Sunday, 14 September 2008

Depression, Studying And The Open University

One of the things that gets quite a lot of mentions in posts on this blog is the Open University. I am an OU graduate, and I have found that I am absolutely hooked on studying now. I sometimes regret what might have been had I worked harder and had more parental support when I was at school. But had that happened, my life would probably have taken a very different route and I may not have had such an enjoyable career, nor met my husband and had more than 20 wonderful years with him.

The OU is a wonderful institution which has allowed people from all walks of life, and of all ages, to get a university education. Because you need no previous qualifications in order to start studying as an undergraduate, it means that those who didn't do so well at school, or who had to leave school early because of home circumstances, can get the education that they missed out on earlier in their life; it truly is an 'Open University'.

Unlike those in traditional universities, students with the OU have always had to pay for their courses, though because many undergraduates are studying to enhance their value to their employers, those employers have willingly provided financial support to their staff. It is worth the employer's while to do this, for the employee continues to work while undertaking their studies. This is the thing that makes OU students very special. A significant proportion of them are in full-time employment and are studying in their own time. And let's be honest about this; it is not an easy thing to do when you have a responsible job that may require shift working, long hours, and travelling abroad. The OU student has to juggle all this with maintaining a reasonable home life too.

Several of the bloggers who I read regularly are either graduates of the OU, or are current students. Elaine studied mathematics and statistics for her degree, There and Back has passed a number of courses and is about to start her first Level 3 course, while Lemon, who is actually still of school age has found that studying an OU course has been something that she has enjoyed doing while she has been ill and unable to go to school.

So, there has been a certain camaraderie amongst the group of bloggers who have the OU in common, whether we be graduates or current students. There have also been a number of comments to posts that I have written from those who have studied at conventional universities, and the common theme from them is amazement and admiration for those who study in this manner. One of the things that it is imperative for an OU student is self-motivation, because most of your studying will be done alone sometimes at a significant distance from your tutor and others doing the same course. But when you suffer from depression this self-motivation can be difficult to find and sustain.

The Nice Lady Doctor wrote:
"I enjoyed this post as I've always been fascinated by the OU, its students and how it works (not to mention deeply impressed at the self-discipline it must take to take OU qualifications)."

Yes, it takes self-discipline, and self-motivation, and lots of other 'self' things, but there is nothing like having to meet deadlines for focussing your mind when you aren't feeling too well.

When I was writing about waiting for the first batch of course materials to arrive for a new course, Alhi, who is a law lecturer at a UK university and has suffered from depression too, wrote:
"I would be the same about the course materials! I find it absolutely amazing that you can find the motivation to work at OU courses. At my worst, and even now, I could scarcely muster the interest to get up in the morning never mind sit and work at something."

And then there was the comment from The Witch Doctor, which perhaps explains why I have taken to blogging so enthusiastically and why I, and others in my position, become addicted to studying:

"Sometimes we witches wonder why everyone in the world does not suffer from depression most of the time.

We even wonder how much depression drove some of the great writers, musicians and artists.

We've come to the conclusion that we think some types of depression become the default position eventually for many, but that, at least for some, the greatest antidote is creativity.

Blogging is surely a form of creativity.

As is learning for learnings sake.

It looks as if you are finding this might be true for you.

I hope so.

Good luck."

So here I am. Falling deeper into the chasm that is depression each day, and yet I am still having to focus my mind on that essay that needs to be written so that I can pass another course. Get a little nearer another qualification. And have the feeling of satisfaction that there is when you achieve another goal. Depression robs you of all happiness and enjoyment, but by achieving little things each day you can help yourself to climb out of the chasm and start to live a life, that while it may not be normal, is at least some semblance of what others live.


Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your post - I didn't goto Univesity straight away either and ended up doing an first degree then an MSc whilst working full time. I did it part time at a local Uni.
Also blogging and writing poetry helpsme inordinately
I do admire you for studying in what to me seems isolation, at least I saw fellow students even if it was only every other month or so.
Keep up the blogging

Take Care

Anonymous said...

I am at uni and studying. I am about to withdraw or fail a subject due to my depression. I left it to the last minute and now it is too overwhelming and I cannot concentrate on my assignment. This seems to be the way I work and I don't know what's wrong with me. I don't even seem that worried about failing this subject.