My mother spotted an advert for a local university's new masters degree course in computing. I applied, and soon afterwards my psychiatrist was rang to reassure the course leader.
I'd gained some confidence by "hanging out" in Winwick hospital's social therapy department. As this course was a computing one I risked trying for it, and I was accepted.
The change of status to fulltime student, meant losing my welfare benefits, and I had no idea where I was headed. My mother wouldn't let me starve, but living at home with her in the 1990s, whilst I was in my mid-twenties, was a little bit embarrassing. Without exception, my York university contemporaries lived in or around Greater London, alone or with partners.
I was in the classic benefits trap. Everything would involve a leap of faith."Recovery involves making some leaps of faith, life will always involve that, and cruelly, that's whether you're ill as well as not." Fear blocks everything we do. Fear generates anxiety. It will always be there. That is life. It doesn't go away.
Luckily, if it all went wrong for me, my mother would have provided essentials. That made me better off than some. The course was free for me, but around week two I was given a maintenance grant as well. That was lucky. We all need luck sometimes.
My social interactions at the time, required stressful conscious calculations. Dealing with groups was much harder still, and seeing other people coping in their stride, was not even seen as a remotely possible place for me to reach. (In time I reached it. Maybe you can too?) I said to myself then, "how should I act to best get to the end of this course?" And I felt that my best option,wasto "keep myself to myself."
* * *
Just before the first lecture I met Clare, fifteen years my senior. She eventually became my first wife. The picture on this page is of the pair of us at the time this web page covers. We sat together in that lecture. It was about 8086 assembly language programming (a subject I was no stranger to.)
By an implausible coincidence, Clare was a brilliant musician and taught piano. As is often the case, when her music became a job, the hobby ended. Clare had got intrigued by computers, which used to be my hobby before being my job.
So we had a symmetry like Yin and Yang perhaps?
I got through the course and gained an MSc. Clare had offered some broader support. Computing draws less outgoing people anyway, so it is not dreadful if your people skills aren't great. It was 1994. Social confidence at York in 1986/87 was a frustrating and at times humiliating memory.
"Perhaps I'd tasted the apple?"
My diagnosis of bipolar disorder in 1998 described my extremes well. For a time I found the label useful.