Formal!

I wrote about how I didn’t think I’d be able to go to formal (prom in American) but I take that back. I am going to formal. I didn’t think I’d be able to go because my father declared that I wasn’t, money was tight and, well, I wasn’t sure that I’d be welcome since I’d left the school. 

One of the girls organising the formal messaged me to check if I was going. I didn’t know what to say really, and knew that she didn’t need to know the full story so I just said that money was tight hoping she’d take my half assed explanation. But she said that money shouldn’t hold a person back from formal and offered to help out. I was so blown away by that because I wasn’t really sure if people from my old school wanted me to be there – but it was kick that I needed to sort things out. I had a row with my father, managed to get the money that I had loaned someone repaid and started thinking abouy dresses. I still wasn’t 100% sure if I wanted to go but a couple of days later when I saw a friend that was going, I told her that I was thinking about going and her face lit up and she seemed so excited for me that I couldn’t say no.

I went and got my dress the next day and I’m trying to the final details sorted out now. Maybe a lot of the issues surrounding formal were just in my head, because whilst it all seemed impossible a while ago it’s all happening now. It’s definitely something to get excited for.

So even with Storm Ophelia wrecking the place, I have something to keep me preoccupied. Also, did I mention that I’m doing a solo day trip to London next week? Stay tuned for that.

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Updates

I’ve written a lot of blog posts recently on which I promised to update you on so here we go.

First Driving Lesson Advice

I just finished lesson no.4 and it isn’t quite as hard as I thought although I never thought gear changes would be quite so difficult. My driving instructor says that I have a tendency to worry about what’s going on around me more than what’s happening in the car. When I see a pedestrian I tend to take my foot off the accelerator and when I see another vehicle coming my way I freeze and mess up any instructions given to me. Of course, I must focus on what I can do: start and stop, hill starts, junctions, 1st-3rd gear and drive on the main road; and then everything else will start to fall into place.

Week 2 Year 2 BTEC IT

I must admit that I forgot to hit publish on this one and left it sitting in my drafts for two weeks. I’m definitely starting to feel the burn of a disrupted sleep schedule but I’m working away with out any issues. I’ve decided that when I finally get my appointment with the special needs team, who normally support me with my diabetes and anxiety, that I’m going to push to see a psychologist to try and get a dyslexia diagnosis, or at least an idea of why I struggle with reading and writing sometimes. I’ve known that something wasn’t right since I was 13, but my GP, psychiatrist and ex-school played a game of hot potato on who was responsible for getting me an appointment with a psychologist. In the end it was my ex-school who grudgingly accepted responsibility, but told me there was a long waiting time. Thinking that there was just a long waiting list, I never bothered to ask anyone how long it would be before I got seen and just forgot about it until I was 15. When I asked my year head about it two months before my GCSEs, she admitted that the school just “forgot” about it and that there was nothing she could really do considering I was leaving at the end of that year. Last year I never thought to ask my new college to contact a psychologist because I was just so happy to be away from my old school but starting driving lessons has prompted me to start nagging about it again. I can’t tell left from right very well, and when my instructor tells me something about the clutch I reach for the gear stick since I struggle to associate words with objects at times – none of these traits are helpful when learning to drive. Thankfully I can type better than I can write, so studying IT was definitely the right choice for me.

Full Withdrawal 

I’m managing fairly well with coming off anti-depressants. I must admit there was one night where I reached for a tablet because I was having horrible intrusive thoughts. I read about the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster and how members of the public found body parts strewn across farms – all I could imagine was a disembodied head still in it’s helmet coming smashing through my bedroom window – morbid, right? Maybe fluoxetine wasn’t the right tool for that. I should’ve closed my curtains, turned the light on and watched a Korean variety show – something funny with my favourite idols (Unnies’ Slam Dunk, anyone?). Other withdrawal symptoms have subsided, but I still have insomnia although I think that’s always been there, just covered up by fluoxetine. I’ve found that as long as I feel busy and useful, I’m happy


So yeah, I just wanted to write a quick follow up to some of the posts I’ve written over the last month. I have some blog post ideas and a few recipes I want to share so hopefully you will here more from me pretty soon.

