Laura Fogarty

Psychology with Criminology BSc (Hons)

When Laura's son was eight weeks old, she attempted to take her own life.  Whilst in recovery, she decided she wanted to do something with her life and had accepted that her disability was only one part of her. So, a year on she completed her qualifications, finally earning the grades to apply for a place at BCU, where she inspires other students that anything is possible.

"My mental health journey started at 14 years old when I became distressed over the thoughts I was having, fixating on the world ending. The understanding of mental health back then really was not as developed as it is now and, unfortunately, I didn’t receive professional help until I reached 20. I began to experience panic attacks on my 21st birthday and shortly after I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder. I got to a stage where I really struggled to keep a job because of my fluctuating moods and irrational thoughts.

When I discovered I was pregnant at 24, I started to believe that my midwife wasn’t telling me the truth about my routine blood tests. I believed she was going to call someone to come and steal my baby from me. I’d also hear voices and think about morbid things, such as my own death. I began to think that I had illnesses and, even though this wasn’t the case, my declining mental health made everything feel so real.

As soon as my son was born, I realised something was wrong as I experienced severe anxiety. I wouldn’t let anyone touch him and couldn’t leave the house; believing something catastrophic would happen. Checking my pulse all the time became a way of coping and I struggled to sleep, eat and lead a normal life.  This reached a pinnacle at Christmas and I was admitted.

After being admitted to the ward I spent five months on the inpatient unit and worked hard to get better, surrounded by people who cared about mental health. Whilst I was an inpatient I was diagnosed with post-natal depression, anxiety and psychotic episodes. Shortly after leaving the ward I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and received help for my OCD and psychotic episodes.

Whilst in recovery, I decided I wanted to do something with my life and I had accepted that my disability was only one part of me. So, a year on I completed an Access course and did my maths and English GCSEs, finally earning the grades to apply for a place at BCU.

My dream was to become a mental health nurse until I began to look into courses at BCU. I realised psychology and criminology was more fitting for me, based on the modules the course covered, and I realised I could still go into a mental health-based role once qualified.

I faced many challenges whilst deciding to come to university. I always wondered if it was even possible to be a student, as someone who had been admitted and that had bipolar. From a young age my mental health stopped me from doing so many things, because I believed I couldn’t achieve amazing things in life.

Since starting at BCU, I have learnt that anything is possible, and I have gone from strength to strength. Being a student here means inclusion for everyone, that I can achieve anything and most importantly that I have a voice regardless of my disability.

The things I enjoy most about studying here, is the support I receive and the support that is available. My personal tutor is amazing and fully understands my diagnoses and past history. I can go to her anytime I need a chat or I’m struggling. I also have become a mental health first aider and was given a paid role as a mental health co-ordinator. I’m also a Student Academic Leader and I’m now employed by Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust, as a perinatal mental health lived experience representative.

The most challenging part about being at uni is worrying about becoming unwell again. If I’m having a bad day, I worry about the stigma attached to mental health and how people will view me. I’m also a mum to a four-year-old and which can be extremely tiring.

However, my time at BCU so far has made me realise that I belong here and I’ve earned my place like everyone else. The lecturers and my friends motivate me every day and I’m so happy I’ve got to a stage in life where I am well, and I feel that I can now let other students know that anything is possible. I love showing other students that they can achieve above and beyond and come out the other side.

It has taken me a long time to get to where I am, and I can only hope sharing my experience will aid others to apply and become students regardless of their background."

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