Today is the second instalment of my post “Breaking Up with Psychology.” If you haven’t yet got a chance to read my first post, you can catch up here.
The Final Result
My exam results gradually came in while I was waiting for my dissertation results. It was looking really good, and my hard work had paid off on all of my essays. I had the most A’s I’d gotten throughout all three years and I was feeling pretty good. I didn’t want to jinx it, but for a while, I genuinely thought maybe I would get the first I wanted after all, and it would make the three years of feeling miserable and lonely worthwhile.
Ha. I was home for my 21st birthday when the news broke that the dissertation results had gone live. My hands were shaking as I logged on to the site and entered my student ID. I’m not going to lie, seeing my final result as a 2:1 was like being stabbed in the stomach. I know that sounds incredibly over-dramatic, but I had never felt so disappointed and angry. I was angry at myself for not doing enough, I was disappointed that I’d let myself down, and I was ridiculously angry at the universe – after three years of tears and anxiety and my mental health going downhill, didn’t I deserve a first? Apparently not.
It was an incredibly difficult few weeks after that. I was inconsolable for the first few days, and after looking at the numbers properly, we calculated that I was 1 point off a first. That was what hurt the most.
I feel I should say for the record, I am not slagging off a 2:1. A 2:1 is great, and more people I know got a 2:1 than a first. But for me, I had my heart set on a first. Maybe if I’d had an overall positive experience at university, I would have been happier with a 2:1, I don’t know. Either way, I was gutted.
Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly buzzing about the prospect of graduation. Why would I want to celebrate when I was filled with nothing but contempt? On top of that having to travel the 2 and a half hours back up to Northampton, along with paying nearly £50 for a gown I’d wear for a couple of hours, at the time I would have preferred to shit in my hands and clap. I just wanted to forget the whole thing had happened.
As it drew closer though, I started to warm to the idea. I’d worked hard and I’d gotten a 2:1, I may as well celebrate that. Plus, Liam was also graduating, so I’d have to go up to Northampton anyway.
I still wasn’t particularly thrilled about the whole thing, but once I’d put the gown on and saw how proud my Mum and Dad were, I started to feel much happier. Heading to the theatre, and sitting down with my coursemates, I started to feel excited. As the ceremony progressed, and we were called up one by one to get our certificates, all of that resentment disappeared. I’d done it. I’d threatened to quit numerous times and I’d spent hours crying my eyes out because I was so lonely, but I’d done it. For the first time since that massive kick in the tits, I was proud of myself.
Unfortunately, that feeling didn’t last long. Liam’s ceremony was after mine. Oh, and a little side note, he did get a first. I’m well aware he did a completely different subject to me and that he is immensely good at what he does, and I was and still am incredibly proud of him. However, at the time, it was a very bittersweet experience and I couldn’t help feeling acknowledging those horrible feelings that I was a failure as they all came flooding back.
Since moving back home I had been working at the opticians I subsequently spent five years at. I worked at the Northampton branch at uni and thankfully, when we were desperately trying to find somewhere else to live back home, I managed to transfer to my local branch. The goal was to work there for a few months, do a bit of volunteer work on my days off, and hopefully get a foot in the door to something more relevant. Looking back, I admire my naivety.
I managed to find a voluntary job with the local Mind day centre on my days off, but I quit after a few months. At the time I put it down to not having the time, but I’m ashamed to admit the reason was actually because my heart wasn’t in it. Working in retail very quickly destroyed my patience and I felt as though I needed my days off to recover, and I definitely didn’t feel as welcome as I did in the Northampton group.
I don’t need to tell you that I stayed at my opticians job for a total of 5 years. I had some wonderful times and made some of the best friends I could ever wish for. I dipped in and out of researching psychology jobs/further education every now and again, but it was a vicious cycle. I’d get excited about the possibility of getting back into things, but after a couple of days it would get too much and I’d end up feeling sorry for myself.
The Final Straw
Last year, after things got progressively more difficult in my job, I decided I would do things properly and make one last push towards getting something relevant to my degree. I researched masters courses and postgraduate qualifications, but there was always something in the way. The entry requirements were too high, the distance was too far, the cost was too much, or the hours wouldn’t have fit in with my job. In hindsight, maybe I was looking for excuses, but at the time, the universe was just being a dick and making it difficult for me.
