Uni and Me
Updated: Apr 28
Let's start by being real here; my university experience hasn't been the best. It's been a long and testing journey and it has taken hell of a lot of strength and determination to get to where I am now, but I can genuinely say, I have never been happier. It's so important to remember that your happiness and well-being are so precious, and only you have the power to control them. Although it may seem impossible to do that, I can promise you, it’s not.
Now, I'll save all the jargon about school, grades and picking the uni that was right for me, because to be honest, I don't agree with that. There are some universities that are perhaps better suited to some people, but I think it really depends where you are on your life journey, and also what you put into your experience. The more you involve yourself and throw yourself into different activities and groups, the more likely you are to succeed.
The first time I attempted uni, was in Birmingham doing Biomedical Science. I was so nervous in the week leading up to moving-in day, I was moving halfway up the country, away from my family and my friends to a brand new, daunting city (I live in a country village in the South West of England). I had so many worries whizzing around my head, what if I didn't fit in, what if I found the course too hard, what if I struggled with money? I tried to remember though, that everyone was in the same boat, everyone would be feeling this way. I was right, they were just as nervous as I was, after all, it was their first time away from home too.
The first few weeks of the term were great, I had great course friends and I got on well with my flatmates. However, it was a few weeks into the term, when the hard work started to happen, that the cracks began to show and it was around my birthday, the start of November, when I started to realise something wasn't right. We'd just had a huge assignment due in and it had caused me a lot of stress, I'm a little bit of a perfectionist so I almost obsessed about how well I did in it.
I came home for the weekend and went on a night out for my birthday with a few of my friends that hadn't gone to uni. To cut a long story short, I ended up having a panic attack and thank goodness I was with my lovely group of friends, who looked after me and calmed me down. After this terrible weekend, I returned back to uni, but I just felt different. I can't describe it really, but I just wasn't my usual bubbly, sociable self. I was secluded and just tried to keep myself to myself as much as possible. I wanted to spend every weekend at home and hated it when I had to go back to uni.
I stayed in this strange state of mind until I came home for Christmas. I think this was when my family and I, really realised that I was struggling. I was refusing to go to work or even leave the house, I didn't want to see anyone, I was sleeping for 12+ hours and despite this, was complaining of being tired all the time. When I try to pinpoint what it was that caused me to feel this way, it seems impossible, but I think it was the fact that I knew that I wanted to drop out of uni, but my own mind was battling these thoughts.
Reminiscing on my experience, I think this ultimately led to quite a lot of anxiety. Once I myself had accepted that I couldn't carry on leading my unhappy life in Birmingham, I knew that the next step was to tell my parents. This filled me with so much worry. My parents are the most understanding and caring parents you could ask for, but I just didn't want to disappoint not only them, but my whole family.
I'm the first in the family to go to uni and all I wanted to do was make them proud, but instead all I could think was that I was going to let them all down, massively. Although I felt like this, I just knew for my own health and sanity that I needed to get it off my chest, so I sat my Mum and Dad down and told them. After a few hours of teary conversations, it was agreed that I was to put my studies on hold.
I then told the rest of my family, friends and colleagues. They were of course all very supportive, but I still felt as though I was a failure. My bosses at work had known I wasn't feeling like my usual self, due to not attending work and when we spoke to them about me dropping out, they completely understood and did everything they could to help me in my time of need.
A few weeks after I had made my decision, I was starting to feel slightly better in myself. My boss also messaged me and asked me to go out to the annual staff party. Although I hadn't left the house in weeks, I knew this would be the perfect opportunity. I was very close to my work colleagues and they knew everything I was going through, so I decided to bite the bullet and go. Before I knew it, I was there and having a lovely time, this was the first time I'd felt normal in what felt like an eternity. This was the push I needed. After that I slowly found myself slipping back into myself again and I thank my boss relentlessly for giving me that chance to push myself and I also thank myself (and my Mum) for pushing me to go.
All in all, I had a pretty awful experience with my mental health and I totally get that there are people that are far worse off than I was. Now, I can't help but look back and think how silly I was but I'm also extremely humbled by the sheer amount of support that rallied around me in my time of need and I will never forget that. I think this and realising myself that I needed to pull myself out of this dark, declining spiral, was what led to me starting to feel better.
I'm now probably the happiest I've ever been, I'm at an incredible uni (where the support is amazing), doing a course that I absolutely love, and I'm surrounded by the most amazing set of friends (they are probably the best people I've ever met). I cannot stress to you enough, that if you're struggling, you are certainly not alone, and you can definitely get through this. If I've helped just one person by showing them that you can overcome that demon in your head, then I am so happy to have written this.
I've included a few links to websites below that have trained advisors you can talk to about your mental health, if you feel like you're struggling.
Text: text YM to 85258