Yesterday was a date that I have been thinking about for months – 26/05/2016 – the moment when my first year of university was over, an achievement that in itself is a huge middle finger in the face of everyone who told me I would never make it that far, and a bit of a slap around the faces of those who gave up on me long ago and suggested that I gave up and attempted the whole thing again next year. For all of those months, I thought about how it would feel to complete my last exam, to sit in the pub with my friends right afterwards free from exam stress, feeling on top of the world for proving (what felt like) most of it’s inhabitants completely wrong.
And yesterday it happened. Exams were over and relief washed over my course-mates like a tidal wave as they were able to shut the hideous things out of their minds. They went to the pub after their last exam. The had a barbecue in Highbury fields. They drank themselves to oblivion. The It’s finally over! Made it through my first year messages flooded my group chats and social media page… And I wanted to make posts like that too… I had also planned to make a blog post summarising my first year of university, but suddenly I didn’t feel like I had a right to do either of those things.
I spent the day of our final exam in a coronary care unit with bilateral pleural effusions (fluid around my lungs – a thing which at this moment feels about as pleasant as it sounds). I didn’t sit my last two exams. Therefore, exam season is over, but I haven’t finished my first year. I can’t switch off the exam stress, and the outcome of this year is still very much within my control until the first two weeks of August, when re-sits (or in my case, two first-sits… and however many re-sits I have to do) will take place. I have to wait a couple of months longer for the relief and the overwhelming sense of achievement. Don’t I? Or have I actually managed (only just!) to survive my first year? I’m not sure, I can’t figure it out. I couldn’t help but share in the relief a little bit, but it runs alongside anxiety over the exam papers I have yet to see. With the state I’m in at the moment I’m also worried that I might not be fit to sit my exams in August anyway.
Somehow, this still isn’t getting me down. Sure, this thought process and the confusion it throws out makes my mood stumble a little whenever it decides to return, and I do feel a little inadequate, but right now I’m riding another high.
Because I did graduate yesterday. I graduated from the coronary care unit.
I think I’ve at best got only a third class degree in Being human (aka existing) because I’m not too great at it right now, but with some new medications and an increase in my Ivabradine (aka ‘heart tablets’) I was untethered from the 10 ECG leads I’d been connected to for 6 days, and discharged in the late evening.
The porter that made this possible by taking me to the main entrance in a wheelchair, was an awesome individual. He turned out to be from the same area of Kent where my family home is, and after a long conversation about dogs (during which we decided that big dogs are better, because, to quote him “Dogs should bark, not squeak”) and other stuff, he stood by the front of the hospital with me while Padge went to get the car. He’d had heart problems when he was younger, and had been in hospital a few times, so he understood the situation pretty well, and kept wishing me luck. He was also probably the millionth person to tell me that I’m very unhealthy for someone so young, as if I might have somehow failed to notice this (to be honest it’s all normal to me now and I’m not dead yet so I forget that this stuff isn’t ok) In the few minutes we stood talking I’m still pretty sure he’s given me more support than any of the university staff I’ve tried to seek help or guidance from via so far in 2016 (there is, of course, an exception or two. I think.). I feel this is both sad and completely hilarious at the same time.
When I walked through the front door, tired and dizzy, a certain chocolate labrador himself grew dizzy with excitement. He spun round and round in circles before demanding cuddles, and from that moment onwards has refused to leave my side, which is brilliant, because it makes me feel… Incredibly necessary – deep down I think we all want to be missed because it shows that we mean something to someone somewhere. Thankfully the gaping hole of my low self esteem is labrador sized, and the spikes of loneliness and depressive behaviour he exhibits in my absence are easily and only smoothed by my hand stroking his fur – we’re kind of like emotional symbionts (oh dear, I apologise for my biomedical sciences student brain. I am imagining my dog as a mitochondria with a labrador’s face right now… Or the pair of us as an enzyme-substrate complex… Can you tell that I love my degree? Also yes I loved that metaphor enough to put it in bold)
I tried to get a picture of him last night, but either his tail was wagging so vigorously that his entire self was moving with it, or he was running around me in circles so fast my phone refused to focus, or nudging me to get me to cuddle him (which made it impossible to hold my phone still) – all of which stopped me getting a usable picture. Eventually he just sat his entire self on my lap, by which point he was freaking out with excitement to such an extent that it was like hugging that tasmanian devil character from the Loony Tunes cartoons (if you don’t remember that cartoon character then a – that reference is clearly lost on you, so I apologise, and b – you missed out on a childhood classic). He finally settled down once he had managed to wrap himself around my legs and was laying on my feet, but positioned himself so that every now and then he could lift his head to stare right into my eyes in a way that kind of said, Are you still there? Are you ok? Don’t even think about getting up I’m too comfortable. Whenever we made eye contact, I heard the thumping of his tail against the wood floor, and was immediately overwhelmed by ALL THE FEELS.
The situation was the same when I made my way downstairs this morning. And my day is brilliantly summed up by the following images:
In a couple of months I’ll tell you how my first year at university has gone, when I can say so without being a bit of a fraud. I ‘made it’ yesterday anyway, in other ways – I was given much bigger reasons to smile.
Thank you to all the wonderful humans who have helped me keep myself together over what could have been a completely awful few days – every like and comment on a blog post, every message, every phone-call… It made me feel like I mattered, and that I hadn’t been forgotten this time. You all, of course, know who this applies to, but what I don’t think you realise is that thank you will never be enough. I also discovered have the best friends anyone could ask for. The best. Thank you for killing the loneliness that tried to grow within me. I owe you guys the world, but unfortunately all I can offer you is a message of thanks at the end of a blog post. For now…