 

 

Week 2 Year 2 BTEC IT

One week has passed since I got back to college and things are looking good.We had Freshers Fayre on Thursday, which is more of a “welcome back everyone” festival than an introduction for first years. There I discovered that free Domino’s pizza, Coca-Cola and henna tattoos are all I need in life.

As fun as Freshers week was, I’m here to learn and this semester I am doing 4 and a half units: Organisational System Security, Client Side Customisation, Data Analysis, Project Planning and Human Computer Interaction as the ‘half unit’ – meaning it’s split between two semesters. This is following on from the nine units I did last year in which I achieved 7 Distinctions and 2 Merits, gaining the D*D* grade that I worked my backside off for. I’ve worked out that to get D*D*D*, which would be equivalent to A*A*A* for all you A Level folk, I need 8 Distinctions and 1 Merit so I need to keep my head down.

I thought about publishing my assignments from last year since the people who have published their assignments helped me so much but I’ve decided not to for now. You see a lot of those kids had to publish their assignments on a blog that they set up for their teachers to mark their work, but I never had to do that – I just want to “pay it forward” and see if anyone else can get some use out of my old files. Also I worry about Pearson (the exam board) tracing it back to me so maybe it’s best for me to wait until I have my certificate in hand. Writing all this has reminded me that I’m on the legacy specification – students starting this year will study 13 units instead of 18, have externally set tasks and a two hour examination which I don’t envy. If that was the case when I was applying I would’ve done A Levels instead since there’s less variety in units, controlled assessment and exams – just like A Levels; aren’t BTECs are meant to be different? Another thing putting me off publishing it is what happened the last time I published school work: an opportunity came up for me to reuse it but a classmate had already plagiarized it much to my embarrassment. I wonder if I could get any use out of coursework in uni next year? I know it will be a big jump up but maybe some of my work from now will be good as filler text then. Do you know what? Maybe I won’t publish it after all…

So that was a long detour but we’re back on track now: My timetable has changed a lot. Last year I had 9am starts everyday except for Wednesday which was my day off. This year Monday is my day off, I’m in 9am-5pm two days and 3pm-5pm on the other two which I’m not enjoying as much as I thought I would. I wish the 19 hours that I’m in class for each week were more evenly spread out and that I started around 12pm instead of 3pm on those two days. It’s messing up my sleep schedule too much since I can’t bother myself to get up at a regular time when I don’t have to do anything until 3.

Knowing how much busier I will be considering I have an extra hour of class this year and so many other things to do, I decided not to go for my A Level in Spanish. I got a C at AS Level but I had told myself unless I got a B or above I wouldn’t do the second year. Las cosas son como son. It’s weird to not have any Spanish classes for the first time in six years but in a way it’s nice and I’m just studying at my own pace for my own enjoyment. It’s also nice to have that £350 intended for it still in my savings account but I plan to attend informal conversation classes starting in January so I can brush up on my skills before going to university so I better not spend that money. My parents are disappointed with me but I don’t see them offering to pay so I don’t think they get a say. This is as close as I’m going to get to a gap year since they made me defer my course offer until next year so I may as well take it easy.

Basically that’s what going on with school. I’m going to the Castlecourt shopping centre student night for those sweet discounts on Thursday and I have to pick up my college hoodie tomorrow to show a little tech pride, as well I have a CAMHS appointment tomorrow which, if you know you know, isn’t fun. Positive vibes going on here though and I hope the same for everyone else 

Student Finance Fears

The trials and tribulations of the UCAS applications are upon us. For the uninitiated, UCAS (pronounced u-cas, or uck-ass if you’re my father) is the university application body in the UK (I’ve talked about CAO here too, but that’s for the R.O.Ireland). It’s an acrynom, I’ll guess that it means University Central Application Service. As someone living in Northern Ireland I have the joy of applying to both application bodies for universities on the same island. I applied via CAO on a whim last year and received a place at my dream university so I have no reason to apply via UCAS but my current college are adamant that everyone must write a personal statement for a UCAS form, so I am writing one in solidarity with my classmates. 

