Thursday 20 September 2012

Onwards and upwards, Ben...

A dismal Ben greeted me this morning in the kitchen, saying he felt like a failure and "useless". So in came Mama Matty to instantly (hopefully) put him right on that count, reinforcing the fact that he's been so courageous to admit there was a problem right at the start, rather than letting things spiral downwards... There must be loads of new students who aren't being so courageous and really should make the decision to jump ship while it's still early days and resume when they're in a better place. Like the obviously ED girls we saw walking around the university yesterday... (whose parents must be worried senseless)...

It also took a lot of guts to admit that, yes, there are still issues which need dealing with and which he can't fix, even though over the past few months he really thought he could. And these may need professional help - mainly on the social / confidence front plus a few underlying ED issues. If we can't get NHS help then I know who to bring in privately. Sod the expense. This time we're going for Gold.

As to his dismal comment that "everyone else" is out there, at uni, forging ahead in life and all that rubbish, I responded that "everyone else" ISN'T out there, at uni. Quite a few of his friends have taken a Gap Year - and he is now taking a Gap Year, just like them. And when the "everyone else" who began this year have finished uni in three years' time and are sitting around miserably trying to get jobs, he will still be at uni - AND he will have valuable work experience behind him which he gets this year. So he'll have a head start. And also, hopefully, the UK economy will be in a better place in four years' time.

And he will be that little bit more mature. And so many people have said that taking a Gap Year is GOOD. So many GOOD REASONS to do it.

I told him to get out the 2012/2013 diary I'd bought him for uni and use it to plan his days, initially job hunting. It might be a paid job or it might be voluntary. Far better to do a voluntary job you enjoy than a boring job you hate - and far better to do something useful, where you're needed and are doing good. Actually, he said this to me before I said it to him ;)

He already has formal Barista training behind him and he spent the summer working part-time in the charity shop up the road.

He's applying for a weekend vacancy at Games Workshop - his passion, where they sell, paint and play with Warhammer fantasy battle figures. But he recognises he might not get it, and even if he does it might not be immediate. And it's only a weekend job.

"So why don't you get down there to Games Workshop and offer to work as an 'intern', for no pay? They know you already, so there's no ice to break. Tell them you've decided to take a Gap Year and couldn't think of a better way to spend it. If they say no or they don't know, then get onto Head Office. Pester, pester, pester until they're so sick of you they give you a job. I know this works because it's how I got into my own career and how I set myself up as a freelancer - by putting myself out there, by phoning people (in the days before email!). It's scary and it took me way, way out of my comfort zone (the world's #1 Shy Person, that's me) but I had to do it. No choice. And it worked."

Loads of other ideas, too, which we are going to list and work through.

Meanwhile the two of us have been working on his CV this morning. But, wherever possible, I want him to do stuff for himself. I don't want to do it for him.

Onwards and upwards, as they say...

"And let's make this a bloody brilliant year for you, Ben!"


  1. This may or may not be useful (obviously the circumstances are somewhat different!), but I thought it made some good points:

    And good for Ben for being able to speak up when he needed to.

  2. Hello there,

    I'm a longtime reader, first time commenter! I really just wanted to share my experiences with you in the hope that it might help at some point.

    I'm Bellsie, I'm 23 and I have OCD. I've had it for quite a while but during my last year at school it started to get more and more intrusive. When the time came for me to go to university (to study Medicine) I felt very strongly that being academic was one of the things that defined me and really didn't want to not go (despite this being the advice of my mental health team).

    Anyway - fast forward six months and I was a total mess. My OCD had become really, really severe and I was totally trapped by it. I could barely leave my room, was unable to read and would spend hours and hours doing the endless rituals that consumed my time. I had gone from being shy to totally isolating myself, pushing away all of my friends and refusing to even pick up the phone or return texts.

    I ended up dropping out, moving home and feeling terrible. With the help of my parents I had some intensive support from my mental health team (and GP, who is excellent)... and six months down the line was able to start working - initially volunteering and then giving private lessons.

    When I dropped out of uni I felt like my world had ended... in June this year I finished my first year of Psychology and came top and in a week's time I'm moving to Germany for a year to study on an Erasmus exchange. I've made amazing friends, am very happy and my OCD is more or less under control.

    So... I'm a few years behind my peers. What does that actually mean at the end of the day? That I have more life experience, that I've seen a bit more than my classmates, that I'm ready and eager to learn and able to really apply myself.

    I wish that I had listened to people and never gone to university in the first place that year - that I had taken time to really, really get myself to a place where I was able to be there rather than sinking into a deep depression and ending up in a much worse state.

    Ben - you have made the right decision. That was really, really brave (braver than I was!). I was too afraid to admit that I couldn't cope - doing so is a real sign of maturity.

    Bellsie xx