Storying Sheffield

Grieving a loss of identity

I self-identified as a nerd. Proudly walking down the corridors of school with a backpack full of the newest highlighters, and stuffed full of books. Until one day my brain decided to pack up and leave.

I am finally at a point ten years later, at university, that I can acknowledge I am in mourning for my previous academic brain that one day decided to piss off on an adventure on its own and switch what remained of me into “survival mode”.

Sleep (possibly). Eat (very little). Shower (occasionally depending on strength); and repeat. For many years this was my life.

The period between then and now looks messy (ten years of shitty lows and average highs), but my point here is that it’s okay to mourn. As you would when you lose a loved one, when you lose a part of yourself it hurts. Especially when you weren’t in control of it leaving.

That day it all left there wasn’t a goodbye party so I actually didn’t notice, too consumed in the emotional pain of trying to stay alive. It’s only now at 28 and half way through a degree I have realised, through a conversation with a new friend, after throwing in the term “grief” did I realised that’s what it was. Realising this and acknowledging it feel huge. That previous month I had finally managed to read without words dancing about and slamming a book shut in frustration because of not being able to take it in. I had managed to write an essay over a couple of weeks rather than panicking and doing it in a night, accepting anything just so I could submit it. I worked hard, scared it wouldn’t last. I couldn’t believe I was able to concentrate. So, on it continued. Submitted. For the first time in years I was excited about getting my grade back. That felt so good. The anticipation, replacing the anxiety. A rekindled connection. I got my grades back. And cried. They may not be the best to others but it was the best I had done since starting my degree and I was so proud. I was excited. All these new and real emotions felt scary but wonderful. I wanted to write and write and read and I could feel the passion coming back to me. It’s not what it used to be, I’ve been on too long and complicated journey to just pick up where I left off but I’ve now realised I don’t want to either. My own experiences add to my desire to learn, they’ll never go away so I’ll use them. It’s all I can do.

by Em