Since I have to apply I may as well have a stab at getting a university apprenticeship that some companies offer. Basically you go to university four days a week and then work for them one day a week and over the summer holidays. In return they pay your tuition fees and pay you a wage like some type of sugar daddy. I know that the chances of me getting accepted onto one of these programmes is slim to none but if I did it would mean having to move to England, which admittedly I don’t want do, but I’d go anywhere if it meant not having to deal with the burden of student debt. 

As well I’ve had to fill in forms for the university apprenticeship programmes that can’t be applied to via UCAS. Also I’m trying to get a scholarship in place since I can’t rely on getting an apprenticeship and will probably go to the university I was originally accepted into. This means having to be some well-rounded, hardworking, exceptional kid which I find hard to convince myself that I am. 

So yeah, finding finance terrifies me and I need to find a solution.

Full Withdrawal 

I knew it was long coming but I’ve finally came fully off fluoxetine for the first time since I was 14. God, I was so terrified about a relapse that I kept myself from writing this post for a month but so far so good so I want to talk about it.

I was prescribed fluoxetine, brand name Prozac, after counselling did not help my rapidly worsening depression as a teen. Initially I was prescribed 10mg per day as my body adjusted to it. The adjustment period was tough. The first day that I took it I spent the evening vomiting and then proceeded to sleep for 24 hours. There are no capsules for 10mg so I had to take a foul tasting liquid, which made me gag – the only tolerable solution was to mix it with half a litre of orange juice. I went onto the full dose, 20mg capsules, a week later and began to feel an improvement by week 2. I was sometimes given Prozac by the pharmacist, other times generic fluoxetine but I’ve never noticed a difference between the two except when I was accidentally prescribed liquid fluoxetine which seemed to go through my system within a couple of hours, leaving me to feel like death by mid morning.

I had such horrible side effects at times that I wanted to come off it much to the dismay of my psychiatrist, but she managed to convince me that the benefits outweighed the side effects – it was either dire mental illness or physical sickness. With fluoxetine I became a semi-functioning human, at times I could completely forget the chronic severe depression. Of course it didn’t stop my friends fighting, my teachers wearing me down or my parents making me feel worthless but it took away some of the pain. Infact at times I was numb, and scarily so considering I never felt happiness nor anger or many of the other emotions that make us human but the honest truth was I would have probably already killed myself if it wasn’t for fluoxetine. Fluoxetine was a tool that allowed me to keep going until I was out of the situation causing me turmoil. 

The fluoxetine was so good at masking my problems that my psychiatrist tried to take me off it when I was 15 with disastrous effect which I’m pretty sure I’ve wrote about before. After that I ended up on 30mg for six months which is rare for a 15 year old. I remember nothing from the period when I took 30mg. Depression has given me memory issues so my memories of ages 13-15 are very shaky but it’s like the time when I took 30mg never happened. There is little to no evidence that 30mg actually helps according to my psychiatrist so I was wrong to push for 30mg.

I had some pretty common side effects, others were stranger. For example, I had the weirdest dreams – sometimes nightmares that would make me wake up screaming and sleep paralysis. I never really had many dreams until I started on fluoxetine; maybe once a week, but it turned into two or three dreams per night with fluoxetine. The normal side effects that I experienced were extreme tiredness (it effectively cured my insomnia) and appetite issues, although I wonder if that’s more to do with puberty.

