My online journals begin with the stresses of university, the irritating aspects of being on-hold over the phone, the positives of home-schooling and the entertainment I have enjoyed this week.
Welcome to a new feature on my website, which I’m calling the Lawes Report. Long-time followers will know that I have two blogs already on LawesDisorder.com, Disorderly Thoughts, which is long-form essays about subjects that crop up from time to time in the world that matter to me, and FPL Nightmare, which is the story of my failed attempts to win the World’s Greatest Mini-League. I wanted to add something that’s a little less structured, a little more throwaway, a whole lot more regular and gives an insight into my everyday life, the things I enjoy and struggle with, the joys and frustrations I feel and the things that make me tick.
There are a few reasons I wanted to do this. The first is that I need the writing practice. I’m working on a book at the minute, to do with what it’s like to make yourself so ill you get sectioned, and how you come back from that and rebuild your life. The problem I’m having is that I just can’t settle myself on how I want to write it. You’d think, 45,000 words in, that something like that would be sorted, but it isn’t. I can’t decide whether I want to write it first-person or third-person, I can’t decide if I want it to be a factual account or if I want to include some artistic license, and I can’t decide whether there’s any actual point in doing it at all, given how hard it is to get published and noticed. It’s on the back-burner for now anyway; between work, family life, FPL Nightmare and working on my degree, I just can’t find the time consistently to create something so much bigger than anything I’ve created before. My hope is that, by writing about my life as it is today on a regular basis, it will inspire some fire within me to focus on writing about my history and my mental health experiences. I do want to tell my story, because my writing over the last nine years has shown me that, by telling your story, you subconsciously give others permission to tell theirs, too. Whether I knuckle down to it in the coming weeks or leave it on the shelf for a couple more years is the question, and I’m hoping the answer becomes apparent as I construct these journals.
My degree has been another great source of stress this week. I had an assignment due last Tuesday, which I was woefully under-prepared for and I’m not even sure I grasped the concept of what they were looking for. After several late, late nights and days of being half-asleep around my partner and the twins, I managed to get something submitted on time. Whether what I produced is what the assignment demanded, I don’t know, and I may never even find out, because my registration with the Open University has been cancelled. What’s happened is this: I submitted my application for a student loan to cover the cost of the course back in August. In October, I received a letter saying I had filled in the wrong form – ‘returning student,’ rather than ‘new student’ – back in 2017. I’d done this because I’d started a course in English Literature back in 2012, but dropped out after a month because it wasn’t what I imagined it would be. When I started studying Psychology with Counselling three and a bit years ago, I’d filled in ‘returning student’ because, technically, I was a returning student. Everything went through, and I’ve had two further student loans approved since then. This time, for whatever reason, they decided they needed a 2017 form filled in for ‘new student’ before they would process my application. Fair enough, I thought. Bit of a faff, but no real hardship. So I filled the form in and sent it back.
Now, as it turns out, they waited until they received that form before processing any of my application, so the six-week period they warn you it will take began on October 28th. Early December, I received a phone call from the Open Uni asking me to check up on it, so I gave them a ring and was told they were assessing my claim on December 18th, it would definitely be approved because there were no issues, and it would be finalised on December 21st. Fair enough, I thought. I’ve got until January 6th for it to process before it becomes an issue, that’s plenty of time. I thought nothing more of it and enjoyed Christmas. After submitting my assignment on January 5th, I noticed that there was a warning saying that, had they not received payment by the following day, my registration to study would be revoked. Confused, I contacted the student finance people to find out the craic, and I was told that it had been approved on the 21st, but it would now take another six weeks from then before it reached the university. I pled my case, saying that I would be kicked off the course if it wasn’t in the next day, and the best they could do was to put an ‘urgent review’ or something label on the file. Despite explaining the situation to the Open Uni afterwards, and asking politely as to whether I could retain access to my study materials given the application had been approved, and it was just held up in being sent to them, they said there was no manual override capability. The following day passed, and that was me off the course. Nightmare.
They have said that, once the funding goes through, they will likely be able to reinstate my registration. Still, it’s hard not to feel worried by it all, knowing that months of work, stress and good scores could all have been for naught because of some form from three years earlier that was actually irrelevant to this year’s claim for funding. With another assignment due in four weeks, I need it to go through as quickly as possible and, while the nice lady on the phone said the urgent review meant it would be processed in five days, she also mentioned ‘January 27th’ as a possible date, while highlighting that the current pandemic situation meant all these dates could be pushed back further. Hopefully it goes through ok, because I’ve worked really hard on this degree. If it doesn’t, and I have to restart the module next year, then I’ll just have to knuckle down in October and do it again. At least it would give me time to write that book!
