My Story…

Mental-health-blog-banner

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on ClassicalFix. Truth be told I’ve been in a bit of a rut, lacking any real motivation or inspiration. But on this beautiful Easter weekend (well, it’s beautiful here in East Yorkshire), it seems that I’m starting to emerge from what can only be described as a self-imposed state of exile. As I write this I’m thinking lots about the events of the past six months and particularly the twists and turns in my life!

It’s been just over a month since I deferred my study of A864 which if you don’t know, is part 2 of the Open University’s MA in Classical Studies, and although it was a really tough decision I know it was the right choice for me. I’ve studied with the Open University for almost ten years non stop whilst working full-time and although it’s been a challenge, in terms of my work / life balance I’ve managed it well, so without seeming too cynical the epic meltdown that occurred just over a month ago was well overdue! To cut a very long story short, my work / life balance came crashing down, I literally lost the plot and couldn’t see the wood for the trees! I felt I was failing in my studies (although this was not the case owing to the reassurances of my outstanding tutor) and I essentially withdrew from everything in life except my day job. On the top of all this I’d been seeing my doctor for a while with what I’d self-diagnosed as mild anxiety issues which have now (thankfully) culminated in an official diagnosis of OCD. Now you might think that receiving an official diagnosis of mental illness would be a massive set back and why on earth would I be thankful for this? Well, no, it wasn’t a setback at all, well at least not in my case because in actual fact this diagnosis has literally set me free! It’s provided me with some much needed clarity and has helped me make sense of my behaviours over the past year or so.

250px-Mental_Disorder_SilhouetteNow I won’t bore you with the in’s and out’s of OCD, which is a type of anxiety disorder, I’m certainly no expert and frankly I still don’t completely understand it, plus it affects different people in different ways. I’m also not going to go into detail about the tedious affects it had on my life, like how I had to circle my car four times after locking it to check it was secure and how I’d have to kick each tyre twice (not sure why that was necessary), but suffice to say it was having a significant impact on my life. That being said, the one thing that seemed to anchor me to some notion of ‘normality’ was my study with the Open University. My commitment to my studies, my pursuit of knowledge and my desire to understand the Classical World and the complexities of Classical Latin was my life line. Classical Studies had become my life’s ambition, it still is, but as I progressed with my studies, I tried to shake off a distant ‘menace’ that was seemingly getting closer and closer, a ‘menace’ that threatened to undermine my only saving grace. Unfortunately, the ‘menace’ that was my thus far undiagnosed mental illness was starting to affect my studies, particularly at TMA time! Anyone who’s worked towards an assessment will likely have felt the same at someassignment-writing-1 point. In the beginning there’s often uncertainty, worry, confusion but at the end there’s usually a shift towards clarity and (hopefully) understanding. Unfortunately, as a result of my OCD I was not progressing past the uncertainty stage! What was a generally uncomplicated question, with a clearly understandable objective was literally eluding me. Every TMA I approached I over complicated, I was looking for something unnecessary, something passing the boundaries of what was required, yet try as I might I couldn’t bring myself to admit what I saw as defeat and opt for the simplest route and ANSWER THE BLOODY QUESTION! Even when I submitted my assignments, which I hasten to add I always completed, I still had no confidence in my work despite receiving good results. For me, my mental illness was making me question my knowledge, it was demanding more from me in a way that was not necessary, it was clouding my judgment, I would write, re-write, re-hash, delete and re-write entire sections in pursuit of perfection when in actual fact I’d already achieved what was required, writing TMA’s became a hellish ordeal. The ‘menace’ that turned out to be OCD got the better of me, I failed in my pursuit of knowledge, I admitted defeat & deferred A864.

mhawareAs I recall it was the Friday after my deferral from A864 that I visited my doctor where we discussed my condition at length (well, in as much detail as you can in 10 mins) and the term OCD was thrown into the mix. At this point I was feeling very down hearted, not owing to the diagnosis, but at my decision to defer. That being said after I had left the GP surgery with a good handful of literature on my condition and the intent to get down to some OCD research on the web I had a glimmer of hope that my perceived recent failings in my studies could be attributed to my mental health? So, fast forward a month and here I am! I’m so very thankful for my diagnosis because it’s put my recent attitude to life and my behaviours into an understandable context. I’m out of my self-imposed exile, I’m writing this blog post and literally raring to get back on the horse that is A864 in October. I’ve done a fair bit of reading on my condition, I’ve attended an online CBT session and I’m getting on well with my daily dose of Citalopram. I know it’s only been a month, it’s very early days and medication alone takes time to really take effect, but I already feel better about myself. I see my OCD for what it is and refuse to let it take anything else away from me. I look back to the struggles with my TMA’s and now understand that they were not down to a lack of understanding or insufficient preparation on my part, I had the knowledge, I had the understanding, I had the tools and the support of an excellent tutor, but my condition which at that stage I didn’t know officially existed was effectively hindering me. The annoying thing is that had I consulted a doctor earlier, had I had treatment earlier, had I understood my condition earlier, then I might have been able to manage my approach to study and therefore not have to defer, but as is always the case, we live and learn and hindsight is an amazing thing.

