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Should I defer university and become a mature student? (Desperately need advice) watch

    • Thread Starter

    I’m going to start this by saying I need a degree and I’m bright. My hope is to one day be an English teacher, lawyer or writer so I need an undergraduate to progress in life. The degree content isn’t the liveliest but I can do it.

    Here is my situation:

    I'm 20 and I will be 21 on January 13th. I've suffered from a myriad of mental health issues since I was 13. My current diagnosis is Borderline Personality Disorder and Trichotillomania but I'm fairly certain my issues aren't limited to those who disorders.
    I've started a degree at the University of Bristol (English) this year despite being in education on and off since I was 12. The reason I'm two years late in starting university is because I had breakdowns at 17 and 19 that effectively ruined my A Levels (hospitalised in a secure unit in 2014 and unable to attend sixthform due to extreme BPD symptoms in 2016). I finished an Access of Higher education diploma in 2017 with perfect grades and that's what got me a place on the course.

    This year has been a disaster from the get go. Mental health services in my area are notoriously atrocious and since I turned 18 I have essentially had to manage my own mental health with very little professional support. I barely completed my Access Course as my health was poor throughout.

    What happened when I got to university:

    Moved out of home for the first time and into halls:
    Freshers week: Developed psychosis and derealisation/depersonalization, spent the week convinced the world wasn't real.
    Week 2-3: Slept around a lot due to crippling loneliness, mania and depression so intense I had no consistancy.
    Week 4-5: Stopped eating completely, only drank water as boy in my halls called my chubby while having sex and triggered my dysmorphia.
    Week 6: Drank one 400 calorie protein shake a day and went to the gym in between lectures.
    Week 7: Parents catch on and I am brought home to "commute."
    Week 8-: Binge eating due to starvation diet, put on large amount of weight, cripplingly depressed, no friends, travel incredibly difficult, missing lectures ect. Spent all day sleeping and all night eating basically with the occassional two trains down to suffer though a seminar.

    There's also the added issue of the university/services being downright awful with mental health.
    1. The moment I moved back to rural Gloucestershire student health refused to see me and I've had to reapply for mental health in my area which has a six month waiting list.
    2. DSA has only just come through but the taxi's they've "organised" won't be funded enough to be worthwhile so I'll still have to take two trains a day.
    3. If I want any of the resources I'm entitled to I'll have to sort all of it out as disability services are very poor; e.g. buy own laptop, book "mentoring" ect all while I'm cripplingly depressed with no end in sight.

    My options as they stand:



    1. I'm in the midst of a breakdown with no help for at least six months
    2. Getting to university will involve great personal cost
    3. I can pretty much guarantee limited help from university services
    4. I'll be taking multiple trains every day
    5. Have no social life whatsoever as there's no way I can manage it.
    6. I will be paying £9,000 to get stress eat, have no social life, hate myself and ruin my mental health more than I have already


    1. I won't be a mature student and I won’t have to watch my school year graduate having not started
    2. I could potentially find SOMEONE to rent with me to negate costs in 2018
    3. I will be done with the horror that is university in 2020 rather than 2021
    4. This year only needs to be passed and I could use summer holidays to get slightly better then try to actually engage in my second year
    5. I won’t have to experience the shame of having dropped out and I won't have to see this year’s students in second year in 2018
    6. My life can actually start to become happy at 24 rather than 25

    Worst Case Scenario: I run myself into the ground trying to do this year and fail it, thereby meaning I have to repeat anyway.



    1. I'll be 21 and history implies I won't be any better
    2. I could potentially be trapped at home with my failure for a full year
    3. I will be lengthening the horrors of university by a year
    4. I will be likely to relate even less to freshers students than I did this year
    5. My school year will graduate and I will not


    1. It would give me time to potentially sort out DSA before arrival
    2. I can get some kind of mental health support in the interim
    3. I’ll be less likely to want to jump off suspension bridge
    4. I will be eligible for mature student events and could make friends there (?)
    5. I can attempt to tackle my crippling self image issues so one comment doesn't break me
    6. I could get minimum wage job, earn and travel in the summer
    7. I won't have to be surrounded by happy, successful 18 year olds without crippling health issues for ten months.

    Worst Case Scenario: I spend the year in turmoil over having dropped out and do nothing with my time. I begin the year again in 2018 no better just a year older and more self hating.

    Right now I have all my assignments to date are badly written but ultimately handed in. Essentially I'm only about two weeks behind due to reading week having just occurred. If I drag my bloated, cripplingly depressed self into lectures on Monday I can still salvage this year. I've also emailed enquiring about defering and the time has come to decide. What do I do?
    • Community Assistant

    Community Assistant
    Personally I think you should defer and try and sort out your mental health. That comes first. Get away from the stress of dealing with university, get yourself sorted. Get a job, earn some money and focus on improving your health. Then once you've done that, go to university and become the teacher you want to be.

    I will write a full reply in a minute when I finish work - but for now until I can respond fully I will just say:

    Never worry about how long university takes you, or at what age you apply. It took me 5 years to get through university, and some of my friends even longer.. involving multiple universities, dropping out, coming back, defering, going home, coming back.

