Triumph over adversity: student’s graduation marks bright future after difficult past
Libby Bendall has overcome a series of incredibly difficult challenges to finish her degree
21-year-old Elizabeth (Libby) Bendall has faced more in her two decades than many will have to go through in a lifetime. Now she is celebrating her graduation from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) – a day she wasn’t sure she’d ever get to enjoy.
After years of struggle and some dark times, Libby has successfully completed her Bachelor of Science with Honours in Sexual Health – and she’s excited to now start getting some experience under her belt to set her up for entering the world of work.
Originally from Ringwood, Dorset, Libby says she that she was excited to begin her studies at UCLan: it’s the only university in the country offering the sexual health course at undergraduate level, and Libby felt the amount of support available to students from diverse backgrounds at the university was a huge benefit.
Libby adds: “I’ve had a life-long passion in helping people to understand their bodies and sexuality. I have always wanted to reduce the stigma surrounding sex and how people engage with their own and with other people’s bodies.”
A troubled childhood led to Libby being placed in the care of a relative, and she worked closely with social services up until she moved to Preston to begin her studies, and for a time throughout the first year of her degree. Her experiences as a child mean Libby now suffers with severe anxiety and depression.
Libby explains “I found myself suffering many forms of abuse up until my 19th birthday, with no form of help through counselling or medication to deal with the consequences. My first few months at university were extremely difficult, with my mental health stopping me from leaving my room for weeks at a time.
“I really struggled with a lot of self-doubt and imposter syndrome, constantly believing that I couldn’t achieve anything and that I was not supposed to be there. On top of all my personal struggles, the pandemic struck months into my first year! Meaning that it was even more difficult to access support and attend doctors’ appointments to start the process of getting better.”
"I really struggled with a lot of self-doubt and imposter syndrome, constantly believing that I couldn’t achieve anything and that I was not supposed to be there."— UCLan graduate Libby Bendall
However, with the right support behind her, and the easing of Covid restrictions, Libby eventually felt able to venture outside, and begin exploring the clubs and societies UCLan had to offer. It was at a singing society that Libby met her best friend, Schuyler, who Libby credits with being her rock, standing by her side through thick and thin.
Libby’s three years at university have been a real journey for her: despite some of the lows, there have been many highs too, and it’s the first time she’s felt empowered to explore her problems and work towards bettering her mental health. She’s also, for the first time, attempted to start building bonds with family members that have previously been absent from her life.
Libby summarises: “I’ve loved being surrounded by likeminded people, all intent on achieving a common goal. I’ve also hugely enjoyed how relaxed and informal the classes were at UCLan; there’s no judgment, and no set way of doing things being forced upon anyone.”
Watching Libby graduate was her boyfriend of five years, Harry, who enjoyed sharing in Libby’s success and celebrating such a special day with her. Libby adds: “I’m excited for my next chapter - I honestly didn’t think I’d make it through the course at certain points, but I am proud of myself for proving I can do it.” And she wants others to know that if she can overcome her difficult childhood to succeed, then others in similar situations can too: “ For anyone who might feel like you don’t belong at university, you’re struggling to fit in, or feel you aren’t ‘good enough’ - well, you can do anything you put your mind to, and whilst it may not feel like it, everything really can work out for you. I’m proof of that.”
"I’ve loved being surrounded by likeminded people, all intent on achieving a common goal. For anyone who might feel like you don’t belong at university, you’re struggling to fit in, or feel you aren’t ‘good enough’ - well, you can do anything you put your mind to... I’m proof of that."— Libby Bendall