By Nicholas Watkin Communication and Society with English NTU Alumni
In 2014, at the age of 27, I found myself isolated from my family and friends, in massive amounts of debt, homeless for four months and deeply depressed. I felt myself a victim, none of what I was suffering felt like it was my fault. I had spent my life doing what I thought was ‘the right thing’. Moreover, there was no help available to me. As a working white male, society was indifferent to my plight. I felt extremely disillusioned.
Blaming others, blaming the system even, became an easy excuse. If what I was going through was everyone else’s fault, then I could be just a victim of circumstances rather than being a man that had failed. Blaming others however, did not improve my lot and in fact, only made me more resentful. My fight with ‘the way things are’ was hopeless and I came close to giving up. After a second close shave with suicide I reached out for help.
During my first counselling session I sat talking about my problems and about how unfair life is. My counsellor listened patiently for a while, nodding encouragingly at regular intervals before eventually asking, “And what could you have done to prevent that?” This took me aback, I had spent so many months asking myself ‘what have I done wrong’ or ‘what have I done to deserve this’ (of which I had convinced myself that the answer was nothing) that a far more important question had completely eluded my consciousness. ‘What could I have done better?’ Rather than ‘nothing’ the answer to this question was ‘practically everything’! There were so many things I could have done differently that would have prevented my current situation.
Once I owned my problems I was able to overcome my anger. My counsellor and I then spent the remainder of my counselling sessions planning my future in such a way that would prevent me ever falling so low again. The outcome was that in 2015 I lost 8st (I used to be 20st!) and I applied for and got into NTU. Don’t worry though, this isn’t a Disney movie and there was no ‘happily ever after’ moment.
Life is still a struggle at times and I have to work hard at it everyday. I was really tested during my second year when I contracted a liver infection. I was hospitalised for two months, bedbound and unable to study for four months. I had to get three of my assignments deferred to be completed over the summer. By the time I was well enough to study I had just over two weeks to complete all three assignments, not to mention I had missed more than two months of lectures for the very same modules. I wanted to give up, again it felt like it wasn’t my fault, like life just wasn’t going to give me a break. This was very nearly the end of my career as a student.
At some point along the way I became a Stoic without really knowing it. I learned to micro-manage my time and more importantly I learned to control the little things. Our lives are shaped by the smallest decision that we make every day and that most of us take for granted. For example, we lose weight by having a salad or saying no to a chocolate bar. We finish our assignments on time by staying in to work on them instead of going out drinking or we read an article with our spare half an hour instead of wasting that time on social media or YouTube. We are the sum total of the choices we make, not who we present ourselves as. So I try make sure my choices reflect who I want to be. I base my choices on the person that will wake up tomorrow, I want the person I wake up as tomorrow to be both happier and better off than the person that goes to sleep tonight.
In the end I graduated with a first and received two academic awards. It was the hardest but most rewarding four years of my life, made more so by all the hardship I faced along the way.
For help and advice whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.
Samaritans: For 24 Hour support
Papyrus: Prevention of Young Suicide
Support from NTU
Silvercloud: SilverCloud is our online system designed to help with a range of mental health issues.
Wellness in Mind: Advice and support for anyone in Nottingham experiencing issues with their mental wellbeing
Struggling at Uni? Go to Student Minds
10 Keys to happiness
This post is part of our regular NTU Alumni feature. Over the next few weeks we will be posting guest blogs written by our Alumni Fellows sharing their experiences and tips on their student journey while here at NTU.
If you are an NTU graduate and are interested in writing for us contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find more information about our Alumni Fellowship volunteering programme via the alumni website