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.
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 have me go without food, but living at home with her in the 1990s, whilst I was in my mid-twenties, was a bit embarrassing. My York university contemporaries moved in or around Greater London, without parents, without exception.
I was in a benefits trap, the escape from which required a leap of faith."Recovery involves chance, life always will. Cruelly, whether you're ill or not." Fear blocks everything we do by generating anxiety. It will always be there. That's life. It doesn't go away.
Luckily I had my mother if it all went wrong: my essentials were there. The course was free for me, and it turned out I was given a maintenance grant two weeks in. That was lucky.
We all need some luck.
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
(but in time I reached it. Maybe you can too?) I said to myself, "how should I act to best get to the end of this course?" I felt my best option wasto "keep myself to myself."
* * *
Just before the first lecture I met Clare, who was 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 a hobby becomes a job, the hobby ends: music in her case. Clare had been intrigued with computers, which used to be my hobby before piano!
We had a symmetry; 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. My York first year's social confidence was now a frustration and at times a humiliating reflection.
"Perhaps I'd tasted the apple?"
My diagnosis of bipolar disorder in 1998 described my extremes well.