The Ideal Graduate Doesn’t Exist

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Do you remember what made you decide to go to university? Maybe it was because you really loved a subject and wasn’t quite done with it yet. Maybe it was because your family members or friends had gone and you decided that it was probably a good idea. Maybe it was because you were told that going to university was going to give you a boost, it was going to get you a job.

I’ll bet that most of us link to one of the three reasons, for me it was making me employable. I wanted to work hard, get the best grades and get a great job. I learnt from my parents that working hard and having your own money was important. I’d had a job since I was 16 and after a teacher insisted I look, my eyes widened with how much more you could earn just by getting a degree, it was a no-brainer, right?

So, here I am almost a year after graduating with a 2:1 degree and I’m not a top notch career woman yet, who knew? I’m currently temping in an office while friends of mine are working in retail, restaurants or anywhere they can get a job. All of us are asked what we’re going to do with our degrees or about career plans. The thing is just because you have a degree doesn’t mean that you’re failing because you’re not a hot shot at 22, something which can be a harsh reality.

There’s an illusion of the ‘perfect graduate’, something that isn’t real, usually, this person would have their own flat, a decent paying job that they love, flawless references, society activist. Overall, they are meant to have their shit together. Now, I don’t know about you but I’ve never met that person, I’ve never met them, so why was I striving to be that? No one in my family or loved ones had ever put that on me so where did it come from?

I could blame advertising, I could blame media or Social Media but I’m not going to waste time on that. We need to be kind to each other but more than anything we need, to be honest. Am I guilty of trying to make my Instagram feed look better my life picture perfect? Of course, I am. Am I guilty of comparing myself to others and wondering what I should be doing with my life? 100%.

I hope that if you’re reading this and have been feeling overwhelmed like me that this has helped.

What have you realised after graduating? Let me know in the comments below.

Trying to Deal With Depression

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While on the phone with my Mum today I realised that for the past few months I’ve been fairly ok with the changes that have been happening, the breakdown of some friendships, etc. I’ve coped fairly well and while there have been lows, there hadn’t been incredibly bad ones over the summer, but unfortunately things seem to have come to a head lately.

To say that I’m exhausted is an understatement, I don’t know whether it’s a combination of work and just being busy or if part of it is the depression rearing its ugly head. People think that most of it is because of losing Noodle a few days ago, that is an absolutely huge part and it’s not something I can get get over and forget. There is more though, it’s hard to explain that grief and depression feel different. The depression is always there, it bubbles under the surface and then unleashes itself sometimes for days or weeks at a time.

I read an article about what people with high functioning depression want others to know, and it spoke to me. People think that because I have a lovely boyfriend, a good job, a degree and all that jazz that I should be happy. People almost get offended sometimes when you’re not happy. I wish there was a switch in my brain that meant I didn’t struggle. It doesn’t matter that I love my job and the people I work with, there are days where getting out of bed is difficult and when going back to bed later is all I can think about.

The point to writing this is because I do still struggle, all of us with depression do. Just because to the outside world it looks like someone is fine and ‘has it all’ doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling. Depression is a small part of me, but it is still something I have to deal with every day and I’m doing my best.

One of those meltdown days

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Today has been one of those days where I just sat, freaked out and had a bit of a cry over the work that I have to do. Even though I know that my dissertation is in a place where I will be able to submit on time. So far I’ve never handed in a piece of work late at university, I may have had an extension of a few days, but nothing’s been capped for being late. I’m not about to start now.

There is still a lot to do here. I’m hoping to submit my dissertation on Friday, then I have a 5000 word essay to write and submit and then a 3000 word essay to finish and submit and ARGHHH. I think that’s enough to enable anyone to have a little meltdown. I might sound like I’m moaning and some people will think that I’m being more than just a little OTT, but this is hard work. Especially when my bed time has become 3am and I have been writing like crazy between the hours of 12 and 3. Not ideal.

So, hopefully I’ll make it through the next two weeks and be able to come out of it feeling a little more well rested and more positive. Wish me luck!

Stress and Our Bodies!

