After a challenging start to the year, I think it’s important to reflect and dismantle the challenges that academia has presented me. 2017 has been a very profound and deeply precarious time for me both as an individual and as an academic. Physical and mental health disturbances in conjunction with my performance on my MA degree has made me question my capabilities and my identity. Firstly I want to address how rewarding my work on modules such as ‘Screen Cultures and Selves’, ‘Transnational Subjectivity’ and in particular ‘Contemporary Expectations’ have been to myself and my mental wellbeing. Using my subjectivity to place myself within the theoretical concepts and the challenges that modern days presents has allowed me to express and channel feelings I would usually suppress and exhibit them on a public platform. The fact that these modules ran alongside an extensive mental health assessment really helped me express and unleash thoughts, feelings, memories and emotions that I have heavily repressed for most of my life.
I have always felt on the periphery in relation to others, I have always thought that I have been playing pretend and had trouble expressing myself accurately. I always felt that something wasn’t quite right but could never explain what it was. It’s been a long and turbulent road to where I am now, tears, tantrums and overwhelming fears of inadequacy. Last week I finally received a full diagnosis for both Borderline Personality Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder. When I was first presented with these labels together I couldn’t quite accept it. How could I possibly be autistic? I’m so confident, social, loud opinionated and expressive. The more I thought about it the more I realised that for the majority of my life, the Lauren that people got to know me by was in fact a façade. Behind closed doors I am sensitive, incredibly self critical, isolated and constantly anxious. Due to social pressure and lack of understanding myself I created a character, I presented the Lauren I thought I should be. It’s overwhelmingly awesome how complex the mind can be and how all this had happened without my knowledge. The fact is autism manifests differently in women than it does with the male counterpart. Due to both having autism and childhood trauma that led to the development of a personality disorder, I have struggled deeply with my identity and who I am. This constant confusion and conflicting battle of personalities in my mind made striving for good grades almost impossible. Being caught between being totally consumed by a subject and then so quickly being so uninterested and dissatisfied really made university a challenge for me.
Since diagnosis, I feel like I am finally getting to know myself for the first time in my life. I’m finding out who the really Lauren is and in a way I finally feel connected to who I was as a child after so long of being disconnected and unable to recognise myself. Academia and education have been significant for this realisation to take place. Without partaking in such inward and subjective facing modules, I don’t think I would have been able to process all this confusion in such a therapeutic way. Reading back all my work over the past year has really helped me get to know myself and understand why I am the way I am. For the first time in my life I feel exited and liberated in my journey of identity, I have so much more to learn about myself and the world around me. I’m so grateful for everyone who has assisted me in this life-changing journey, Lecturers and colleagues who believed in me when I didn’t even know how to believe. I am Lauren Lucia Joyce and if I can come this far despite everything, I can’t wait to see where life is going to take me next.