Disclaimer: The next bit may get me bollocked for slander or stating incorrect facts if I don’t pop a little disclaimer on, so here it is. I am only repeating what I was told through the grapevine. Of course I am well aware it could all be a complete rumour, but you’ll soon read there didn’t appear to be an easy way for me to find out once and for all. I am not stating that what I was told is true, I am just stating the information I was told at the time.
Another thing getting in my way was a little tidbit of information I’d picked up through my uni friends, something which they heard from the other girls on our course. Remember the thing about the placement? Well, apparently, because we never got said placement, it meant that our course was no longer BPS accredited.
I should mention, the BPS is the British Psychological Society. The big wigs of the UK psychology world. Having BPS accreditation is the mark of quality and signifies the high educational standard of your course.
Anyway, I heard this from a number of different people on my uni course, and I decided to do a little research to investigate it properly. Given this was my final attempt to get some sort of career out of my degree, this could be the deciding factor.
Last year, I contacted the university about this and was told to contact the BPS. I contacted the BPS and was told in order to find this out, I would need to apply for graduate membership. Bearing in mind, I had a student membership since the start of my course, and after graduation this was converted to a graduate membership, for a small fee of £67 per year. I went with it for a good three years convinced that having a couple of extra letters after my name would improve my job prospects – it did not, so in 2017, I didn’t bother to renew it. So, being told that in order to find out whether or not my degree had the right accreditation, I would have to apply and pay once again for a membership that hadn’t really done me much good, was not what I wanted to hear.
For a while, I considered it so that I could potentially get some closure, but after emailing them back explaining that I didn’t necessarily want to become a member again, I heard nothing. By this point, I had pretty much given up hope. At one point, I considered even going back to basics with evening classes at the local college, one of which did several different levels of counselling training. I wasn’t sure which level I needed, as most were designed for people with no previous psychology experience. I wasn’t sure whether I could skip a couple of levels or if I’d have to pay and start all over again. I didn’t exactly want to be the know it all at the back of the class either.
Calling It a Day
I don’t remember the exact date I decided to give up on trying to make use of my degree. However, I remember that I was having a particularly bad week mental health wise, and it all accumulated in one huge meltdown where I cried A LOT. After 5 years of convincing myself otherwise, I finally admitted to myself that I didn’t want to be a therapist anymore. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to admit, and at the time it made me feel as though I had wasted my time on a degree that was essentially useless. To be fair, I don’t think I’ll ever make peace with that.
However, in hindsight, maybe I should have seen the warning signs a bit earlier that I wasn’t cut out to be a therapist. Let’s be honest, they were visible right from the start, I was just too self absorbed to admit it. I also feel that maybe if I wanted it more, the stuff I put down as getting in the way (the cost, the time, the distance etc) wouldn’t have been a problem. If I wanted it that much, I would have found a way to do it.
While I don’t necessarily regret going to uni itself, I regret the path I chose. I feel nothing but contempt towards my university because of everything that happened, and all I have to show for three years of utter misery and a severe decline in my mental health is a piece of paper and over £24,000 of debt to my name. Honestly, if I could give back the degree, write off my debt and start all over again with it, I would. I know I’m not the only person with a degree who never got a job in their field, and to be honest the amount of graduates in that position is shocking, so more really ought to be done to stop it from being such a common occurrence.
A little topical side note – By the time this post goes live we’ll be a few days post-election. So, to whomever is now in charge of this country, take note. Oh, and don’t fuck it up. Look at me getting into politics.
Of course, I still have a massive interest in psychology and mental health, which is why I write about it a lot in my blog. I learned so much during my time studying, a lot of which are great little nuggets of knowledge I can throw out when I want to impress someone. I think given my own experience with mental health conditions, my love of psychology will never really leave, I just don’t have a desire to do it for my career anymore.
Anyway, that brings me to the end of this painfully long double post. Thank you so much if you’re still reading it, and even if you gave up way before now, thanks for reading as far as you did. This has been a particularly difficult post to write, but I’m grateful to have this medium where I can finally get my thoughts out there.