My time at university has always been a period I feel very uncomfortable thinking or talking about. I quit after two years of a BSc in Neuroscience and Psychology in Leeds- a long way from my home county where my parents live. My mood was all over the place- I reckon I was probably rapid-cycling. My anxiety issues worsened too- mainly social anxiety and panic attacks. It was probably the most challenging experience I’ve had with Bipolar.
I’ve always been particularly harsh on myself when looking back at that time- subconsciously that is. In my mind I thought I should have completed the three years like everyone else. Many people with Bipolar manage to do it. The fact that I didn’t manage to meant I was a complete failure and that the two years in Leeds were a waste of time. Some part of me still syas that I was making up Bipolar- that all those symptoms weren’t even really there!!
Today I decided enough with the blaming and shaming and bullying.
How Do I Go About Forgiving Myself?
This is a question that I’ve often asked myself, but never really listened in my mind for an answer before today. I’ve always imagined that I’d be able to forgive myself in an instant!! Now I’m beginning to realise it takes time and commitment to changing patterns of thought and behaviour. Forgiveness is going to take PRACTICE!!
The first thing I thought of is that when any blaming/shaming thoughts come into my mind that I could let them go and say:
This is past. I forgive the past. I forgive myself and anyone else involved. I wont allow myself to keep churning up these past feelings. Time to enjoy my life.
What We Learn From the Past
But just doing this didn’t seem enough- there was no substance behind the words until I looked into reasons why my two years in Leeds were not a failure- what I had learnt from them:
Independence: looking after myself- being away from my parents.
My own limitations: what would and wouldn’t work with bipolar and anxiety.
What does and doesn’t make me happy.
If I hadn’t quit, Chris and I may not be in our relationship today (10 years this year!).
Even under pretty severe mental health conditions I still passed all my exams and gained a diploma out of my time at uni.
I’m happier and more stable at “home”- ie. Norfolk with close family nearby.
I need a nice house to be happy- not a scrawny student flat! (I’m such a snob really :)).
To find someone I can happily live with long-term is a very precious thing!!
I am happier socialising through activities like choir, band, yoga and one on one, etc, rather than in nightclubs with alcohol and drugs which hold no interest.
I AM capable of taking care of myself even when ill with Bipolar- I’m still here!!
I NEED the countryside and nature- Leeds is a big city and I felt completely overwhelmed in it!
I’m easily overstimulated and overwhelmed.
I still enjoy learning.
My interests are very important to me and can keep me going when depressed: music, cinema, ballet etc. I may have given up on them a few times, but they never gave up on me!
I really was very poorly and it was NOT my fault!!
Just because I breezed through school doesn’t mean I’ll breeze through life- I still have a lot to learn- mainly life skills.
I think I’m less big-headed now and have a much greater understanding and compassion for others.
See- I learnt loads!! I just didn’t get a fancy degree to hang on the wall. Hmm, maybe I should make myself one?!
As soon as I’d finished thinking back on my time in Leeds and what I’d learnt, I actually started to feel great respect for myself- for the hard times I’d gone through. I really appreciate myself for getting through it!! I feel this reflection on the things I have learnt has given me a good start in self-forgiveness. I think it’s something I’ll need to work on everyday, but it’s a step in the right direction!! Practice, practice, practice….