Sunday, 18 June 2017

Let's Reflect: First Year At University (Anxiety/Grades/Independence)

Hey everyone!

So today I thought I'd do a small Reflective post seeing as I'm actually at the end of my First Year as a university student! That feels absolutely CRAZY and surreal to write but here we are.

I'm going to be honest here and say the very first day I arrived at university, was the worst day of my life. My anxiety was playing up, I felt sick and my door wouldn't lock and my university took hours to come and fix it while I was stuck in my room feeling unable to leave. Once my parents left I had various panic attacks and had no appetite, watched SacconeJolys and just felt absolutely lost. Can I just add, The SacconeJolys were my absolute saviours during the first few weeks of uni, alongside a few of my closest friends who kept me going, I love you very much. You guys probably know who you are! There was a small period of my first part of uni life where all I genuinely cared about was The SacconeJolys and watching them. Their love for their little family and love for the friendliest friends community got me through.

One of the main things I worried about uni was obviously making friends and actually attending the lectures, as well as generally living alone and fending for myself.
I have a small group of friends, I'm not on my own, there's people who care, it may not be how I thought it would be, but I'm really, really, grateful for everyone I've met at uni so far. I made a huge effort to get involved in chatting to people, bearing in mind I'm EXTREMELY bad at talking to people on my own, my shyness takes over, I was proud of myself for generally pushing myself, my social anxiety is still very much there.
Also, in regards to attending lectures, I attended pretty much all of them and stayed through them all, I feared I'd be unable to go to them or stay in them for the full time, it is still something I fear for next year, like a small recurring worry, but the fact I did first year, makes me grateful that I managed it.

I've experienced a lot of different things at uni, one main one being living independently, which is something very new to me as my parents are quite on the overprotective side at times, so living by my own ways was weird but also a sense of relief. It was hard to adjust to at first especially as I have limited cooking skills and took a while to feel like I actually felt settled and wanted there, but I can tell you as I was leaving my little room for the last time, I was feeling very bittersweet and like I was going to miss it, which I will do. Living independently is a huge step if you suffer with any kind of mental illness.

What I can honestly say about uni is that it is quite fast paced, something which has taken me a while to get used to and indeed I'm not sure if I'm entirely used to. Sometimes I'd find myself thinking 'how random is this, I would have never expected this a year ago'. Uni managed to train me to be a little more spontaneous and in some ways enjoy the spontaneous, however, when it comes to new terms and lectures, they were always a bit of a trigger.
However looking back from a year ago, I can't believe some of the situations or scenarios I've had and many trigger ones.
I can't believe it and I am really proud of myself as if I'd not come to uni, I probably wouldn't have had those opportunities. Even though university wasn't my immediate plan, it's something which has definitely changed me and made me grow as a person especially in the last year. Everything definitely happens for a reason, taking a year out was a great idea as I needed some time to rest, got some experience and then threw myself back into the whole 'education' system. I did apply for an apprenticeship which got ignored which I used to be slightly disappointed over, now I realise it was meant to happen.

I was talking to 2 friends recently, about how different things were a year ago and one of them remembered how nervous I was about starting uni and how terrified I was that I wouldn't be able to do it.

My mental health is still not perfect, I still have bad anxiety episodes, my social anxiety has increased a bit, BUT the actual anxiety of me not being able to survive and attend lectures?
I've been more sociable and adaptive to unplanned socialising than I have in years. Being away from home has given me a breath of freedom and even though I am missing out on some things and don't feel like my university life has been perfect, it's been better than I could have imagined. I've been spontaneous. I managed to go on a night out when it was only supposed to be a couple of drinks and even they were last minute and I wasn't feeling 100% before and hadn't ate as much as I would have liked but guess what - the night was amazing and I enjoyed it so much. Also managed to be in a crowd for a couple of hours during my uni's Final Fling which involved quite a busy drum and bass set, which I was surprisingly okay during (I was at the very side of the crowd so there was a space/gap where I could go if I felt I needed to escape which I think was the main reason I coped) but the main part is I enjoyed it and was fine.

Also, yes I'm terrified for second year as a lot of my friends are leaving as my flatmate is a Masters Student and a lot of the friends I've developed through her are also leaving which leaves me pretty much more friendless, but the most important thing I must remember is I survived and built a life here, away from home, myself with nothing, on that very first day of university, which like I said was the worst day of my life.

However, the point of this post isn't to worry about next year, it is a celebration of the last year and the fact that my life is in a very different place than it was last year, my anxiety isn't cured it's still very much there, but compare me to who I was in March 2016, and one of the days where I felt like I had absolutely nothing, fast forward a year and 2 months on and I've grown so much, tackled so many situations I never thought I would have done and I'm here. I'm surviving.

I guess this is for all of the people not sure whether to move away for university or whether to even go to university, you may think your anxiety or mental health may stop you, but I can tell you from my own experience, my experience may not have been 100% what I wanted but it is progress and I've grown so much in the time I've been here. Putting myself into situations and finding quick coping methods got me through.

Towards the end of first year, my main thoughts were Zoe's 'Say Yes' and also generally knowing I wanted to make the most out of my time, so I found myself saying yes to sometimes last minute plans, knowing that I wanted to make memories and try and spend less time thinking 'why didn't I go to that' etc. This was something which was quite brave but something I consciously made an effort to do. It isn't easy and it takes time to do but if you take small steps, it's something to try.

The truth is I've built something here and at uni and got into scenarios and situations and done small little things I wouldn't have done a year ago, got through them with little anxiety or even no panic attacks. And if you take anything from this post, please honestly believe that a year ago or even 2 years ago some of the things that I've been able to do, I honestly wouldn't have believed you. My life isn't perfect and my mental health/anxiety isn't fixed, but I'm actually doing okay.
I'm sure I'll be tested at the start of next year, in regards to settling back into an education and timetabled routine with new lectures and rooms and stuff, but what I have is the proof that this little Newcastle girl who used to go home before some lessons in sixth form even started cos she couldn't even bring herself to go through the door, managed to attend majority of her lectures minus possibly one, and survived them all (some with a little anxiety but PUSHED ON)

In terms of my work I've done mostly 2:1's, however I did manage a First in a group project which I was very surprised about but very glad for, as especially towards the end of First Year I really wanted to get at least one First.

I thank all of you for being such a good support to me and I regret that this blog became a little lost amongst it all, I really hope that I can manage to properly get these posts back even when I'm back at university next year.

Please let me know any thoughts you have, especially if you've just finished First Year!

Love & hugs,
Claire xxxx

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