On Friday 22nd September I had my The Open University graduation... Of course, it was a celebration of my academic achievement, and I am exceptionally proud of that, but for me it was so much more.
I started my degree because I knew I wanted to reach more people and to start more communications about mental illnesses. I wanted to make sure I was doing so responsibly and thought that getting an academic grounding would help me to help more people. I had been inspired by Tracy, one of my closest friends and also the greatest psychologist I have ever met (and I’ve stumbled across a few!), the way she was able to help me, combined with how fascinating I found the human mind, set me on the path back into education. What followed with the OU was an absolute game changer…
Early in my time studying, I was asked to be in a video about baking for better mental health and how it helps me. I spoke about my story, and about how proud I was to be working with the Depressed Cake Shop. The video became part of the Approaches to Mental Health module, found in a few OU courses including Nursing & Healthcare and Psychology & Counselling.
I’ll be honest, I stumbled here. I went back and forth on the idea as public speaking has always been absolutely terrifying for me. At this stage, in swooped Tracy who did some incredible coaching and hypnotherapy work with me, and I toddled off to Milton Keynes, cake in arms, to face the fear. I couldn’t have prepared myself for what a huge day it was, I remember being dumbstruck when I sitting in the auditorium and a picture of Harold Wilson (creator of the OU) came up on the screen, I then heard a man a couple of seats in front of me say “ah, there’s Dad…”. You can see my speech here, I think it’s safe to say the nerves were still there but I did it, that day I dared greatly.
I actually finished my degree in 2022, but I wasn’t able to get into a ceremony due to the backlog from the covid graduations, and that is why I had my day this year. It’s wonderful really, because in that year I have had another full year giving baking demos and being on stage all summer – something that I don’t know if I would have been able to do if it wasn’t for that 50th birthday speech.
I have written before about how my early experiences in the education system were detrimental to my wellbeing due to being in an institution that (at the time) only seemed to focus on academic achievement. My time with the Open University showed me that there are institutions that understand and care for the wellbeing of students in order to assist their academic capability. It's pretty special when you're given hope about something like that...
I won’t be vanishing though, I will keep pestering the amazing media team to let me be involved where I can, and I am going to do all I can to be an ambassador for such an amazing organisation – the more people who know the magic of the OU the better.
If anyone fancies sponsoring me to do my Masters, just shout.
In the meantime… I flipping did it!
BSc(Hons) Soc Psych (Open) - eek! 🤣🥰