Academic Absence

Hello once again!

I apologise that I’ve been really quiet (again) recently. I’ve had a very busy few days and am struggling A LOT in this heat. So I’m hoping to take my mind off the oppressive humidity by writing another post. However, the focus of this post is something I genuinely still struggle to look back on. I made peace with so many things years ago and I’m generally okay with this too. But to recall those days and how I used to be, it’s pretty damn challenging.

As I said in a previous post, I had always been the academic type, ever since I was small. Learning and taking in new information was a breeze for me; I could just remember and absorb stuff so easily. It was so natural. Then came the utter shock I felt when my depression kicked in. I’d just started my second and last year at sixth form (September 2010). I’d prepared for the year ahead and was looking forward to *hopefully* getting my A levels in Psychology, Law, Religious Studies & General Studies. At the time, I thought it was solely down to my mental health issues, but with hindsight, it was the start of my chronic illness. *I’m going to be focusing on the memory and concentration symptoms of depression, not the low moods* My grades went down from A’s to D’s and E’s. My mind wasn’t working properly. I couldn’t focus on what my teachers were saying. I’d try and try but I was repeatedly zoning out. They’d ask me the answers; I wouldn’t have a clue. I’d go to do my homework and genuinely feel like I was reading a foreign language. It really hit me hard. One moment I remember vividly was at a parents evening around this time. Each of my teachers asked if there was something going on at home as they’d seen my grades slipping. They’d also all noticed my behaviour in lessons had changed and I wasn’t as focused as usual. I then had to explain to each of them, individually, what the problem was. I wasn’t ashamed of it but it felt so strange.

After seeing my GP and trying non-pharmaceutical pathways, I was put on Fluoxetine. As my mood began to pick up, I was praying that my cognitive symptoms would improve as well. I waited and waited but they didn’t budge. Venturing into sixth form was like torture. I almost felt embarrassed. I knew my teachers had twigged, so all my classmates must have too. I was so used to being top of the class and enjoying my lessons. Now I was pretty much right at the bottom and dreading each day. I thought to myself:

I don’t know who I am anymore

I’d always been about grades and qualifications. It was a huge part of who I was and who I wanted to be in the future. I knew I could go far in my chosen career; I knew I had it in me. And then..it was gone, almost overnight. Just like that, almost everything I thought I was as a person was taken away. I couldn’t reverse it. I couldn’t change it. I couldn’t work through it. I just wasn’t that person anymore. So who was I now? I wasn’t good at sports or painting. I didn’t play an instrument or enjoy acting. I didn’t have a fantastic social life or an outgoing personality. All I ever was no longer existed.

And that was one of the hardest parts for me; having to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t who I’d always been anymore. I didn’t know if I could ever go back there, to learn and fill my mind with facts again. No one could tell me that. And to add insult to injury, I then became ill that Christmas. I don’t remember exact timings, but I’m sure I went back to college for a bit in January. All the previous symptoms were there and now I had all my new ones to contend with. My focus was reduced even more. My memory was diabolical. I’d leave an hour lesson, walk the 2 minutes home and not be able to tell my mum a single thing I’d learned in the last 60 minutes. My mind was totally blank. I was exactly the same at home too. I’d ask my mum what was for dinner and she’d reply. I’d then ask a few minutes later, not remotely remembering that I’d asked already. And sometimes I’d even ask a third time.

When the time came that I could no longer attend sixth form, it was almost bittersweet. I was so ill that I knew I couldn’t go anymore. I made the choice myself, so I was in control of that aspect. I also felt relieved that I wouldn’t have to go to lessons. I’d still have to battle my brainfog etc at home, but the pressure from college was no longer there. I didn’t have to get good grades. I didn’t have to retain all the facts and figures. I didn’t have to put a brave face on and pretend nothing had changed. And most importantly, I didn’t have to deal with the daily disappointment of feeling inadequate; feeling like I wasn’t living up to my potential and the standards I’d always kept. But at the same time, education was all I’d ever known. It was all I could remember doing. I had that weekday routine, knowing where I was going and what I was doing. Now I had no idea. My entire life had been centred around my own education and academic progress.

So I had to recreate myself.

(To be continued)…

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2 comments

  1. Jessica Thomas says:

    You are so strong for sharing your experience. You’ve explained the effects of brainfog so perfectly! Unfortunately I can relate.

    Liked by 1 person

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