LYIT student Margaret McHugh has spoken out about a unique set of challenges she has had to face as she begins her first year in third-level.
Margaret, a mature student who is studying a BA in Digital Film and Video, bravely shared her story with Donegal Daily.
Dealing with a condition that affects her bones, and suffering from depression, Margaret is sharing her story in order to inspire others to overcome their own personal challenges – whatever they may be – and is now working towards achieving her full potential.
Life as a college student: Judge me first, know me later.
By Margaret McHugh.
With the first day of college comes different feelings, excitement, nervousness, a sense of new beginnings. These were some of the things I felt the first day I walked into LYIT.
The buzz around the place was great, coming from a PLC college, LYIT can be a bit of shock to the system but in a positive way, the facilities are brilliant, the staff, secretaries, nurse, canteen staff, heads of departments and lectures try to make college life enjoyable and mind opening, but if you have any issues, once you inform them they will do their best to understand and put themselves in your shoes, even if the brand of shoe isn’t that fancy!
Moving to a new county is a challenge for anyone because you’re leaving the security net of people who have known you all your life, known you for the person you really are. LYIT has definitely opened my mind academically, some of the stuff you learn makes you really think.
When I was younger I didn’t value or appreciate education and to be honest I only ever spent 6-8 years in education. I managed to complete my Junior and Leaving Cert, I even completed a Diploma in Journalism but all of this has not come to me without a struggle.
Even to this day, when I write an essay or story I may have to redo it two or three times, because, a grammar or spelling mistake will rear its ugly head, even structured writing can be a problem for me, but with work, patience and time I get myself there in the end.
It’s not always about the succeeding, once you put your heart into it and know you really tried, does it matter what anyone else thinks?
I was born with a condition which affected my knees, hips, hands and most of my bones.
The worst areas my condition affected weekly were my kneecaps, they would dislocate 3 times a week, my knees/ legs would inflame and the muscles would become weak, which often meant I would be out of action for a week, 2 or maybe even 3 weeks, depending on the severity of dislocations in my body.
Being institutionalized over two decades has side effects, most of which have stayed with me today.
If someone asked me to describe what Margaret the child and teenager saw growing up in a hospital it would be men, women, and children in pain, then relief, prisoners handcuffed to wardens being marched down the hospitals corridors, some with remorse on their face, others just cold, people’s frustration at the chaos within the system, anger at a mistake, cancer patients talking about life, worries and the fear of dying.
Even today I could be watching TV, sitting in a canteen, out on the town, sitting in a lecture learning about the revolution and all the wonders of design when suddenly I might think of the woman who roared and cried along the hospital corridor, sitting in a wheelchair, angry at God because of cancer, and then looking up at me, apologising for her emotion, because I was only a child and she didn’t want to scare me, or I might think of the prisoner in handcuffs in and out of consultation rooms.
These are the things the mind does often recall and sometimes it’s for a reason I can’t explain, but this is the life I lived and those who truly know me from my past, know this is my truth.
I remember the day depression became a part of me, I acknowledged and accepted it the very minute I blurted it out to my doctor. There were warning signs months previously, but my subconscious told my conscious it wasn’t depression.
I was always tired, emotional for no reason at the best of times, I just felt like I was having an out of body experience, I didn’t feel like I lived in my own body anymore, I didn’t know who I was but the scariest part was I no longer valued living, “end it all my brain kept telling me”, but it wasn’t and isn’t the answer for anyone who is suffering from depression.
Thankfully that was four years ago.
Although I still have depression, I am in a better place and haven’t once in those years questioned the value of my life, simply because I want to live. Ireland has come a long way in fighting the stigma around mental health but we have a long way more to go, I remember 2 weeks ago saying to someone I didn’t want to tell these academic professionals I had depression.
I realised shortly after making that statement, that attitude wasn’t going to help anyone in my shoes and it was me making a judgment about the level of human understanding of people I don’t really know, which is unfair.
LYIT has all the support, counsellors and facilities for students who find themselves in similar situations. Students should not fear or care what people may think because it’s your life, you own it.
Let people judge first and know later.
Be the better version of yourself, don’t feel or pressure yourself into reflecting a version of others, unless that is part of who you are, do what you can do, sometimes you can achieve just as much by being great at one specialist area, than it is 10.
Please note: If you have been affected by the discussion of depression in this piece, please know that there are supports available to help you through this:
You can visit pieta.ie for resources, give the Pieta House North West branch a call on 074-9126594 or contact their freecall number on 1800 247 247. You can also get in touch with Aware on 1800 80 48 48. For 24/7 help, you can reach out to the Samaritans on 116 123.Tags: