Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Assumptions and Acceptance

Using her own experience Rachael shows how a bad start to university doesn't have to put you off university education. 

-Rachael Johnston



My welcome to higher education wasn't all that great to begin with. I was studying a counselling degree with the hope to work in early intervention programs for children who were struggling emotionally.  I was honest about having Anorexia & Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), however, when it came to placement year I was pulled into a room and was told I would be a danger to myself and others!

The tutors had googled BPD and basically just read the bad stuff related to it. I was heartbroken, especially with it coming from my tutors who were counsellors. I'd worked so hard and was fully aware I would need to be conscious of my own state of mind during the placement and in the profession.

While this was happening, I had given a talk about my journey to a group of university students on a Childhood & Youth Professional Studies course. I explained the situation I was in and explained the direction I wanted to head in. There and then the lecturer told me about their course and the help on offer through disability support.

Within 2 weeks student finance had been sorted and my disabled student allowance (DSA). Right from the start, the support I recieved was amazing. I had an independent learning plan which was sent to my tutors and I had a copy. It explained all my needs and any behaviours to watch out for (which I had agreed to) - that I may just leave the lecture as often I just need to walk round to get myself back focused.

There was no pressure to read my marks straight away from assignments and if I was struggling it was okay. There was no judgement. Even today as I enter my final year, it's still the same.

The other year I received a phone call from the course lead as I'd taken an overdose just after we broke up for summer - there was no judgement and no well "uni isn't for you" which I had had in the past.

My support plan is followed to the letter (as it should be) and although I've had a couple of extensions for my assignments due to declines in my health, it's never been an issue.

My greatest support for my uni support is my mentor, who is funded through my DSA. I've built up a trusting relationship with her and she keeps everyone updated, with my permission. I struggle with going into the library to get books so she's worked with me to build up the courage to do it. I honestly wonder if I would have carried on with my course at times if it wasn't for the fact I have her to rant and ramble to, she goes above and beyond and I really appreciate it.

I recently had a matter around student finance and phoned/emailed my lead tutor in a panic, she helped to resolve the matter and calmed me down, she knew the matter would be sorted but didn’t discredit my racing thoughts and feelings, as she knew this would just make my BPD spiral.

University is often a bumpy journey. I've had to adjust to new situations and overcome darker days. I feel very humbled that I have joined a university that has accepted and encouraged me, and one that has taken the time to understand that my mental health is only a small part of the 26 year old that is looking forward to graduating in 2018.


Feeling low? Find local support at your university, here. Find further information, support and advice on the Student Minds website.




Hi, I'm Rachael. I'm currently studying Childhood and Youth Professional Studies at the University of Chester and wanted to write for Student Minds as I have Anorexia and Borderline Personality Disorder and wanted to show that having mental health issues doesn't have to stop you from studying.






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