    None of it matters - if its your goal and you want it, then how you get it its irrelivant. In the end after you finish the time it took, or how old you are will not detract at all from your achievement, if anything it will add to it - showing how you can overcome it all to get to where you want.

    --- Later I will try and adress your pratical problems, as I had a similar question back when I was a student.. personally I chose to defer. Ill go into detail later.

    I'd advise you to defer.

    No university course and no career is worth sacrificing your long-term mental health for. I was bright, but suffered crippling depression from the age of 12. I didn't finish school. I went to university at age 28, got a first, and am now studying for an MA. I really enjoyed my university experience, and I know that I'd have hated it if I'd somehow managed to drag myself there at 18 because it was what was expected of me. I'd probably have dropped out or failed.

    Here's what I wish someone had told me when I was younger: life isn't any sort of race or competition. You don't have to do the same things at the same time as other people your age. They haven't experienced the things you have. Take a broader perspective - school and university are institutions set up by society. They're artificial. You only have one life -you can make use of these institutions to further your goals, but there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't do that at a time that suits you best, whether that's next year, or later. If you find university 'a horror' then it isn't the right place for you! Try the OU, or an apprenticeship with NVQ, or a part-time Foundation degree while working - this can be topped up to a BA/BSc later.

    If you enjoy writing, you can write without having a degree. If you're interested in teaching, you could look for work in primary or nursery schools, or if that seems too much, volunteer to read with children at a local school or library. I did something similar when my self-esteem was at its worst, and it really helped to know that there were people who genuinely appreciated having me volunteer. I'd also suggest reading a bit of philosophy, because it's really easy to get caught up in immediate things and lose sight of what's ultimately important (not a criticism! Most people struggle with this, including me).

    Take it slowly. Be kind to yourself.

    ok - proper reply now:

    A few things just to think about:

    1 - I would be a bit worried about viewing life as a waiting game to be happy. Your comment about not having to wait an extra year until you can finally be happy seems to me to be setting yourself up for more problems and disappointments. Life rarely ever gets easier or less stressful as you get older. Instead of waiting until some situation change makes you happy - its much more healthy to accept that life will always suck... sometimes a lot, sometimes a little, very occasionally not at all. But pretty much EVERYONE can find paths, methods, stratagies, styles etc. that let them experiance happiness and feel fullfilled dispite the suckiness of life. I have no doubt that you can do this too - and if you can find ways of making university work for you, then you don't need to wait for a circumstance change to make you happy.. you will know that no matter how *****y, you can make a go of it. True confidence does not come from easy achievements, it comes from barely scrapping through the hardest thing in your life so far, but managing to not let it beat you, and knowing that what ever comes next you can deal with it too.

    2, make sure you have fully explored your universities support options.
    Obviously there is the disability support services - which are normally quite good at universities. If they are not, take them to ****ign task about it and kick them in the arse until they do their job.

    But there are also other ways to seek support.

    For example, most universities have a chaplaincy/religious area. now, even if you are not religious yourself, these places can often be incredibly calm and supportive enviroments. When I was at university all sorts of vulnerable people went to the chaplains building and made friends with her.. not because they were christian, but because it was a clam quite supportive place, away from all the crap of university, where there was no judgement, just listening ears.

    Other things you can do is talk to your university about halls.. if they were not a good enviroment last time, consider changign your circumstances. One of the best things I ever did for my mental health at university was move into post-grad halls. I never got on well with undergraduate halls, they were to crazy and messed me up a lot.. but post-grad halls were amazing. The people were much much quieter, more mature, more focused on their work and their studies.. and more supportive (if only because they were drunk far less of the time.)

    Aside from this there may be student groups, and never underestimate academic support - often your lecturer/tutor may seem unaproachable, but can end up being wonderfully supportive.


    Now, for your specific circumstances, honestly I would actually say to stay. and not defer. BUT, also not commute. go back into some more suitable halls/accomodation that is better for your wellbeing.

    Why? Because the key thing you said was that honestly, there may not be a great deal of change in your mental needs in less then a year.. and actually being at home and feeling like a failure can do more harm then good.

    Its the oposite of what I did - but for me there was a specific cause and triggers that were present in the enviroment I was in at university.. removing myself from them for half a year, and putting myself back in later worked well. But I would say that's because my problems are much more circumstantial then your seem, your seem like something you have to deal with continuously, not only on the occasions when some specific thing happens.

    I would suggest that you stick with it for now but aproach it in a very logical way. Talk to your parents, and as many people at your university as possible. Their entire job is to help you - and they will, even if it sometimes takes a bit of pushing.
    See if you can find a better solution to accomodation.
    See if they can push you up the priority order for extra help/support
    Make sure all of your academic staff know that you may miss lectures etc,
    Make sure there are no secrets and see if there are things your parents can do to help (for example either visiting you, or maybe you going back on weekends, or once every two weekends)
    Make sure you have explored all of the support avenues that your university, and students union, and everything has to offer.

    -- The only reason to defer is if you think your mental well being situation will improve with time at home. If so definitely do it, but if you think that next year you will face the same problems that you face now - then its best to just try and solve them now, rather then waiting a year to face the same problems.
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