Determined and undaunted
It’s not easy being a single mother, coping with a learning disorder and going to university, but somehow Tene Dowling is managing.
In September, the 31-year-old goes into her last year of an undergraduate psychology programme at York St John University in York, Yorkshire, England.
“Being a mom of an 11-year- old daughter, a student and dealing with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is like three jobs in one,” she said.
To make things worse, in England, she has had a hard time securing the medications she needs to manage her ADHD.
“I am unable to get medication due to a funding issue with the National Health Service,” she said. “It has been a big mess. They have given me something temporarily, but it has not been effective and I had to stop taking it. If I had private healthcare, I would be able to get medicated.”
However, she is learning to cope. “Lifewise, I am completely fine without it,” she said. “But I do have my days when I get depressed, anxious and stressed out. Academically, it is a nightmare. I have a lack of concentration, and reading a lot of material is hard. It is hard to stay focused on certain things.”
But she soldiers on.
“It has been a challenge, but I am determined to do this,” she said. “I didn’t come out to start my degree only to give up. I want to keep pushing for my goals.”
One way she copes is through involvement with extra curricular activity.
“That brings balance to my life,” she said. “Last year, I became the president of the African Caribbean Society. Then I was elected Black and Minority Ethnicities (BAME) officer at my student union. I have been the voice for students who feel that they aren’t included. I have to put myself out there to learn about the different issues that the BAME Community is faced with. I look at how to fix those issues, and how to engage with students.”
This summer, she would like to take part in a four-week programme in Denpasar, Bali volunteering with the charity SLV Global.
“We will be working in one of the villages, teaching English to some of the children and adults and doing different activities with them to promote positive thinking,” she said. “We will be promoting positive psychology through our programme.
“We’ll also be working in a psychiatric facility in Bali. I’m not sure yet what we’ll be doing.”
But she is struggling to raise the funds for the trip, and so far only has half of the £3,000 needed through a GoFundMe page. I did some fundraising at my university, but haven’t been able to do much because I have commitments to my deadlines, as well as being a mother,” she said. “But I’m determined to make it.”
However, she has to be realistic about her expenses.
“I still have to pay rent and take care of myself and my daughter,” she said. “Because I am a student, I don’t work full time, and the trip is smack in the summer, which is high season for travelling which is why it is so expensive.”
She thinks the programme will give her more experience dealing with mental health issues in different cultures. “I think it would be a really good experience for me,” she said.
Her overall goal is to get a master’s degree in counselling psychology and then return to Bermuda to work in the arena of substance abuse and gang culture. “I think gang culture is something very interesting,” she said. “We have so many children who want to belong to something. I think gang culture provides that belonging. That is why they get into it.“
She decided to study psychology a few years ago after volunteering with young people in the Mirrors programme.
The experience helped to shed light on her own struggles throughout her childhood and teen years. “Seeing the situation from an adult’s perspective was a real eye-opener,” she said. “It made me realise that as a kid I had emotions that I didn’t know how to express.”
She decided on psychology, because there are connections between learning disorders and mental illnesses, such as dyslexia, anxiety and bipolar disorder.
She was first diagnosed with ADHD at age six. “I struggled mentally and emotionally for most of my life,” the 31 year old said. “I have been on medication that altered my personality and my mood.”
Her family were supportive, but didn’t fully understand what she was going through. “Sometimes with mental health issues you have to know it, to feel it,” she said.
As a teenager she often felt like no one really listened or cared. “That caused me to rebel and cry out for attention,” she said. As a youngster, she went on Ritalin a few years after her ADHD diagnosis.
“Twenty five years ago, medications for ADHD were limited,” she said. “I don’t think there was much research done on medications back then.”
The drug Ritalin helped to a certain extent, but also caused altered moods and personality.
“It makes you a totally different person,” she said.
Today she said medications for ADHD have come a long way.
To contact Ms Dowling e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org