One thing that was really frustrating with it all was being ‘on hold’ for so long, nearly ninety minutes in total across the two phone calls. I’m not being funny, but whoever made the decision to interrupt the music they play with automated messages saying ‘we’ll be with you soon’ wants shot. They don’t make it seem like you care, they don’t make people feel like they’re important, they don’t do anything except prevent you from zoning out to the tedious music and forgetting just how long you’ve been kept waiting. Honestly, I’m fine waiting forty minutes on the phone, I can stick it on speaker and read a book while the music loops and provides a consistent backdrop. When I’m jolted from my reverie every thirty seconds to be told ‘YOUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO US,’ it makes the whole waiting experience more irritating, it makes it feel like it takes longer, and it does my head in. On-hold system operators – sort it out!
Other than that, it’s been a good start to the year. I had a lovely Christmas, the twins are happy and enjoying the fact their Christmas holiday has been extended indefinitely, although they aren’t too keen on home-schooling! They’re cracking on with it though and making some good progress. Watching how patient and supportive their Mam is with them reminds me of the importance of getting into other people’s worlds rather than trying to force them into yours, and it inspires me to be a better support worker and friend by following that example. When teaching anybody anything, it’s so important to tailor your approach to how the other person learns best; there is no broad spectrum answer. A lot of people seem to think children will be set back by being out of school so long, but I believe the kids now have the opportunity for more one-to-one teaching time, with the people who love them most, and who can build a system around the best needs for one or two children, rather than twenty or thirty, and I think a lot of people will be surprised at how well they actually do when they return to school. It’ll be interesting to look back in ten or twenty years and see what the long-term impacts of so much home-schooling prove to be, and whether there is a rise in the numbers of parents who choose to home-school after this period. One thing I do know is that, when their kids are older, parents always wish they had more time with them when they were younger. If there is a silver lining to this situation, it’s that today’s parents now have that time, and I do think they’ll look back on it fondly.
I’ve written a lot already and I’m conscious of people getting bored, but I also want to use these journals to talk about things I’ve enjoyed, in case other people with similar interests like the recommendations. I’m a big wrestling fan, and this week I read Killing the Business by the Young Bucks. If you enjoy wrestling, I can highly recommend this book, which covers their career up to the start of All Elite Wrestling, and is a very easy, fluent read. There has been a feast of great wrestling matches this week, too, with several Match of the Year contenders. I can highly recommend Kenny Omega vs Rey Fenix from AEW Dynamite, and Shingo Takagi vs Jeff Cobb, Hiromu Takahashi vs Taiji Ishimori, Kota Ibushi vs Tetsuya Naito, Kazuchika Okada vs Will Ospreay and Kota Ibushi vs Jay White, all from Wrestle Kingdom. If you’ve never ventured beyond WWE before, these matches from the last few days all offer a great starting point as to what alternatives are out there. I’m also reading Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper, who grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church and left a few years ago. I’m only a few chapters in but it offers such insight into what life in a cult is like. It’s hard to believe people actually live in the manner she describes, and it’s fascinating to read about her upbringing. I’m really looking forward to reading some more, and will let you know how it goes. I’m also reading Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala, who I’m a big fan of. Honestly, though, I’m finding this book hard going. I know it’s an important read, and I feel like I’m learning a lot, but I’m finding the way he flows between his own life and black history a bit heavy going, and it’s sapping my enthusiasm for it somewhat. That’s the book I read on sleepovers at work, so it could take a while to finish, and maybe my opinion will change the deeper I get into it.
I think I’ll end these journals with a song and a quote of the week, because I always like seeing things like that in blogs. I intend to write these journals at least once a week, though I’m not holding myself to any deadlines. If I feel like writing more one week, there may be two entries, and if I feel I have little to say then I may write nothing at all. We’ll see how it goes. If I have something I want to delve deeper into, I will continue to use Disorderly Thoughts for those essays. Have a look through some of them, if you haven’t before. There are some good reads there. I hope people choose to read and follow these journals, not least because, if I can increase my audience, it will help me greatly when it comes to publishing the book I talked about earlier. If there is anything you want me to talk about, you want advice on or you want to debate, engage with or advise me on, please use either the comments below or the Contact form.
I hope you all have a wonderful week,
Song of the Chapter:
Avenged Sevenfold: A Little Piece of Heaven
in the style of Phantom of the Opera
by Ten Second Songs
Quote of the Week:
‘The only thing greater than the power of the mind
is the courage of the heart’
"One of the most insightful works I've read on mental health problems in men ... It is very well-written and a real page-turner. I would recommend it to anyone.
Dancing With Disorder
"It communicates a deep understanding of troubled individuals who suffer from the challenges of mental disorders ... Courageous, wise, humorous and thought-provoking ... an easy-to-read, surprising and subtly moving chronicle.
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