11 months, 4 days / what next?

3pm At this moment things in my life are going well, but as usual I am consumed by panic and depression, because my illness wants to live in the unknowable, uncertain future. All day I’ve found it difficult to do anything except lie in bed and feel sorry for myself. I just want to go back to bed and sleep forever. For some time I’ve known that my over all degree classification is on the borderline between a good and a bad grade, but for some reason I’m really concerned about it today, in fact I can’t stop thinking about it now. It is absolutely vital that I get an over all classification of upper second class, otherwise I know I will not be able to pursue my chosen career in psychology. If I hadn’t screwed the second year of the degree up so badly I wouldn’t be in this position, but as it is I am in it, and I don’t know if I’ve done enough to bring the grade up from lower to upper second class. I definitely haven’t done enough to get a first class mark (equivalent of A grade), not even a divine miracle would make that possible – so I must settle for upper second class (equivalent B). A lower second class (C grade) would be no good to me, because the competition in the graduate job market is currently too fierce, and I already got a lower second class grade in my first degree, which didn’t get me anywhere career-wise four years ago.

It’s so depressing, I literally feel stuck in limbo. Our final marks won’t be published until the 2nd of July. That’s only two weeks, I hear you say, but because I’m an alcoholic with anxious and depressive tendencies, two weeks currently feels like too much. A small voice in my head is saying that this shouldn’t be happening, I’ve been on anti-depressants for over a month and for the past fortnight or so they have been working, pretty well actually. It’s just today that I’ve suddenly returned to my default state of tearful and fearful. I suppose it will be gone by tomorrow. I am seeing my sponsor tonight to continue with step 5, which always makes me feel better. But I don’t think this fear will be entirely gone until I have found out my mark on the 2nd July.

At the start I said things are going in well in my life – that’s because, forgetting the psychology degree, they are going well. I gave my seventh chair at a meeting last night, and for the first time I didn’t feel nervous about it. I was quite calm and serene as I spoke about my three lives: ‘life before alcohol’, ‘life during alcohol’ and ‘life after alcohol’, my current life. I felt completely at home in the meeting, though it’s not one that I regularly go to. So as far as AA is concerned, things couldn’t be better. I have friends in the fellowship who I know will always be there. Even if the faces change over the years, they’ll always be someone there to listen and understand me.

I’m not even thinking about drinking today, despite how bad I feel. The problem with being a recovering alcoholic is that alcohol tends not to be the only problem that we have to deal with. Life tends to be the biggest problem to deal with, and right now I wish it would just go away. If I don’t get the mark I need in psychology, I don’t know what I’m going to do. All my career plans involved psychology. It’s so unfair because I have done really well on the course this year – it’s just last year, when I was still drinking, that I screwed up big time, and potentially ruined my career chances. I knew I was doing it at the time but I still went ahead and drank the night before that important exam, as I always did in those days. I said last night in my chair that my social life used to be more important than anything else, I say it in all my chairs, and it’s true – before recovery I couldn’t see any future for myself without alcohol and a thriving social life. Not that it was thriving in the end, it’s just that I thought it was because alcohol could make me believe anything.

It would be ironic if the year of sobriety that I’ve had doesn’t turn out to be enough to salvage my dreams of becoming a psychologist. If I can’t be a psychologist then I’ll have to think of something else to do with my life. Writing stories was something I wanted to do from a very early age – but I have no idea if I’ll ever be good enough to make a career out of that, and I haven’t had any creative urges for quite a while. If I can’t make a career from my degree then what was the point of going back to University for three years, getting myself into twice as much debt? It would seem such a waste of time, just like my first degree was. I talked about that last night as well – how I couldn’t see a future for myself at the end of my philosophy degree in 2004, but now I can because I’m sober and for the past year I’ve been able to fully apply myself to my studies. Maybe the only benefits I’ll end up taking from this degree are all the things I learnt about myself. Without psychology I may not be sober now; I certainly wouldn’t know anything about anxiety disorders and what I can do to treat mine.