It became clear I was ready to come off fluoxetine this year. My situation has changed a lot, I’m  a lot busier giving me less time for negative thoughts and I have plans for the future. Most importantly I actually agreed with coming off my medication instead of feeling pressurised and scared like I had in 2015 when the first attempt was made.

So far depression hasn’t returned but my insomnia has come back in full force. I’ve had noticeably more migraines (although I forgot to take my migraine prevention tablets for a few days so I doubt the lack of fluoxetine is too blame) and less dreams. I felt less bloated at first but I haven’t ate very well the last week so I feel a bit heavier now but I haven’t weighed myself so I can’t confirm that. A lot of these changes are due to myself returning to a full timetable at college so I can’t blame all these changes on withdrawal. 

Of course I’m no medical professional so please don’t take anything I say as gospel and listen to your doctor. Many people experience no side effects at all and despite the negatives, fluoxetine was a life saviour for me. Hopefully things will regulate soon and I’ll be able to report back in a month or two on how things are going.

First Driving Lesson Advice

I recently had my first driving lesson so I thought I’d give a few pointers to those who are about the begin the journey to their licence…

  1. Make sure your instructor has dual controls – I’ve heard of driving instructors not having dual controls (a brake and accelerator on the passenger side) but it takes a lot of pressure off when they do
  2. Wear appropriate shoes – something with a thin sole so you can feel how much pressure you’re applying to the pedals.
  3. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – that coming directly from my driving instructor
  4. Some people need more lessons than other – some people can pass their test after five lessons, others do 20+ and still fail
  5. If your instructor gets angry, get a new one – an instructor should offer encouragement instead making you even more stressed
  6. Your first lesson will be in a quiet residential area with wide roads – some driving instruction businesses will even have private roads for you to learn on
  7. Don’t worry if you get information overload – your instructor should repeat the information as you carry out the action

You may think this is all a bit rich coming from someone who doesn’t have their licence yet but I couldn’t find much other advice than “Don’t wear high heels” so I thought maybe my experience would help someone. Trust your driving instructor and you’ll do great!

Formal?

Formal, prom, debs – whatever you call it, I’ve dreamed about since I started secondary school. The long dresses, sparkly makeup and grown-up up-dos shown in photos of smiling girls that adorned social media for weeks after the event. Of course not all that glitters glows and the blisters from the high heels, the morning after the night before hangover and being left with a dress that you will probably never wear again are all downsides to formal but that didn’t matter to me, I just wanted to experience that rite of passage.

But the thing is, I won’t experience it.

I don’t have enough money, nor a date and quite frankly I don’t think I’d be welcome to my ex-school’s formal.

It’s heartbreaking in a way, but I keep telling myself that it would be foolish to waste away my savings on one night. I could spend that money on travelling instead or at least put it towards student accommodation for next year but that isn’t quite as glamorous as formal.

Now thar I recognise the question of formal is out of the picture I guess that part of growing up is accepting that you won’t meet all your childhood dreams. When the day of formal comes around I’ll just have to avoid social media and find something else to entertain myself.

I know I wouldn’t belong there.


Today I went to my first ever university open day and to be honest I wasn’t impressed. It was my local university, QUB, and I was attending their family open day. Despite registering both of my parents they both copped out at the last minute so it wasn’t really a family affair. My college hasn’t started back yet so going to the schools open day wasn’t an option which made my day a lonely experience. 
I entered the computer science building and was told I’d missed the first lecture so I decided to walk around their displays. It was then I realised that something was off. It was all male students. Not one single woman to be seen. Maybe all the women were just sensible enough to stay away or perhaps were having a coffee break but it just sent alarm bells ringing. I don’t want to be the token female on the course. I know it will be a long time before we truly see proper female representation in the IT sector but being the only woman in a large group of men makes me kind of uncomfortable.

So I left the computer science building and went to the marquee where there was subject information. At the computer science stall there was a woman (finally a sign of female life within the school of computer science!) and a guy who gave me some leaflets and then referred to me as “sir”… I was so embarrassed that I walked away. 