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Now this isn’t the first time I’ve written about stress on this blog and I was pretty hesitant to write tonight with the fear of seeming like I’m moaning or one of those people who just drones on about how stressful their life is. BUT. I’ve realised lately, particularly through the lovely Twitter community that unless we talk about these things they won’t get better.

I’ve been reading again lately about mindfulness and CBT (which I’ve already been taught to do and helps me along). All I’ve heard lately from my peers is how stressed, exhausted and teary eyed we’ve all been because of the upcoming deadlines. A lot of people I know have been getting sick, not sleeping, random bouts of tears or having panic attacks. It got me thinking about stress and how much it can have an impact on people’s bodies and why we still won’t talk about it and just accept it as part of our daily lives.

Once again I’ve been tucked up in bed and had a sleepless night because my body has reacted badly to academic stress. This is roughly the third time I’ve been this poorly. The first was the year I was sitting my GCSE’s I was very poorly all year from a combination of my undiagnosed depression and stress from my classes and bullying. The second time was the run up to the big deadlines for my BTEC and A Levels. During my final (and most important) exam I spent the night up with sickness and a bad headache, and the proceeded to throw up in my exam…not my best moment. This time, of course it’s related to being in third year, and like my final year of school I’ve been poorly for most of the academic year.

I’m never usually this poorly when it comes to other types of stress. Working two jobs? Awesome. Keeping my house good at the same time? Done. But submitting essays and assignments is a whole different level of stress, even though I enjoy it and when I’m done I’m so proud. I’m getting better at trying to manage how the stress and how it affects my body but I do have a condition that’s hard to manage. It’s been proven that anxiety and IBS go hand in hand, which isn’t good news to me as my diagnoses is only a month old and I’m learning a lot fast in a highly stressful time in my life.

I guess what I’m trying to say (and I am writing this on only a few hours sleep) is that we need to realise that stress is a trigger for a lot of health problems and we need to recognise it. Over the summer I’m planning to look into mindfulness as a way to try and tackle my anxiety and therefore my IBS as well as carrying on to consider my diet, which plays a HUGE part in IBS.

I’m also trying to remember that the last 2 times I got sick and worried and cried a lot over my perfectionism in relation to grades (which may I add is only put on by myself, no one else puts pressure on me at all) it all turned out ok. I got really good results in my GCSE’s and my A Levels. I’m just trying to remind myself through all this that it’s been ok in the past and that I’m doing the best I can physically and mentally do right now and I guess that’s all I can do.

 

As always I’d love to hear from you guys, how to do react to stress? Do you have any tips for me? Leave a comment below!

My Last Reading Week!

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Today marks the start of the last Reading Week (although now they call it Enrichment Week) I will have. Of course I’ll still have them while I’m a postgrad but I won’t have the free time I do now, because I’ll be working a full time job too. Dun, dun, duuuuuuuuuun. Now I’m in my third year I don’t have a choice but to use this week to get organised, productive and tick things off of my ever growing to do list. That said, I’m not allowed to go mad this week because of my recent diagnosis as well as having to deal with some spine pain.

It’s going to be good for me to have a week to go at things my own pace, do some things I enjoy and go and see my family at the end of it. I’ve already got more done over the weekend than I planned, simply because I was relaxed and just spent some time with myself, thinking about what I want and how I’m going to go about it. Being me, of course I have a to do list of all the things I want to do this week, which is mostly assignments I need to get cracking on or stuff I need to do around the house. I guess I really want to also take the time to take care of myself and make things easier in the long run. The more I get done this week, the less I have to worry about later on.

Of course, there might be some non course reading involved this week too…

STRESS and what you can do about it

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Today I woke up early with butterflies in my tummy to go to my doctors appointment. I’ve been so nervous about getting these test results back after being ill on and off for the past month.  The good news is that it’s none of the things they were testing for like Crohn’s, Celiac disease, Diabetes and general bowel disease. The not so good news is that my body isn’t dealing well with the stress that I’ve been under and it’s made me sick. I read somewhere once that we shouldn’t talk about stress, that it was a very british thing to say when we are and we shouldn’t do it. I thought about that for a long time and I think it’s part of the reason I don’t like telling people I’m stressed, I don’t want to seem like I’m whinging.