I finally have an appointment with a therapist next week. I was referred for a psychological assessment a month ago by my family doctor. I thought they’d forgotten about me, but it turns out they haven’t, they just had to find the time to fit me in. Next week I will be assessed for therapy. I know I need therapy, if today’s black mood is anything to go by – I hope I can convince the psychologist of that. I may have to go on a long waiting list before I can start seeing anyone regularly. I don’t mind going on waiting lists, I just want to know that I will be able to see someone on a regular basis, to deal with this shit still in my head so that I don’t have to spend the rest of my life on anti-depressants. Some people take pills for years to deal with their problems – I definitely don’t want to do that, because I know too much about them. My problem needs a talking cure, I’ve always known that. Maybe this is what I will end up gaining from psychology, rather than a conventional career like everyone else. I’ve undoubtedly changed as a person in the last three years since I began studying it. I wonder what changes lie ahead…as always, we’ll have to wait and find out.

9pm Just got back from an evening at my sponsor’s flat. Made some good progress with step 5. I feel a bit better than I did earlier today, though I can’t say my mood has completely lifted because I’m tired and a bit hungry, and I seem to have caught a nasty cough in the space of six hours. I’ve just remembered a nasty dream that I had last night, which might be the reason why I’ve felt so low all day. Ever since I left school nearly a decade ago I’ve had the same dream about returning there to face the bullies; it’s been months since I last had the dream but for some reason I had it again last night, and once again I was passing through those old familiar corridors, running away from God knows what, then at the end I was faced with those boys who had been in my class for years, who all hated me for the way I was. For the first few years after I left school I never dreamt about confronting them, but in the last few years I’ve found myself being increasingly defiant in these dreams. Last night I was properly standing up for myself, defending my sexuality, because that was the main thing they didn’t like about me.

Despite being able to defend myself in my own dreams now, I’m still always left with a sheer terror every time I wake up, in the seconds before I’ve realised it’s just a dream and I haven’t actually left my current life to go back to school. Last night’s horrors were no different, and once again I’m left wondering why those demons still haunt me. Why am I still having the exact same dream, nine years after I last saw any of those people? Well, I’ve spotted some of them in London during the years since – it’s not that big a city – the most recent occasion being the other day. I’ve never spoken to any of them, though, because it would seem pointless. But still I dream about them, about the big confrontation that we never had.

Am I still terrified by these demons because I still can’t accept myself? Am I still ashamed of my sexuality? Last night I was really defiant about it in the dream, I was almost rubbing it in their faces – does my sexuality still disgust me, all these years after I’ve supposedly accepted it? Because I’ve studied psychology and want to train as a therapist, I have to ask myself these questions, there’s no getting away from them. Someone normal might not need to think about it, but I’m in recovery now and I need to deal with these things, because I know they’re still holding me back. Now that my life is changing for the better and I am starting to accept myself, perhaps my subconscious is trying to tell me that there’s still work to do. Perhaps there are still parts of me that I need to accept. I’ve realised in recovery that I truly have a multitude of problems. There isn’t just one easy thing that I can tackle head on. There never is.

Coincidentally, I got in touch with my father earlier today, for the first time in three years. Having received good feedback from my aunt M the other week about my idea concerning a relationship with my half brothers, I finally felt ready to send my father an e-mail today, telling him that I no longer have any hard feelings towards him. I understand now that he was treated badly by my mother, I can see exactly why he might want nothing to do with us. I wasn’t expecting a quick response, but having just got home I see that he has replied, and I’m too scared to open his e-mail now. I’m scared it will be another rejection. The truth is, I have no idea what he’s going to say, and I’m not sure if I’m actually ready to deal with the response. Am I in the right place to deal with it today? Might I be more prepared tomorrow, when this depressive attack has passed? Oh, I don’t know. I just don’t know. We’re at the heart of my problems here – I’m dealing with the rotten core of my illness right now. Of course it hurts. I just want to know that it’s going to pass, I just want to know that I’m going to be all right.

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