6 May 2017

One Evening of Recognition at a Time…

Last night I found myself lying in bed crying; not with tears of sadness, but tears from feeling overwhelmed. See, last night, I did not just win the Sheffield Hallam Students’ Union award for Outstanding Contribution to Student Welfare, I also had a moment of incredible realisation. How did I end up in this position? How have I found myself living a life where not only am I waking up every morning loving what I do, but now I am winning an award of recognition for it? It is something that I cannot seem to justify deserving.

Being invited to attend the SHSU Awards Night 2017 was an amazing opportunity and something I never envisaged myself having the pleasure of attending, never mind being in the running to receive one of the awards! As each award was presented, I was absolutely in awe of the students that had been nominated. I think a lot of the time, students are perceived as being lazy and unfocused; well had you have attended this ceremony last night, I think their beliefs would have been completely turned around. Hearing anecdotes of the most successful campaigns, student-led groups, volunteering projects and social enterprises was outstanding and incredible inspiring. As a student myself, I could not believe that I was a part of this fantastic community of people that were all striving to make a positive change, and I guess that was the moment when a burst of realisation struck…

This time 2 years ago I found myself stuck in the viscous cycle of pleading for help, assessments and rejection for my eating disorder. I was at my weakest both mentally and physically. I was living a life, but not living the life that I wanted. Every day my thoughts were consumed with food, over-exercising, calorie counting, label checking and fear. I could not concentrate or focus on a task without looking at the clock to indicate when the next snack or meal was due. The enthusiasm and motivation I had for life was sucked out of me, taking most of my ambition and interests with it. Every day I was taking a step back towards a dark hole that snatched away my ability to think rationally, my feelings of self-worth and most tragically, my relationship with family and friends. It was at that very thought when I looked up and heard the Students’ Union Welfare and Community Officer reading out a speech of a young woman who has dedicated her time to fundraising for mental health charities, blogging about her eating disorder, chosen as a story for International Women’s Day 2017 and founded Sheffield Hallam SU Student Minds; and that was when it suddenly dawned on me how far I have come. It goes without saying that I did not reach this point without the support of the most beautiful people in my life today- old friends, new friends and my amazing family.

I know that when most people are nominated and when an award, the speech goes something like: “I never thought I would win this award!” or “I cannot believe I was even nominated for this!” But you have to trust me when I say, that I genuinely never expected this to happen. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph to this blog post, I cannot seem to justify winning this. When I think of somebody winning an award, I imagine that they have gone out of their way and worked hard towards receiving this level of recognition. But to me, this is my life. I enjoy every moment of what I do, whether that is sharing my story, talking to and supporting others or fundraising for a charity. There is nothing I want more from my life than to see other people receiving the help and support that they need, and going on to thrive within their own lives. I cannot imagine my life without these activities being a part of it; it is what makes me wake up every morning and fight my own personal battles.

Winning this award, however difficult I fathom to justify, means the absolute world to me. Not only has it shown me that I may be having more of an impact than I thought, but it has given me the drive and belief that no matter what happens academically at university, I know that I will be leaving here in a few years time with the knowledge that I have tried my best to make a positive difference to this around me. I want to thank those that nominated me to receive this award, the Students’ Union for the opportunities they have given me this year, and most importantly, I want to thank my amazing friend Amber for sharing that special moment with me.

‘Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.’

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