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Hope - the last straw

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Sunday, 6 Jan 2019, 10:10

Sparkly pink chocolate with unicorn label on a pale blue background

I had a couple of experiences recently that reminded me how horrible hope can be if you suffer depression or anxiety.

This doesn't seem obvious. Surely you would wish to have a ray of light if you are trapped in difficult and unhappy circumstances. However, the access of sudden fortune: the disruption to a life of hardship you have finally accustomed yourself to, the sudden loss of a sense of identity which, however miserable, was your own, can have unexpected effects on your mental stability and therefore happiness.

Although I enjoyed doing research, circumstances led me into a career which is predominantly teaching. I still occasionally do research, writing social policy reports, and I can't help doing research on my teaching too. My research doesn't get much attention, since teaching doesn't have a high profile in universities. However, I enjoy thinking and writing about my teaching. 

I love my teaching particularly, because my students are mostly from non-traditional backgrounds and I enjoy supporting them. They often lack confidence, writing skills and in some cases - apparently - a spellchecker for their word processing software. (Although I think that when they write about two factors in a study having a casual relationship this may be their spellchecker working overtime.) 

Which is which thoughtful Causal relationship? Or casual relationship? 

Two pictures of a chart showing ice cream sales, shark attacks and hot weather - and a half-dressed couple smiling at each other

My students are often thrown when they score a high mark for an assignment (having remembered to check that they are writing about causal relationships - unless the essay is about kinship and family in the 21st century). Bewildered by their sudden elevation from the Thick Person at the back of the class, to Bright Spark with lots of potential, they flounder and may immediately do badly on the next available assignment. It's as if they need to prove that they can go back to the comfortable low level identity in which they have muddled along all these years, if the bright glamorous identity they have suddenly found themselves wearing turns out to not fit properly after all. Like someone who usually sneaks down to the beach wearing an allover swimsuit and wrapped in a big towel, who suddenly finds themself in skimpy beachwear, they may be unsure at first if people are smiling admiringly or laughing at them.

This week, I was offered a couple of (unpaid!) opportunities to showcase stuff I have just been pootling along enjoying myself researching. Then I suddenly had the impression the people changed their mind and didn't want me to write them up after all. I was stricken with panic. My mood plumetted and I began to question where I had gone wrong. Why did they not want my writing? Where had I failed? 

Why had I ever given way to hope?

I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that I don't know yet if they have changed their mind - I just suspect it. I need to be patient for a few days to see what they come back with. When I was homeless a long time ago, I got so anxious about a room I had gone to see, that I convinced myself I hated it. I phoned the people to say, "I don't want it any more!" They were very kind and said: "Oh are you sure? because we were just about to call and offer it to you." Luckily I was able to swallow my pride and say: "Actually, yes, I would love to come and live with you." The couple of years living there were tremendous fun, as my housemates were like-minded souls and we used to queue for cheap tickets at the Proms, and go for nights out at Venus Rising in The Fridge in Brixton wink.

I have to remember too it doesn't matter if I get those (unpaid!) writing opportunities. Remember: I am already happy pootling along doing my stuff. Other ALs often ask me to showcase it to them, which is possibly better than being asked to write it up in generic places, because they do teaching like mine so they give good interactive feedback.

It was scary to hope I might get a broader audience and more appreciation of my research. Not least, I might have to work harder if it happens, rather than coast comfortably along below my potential mixed 

If it doesn't happen - I'm still happy. 

big grin

A ladder propped against a tree in misty woodland

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Picture of Clive Harding

A dreadful end to my BSc

I think I feel the same, always feel people don’t appreciate my gard effort and I can’t get happy about finishing my degree


Yes I graduated but for what, to just pootle along doing nothing withit incase I’m not any good at anything 


The whole graduation thing was blackened by the loss of my mum and father in law and I kind of link the 3 things together in a really sad melancholy drift


I’m sure it will improve but when, I should be happy and proud but I’m not it just make me sad

Black cat and pink blanket

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I'm so sorry to hear that, Clive. Losing two people so close together is very hard. As you say, it can cloud something like successfully graduating - which is a great achievement. 

I'm not sure if you read my earlier blogpost, about depression? https://learn1.open.ac.uk/mod/oublog/viewpost.php?post=213660

There is a lot of support being offered by the OU Students Association too, if you still feel you are struggling, such as their Big White Wall initiative: https://www.oustudents.com/big-white-wall 

I lost my own mum last year. For quite a while I was just keeping going, not very clear about what was happening. I found it very helpful to go and talk to a counsellor just to figure things out and get back on track ❤️

Picture of Clive Harding

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Thanks Anita


I have made a little headway but now that probate is complete we have been able to sell my father in laws house and it’s beginning to look like that in that it’s no longer a home but just a house 


I found myself struggling to drive from the recycling centre having dropped off things that we found in cupboards , my eyes welled up and I felt awful over some sheets and duvets 


I wish there was still a transitional fee available so I could start my degree again a maybe if I had that to concentrate on I wouldn’t have these tearful moments