As I mentioned earlier, now I know what I’m facing I’ve taken the appropriate steps to old-booksmanage my condition with the intention that in the future I can come off the meds. But for the time being I’m back in the study saddle! I’ve re-registered for A864 in October and as I banked my assignments to date, I’ll be picking up with TMA-03. I’ve thrown myself back into the wonderful world of Classical Studies and have re-opened the Latin text books. I’m slowly getting my mojo back and will get back to full capacity any day soon. I’ve taken to a bit of DIY, having revamped a new study space, which I now term ‘The Library’ and I’m on the look out for some Classics conferences / events to attend – The Baron Thyssen Centre for the Study of Ancient Material Religion run by the OU is definitely one to watch. Oh, and I can’t write a blog post without mentioning my obsession with the Durham Greek & Latin Summer School at St John’s from the 20th – 27th July that I’ll be attending! So, for me it’s onwards and upwards! There’s so much to do and learn and so little time, I’ve got some big ambitions but then again that’s the beauty of lifelong learning, you can take it at a pace that suits you and the Open University is unique in that respect.

Open University Study & Mental illness – My personal experience.

34991210106_d305469765_bI’m by no means an expert, this is all very new to me so I’m not going to give any advice other than if you are struggling with your studies then speak to your tutor or your Student Support Team. Since getting my diagnosis I’ve told the OU about it and although I’m very unlikely to need little in the way of adjustments to aid my studies, there’s loads of support available! When I deferred from A864 my decision wasn’t taken lightly and the Open University advisor who I spoke to understood that and was absolutely outstanding. She explained my options, provided advice and helped me work through my choices. At that point I didn’t know about my OCD but I know from hearing other stories that the OU are exceedingly helpful and understanding of the needs of its students.

In closing – The Open University has been a huge part of my life for the past ten years. It has provided me with an outstanding learning environment in which I’ve become the person that I am today and my mental health condition is just a minor blip in my OU journey. Classical Studies is my passion in life, the Open University has nurtured that passion and when I return in October to pick up where I left off with A864 then for me the sky is the limit, because after I’ve got this MA in the bag, it’ll be time to consider my options for a PhD.

Look after yourselves!

Tony

Useful Links – Here’s just a few useful sites you might like to take a look at.

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/how-to-access-mental-health-services/

https://www.mentalhealth-uk.org/

https://www.ocduk.org/

https://help.open.ac.uk/mental-health-difficulties

 

 

10 thoughts on “My Story…

  1. So glad to hear you’ve got a diagnosis, Tony. If I know you, it won’t be long before you know everything there is to know about OCD! I think next year will be a fabulous year for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Cora Beth. It was good to understand the reasons for my recent struggles especially when trying to get to grips with the assignment questions! I honestly thought I’d come to the end of the road as I’d never been that way in the past. Knowing what I know now, it all makes sense. In a bizarre way though, it made me think more ‘out of the box’, which was bad in terms of TMA’s given that they are very specific, but good in the long term, especially when thinking up research questions! I suppose the experiences the OCD has given me will prove useful in the future and I’ll be using it to my advantage, but at least now I can compartmentalise my ideas and deploy them only when needed! I’ve done a fair bit of reading about the condition and it’s so varied, but I know my ‘beast’ so to speak, so it’s just about keeping it in check. I have to say, I’m really looking forward to next year, I think it will be a good one!

      Like

      1. Good for you! I think deferring when you did was a really good decision: it’s given you the chance to spend some time sorting out your life, before going on to bigger things.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Tony,

    Sharing your story like this takes a lot of courage, so well done for putting it out there. My dad has OCD so I have some limited understanding of the things you may be going through, the mind can play some awful tricks on us, can’t it? Sorry to hear you’ve decided to defer, but there’s no hurry to finish and a year off will give you time to reflect on what you’ve achieved so far and added perspective to refine your dissertation ideas.

    All the best!

    Leigh

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Leigh,

      I have to admit, it is a very peculiar affliction! But it’s very manageable. I was annoyed about having to defer, but I know it was for the best. Im all re-registered now, so like you say it’s given me some useful time to think about the dissertation. I hope things are going well for you?

      Like

  3. Funny you ask, been sorting mine out this afternoon. Always had an idea of what to do (on the soul) since the beginning but exactly how to narrow it down was the challenging part! Probably focus on how ideas of the soul affected attitudes to the body. I’ll be talking all about it in Milton Keynes next month (brentrance permitting 😅).

    Interesting how the research starts to get personal too, difficult to remain uninfluenced by such fascinating ideas! Had you considered that approach? Is there any such equivalent to OCD in antiquity? Essays with a personal touch can be inspiring 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like you’ve got an interesting topic! Even before my diagnosis, I’d been toying with the idea of mental illness in antiquity. I think I’m going to see where that goes.

      Like

  4. Hi Tony,

    Thanks for sharing your story, and like Leigh, I think that this was a very courageous thing to do. What comes across more than anything for me is that message of perseverance, hope and positivity for the future, which is really great to hear. As someone who has experienced two OU modules with you now, I think that your 2019/2020 student colleagues will benefit from having you around on those tutorial forums :). Take care, Sarah

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for commenting. I’m glad that my post didn’t come across as doom and gloom because it’s really not the case. All in all I’m really looking forward to next year. P.s how’s the dissertation coming along?

      Like

      1. Not the ‘D’ word 😉 . It’s going okay thank you, after narrowing down to a small handful of topics I started to realise that all of them were related to religion in some way, so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about sacrifice over the last few weeks. Dog is looking decidedly nervous.
        Only in Classics can you get away with these kinds of unhealthy obsessions 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s