As many people are aware twelve months ago I had my first day of an Occupational Therapy placement. This was part of my solitary year of studying the health and social care vocation at the University of Derby. I am grateful for the support and warmth received by all. As this experience proved to be the major catalyst in my poor mental health of 2018 and meant that I pursued a different route than what I was hoping to.
A year on, I am rebuilding and improving myself step by step, finding avenues where I want to produce good for others. As well as improve my own self-worth and self-esteem. I hope that you appreciate this short story which I wrote for my Introduction to Creative Forms module’s assignment in the winter of 2018. It details my emotions on the commute on my first morning and acts as a tribute with respect to those who strongly battle through mental health challenges every day.
Placements are not easy but with anxiety they can feel like waddling through treacle. Poor mental health is not always clearly visible but please do not turn away if you see someone in anguish. Always be kind. Listen fully with your heart.
It is a 5:45 am; far too early to want to hear my alarm blare out but despite this I obey this unnatural call. Groggily, I
put on my spectacles and switch off the siren. Relentless cars pass the window as dawn is breaking on this mid-April
morning. Sitting up on the edge of the single bed facing the wooden wardrobe, I blink and make a drowsy stagger,
feeling my way towards the en-suite wet room.
A yawn expels from within me; I am still not comfortable with the hour of the day. My fingers fumble as I prod the
light switch, activating the extractor fan, alerting me to more noise telling me the day is about to begin. Aiming to
steer myself from sleep I shower and prepare for an exciting new chapter. As I brush my teeth feverishly –
remembering it is important to present well; my eyes feel heavy.
My first proper thoughts of the day are dazed and querying my level of sleep. Back in the bedroom, I get dressed into
casual, familiar clothes knowing I will have to get dressed again once at my destination. It is clear that the mind is
unsettled, excitement undoubtedly present but so is anxiety. I attempt to push back these nerves by reminding
myself why I am doing this.
I take a glance at my mobile phone sitting beside my glass bereft of the water I had drunk in the night and find there
are no important notifications to attend to right now. Fully clothed, I draw open the tawdry curtains, letting in the
mildly warm sunshine which is peeking through the silvery thin clouds. More vehicles are embarking on their early
morning routes as if the night never existed. I check my rucksack as I have got some time; pencil case – tick, notepad
– tick, a folder full of documents – tick.
My neatly folded uniform sits within a bag for life, clothing that will define my chosen career path, a plain white polyester tunic, bottle green trousers made of the same material and newly purchased black trainers. Tucked within the left shoe are my name badge and a bright green nurse’s watch.
I take a deep breath, scan the room for anything else I need. No, I am good to go.
A final anxious check. Keys; securely attached to my lanyard are lifted over my head and around my neck, jangling as I reach down to make my bed. I take my phone off the charging cable. Still void of notifications and messages. Nervously I look around my room as I remind myself of why I am doing this. Deep breath in and deep breath out. One more check. Wallet; enough money for the day and Mango card inside for the fare, I put my leather pouch into my jeans pocket.
Now I am ready, just need to pick up my pre-prepared lunchbox from the communal kitchen. Feeling shaky I open my door to the outside world. The corridor and floors above, silent. I grab my lunch and notice dirty plates of flatmates in the sink left to soak – hoping that by the time I return they will be clean and not just sitting idle. I take some initial steps outside with the rucksack on my back.
The air is calm; my mind is not. With my free hand, I check the time on my phone, still no messages and I yearn for some form of comforting communication, but it is only 6:15 am. No-one else I know is out of bed. I walk past my window making my way into
the city centre — eyes focused on the route ahead of me. Straight down Friar Gate, turning right onto St Peter’s
Street, a left onto East Street, across the road stands the modern bus station. Very few pedestrians around, mainly
delivery lorry drivers, working quickly to escape the imminent rush hour.
The automatic doors of the terminal open and I locate bay number three where I will pick up the bus and sit on a
bench anxiously with my bag beside me. My nerves have gone on the attack. Still, fifteen minutes to go until the bus
arrives. I get my pre-paid Mango travel card out of my wallet and then seek solace from my mobile phone to shut
myself off from the surroundings.
