And so, here I am, with three weeks of “free time” on my hands… and still no posts. It’s not personal, internet, I promise.
Be warned: here comes the unirant of all time. Hey, look, I invented a word. I did not, however, invent the practice. That one’s been around long before I had anything to do with it; even though I could rant for England, I can’t take credit for this one.
OK. So, before the reality checks and “be grateful for…”s come flooding in, I’d like to state that I’m far from the only one struggling here. I have a friend, also with more than one disability, who is having to restart the year – simply because our department refused to make any effort to help her or even understand the problems she was having. She did everything right; believe me, I’m a very good pesterer, and I know that she told the right people at the right times, and she asked for nothing unreasonable. But now she, who has far more of an interest in chemistry than I ever will, has been put off (hopefully not for life) coming back because they were so damn disinterested in making allowances.
There is another person I know of, not by name, but through my disability mentor (who regrets that she can do no more than pester them on our behalf, without really having any Shiny Pushy Power or anything). He has multiple disabilities as well, including mental health concerns since childhood. He was also one of those Huge Achievers in the first year, so you would think there would be even more incentive in his case for the department to keep him happy. But nope, sorry, no cigar. He came to them with concerns (the nature of which I’m not privy to, all I know is that it’s mental-health-related), and was clearly failing in his attendance and coursework and most everything else. And what was he told? Work faster.
I kid you not.
When I came to them with my own mental health concerns and trouble keeping up, I was advised to get study skills help for my time management failures. And I’ve also been put forward for specific Aspie mentoring (which is a more time-consuming thing than what I’m already having, in that I will be assigned a person who stays with me all the time and… erm, helps, I guess). It seems like I’m the only one who can see the problem here: all these things take up time, which, since my time management skills are clearly so lacking (you know, in my inability to fit in 50 hours of extra work into 20 free hours a week, etc), is less than helpful.
I’ve seen a disability rep for the Student Union who has confirmed that my uni is very good with lip service or even practical good appearances, but awful with, you know, actually helping people in the way they need them to. He’s chasing things up on my behalf, because – believe it or not – I’ve not had the time, so we shall see how well that works.
We were supposed to have a uni version of half term (which was when I’d been hoping to post originally). Last year, they scheduled a compulsory group project during that week so we couldn’t leave uni in the first term, and they had labs through that week in the second term. And the third term doesn’t have one because it’s all exams. This year, we had lectures throughout, and coursework (for which we were given precisely zero notice; in case I’m not angrily explaining enough, that’s guaranteed to be an Aspie nightmare), not to mention the lab introduction and precursory work, for which there was even less than zero notice. I won’t even go into details on that because steam will start coming out of my ears any second (just thinking about it).
So my Unknown Aspie Comrade is expected to catch up over Christmas, whether he’s medically able to or not. Even without that expectation, we have enough work to successfully stop any chance of festive celebration (or even sleep). I have to catch up on the entire term’s tutorial work and try and salvage my understanding of materials chemistry from the two-thirds of lectures missed because of a clash with maths for chemists, with another chemistry option, for fuck’s sake (ie. through no fault of my own)… and then do the rest of the expected work and revision and General Chemistry Death.
Not only is depression “a problem for loads of students and therefore their problem to deal with”, according to my department, but if you can ask them for help, clearly “it’s not serious enough to actually be affecting your life”, and of course, therefore undeserving of help, and of course it’s also “chronic, so there’s nothing can be done [in other words, by them] to make it better”. This was my aforementioned friend’s experience of asking for help, please note, not mine, who was being medicated and therapy-ised for depression at the time, and who had doctor’s notes from the university GP practice. Suffice to say I was smashing things by the end of her story. Ahem.
When I went to my GP about mental health problems, I was asked what subject I was doing. When I answered, my doctor became immediately concerned, and “warned” me about trouble in the chemistry department. I replied that I was no stranger to it. Even those with no Shiny Additional Difficulties are struggling, many quite badly.
Still. I think my rant is coming to a close now (please note that I am typing this spontaneously and am posting without checking or editing, so please excuse the spillage of word vomit all over your nice clean screens), so feel free to breathe a sigh of relief… now.
My final point being my doctor’s advice for my own mental health concerns (being people-evasion-related and anxiety-related more than depression, not that I expressed it very well, since I was, you know, ANXIOUS ABOUT IT). She asked if I’d been to the Student Psychological Services – they’re the uni-run free mental healthcare people, and are the first port of call in most cases. I said that that had been my plan since the first year, actually, but there’s a Sparkly Form to fill in… and therein lies the problem. It’s quite extensive, and you have to tick boxes for when you’re free, so they can offer you an appointment. It’s split into mornings and afternoons, and both years, I have looked through my timetable (for both terms), only to realise that there’s not a single morning or afternoon I could spare (through timetabling, that is, not in an “I refuse to give up my free time *stamps foot*” kind of way). And yet it’s my time management that’s a problem. Nothing whatsoever to do with their ability to schedule more into a day than there are free hours. Sigh.
So, painfully long story shortish, I have been medically advised… to miss lectures. Deliberately. In exchange for my sanity. It’s a situation about which I am enormously pleased, as this post clearly demonstrates.
And with that, I will stop typing and go and jump out of the highest (ahem, metaphorical) window I can find.