So here it is. I’m at university, studying nursing.
This time seven months ago I was a psychiatric inpatient, newly diagnosed bipolar. I remember the night I was admitted, climbing the furniture in my room, iPod turned up full whack, jumping from chair to ground. I remember wondering when it was going to sink in, hit me that I’d ruined this- that there was no chance I’d make it to university now, having been admitted to hospital a matter of months before I was due to start.
It’s been a long haul getting here, to say the least.
I wrote my personal statement for UCAS on leave from hospital. I started receiving interview offers while attached to a drip after an attempt on my life. I remember receiving the invite to interview for the university I’m now attending, remember the nurse I told saying to me that I needed to withdraw my application. I remember my favourite nurse later that night, telling me the polar opposite, sitting down next to me and saying “this is so exciting!” She said, “right, this is what we’re going to do”. She gave me interview questions, told me she wanted me to write out answers to them the next day and show her when she was on shift again the following night. She let me onto the computer at midnight to research the two uni’s I’d received offers from, to find out practical things like nearest airports and best ways to get to campus. She offered to do mock interviews with me, came in on shift the following night and asked where would she be coming for weekend visits.
I am discharged in time to go to my first interview, and less than a week later, I am sitting in the reception area of the Healthcare department at the University of X, and spurred on by the thought of my favourite nurse and all her encouragement, I go in and smash it. I know when I leave the interview that I will receive an offer.
That was all January 2015. My friends and family were the furtherest thing from supportive. Mum would snap tartly that I “better have a plan B for when you don’t get in”, and my friends all told me it was a Bad Idea. In fact, the only person who showed me any form of encouragement was my favourite IP nurse. She told me who better to help others than someone who’d been through it themselves, she encouraged me to start interview prep and told me how the application process would work, and she guided me in the direction of the kind of things I could come to expect as a student nurse and nurse. So out of hospital and met with widespread discouragement from the people around me, I decided to defer my offer to September 2016. I would ‘get better’, instead.
‘Getting better’ worked for a while. I had a fabulous summer, spent with friends in a happy hypo, started two new jobs which I loved, and grew in confidence as a result. I reached a year self harm free and a year out of psych wards. Everything was ticking along smoothly. I had a bit of a dip in September/October 2015, and the resulting antidepressant increase and my decision to stop aripiprazole cold turkey swung me back up. Only I didn’t stop once I’d reached happy hypo. Instead, my mood kept climbing, I was taken off the antidepressant and somehow, soared even higher, and ended up in hospital. I was released five months before I was due to start this course.
Since April, it’s been very ‘will I, won’t I’. My friends and family came round to the idea of be becoming a nurse, and my mental health team began to really encourage it, after seeing how it was such a huge motivator for me to get well. So now everyone is suddenly in support of it, but there is real doubt that I will be well enough to go. The nurses used it as a reason to persuade me to take my medication, my parents flap and worry about how I will cope and push me to get all the right supports in place before I go, and my friends confide that sitting in the visiting area of the ward I was on, they didn’t think I’d made it to uni at all. In March, the IP consultant and a nurse warn me that as things stood, I wouldn’t be let anywhere near the wards. Just two weeks before I am due to move to uni, my outpatient psychiatrist says as things stood, I wouldn’t cope on the course due to anxiety, and I had two weeks to turn it around. When I had my occupational health check two weeks ago, I was told she couldn’t clear me until she’d spoken to said psychiatrist.
So it felt touch and go. Even though a lot of people- nurses, the Occupational Health team, and friends online who’d been through the process themselves, assured me it would be fine. And it’s been a struggle getting here, and a lot of times I didn’t think I would. In fact, I only found out I cleared occupational health 2.5 days before I moved to uni.
Currently, it’s all a little surreal. I feel like I’ve had to jump so many hurdles to get here, that it’s hard to believe it’s now happening. I think back to the me that sat on that bed in my hospital dorm in January 2015, writing out answers to interview questions and flicking through my printouts of information about the University of X. I remember the me that sat on the sofa in the dark, Family Guy on in the background, telling my favourite nurse “it should be exciting, but it’s not, because I’m in here”. I remember the me that bumped into my favourite nurse shortly after I decided to defer my start date, and telling her that I’d received three offers for nursing courses. I remember the me that demanded to be taught how to make beds, record obs, take bloods while a patient in hospital, and the me that sat in the clinical room with a tourniquet around my arm while a nurse took tubes of blood from me and told me that this would be me soon, that she really believed I would turn things around.
I look back at those times, and I always wanted it to happen, and talked about it, and did all the things I needed to do to get here. But all those times, I think there was a huge part of me that didn’t really believe it could or would happen, because really, it just seemed to far fetched, and far too far out of reach. I couldn’t see how I’d ever be in a place to actually go.
And at risk of sounding conceited, I’m bloody proud of myself. I am so desperate to give something back, so looking forward to being given the chance to make a difference. A few weeks ago my therapist told me to go with my gut. I did, or at least I hope I did. This University felt ‘right’ before I even applied. This nursing course felt ‘right’, despite spending years thinking nursing would be the last profession on earth I’d want to go into. So I am hoping my gut is right, that the nurse who said I’d turn it around was right, because it all feels right, and frankly, I don’t have a fucking clue what I’d do if it was all wrong.
So I’m signing off with a saying from the nurse who took my bloods that day: “what’s for you won’t go past you, no matter the path it takes.” I believe in fate and I believe everything happens for a reason, and I believe all the things I’ve witnessed and experienced and gone through have been to lead me here, a nursing student. Or here’s hoping, anyway!