I send out a Facebook status update which goes out to friends both near and far from me. The message tries to
convey I am excited and confident, however, inside I know I am sinking within the cold metallic seat. I send out a
tweet offering a motivational quote to my followers; again, attempting to remind myself of the objective and the
reason I’m putting myself through this.
Seven minutes until the bus approaches; I blink and audibly yawn again. I look towards the convenience shop,
distracting my frazzled mind with thoughts about food. Not sure what to eat tonight once I get back – an inner voice
suggests I wait to see how today goes first. A small number of reactions to my Facebook post demonstrate that
people are waking up and starting their day. Five minutes until the bus makes its way to the bay door. A text from
my Mum cradles me during an insecure moment. She sends me best wishes and informs me she is proud of me. I
respond. She can probably sense my nerves in my reply.
Buses from other bays pull in and out as passengers exchange greetings. The radio informs the listeners to traffic
news, but my mind does not register the obstacles which affect that morning’s traffic. My phone vibrates again. The
University cohort’s group chat shares my emotion. Today we are all united, nerves jangling sharing the same anxiety
of what lies ahead for the next ten weeks and promise to be supportive of one another. I decide to send a message
of support to those equally worried. However, before I hit send, another message of support flashes upon my
I feel my heart race as I see the red bus pull up and as the bay doors open, I feel cold air brush past me. I shiver, and
frantically I check my phone is sat comfortably in my pocket. I grip my travel card as I put my arms through the loops
of my rucksack — others who had been gathering while I was in a trance stand to attention and climb aboard before
me. This gives me another chance to breathe in and out, closing my eyes for a second, I hold myself within the
moment before stepping forward as if I was due to skydive.
I step onto the bus, issue my Mango card against the reader and mumble sleepily “Good Morning” at the ticket
machine beside the driver’s steering wheel. I heard the beep signalling the travel card has been credited. I scan the
sparsely filled bus with my eyes for a place to sit, I choose a window seat fairly near the front and place my bag for
life on the seat near the aisle and remove my rucksack. I clutch it tight like a young child in my arms as I hear the
driver turn the ignition key and the engines rumble.
The bus doors close behind me, and the vehicle begins to reverse. There is no going back as my senses become live. I
feel the fibre of the seat act like Velcro against my jeans. I feel my phone vibrate again; I scrabble around in my
pocket for it. I look at the luminous screen and the recent flurry of messages and notifications which have now
appeared. I respond to them, unaware of the journey before settling and taking in the route.
Passengers come and go, the talkative, silent, sleepy, focused, men, women and children all share my journey and
world. The journey was uneventful but I feel my breathing is increasing and my heart is undoubtedly pulsating at a
faster rate as we enter the town of Ilkeston.
Soon it will be my time to indicate I want to step off. The bus jogs along the main road outside the 1980s built
hospital and I do one more check of everything within sight before pressing the bell. “Bus stopping” illuminates and
with my heavy load, I waddle towards the doors of the vehicle.
The sun, now higher in the sky than when I left Derby brings an inviting warmth to the car park. A queue of
uniformed schoolchildren politely wait for me to disembark. I thank the driver as I tap off the travel card and step
down and into the foyer of the community hospital. I send a quick text to my Educator to announce my arrival. I wait
for her and peer around sheepishly, trying to hide my anxiety. There is no going back home now
I am forever grateful for all those involved with Occupational Therapy whether they are qualified in practice or those on the lecturing team at the University of Derby for their valued part of the multi-disciplinary team which acts as a vital role within health and social care.
I loved my time as a University of Derby Occupational Therapy student, I was proud to be a representative in the 2017 cohort’s first year and to be named runner-up for College Star of the Year nominated by my peers. I am thankful for their warmth and determination as they carry on working towards their own goal to make sure life is worth living and full of fulfilment.
To learn more about the vocation please look at this NHS video on how Occupational Therapy can benefit an individual – https://www.nhs.uk/Video/Pages/Occupationaltherapy.aspx
Another great resource is the Royal College of Occupational Therapists
For further information on the University of Derby’s Occupational Therapy programme please consider looking at the website – https://www.derby.ac.uk/undergraduate/occupational-therapy-courses/occupational-therapy-bsc-hons/