11th November 2017
So just now, I knew I had to write. But I wasn’t sure what to write about – I know that I’ve mentioned being a student before but I haven’t gone in to much detail about what that entails and what might be the good and bad things about it. So I thought I’d share my experience.
I’m a third year student, and I’ve noticed a lot of change both in me and my confidence regarding academia.
Year one…unhappiness, isolation, feeling out of my depth.
Year one was a horrible year for me. I came to the city because of a relationship I was in – I didn’t get in to my first choice, and made a really bad decision to sacrifice my second choice for being closer to somebody, and that is the biggest regret of my life. I was heartbroken during most of my first year, I was in a student halls of residence all of a sudden and all of us were different and were never even in the same room as a group. I wasn’t proactive – I was way out of my comfort zone and I coped by isolating myself and avoiding anything and mostly everything. Looking back I really realise the impact my mental health had on the way I perceived life and university, my attitude, my resentment.. it shows how important your wellbeing is in creating harmony in your life.
Growing up I was always a very anxious, shy character, and so I didn’t naturally converse with people. I viewed everyone with suspicion – I didn’t want to engage. I reached out for support but couldn’t engage with therapy..I didn’t like my nurse at University, I spoke to virtually nobody. I barely ever cooked because I wanted to avoid going in to the kitchen. I didn’t feel comfortable in myself. I hated who I was and I was riddled with self-depricating thoughts, low self-esteem, and often felt suicidal and I vividly remember times where I howled, in tears, in agony, self-harming and wishing I wasn’t alive.
Regarding academia, I felt out of my depth. I felt as though University was a shock in the sense that you really are left to your own devices. Your hand isn’t held like it is at school. They just set you an assignment and it’s up to you whether you reach out for more support or not – and as a very withdrawn, timid person, I found that impossible. I questioned myself, I spent an unhealthy amount of time working because that was the mindset I had picked up from GCSE’s and A level. I just felt really sheltered, and really alone. My mental health has never been so bad as it was during this year. This isn’t to say that first years at University are the worst – I very much don’t follow the norm of first year being the most fun etc, because of my circumstances and the kind of person I am and how I cope.
I felt very bitter about where I ended up. Because of my stupid choice, I ended up at a University I was too good for – I should have been at a much better University than this – one I really wanted to go to. Although the first step I took which I was most proud of was volunteering. I started at Child line and was there for 6 months, and the role I’m most proud of started in April 2016 in a mental health drop in centre for young people. I can remember how uncomfortable I felt in my own skin – I’d never done stuff like that before so I was so nervous, but it helped joining a team that was new because it was a new centre that had been opened for the first time anywhere. However my mental health did impact on my work in these roles – I remember once coming in to the centre and having to go and cry in the toilets because I was so anxious walking through the city. I was triggered by people telling me how low I felt, I felt emotionally invested in the people I spoke to. I didn’t open up to anyone – my parents couldn’t understand me and what was going on and I felt resentful towards them because they didn’t get it.
I was going to talk about all 3 years in one post but I’ve realised that it would be too long! So I’m going to leave it there, but what I do know is that a lot has changed during my time at University, for the better, and I will return to this to talk more about it. I want you to remember that no matter how hard life is and how much you’re suffering, there will always be hope.
There will always be light at the end of the tunnel, even if it feels as though that’s not true. Improving your mental health takes a lot of time and patience, but with the right support you can and will get to the place you want to be. I’ve progressed in ways I don’t realise much since my first year, and as a very withdrawn and reserved loner that is saying something for all of us!
Take care for now.
University can be tough. My time doing my BA was lousy. I was at Oxford, which is a real pressure-cooker and I didn’t cope very well with it. I spent long hours working, partly out of perfectionism, partly out of low self-esteem (I thought I wouldn’t be good enough if I spent less time on work) and partly, I can see in retrospect (but not at the time), because I was avoiding social situations that I didn’t know how to cope with. I made hardly any real friends the whole time I was there (which ended up being three and a bit years, as I was too depressed to get through my third year the first time) and was just lonely and miserable the whole time (ironically, I am now closer to some people I knew then than I was when we were all there). I remember afternoons in my first year lying on my bed when I should have been working on my weekly essay, just crying – and that was before I was ‘officially’ depressed!
My MA was pretty lousy too. Because of my mental health issues I didn’t get in to the university I would have liked to have gone to (similar to what you said) and ended up at a not-very-good one. Again, it took me nearly four years to do what should have been a one year course due to my depression and the university messed me around appallingly, even threatening to deny me my MA when I had completed all the work needed for it (fortunately my tutor advocated for me and got me the degree).
University was just an awful, awful experience for me, when on paper I should have been the type of person who would thrive there.
I’m sorry to hear about your experiences, it really sounds like you had a tough time..for a long time! It’s tricky to focus on improving your mental well-being when so much is going on with uni and like you say, we set ourselves these high standards and don’t feel good enough if we don’t work. Do you feel as though things have changed in any way since your uni experience?
A bit. I think I’m more self-aware than I used to be – as I say, in the first year of my BA, I think I was probably depressed without even realising it. And I’m probably a bit better at socialising, although I still find it very hard. I’m certainly a lot more functional than I was even a year ago, in terms of working nearly-full-time. But I do still struggle a lot, and it’s a bit frustrating that most people don’t realise that, but I’m too shy to tell most people about my issues, and afraid how they will respond.