Making mistakes is a part of life, and can really shape your university experience, but it's not all bad...
- Thom Sobey
When I went to university, I had not even considered what I would do if I started to have mental health difficulties. It was something that was not on my radar. I am sure many of you know how I was feeling: I had just finished school, had got into university with some good results and was on a high of leaving home for the first time.
But then some things happened that I wasn't used to: I started to make mistakes. And that is what I want to talk about.
I want to be clear: it is not a reflection on ourselves if we make mistakes that lead us to have mental health difficulties. It is not our fault that we make mistakes sometimes. Life is a long learning process that each of us does individually; we encounter our own challenges and problems.
When we make mistakes, it can be very hard to recover from them, and it can be even harder to admit to ourselves that we have made mistakes. It was a very long and difficult process for me to admit to my own mistakes, and took even longer for me to talk about them to the people who cared about me. But what I didn’t realise is that there are lots of other people who have made mistakes too.
So I started talking about my mistakes. To my family, my friends, even strangers who I had only just met. And the more I talked, the more I found so many people like me who had made mistakes as well.
I began to find it easier to accept my mistakes. And, in turn, it also greatly increased my capacity to accept other people’s mistakes and understand what may have led them to make them. And in turn, they accepted me. Or, more specifically, I felt that more people understood and accepted me for who I was.
The mistakes we make are, a lot of the time, not our fault. University is a very challenging time as we undergo so many changes, the world opens up and things happen that you never expect to. And, it’s okay to make them.
But it’s also okay to talk about them, and the more we do, the more we let ourselves be accepted by other people and, most importantly, ourselves.
Since I have left university I have been thinking about how I can help other people, specifically students, recover from the mistakes they may have made. A huge part of the way in which I was able to accept myself was the people on the other end of the conversation. They listened to me and helped me understand who I am.
They also gave me the understanding that, if I want to help you, one of the best things I can do is listen to you. And I want to thank everyone who I have ever met who has taken the time to listen to me, and who has helped me on my journey to understanding who I am. You really did make a difference and helped me a lot. I am sure there will be many more out there.
And, I guess, that’s all I really want to get across to anyone. That when someone starts talking about mistakes they have made, we listen and try to understand what they may be going through so we can try and help them recover. We should never underestimate the power of a simple conversation and the limits of their comfort zone someone may be going to so they can talk about their mistakes.
One in four people in the UK will have mental health difficulties each year. So when someone, anyone, starts talking to me about their mistakes, I hope that I listen with an open mind and try to understand. And maybe, just maybe, I can help too.