So, today’s blog is something a little different from my other content as it is more personal, so that new people to my blog get to know about me a little bit more and for those who already know me may not know about this at all…
If you haven’t already read my ‘About Me‘ page, then to summarise, I picked Life Science orientated subjects for my A Levels and I ended up taking an extra year to do my A Levels at another college, as I found the step from GCSE to A Levels a very difficult transition. In my first year of A Levels at my first college, I had a lot of personal problems that I was dealing with, so I found it very difficult to concentrate on my studies whilst I was battling my own problems, as well as also trying to balance a part-time job (which was a very bad idea, but at the time it seemed like a great idea to occupy my mind).
When I started my second attempt of my first year of A Levels, I went to a different college to see if starting in a new environment may motivate me to work better and being forced into a new environment where I could actually develop my own sense of personality, which I kept very much to myself when I was at my previous school (there are many reasons for this that I may explain in future blogs).
A few weeks into starting at the college, I highlighted a lot of problems that I felt I had when I was learning at my previous sixth form college. I immediately got referred onto seeing the Learning Support team where I was screened and assessed for any problems I may have. The diagnosis I received was ‘borderline dyslexia‘, as they picked up on my greatest issue which was with my memory.
Whenever the word ‘dyslexia‘ springs to mind, people always associate this learning disability with the inability to write and spell properly, but dyslexia comes under many different forms. Dyslexia affects the way that people retrieve, process and store information and so it causes problems with your memory, the speed at which you process information, your ability to sequence, your time perception and your organisation.
If you speak to me often enough you will notice that sometimes I speak too fast to cover up the fact that I sometimes have difficulty constructing my sentences in the correct order because my brain is going at a million miles per hour to try to process the information I want to say quick enough that the sequence in which I say things comes out all wrong. However, despite my speech being slightly impaired to the point that some people don’t realise it because they know me too well to pick up on it, I have never had a problem with reading or writing as a child, I was even that annoying child who always scored 100% on all my spelling tests and I could even remember different languages such as French and German really well.
I never noticed how severe my memory was until I reached A Levels, where my diagnosis stated that I had a memory way below average of an A Level student, but I scored higher than average on the other tests to do with literacy and numeracy, which would explain why I found A Levels so distressing. I was made fun of at my previous school by a teacher who thought it would be funny to ask me if I was dyslexic in front of the whole class, which was very insensitive of them, but it really got me thinking about whether there was actually something wrong with me. Sure, everyone laughed thinking that dyslexia was a joke for someone doing A Levels, but I took it very personally and my previous school had no learning support available for me to turn to.
Following being diagnosed, the learning support team decided to give me 25% extra time in my exams to relieve the pressure on myself, because during my first attempt at A Levels, I was not given extra time and didn’t manage to finish about 85% of my papers, which is why I did so terribly. The question I got asked all the time by other students in my classes was…
“Why do you get extra time? Everyone has a bad memory to some extent!“
Until they actually sat in the exam room (which was a small classroom) and saw that I spent about half an hour out of my 1 hour and a half exam just sitting there staring at a wall to try to force my brain to regurgitate everything I spent 3 years studying for and the distress you could see that I was in where I was trying to not cry and pull out individual hair strands one by one. My psychology exam was probably one of the more stressful exams where I was made to sit for 3 hours due to extra time and I couldn’t think of a more painful experience where you know you learnt so many case studies but nothing wants to come out on paper.
I was basically that girl who turned really unsociable to spend every night after college and every weekend studying until my brain could take no more of it, but none of it did me any good.
I eventually had to take up counselling, which I was forced to go to by my personal tutor, because she was that worried about my wellbeing. I had pushed myself so far over the edge that I wouldn’t sleep at night, my attendance started to go downhill despite having one of the best attendance records, I literally sat there crying in my lessons that I had to leave the lessons, and I was still trying to deal with traumas from all the experiences I went through during my previous school. A lot of my friends may come across this post and would have had no idea about any of this, because to be honest I felt very ashamed to be diagnosed with a learning disability at 18 years old and I was always the girl that everyone had really high expectations for and I didn’t want to let anyone down. There may be a lot of friends I have lost over the last 3 years that are reading this post and I just want to apologise to you for not explaining anything to you and for all of the times I turned down events just to make sure I got a grade on a piece of paper and for pushing you away and making you feel like the friendship didn’t mean anything to me.
