When I did my undergraduate degree at Loughborough there was the option in my final year to do a dissertation or to not to. The idea of doing a dissertation terrified me and I thought that there was no way that I would be able to, so I chose not to. When I completed my undergraduate degree, I told myself that it was the last studying I would ever have to. I had heard others talk about doing a Masters and I thought that there was no way I would do that. Not only did I have no interest in doing one, but I didn’t think I was good enough or capable of doing the required work.
|Completion of our dissertations|
A year or so later when I decided I might want to work in sport, I realised that in order to pursue this career, I would need a Masters. There is no option in a Masters on whether to do a dissertation or not. You have to, and it constitutes the largest proportion of the work and largest contribution to your mark. So that was it – I couldn’t do a Masters because I knew there was no way I could a dissertation. Throughout my undergraduate degree and years that followed I had this ‘hang-up’ about doing a dissertation and my fear of it had grown out of proportion. And here I was, knowing that I needed to do a Masters but convinced it was an impossibility because of my fear of a dissertation.
So I decided a Masters and therefore a career in sport science was not an option. But working in catering was also really wearing me down and the thought of having to do it for the rest of my life was making me really depressed. Biting the bullet, I applied to do a Masters at Loughborough. I chose Loughborough because it was familiar, I felt ‘safe’ there and also I knew that you did not have to devise your own dissertation there but instead worked on a project that was already up and running. But I was also encouraged to apply to St Mary’s but the thought of going there was a lot more daunting, both in terms of having to start somewhere new and also with the dissertation which would have to be my own project.
|My new bracelet ‘Have faith in your dreams’|
Despite the much greater fear attached with St Mary’s, I chose to go there. And if you read my blog 3 weeks ago you will know that I handed in my dissertation and gave a presentation on it too. I had actually managed to do a dissertation. I couldn’t quite believe it. I had been convinced for years that I couldn’t do it with my fear about doing one growing irrationally. Anorexia also makes fears about gaining weight, eating normally, being healthy and recovering completely irrational. They don’t feel irrational at the time, I genuinely live day to day feeling scared of all those things and convinced that I cannot live without anorexia. But I was also convinced that I couldn’t do a dissertation. Completing the dissertation was serious hard work. Hours, weeks and months of stress, tears and graft. And this is not minimising the struggles of anorexia to that of completing a dissertation. Believe me, I know full well that fighting anorexia is exhausting and harder than there are words to describe. But it is just to question how you think.
|Life is there for the taking|
I would have sworn that there was no way I could a dissertation and I nearly let my irrational fear stop me. But last week I got my result and I achieved 80% in my written work and 73% in my presentation, both a distinction. And I was over the moon. All that hard work had paid off and now not only had I done a dissertation, but I had also passed! I had achieved what I never thought possible. It feels impossible that my mind will ever quieten the voice of anorexia to the point where my weight, food and exercise doesn’t dominate my life. But you know what, achieving what I did with my dissertation has inspired me with hope. Things can be terrifying and it is easy to not face your fears, instead sticking with the safety of what you know. But sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. Scary? Yes. But who knows what you can achieve. The only risks you’ll regret in life are the risks you didn’t take. I know it is going to be really hard but if I don’t try and make changes now to my anorexic thinking and behaviours, I will regret it later on. Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you. With courage, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.