In 2014, Liz suffered a breakdown that grounded her life to a halt – she struggled to leave the house, and completing everyday tasks became impossible. Support from friends, counselling and baking helped ease the symptoms of anxiety. Liz went on to build her cake-making into a business, and today BuBakes has featured in numerous magazines and is the proud finalist in the The British Wedding Awards.
Liz champions awareness of mental health on her blog, donates part of every cake order to MIND, and even features on a video, which is a key part of the Approaches to Mental Health module that can be studied on a variety of courses at The Open University, including Nursing & Healthcare and Psychology & Counselling. Liz is also an OU student, having just completed her first year of BSc in Psychology. As we mark University Mental Health Day (7 March), Liz talks us through her journey and how studying with The OU has helped her gain back confidence.
At 18, I followed the wave of students leaving for university and went to Southampton University (formerly Winchester) to study a BA in Business Management and English. Although I completed my studies, I didn’t flourish as I thought I would and regretted that I could have done better. It wasn’t until I started counselling shortly after my breakdown, that my interest in psychology and the human mind started to develop.
I’d always known about The Open University, but had associated it with older people who were working at the same time. I didn’t realise how the flexibility of the courses could suit me, and as Psychology is a recognised course by the NHS, I was applicable for a second student loan. I’ve just finished my first year of study, and am excited to get started on the second.
I hope to use my degree to aid my knowledge of mental health. As well as my blog, I’m also in the middle of writing a book that talks about the common misconceptions of living with anxiety and depression, for those that have just been diagnosed or for people that live with someone who suffers. The Psychology course has provided me with the educational grounding to give my writing more substance.
Being back in academic education has produced a hunger for knowledge – I’m more aware of my surroundings and switched on. It’s also helped with how I interact with others and deal with everyday life.
Studying is tough at times, especially with the busy workload created from running a business. Time management is key, and taking regular breaks is important as it heightens your level of study. I aim for a five minute break every hour, and try to block out a whole weekend once a month to blitz through work. It’s the best feeling completing an assignment, and sometimes all it requires is rolling up your sleeves and getting on with it.
My inspiration for my work and studies is Stephen Fry – he tweeted about my blog when I was clawing my way back from my implosion, and made me realise that I have a purpose and a place writing about mental health. I owe him a lot. Last year, I was fortunate enough to meet and chat with the man himself, also (of course!) I gave him some cupcakes to say thank you! For anyone who thinks that mental illness prevents you from living your dreams, please know that it doesn’t have to. In fact it might just be taking you on the pathway to making those dreams come true.
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) June 8, 2015
Through counselling, I discovered a fascination in the mind, the power of mental wellbeing and subsequently my OU course. Both my baking and studies mean that on the days when I can’t face leaving the house or speaking to others, I can escape to my own little world. I’ve also met a great community of other students – learners that are just as dedicated and invested in the subject as I am.
Before I had a breakdown, I lived by my five-year plan – that quickly went out of the window. Now I don’t know exactly what the future will hold, but I know that it will relate to mental health and supporting others. I’d like to change the world in terms of the way we understand mental health, and continue to build on the numbers of people I can reach with my writing, even if it only helps one individual it will be worth it. Plus, through what happened to me, I know the ripple effect that changing one person’s life can have.
Liz has also been a part of this year’s 50th celebrations, making The OU’s very special birthday cake.
Find out more
Amazing Minds, the mindfulness positive education programme, for which Liz has recently joined the advisory board
Psychology and Counselling courses available at The Open University
Further information on Mental Health Awareness Week
Other OU News articles featuring Liz – Baking it Better – can baking help tackle anxiety?