During this really bad time I started to shut down and push away anyone close that I had in my life. I didn’t want people to know what I was going through as everyone had painted this ‘golden girl‘ image who aimed high and achieved what she set her mind to. I started to lose my sense of who I was and what my purpose was and I really started to question all the choices I have made and if studying sciences was such a good idea.
Since year 10, I dreamt of being a Biomedical Scientist because the thought of working in a lab with all the fancy scientific equipment really fuelled my excitement for biology, but as I started applying to UCAS and started getting my offers from universities, it all became too real for me. I started to think I was overestimating my abilities, but I didn’t want to share this with my family and friends because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I carried on saying I was going to university until I got my results and one of my two university choices offered me a place and something clicked in my mind and I declined the offer and withdrew my application for university.
I spent days crying myself to sleep thinking “what on earth have I just done?”, “I have just ruined my entire life.” and all of these very negative thoughts circled my mind and I really started to think it was going to be the end of the world or something. I am just the luckiest person in the world to have such a supportive mum and dad who told me that I should go with whatever will make me the happiest, a younger brother who was the one giving me the wisdom talk for once about how I always figure out what I want in the end, and also a loving boyfriend who listened to me cry on the phone for absolutely hours and kept me grounded and sane during such an odd time for me. I just felt so lost and so empty, I just didn’t know what I wanted in life anymore. I didn’t want to be that girl that had no goals and has nothing going for her that my whole family would be ashamed of me.
For the entire summer I couldn’t go out at all and socialise and have that amazing last summer before university that everyone was raving about. Everyone was going travelling, going to festivals, going out partying every night, and I was just sat at home and refused every invite thrown in my direction. I refused to be seen in public for 3 months because I was so ashamed that I hadn’t chosen to go to uni, just like everyone else. I had so many people from relatives to close friends trying to persuade me to change my mind, but for once I listened to what I wanted and university was not the one for me. I knew it wasn’t for me because I knew what my capabilities were and I couldn’t put myself through 3 or 4 more years of the hell that I already went through.
I put myself through mindless torture for 3 years, lost all of my close friends over those 3 years, I lost 3 whole years of my life that could have been enjoyed so much more if I wasn’t consumed by endless days of revision, because I ultimately punished myself for having a learning disability that I told no one about.
If I could wind back the clock I would have told myself to accept that I have a problem with learning, found a way to actively deal with the problem instead of avoiding it and punishing myself for it, and to actually tell people about it.
Now that I have taken some time out of education, I definitely know for sure that I don’t want to go to university and I am slowly building myself up again. Over the last 3 years it has caused me to develop a mild social anxiety just because I was scared of people judging me, I was scared to be seen by people that I knew from my previous school and I was scared of people knowing what was wrong with me. I withdrew from so many social networks and started new ones so that people couldn’t find me and what I was doing with my life these days.
I have taken steps to enjoying life my way and although I may not be in the typical education, which is university for my age, I have opted to work in a pharmacy, where I get accredited training on the job by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) where I aim to work my way up at my own pace whilst I also get to save money and start to build a life I will actually enjoy rather than a life that people made the choices for me. I didn’t want all the additional debt of uni to do a course that I’d probably end up quitting because I can’t handle the stress, when I could have been working and having the £9000 in my bank account and not in the fundings of a university that I wasn’t happy at.
The final thing I want to say is that university may get you a degree, but it may not get you the job that you studied for. I had trouble accepting this to begin with, but as time goes on, I came to the conclusion that I’m just starting a few years earlier than everyone else with working, and by the time that people finish university I would have received qualifications to earn a pay rise and advance my way through the pharmaceutical industry. So, there’s a silver-lining to everything! Not going to university may feel like the end of the world to begin with but only you know yourself whether you wish to go and don’t let anyone else make that decision for you but yourself!
I am by no means saying that university is a bad idea at all, university brings so many prospects to people if you study hard and know where you want to go in life, but for me I just didn’t know what I wanted, so I didn’t want to invest in something that I wasn’t 100% sure about!
I’m sorry this post is a long one, but hopefully from this you learnt a little bit more about me and this also explains to those people who personally know me.
(If anyone wants to contact me to talk about a similar experience you’re facing, want some advice or just want someone to talk to, please feel free to message me on either of my social media accounts linked above or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I promise I will reply!)