Over 20 years ago I was stuck at home for the first time.

Back then there was no public health crisis, no quarantine, and no fines for breaking curfew.

I was at home because I'd fallen into a deep depression and the thought of walking back outside filled me with uncontrollable anxiety and pure dread.

Getting out of bed every day was a struggle, although I wasn't trying that hard to win.

Truthfully I didn't even want to wake up, because sleep was my only escape from the pain of waking life.

I had gone from excelling at everything, being the best in every subject at school, winning at sporting events, to dropping out of school completely and not even showering for days.

It looked like had thrown my life away, I had no qualifications and no prospects of getting anywhere without them.

Physically I wasted away and over time I became severely underweight.

But in this state I still had two incredible resources: curiosity and time.

Without the distractions of school, I started to read about computer science and fell upon cryptography, which captured my imagination. At a time when I didn't want to be around other people, the study of keeping secrets seemed strangely appropriate.

Struggling to understand the mathematics involved in cryptographic algorithms, - I can still remember the exact paper and page where I realised I had no idea what a finite field was - I started to teach myself abstract algebra by downloading university lecture notes. I convinced my parents to order books for me when I couldn't piece something together from the notes.

Eventually I got to number theory, then analytic number theory, and soon I'd gone beyond undergraduate courses into graduate ones.

I started to dream that I could go to university to do a mathematics PhD one day.

My family did everything they could to help me, finding a way for me to get back into secondary education. I think they were relieved that I had any kind of vision for my future at all, however unlikely it might be.

To this day I have no GCSEs, two mediocre A-levels, and I only made it to university because of a special programme designed to help people who don't have enough points to get an offer under normal circumstances.

Despite that I got the degree, masters, and an invite to do a PhD.

Why am I sharing this with you now?

I want you to know because I spent over a year at home, I know how it feels better than most.

I know how bleak it gets when you're cut off from the world and you have no idea what your future will look like.

And I know that even in the darkest moments, there is the possibility of growth and transformation.

Lots of people are telling you about how you should be learning a skill, or starting a business, or becoming a freelancer.

That's not what this is about.

It's about recognising your power to reimagine your life, to throw away all the things you thought were certain and start down a new path.

You may have more pressing concerns right now like money, food, and loved ones who are vulnerable or sick.

Take care of those things first.

Remember that when things look hopeless, when you're ready to throw everything away, is precisely when you should summon the resources within you and persist.