Mental Health,  Student Life

The Quest For The Magic Shield – Or How I’m Struggling To Find Support As A Student

I feel like I’m in one of those adventure games where I can see the special item I need – let’s say it’s a shield – and there is a path across the foggy woods to where the shield is. It should be easy to pass, but every time I try, there’s goblins jumping out in front of me, shouting the most hurtful things. They have friendly faces and they’re supposed to be helping me, but due to some weird glitch in the game, they’re hindering my path. Sometimes they throw rocks at me, but the rocks don’t do any physical harm. They just upset me. The goblins make me want to quit, or at the very least, not bother going through the woods.

One of the biggest challenges I am facing in my life at the moment is studying. I find myself asking the same question on a daily basis – why am I doing this? I have never had ambitions to get a degree and considering the amount of stress that is accompanying this area of my life, I constantly feel like the benefits are few.

I’m thirty-eight years old as I write this and I have managed all of those years without a degree. It’s extremely likely that I’ll never get to use it, even if I do, one day, graduate. I’m a full time carer for someone with autism and his challenges will always be the priority in my life. Earning money will come second to that. That’s one of the major reasons why I decided to write for a living. I could prioritise Luke and still earn money writing Leger stories. Except, I’m now not earning much at all and the choice I have made to become a student is siphoning my attention and energy away from Luke and Leger.

This week, I’ve stumbled again. I have been granted a large sum of money in order to pay for a mentor. This person is supposed to help me focus on my studies because I am disadvantaged thanks to life-long foggy woods acute anxiety. Except, for the whole time I’ve been studying, the biggest source of rocks anxiety is either the mentor themselves or the struggle I am having with “student support.” I’m between a rock and a hard place because I badly need that shield and I have the funding for it, sitting waiting to be paid to a goblin mentor, but the struggle to find one has been my biggest (and at times my only) source of university related anxiety. If it wasn’t for this “help”, I wouldn’t actually need the help.

The world makes sense again.

So far, student support have been disappointing, to say the least. They’ve had me in tears numerous times because I either can’t speak to someone, or they launch short uninformative emails into my inbox and I have nowhere to reply to. Modern life sucks. The mentors assigned to me have been upsetting at times.

  1. My first allocated mentor was great, but she left after two sessions. She went on holiday to a commune in Greece and had some kind of epiphany and decided to change her life, which is obviously very nice for her. I’m happy for her.
  2. My next mentor was pleasant, but she was a Jesus enthusiast who always brought the conversation back around to her religion and to prayer, which again is nice for her but there were times, like when she was explaining to me all the reasons why I am a Christian and just don’t realise it, that it got quite intense and uncomfortable. Several times I’ve had the thought that if she was a Muslim, my complaint would have been treated quite differently. Because she’s a Christian, she gets away with it.
  3. The next one, I just didn’t gel with and I think it’s a valid reason to not want to have mentoring from her, especially when she had me in tears at one point. It wasn’t going to work.
  4. The final mentor was great, but she wouldn’t use Skype. I wanted to see the person I was talking to.

As it is, my requests to have another mentor painted me as a difficult woman who can’t be pleased and the mentoring company will now no longer allocate anyone to me. Speaking up and asking questions has made me the problem, but not speaking up would have made me miserable. It’s hard not to take that personally. It stings.

My question is this: what would you do? Would you keep walking through those woods trying to get the shield, or would you go the other way and try to get to the grand banquet at the castle without the shield? Is the banquet even worth it? I never really wanted to go there anyway. Answers in the comments please.



  • Simon B

    If the available money can’t be used, then why not see if you can build a mentoring network from those around you. Your authoring, blogging and social media activities have doubtless created a wide and varied network of people with different experiences, skills and areas of individual ability. Would it be realistic to draw on that network to provide the support you are looking for – use a shoal, rather than a single fish?

  • Gill The Glasgow Girl

    I work for a college and have worked within the Learning Support team… your university have a duty of care and your Student Supoort team where possible should allocate someone that you get on with, however, due to staffing, this is not always the case unless there are mitigating circumstances. From experience within Learning Support – mentors are attached to specific curriculum teams e.g. Business, Arts & Humanities etc. They should create a personal learning support plan to ascertain the best support for you.

    I would try and speak to the Mentor providers/Student Support and explain that you struggle with anxiety, that this situation isn’t helping and that you would like to work to create a support plan so that you can progress with your course and hopefully they will be able to help. If you still feel you are getting no help from Student Support, then it may be worth speaking to the head of Student Support and making a complaint as they are there to support you, especially as you have been awarded funding for this service.

    If you need any advice, please feel free to get in contact with me. Hope you manage to get a suitable mentor.

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