solution?

Annmarie xoxo

I’m going to be graduating!

Four years ago I uprooted myself from London to go to University, 200 miles away to a city (county even) I had never been to to study at a University I would know no one at, and I have no regrets.

But could still find home in some places.

But could still find home in some places.

Although there have been highs and lows throughout the journey I have learnt so much about myself, the real world, and academically. I’ve pushed myself time and time again through situations where I originally couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, or into completely new challenges beyond my comfort zone. I took the plunge to start getting help for mental health issues, one of the, if not the scariest thing I have done. Opening myself up, releasing an eight year burden. I have made lots of great friends, and got involved in different clubs and societies, and numerous jobs. This year was the hardest, hence the disappearing acts and months of inactivity. But I’m so proud that I conquered every hurdle placed before me, with humour and sarcasm still in tact.

Now on to the job hunt, dress hunt for graduation and into the real world after 19 years of education! Not sure if it was excellent timing, that as soon as I typed that the skies opened and started hailing…

Annmarie xoxo

What cartoon character would you be?

Yes I am just going to skirt around the inactivity, and the list of blog posts I want to write to bring you this….gem.

The past two days I was part of a graduates careers workshop. It was really fun, I even got out of my comfort zone/hermit rock and did a bit of the old networking.

One activity we did was interview each other, and some of the questions we had to ask each other were designed to be curve balls. And boy did I get a curve ball. Here I am just finishing explaining how I worked as part of a team to make a decision, and then BAM ‘If you had to describe yourself as a cartoon character, who would you be, and why?’. 

cue deer in the headlights moment where I forget I spent most of my childhood watching all the cartoons. Think at that moment I should have said Courage, the cowardly dog. What is the first cartoon that comes to mind?

POPEYE!

Yup, Popeye, not even Olive, Popeye.

My quick and witty reasoning to break the laughs and silence? He eats healthy, is strong, good at problem solving and likes helping and saving people. So in hindsight, I did choose a character that was pretty close to home.

So now I put the question to whomever is reading this: what cartoon character would you be, and why?

What happened to that person who wrote this blog? Annmarie xoxo

Triple Chocolate Cookies

I have no self control

I have constantly been craving chocolate all week, like really craving it. Possibly because I haven’t gone home this Easter and therefore missing my constantly supply of chocolate: mini eggs, Easter eggs, cream eggs. As well as the Easter egg mugs. Or it’s probably because it’s the forbidden food by my dentist while my wisdom tooth is having a rave in my mouth.

So I treated myself in the midst of journal reading and essay writing to make triple chocolate cookies! *drools*

Triple Chocolate Cookies You know when something is so bad, it’s good? I may have ate all eight in one sitting, serves six my arse!

Now if only I wasn’t such an old person who ate porridge for breakfast instead of corn flakes/rice crispies etc. and could have also made chocolate nests.

In other news, I was really lucky to not only get tickets to the Radio 1’s Big Weekend for Saturday, but also Sunday! 😀 After seven years of trying, I finally get to go one of their Big Weekends. Which happens to be occurring right next to our University as well. Couldn’t ask for a better way to finish my degree.

Happy Easter!
Annmarie xoxo

Determination

So in my silence during the past two months and a bit, my life has been pretty chaotic. But with only two essays, two exams and less than two months left of University for life, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel!

It’s funny how often you can think you won’t be able to do something or are struggling to cope. But find that if you’re determined to do something you will find a way to achieve it. Now the only hurdles left to complete the above is my own mentality. That and this evil wisdom tooth, which will hopefully meet a painless demise after six months of torturing me. I thought wisdom teeth were supposed to bring new found wisdom, not just endless pain?

Today after 3 months of no exercise (due to metatarsalgia), except from cycling into Uni each day I decided I was going to try and run a 5k within 30 minutes…because why not go the upper limit as opposed to say 2 or 3k! I was 450 metres from getting it within minutes (the extra 70m were from the cool down) 😦 Gutted. But I hit the mental wall close to 2k so I’m surprised I doubled the length from that! Definitely going to try running more often now, I’ve missed it, and definitely want to beat my time/distance.
IMG_1188

As for my new years resolutions three months in:

1) Still keeping up with the Q&A a day, I’m really looking forward to seeing how the responses to questions change with each year.
2) Er… may still be on book 1! I blame University work, where I’ve struggled to find time to sleep let alone read anything that isn’t a textbook or journal article. But I still have lots of time to catch up.
3 and 4) still struggling to do these, as with two, University is stealing all my time. But with no coursework extensions amounting and less contact hours it should be easier…she says. Instead of filling the jar I’ve been more open with friends, after all a problem shared is a problem halved.

Question,
How is this supposed to be ‘spring’?

IMG_1190Stereotypical British weather huh? Hail, rain and wind.

Annmarie xoxo 

2014 in photos

I thought a nice way of summarising the year would be to do so in photographs!

January – Winning drunk bowling…please drink responsibly…
February – Day trip to Blickling Hall, North Norfolk with housemates
March – Creating a toad fence at Cranwich and having a photo of myself in the EDP / Norfolk County Council website.
April – Revisiting Hickling Broad, I love The Broads one of my favourite parts of Norfolk.
May – Buying my first bike and learning how to ride it.
June – Royal Norfolk Show, first country show I’ve ever been to and certainly want to return again this year.
July – Visiting Holme Nature reserves and chilling on the wide stretches of beaches with hardly anyone else being there.
August – Having a rest back home after being on my placement year for the last 12 months.
September – Ireland fieldcourse as part of my degree, saw a lot of cool rocks…and had a 24 hour journey from Norwich to Western Ireland.
October – Halloween! First time I was able to carve a pumpkin, (tradition for my mum to do it)
November – Norwich big boom! Bonfire night is the best occasion after Christmas.
December – Spending waaaaay too much time in front of a computer wanting to bang my head against a wall whilst trying to complete my dissertation!

Looking back, I really want to do the photo 365 challenge, but then I would actually have to have a life!

Hope you’ve had a great 2014!

Annmarie xoxo

Adulthood – It’s a trap!!

I’m not going to lie, when I saw today’s Daily Prompt I thought of the Rugrats show, oh childhood.

The first time I felt really grown up was when I moved away from home to go to University. Once my sister and mum had said goodbye, there was that moment of me being in my room alone. And it finally dawned on me that this was going to be my ‘home’ for the next year.

I wouldn’t say I was completely irresponsible before going to uni, I knew how to cook, do my own washing etc. But I no longer had someone there to get rid of the scary spiders that would invade my room.

I knew I was no longer wrapped in the cotton wool known as London when I was waiting for the bus (in a queue! Who queues in London for a bus?) and had no idea what to say to the bus driver. The last time I had paid for a bus was when I was 11 and I’d give the driver my 40p, then a brilliant person invented the Oyster card (and free travel for under 18s) and then Londoners all let out a sigh of relief knowing that there was one less person they had to interact with during their commute.

I just realised how old I sound when you’d pay 40/70p for a single journey in London and oyster cards did not exist.

Of course there have been new memories since then that have made me realise growing up was a trap all along and these include:

  • renting and dealing with douchebag housemates and landlords
  • taxes
  • MOT and car insurance and the cost of running a car
  • bills
  • shopping for all the boring things such as bog roll
  • Final year dissertation
  • Job hunting

Who else wants to join me in inventing a time machine so we can go back to the days of primary school?

Annmarie xoxo