After hearing from the doctor what being stressed is doing to my health though (and this isn’t the first time), I realised this IS something that needs to be spoken about. Especially with students, I’m in my final year at university and the stress is unbelievable. There is so much pressure to do well, work out what I want to do, find jobs, apply for jobs,  socialise, enjoy all the ‘lasts’, apply for postgrad schemes. On top of all that I have my spine stuff and my mental health. As my mentor said to me, it’s no wonder that I’m getting stressed out at the moment.

So I did what I always do, I wrote a list of things to help me deal with stress and hopefully some of them can help you too

  • Write things down, what you need to do, things that are worrying you, things to look forward too. Everything is a lot better when you write it down. I usually do it in fun colours.
  • Be honest with the people around you.
  • Learn to say no, when things are too much or you don’t want to do them. Saying no is ok!
  • Listen to your body! That’s probably the most important
  • Find a stress reliever, I always feel better after a workout if my spine would let me I’d be in the gym every day.
  • Try and get a good nights sleep.
  • Whenever you can, be around people who make you feel good!
  • Treat yourself to something you want
  • Allow yourself to be a little selfish.

I plan on doing all of these on my week off to try and recharge my batteries and get ready for the final 6 weeks of lectures (!!).

Let me know what some of your stress busting tips are in the comments.

Spine Issues

I thought I was done crying over my spine, I guess not. Today has not been a great day in terms of my spine, what started as just sadness and anger turned into almost being quickly taken into hospital to be hooked up to pain relief. I honestly thought that with the physio, gym sessions and other things I was on the mend, although I was still in pain I thought the excruciating part of it was gone but it’s very much alive in muscle spasms. While I’m on a lot of painkillers, I’m on nothing for my muscle spasms and currently my back and all around my hip is rock hard because of it.

I’ve had to pull out of a show again tonight which I hate, I hate letting anyone down and I hate not being able to perform, possibly the worst part of recovery. I’m miserable with not being able to easily play shows. I thought this part was over, I hoped this was a thing of the past. I was getting ready, about to go load up the car when simply walking around the flat I felt a sharp pain and that was it I was out. The pain was awful, Ali and I tried to wait it out, resting and then trying to walk again but I couldn’t. I was in agony, limping heavily and sobbing. I wasn’t going anywhere tonight. That started about 4 and a half hours ago, I’m still in pain but it feels more manageable now.

On Monday, I finally made the decision to leave the Horse Riding society after talking to my mental health mentor. I really wasn’t coping mentally or physically very well and the society was what was stressing me out most, I had to let the members know today and I am not ashamed to say I cried after posting:

Hello Everyone,

I’m writing this with deep sadness. As most of you will know I was in an accident earlier in the year, breaking my spine. I’ve still got nearly 2 years of recovery time and will probably never ride again. While I’ve loved being a part of the society and your president lately my mental health has deteriorated along with more struggles and nerve damage due to my injury. It is because of this my medical team have said that it would be best for me to step down as soon as possible. Thank you to everyone who rode with me, made me smile and was a friend. I will always love this society and hope that I can still be a friend. I have handed in my notice meaning we are looking for a new president asap and I leave you in the capable hands of Daniela and Amy, while Amanda will be back from leave when she can (please contact them in relation to any questions, queries, rides).

Thank you so much for everything.

Chloe

A lot of people commented saying they were sad to see me go, to say thank you and a lot of people to say that I was brave. I still don’t think I fully understand why I’m brave? Because I was honest about the reasons? Because I stepped down to look after myself? I certainly don’t feel brave. I worry I’m letting everyone down, that if anything happens to the society it will be my fault. I worry I’ll lose friends. Now it’s done though and I really need to focus on my studies and try to remember my time with happiness, not tears.

