… and many feelings have been haunting me ever since.
You see, I carry a lot of guilt in me because of my performance during those years of studying. Not only did I finish a three-years course after five years, I didn’t have the greatest grades either. You’d think that if I have taken my sweet time with my studies like I did, I could’ve tried harder to get better grades, yeah?
Well, it’s not that simple. The guilt-ridden side of me is being pushed back by what I assume is the more realistic and more self-loving part of my mind.
You see, I’ve been physically disabled my whole life. That much made things harder for me already. Getting around to walking out of the house would be tiring by itself and considering how sheltered I was before I didn’t know shit about the world immediately outside my window when I had to suddenly start functioning in it.
It was hard, and yet I did it, with more or less success rate.
In the moments when I lived nearly on my own, things started to get out of hand. After just three months I knew that living alone is the worst thing that I could ever do to myself. It was a mistake. My mental health crumbled into pieces, my grades did too. Never again.
Maybe because of anxiety or a very strong sense of duty, I wouldn’t miss more than a couple of days of classes at a time if it wasn’t a necessity. Although I must tell you, sometimes I wish I could. Because I would leave the house a mental and physical mess. I was tired. Tired of myself, of leaving the house, of what I was studying, of the stress and of interacting with people. Eventually I have realized that I hated this course I have taken up. What do now, you ask?
I wanted to drop out of university countless times. But eventually I pushed through. It wasn’t for myself at this point either, if I were to do anything for myself I would’ve dropped out, changed my identity and ran away to Australia or somewhere else.
I have pushed myself to the points I really wish I haven’t. I didn’t feel like it was worth it. And yet I did it.
Then there is my very good friend, called the impostor syndrome. That little monster hidden at the back of my head wouldn’t let me have anything nice, ever.
And while in high school it wasn’t that much of a problem – I was doing fairly well in classes and I knew it – during my years at university it was really ruining my life.
That one good grade I got that one time? Oh, it’s because I’m disabled, they wouldn’t have given me such a high grade if I wasn’t.
That one test I thought I’d fail but I didn’t? I just got lucky.
That failed test? Oh yeah, that one I deserved.
That failed class? Of course, that’s on me as well.
I couldn’t have any victories, not even the smallest ones. Nothing in my studies was bringing me joy.
As you may imagine, I had to really take care of my mental health to regain what I had lost to mental illness. And so, I did.
Recovery is not pretty. It’s not instagrammable. It’s not aesthetically pleasing. It’s rough, it’s painful, it’s disgusting. But it’s necessary, and it’s equally necessary that we talk about needing it.
Eventually, when it came down to it and I finally held my diploma and my graduation cap in my hands, I was just happy it was over, that I could close the door on this chapter of my life and move on to the next one.
I defended my thesis back at the end of July, just before I started blogging. I’ve felt like I’m in sort of a limbo ever since – I wasn’t a student anymore, but I haven’t graduated yet either. It took me quite a lot of time to actually get around to doing it, finishing off the paperwork so I could finally feel free. It’s not like I couldn’t just up and take care of everything immediately – I could. But there was something stopping me all this time. Looking back, I guess I was just afraid of losing this part of myself that was central to my existence and identity for five years. I was afraid that when this is over, I would be left with nothing.
But here we are, and I’m more hopeful than ever. Not only that, I do feel proud as well. Not just for myself, but for every disabled woman out there who ever went to university, those who couldn’t, those who graduated, those who didn’t. I wish it was possible for each and every one of us to fulfill our dreams, and that the system was of help for us, that it wasn’t an obstacle. I wish that someday all we have to worry about when deciding on what to do after high school was what major to choose. I wish money, bureaucracy, and whether the university buildings were fully adapted to our needs would not be there to send us into panic mode.
Although it was hard, I did graduate. And I don’t want my story to be an inspiration for able-bodied people. You have plenty of your own inspirations. But if just one disabled person reads these short paragraphs and at last feels compelled to give themselves a chance at higher education, then I feel like I have fulfilled my duty. It’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure. Even more, it’s probably going to be way harder for you than for anybody else in your year. You’re gonna have to bust your ass many times just to pull through classes. But don’t lose yourself in this little rat race. Your education is there for you, not the other way around. Listen to yourself. If you need to rest, do so. If you need to slow down, do that. Everyone has their own way and tempo of doing things, and there is no shame of having your own pace. If anything, when you look back at it a couple of years from now, you just might be able to see that it was worth taking it a little slower. It’s the end result that counts. And however long it has taken you to get there is of secondary importance. In the end, you still did it, and it’s all that counts.