I was pretty upset at this point but I powered on through the rain to Whitla Hall where they had finance information. This was a useless exercise since it was all aimed at English students. I guess they’re more important since they pay twice the amount of Northern Irish students. God, I felt so lonely by this point. There were families sipping cups of coffee clearly satisfied by their day and then there was me who was all alone and soaking wet from the rain.

I gave up at this point and went into town and bought myself an ice cream. I know I need to realise that it was just a bad day: it was probably just coincidental there were no women to be seen in the computer science building, the guy in the marquee probably referred to me as a man by accident and I guess nowhere really looks nice when it’s lashing rain. 

Despite that I just had this gut instinct that I wouldn’t belong there. It reminded me of when at age 10 I went to see prospectice secondary schools with my parents. I’ll never forget driving up the lane to one school and just knowing that I shouldn’t be there. Of course, I ended up there for five years due to peer pressure and pushy parents. On the other hand, in January 2016 I went to see the college that I’m now at and I knew instantly that it was the right place for me. So I think instinct has a role to play in where I go to university and it’s telling me that I won’t be going to QUB in September 2018. 

My Problem With Taylor Swift

Here goes nothing.

Taylor Swift’s stance on feminism bothers me.

Taylor Swift smiling at the crowd
By Jana ZillsTaylor Swift, CC BY 2.0, Link

There, I said it. I know she is an inspiration to many but she says things like the quote below and then tries to tear down other women like Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry. I don’t know where the saying comes from but it has always stayed with me: “Women shouldn’t tear down other women”. Okay, yeah there is a lot of controversy around the whole Katy and Taylor feud and I believe a lot of it is just media play but sometimes it feels like T.Swift uses it to gain popularity with songs like Bad Blood and LWYMMD,

Other women who are killing it should motivate you, thrill you, challenge you and inspire you rather than threaten you

And then lyrics like “boys only want love if it’s torture” and song names like ‘Look What You Made Me Do‘ are very reminiscent of domestic violence and victim blaming. I think that part of the most recent wave of feminism is trying to highlight domestic violence against men so I don’t think that she is helping feminism with that.

I understand that she recently donated a large sum to The Joyful Heart Foundation after winning a sexual assault case and I really respect that, but perhaps her words just aren’t speaking as loudly as her actions.

I actually do like Taylor Swift  – I like some of her music, even Look What You Made Me Do despite its unfortunate name. I just wanted to get this little gripe off my chest.

“You have been granted a licence for three years”

I used to be excited for the “freedom” that would come with being 17-18 but really all that entails is burdening responsibilities, e.g. learning to drive. I got my provisional driving licence recently, along with a stern warning that it will be revoked if I have any blackouts (not while driving, just in general). Yeah, because of my diabetes the DVA only allows me to have a licence for three years at a time after which I will have to undergo more medical examinations at my own expense as punishment for being inflicted with a chronic disease. I understand that the DVA have a responsibility to ensure that diabetics are fit to drive however the evidence shows that we have no more accidents on average than a normal driver. To be honest this makes me scared to report any abnormalities to the diabetic consultant because regardless of whether or not it affects my driving ability it could result in my licence being taken away. 

And then there’s the financial aspect to driving. I think it was £80 just to apply for the licence, which took four months to arrive. Driving lessons will cost about £20 per lesson and I have no idea how much it costs to sit the theory and practical exams but I can tell you that the money from my savings account is draining quickly. I don’t even want to imagine how much insurance will cost if I ever pass the test. Money has always made me feel very anxious. Going to a school where everyone else seemed to be rich whilst having parents that are neck deep in all types of debt does that to you. I honestly don’t even see the point of getting of getting my licence now when I have no job to pay for a car but my parents insist that I get it now.

Strangely enough though I not worried about the actual driving part. I’ll probably struggle with the gears but I can sail tall ships in the Atlantic ocean, so how hard can a car be in comparison?