 

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I still have a long way to go with my spine and tonight’s reminded me of that. I’m so lucky to have so many amazing people around me caring for me and helping me carry on going forward when times are hard. I don’t know what the future holds in terms of recovery, I’ve been told around 2 years for successful recovery but I’m not holding on to that as a solid date, after all when it first happened I was told I had a 6 week recovery, laughable now. Almost 7 months down and who knows how many to go but I will keep going, I’ll just need a little help along the way.

This is my body

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I’ve been thinking about my body a lot lately. Over the last 7 months I’ve seen it change and adapt so that it can heal, I’ve felt it slow down and been crippled by pain, I’ve seen it expand in the mirror. To say that I’ve been upset about it would be an understatement, combined it wrecked my confidence. How could I be seen with my stunning friends when my skin was marked by the way it had to stretch? How could I pretend to not see when guys would look at them and look past me being the chubby one. It made me angry because I never used to care so why did I now?

Tomorrow I start the gym for my physio sessions, which is a huge part of my recovery. It’s taken 7 long months of small stretches and exercises, acupuncture and pain. While watching Caitlin Moran last night (this is the video that inspired me) I had a realisation. While she stood up and showed her stomach off to the huge crowd and just went this is me I had a feeling burst inside me. She doesn’t give a shit, so why should I? Why should I get teary because I put on weight while my body was you know putting one of the most important bones in my body back together.

So here is the scary bit…this is my belly, something that caused me a lot of upset over the years…

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There you go, that’s it my tum after a lot of healing. I don’t know, looking at it why I get so freaked out and angry at myself. I look at these pictures and think to myself I really like my curves and it’s just what it is. I’m not going into that gym to boast on Instagram and Twitter about how healthy I am, about my fabulous weight loss (if that happens). I’m going to the gym to continue to fix my body after trauma, to build muscle back where it’s gone. If I lose some fat, that’s fine but I’ve decided that it’s no longer my aim.

I don’t want to get into that dangerous territory where I start getting controlling over what I eat again. I know how dangerous that can be especially when you’re already trying to get through depression because you start hating and taking out your sadness on your body. Been there, done that.

I’m fully aware that this post might get some negative responses, that I’m fat, I’m ugly. Whatever. If this makes one person feel better about their body, male or female, then I’m pleased I wrote this. I’m going to try my hardest not to let my body let me down yes I’m bigger than I was and covered in stretch makes but you know what putting a spine back together makes my body pretty cool.

This is my body and I’m proud of it, fuck what anyone else thinks and I hope you can feel that way too.

I don’t know what I’m doing

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I took myself off the blog for the last few days for a combination of things, I’ve been busy, my backs been keeping up at night and I’ve been freaking out more than a little bit. So I spent my time with family, at work, sleeping and occasionally having an almost panic attack.

I had a conversation with my Mum last night and just ended up saying ‘you know what I have no idea what I’m doing with my life, I have no idea what to do when I graduate, I just really don’t know’. Honestly that is how I feel right now but my Mum, being the babe she is just said to me ‘You know what Chlo, no one knows what they’re doing, just do what you want to do’ and there it was. It’s something so simple but something that we all forget.

I don’t think that anyone’s job choices will make everyone happy. Some people will make choices based on what other people want and then make themselves happy and to be honest no one really gives a shit. You get a job, you make people proud, blah blah blah, but no one else has to go to the job every day, has to work with the people in it and to you know earn a living and possibly do it until they die.

Does any of this mean that I understand what to do with my life? Of course not I still get stressed out all the bloody time. Will I get a good class degree? Do I go and do a grad scheme I like the look of? Do I go all in and just do my PhD and worry about money later? Do I just go and get a job straight away? Part of me just wants to go please someone give me a crystal bloody ball so I know what should happen!

I don’t think I’m alone in this. I’m guessing that there are a lot of people who just freak out sometimes and don’t know what’s going on or what they should do or if they’re even doing the right thing right now. I don’t think it’s specific this fear and uncertainty can impact anyone regardless of race, gender, sexuality, class etc. Who knows maybe everyone else is just pretending very well.