If you’ve read my blog for a while or follow me on social media you may know that I often joke about being late to the party with stuff. All the time. Whether it be TV shows, films, trends, anything. I’m the type of person who saw the hype of Ricky Jervais’ After Life, took no notice of it, watched it a year later than everyone else and sobbed my heart out whilst Tweeting about how poignant, well written and worth the hype it is.
I started in marketing because I wanted something creative and a family friend needed marketing support for his business. I learned and continued because it became what I knew, and I fell into SEO because I like to write: it was never a conscious decision. I always said I wouldn’t go to university because I didn’t really know what I wanted: if I wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, a vet, a scientist, I would have. But it didn’t seem right for me. I’m comfortable to say that I made the right call and I’ve built a decent career in marketing so far, I like my job and I don’t regret any of the choices I’ve made – uni life isn’t ‘me’ and I’ve enjoyed my career to date.
But in the back of my mind, there’s always been this ‘thing.’
I’ve always been interested in psychology and human behaviour, how the brain works, why we do things, what things really mean, but it wasn’t until my C-PTSD diagnosis, lived experience and blogging etc. that it became really the crux of everything. Everything I do, write, say, think is driven by a bigger cause, which is around wellbeing and mental health – but if you’re reading this you probably know that already. In every scenario I’m in I’m thinking about it. It’s what I do. I’m ‘Hannah, the one who’s always banging on about mental health.’ That’s the person I’ve become. And that’s why all the people around me have said ‘oh my goodness, that makes complete sense for you!’ when I’ve told them that I’m going to study a psychology degree.
I have this memory of sitting in my home with a child psychologist, talking to them about stories I’d written and pictures I’d drawn. I never thought about it much until more recent years, in which I’ve become much more aware of the impact of mental illness and what things really mean – things I wouldn’t have understood as a child.
I’ve always looked at people like Doctor Foster – yes, obviously fictional and a dramatisation, but bear with me – and thought wow, I could never have done that. It’s so aspirational. Maybe a better version of me would have been like her. Maybe I’d have been like her if I’d applied myself a bit more, or even been a different kind of person. I’d imagine myself walking around a CAMHS center, well dressed, wearing a lanyard, and think that it was well beyond my reach. So aspirational that I wouldn’t even be capable of it – is it really me? Do I have it in me to be a part of our simply heroic NHS? Do I have it in me to be like that person who sat at the dining room table with me to talk about my drawings?
I don’t think it’s ever too late to become that person, and every time I think about it, it feels absolutely right. I don’t regret the career that I’m and I’ll be sticking with it whilst I study, but I feel more like ‘me’ now.
I’ve never really had a thing to live and breathe: I’ve never been passionate enough about anything to want to – apart from the things I’ve done around mental health. So I decided that it was quite clear that this is the only thing I’ve ever been truly, wholly passionate about: the only thing that’s ever made me feel any sense of urgency, excitement or fire inside. Obviously I’ve had some genuinely awesome experiences in my career, but it’s not the same. It doesn’t provoke the same level of determination, longing or purpose. So I go back to that thought of walking around CAMHS with my lanyard with ‘Dr’ on it and welcoming children in to support them to recover from mental illness or psychological struggles through chat, play, art, music and whatever the right treatment is for them. Being a part of a child’s recovery, helping to prevent difficulties in adulthood, being a safe space. It still feels entirely aspirational to be honest and I’m still not sure if I’m that person but I think there’s a version of me inside somewhere that is.
I’ve been going back and forth on this thought process for about four years.
So I eventually decided that, if I get to say, 80, and I look back on life, having never even looked into this; explored this area of me; explored that aspirational, seemingly unreachable option or even learned a bit about it to dip my toe in, I’d regret that. Mental health is my ‘thing.’
So, in October I’m starting a part time BSc (Honours) Psychology degree with The Open University alongside my job. I don’t know if I’ll ever become that CAMHS psychologist (after many years of study!) or if I’ll even want to after six years of learning about this. Maybe that will be enough, but maybe it won’t. I don’t have it figured out right now and that’s OK, but I’m taking the first step. I’m getting the knowledge I’ve always wanted. It’s taken a long time to come to this decision but now I have, it already feels like the best decision I’ve ever made!
It’s going to be a very full on few years with working full time, planning a wedding and getting a degree, but I’m going to give it a bloody good crack – and who knows, maybe I am that person after all.