I’ve recently been pondering the concept of studying social work while in recovery.
Before I started my social work degree in 2013 I had been diagnosed with severe depression, GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder), severe stress, PSTD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and Anorexia Nervosa (with bulimic tendencies) with bouts of self-harm.
Prior to starting my degree, and often throughout most of my ‘conditions’ either got worse or better. My anxiety and stress went through the roof upon starting uni and having to meet new people/ leave the house and do things. Throughout the first year of my degree admittedly I was still avidly starving myself and had no intention to change my ways unless maybe I had gotten rid of my post recovery weight. My eating disorder flourished throughout my first year or so of uni, as I had places to be throughout the entire day and could have fooled everyone into thinking that I had eaten when I hadn’t. I guess, it was a combination of my deteriorating mental health that allowed my eating disorder to evolve I guess as quickly as it did.
Towards the beginning of 2015, I ended a toxic relationship. It was then that I started to focus on myself, and my own happiness. I was able to recognise some of the very toxic habits and thought processes that I had developed over almost an 8 year period. The damaging and ever so critical voice in my head, telling me that I was never going to be good enough, never going to get better and never going to do or be anything worthwhile. That voice was a combination of the depressed version of myself and my father.
Once I finally realised that, I was able to ignore it. Or at least control the voice, admittedly I am still learning how to control it 100% and still struggle with it. The voices and thoughts of my uni friends, my family, and my current partner have slowly but surely drowned out those negative voices. I am being reminded constantly that, the only thing I can do is my best and that is all I can be expected to do. I have learnt more and more about recovery from my various mental “illnesses” through my degree and learnt coping mechanisms. I finally, FINALLY after 8 years feel comfortable ignoring the voices in my head.
The main thing I can attribute this to is my social work learnings, for teaching me how to deal with negative, depressive thoughts. Obviously, everyone’s battle is different and I am in no way fully recovered. But my depression, anxiety and self-harm tendencies are at bay. My eating disorder is something I am currently working on, but it is improving as my mental health increases. Baby steps, I know I’ll get there eventually.