It has taken me a while to decide what I want to say as I reflect upon my first year of University; particularly when trying to find the positive aspect within what has been a very difficult year. As I write this, having just emptied my flat in halls, returning home for three whole months without a textbook in site, I think I may have found the positives, but before the positives, let me start by addressing why they have been so hard to find.
The day I moved into halls, I had a panic attack. Overwhelmed by the keenness of my flatmates to throw themselves into Fresher life whilst I was struggling with image problems that made that impossible. That night, I very nearly packed up my things and returned home, ready to give up on a degree altogether. Now, in hindsight- this seems a little dramatic, but having convinced myself I would be viewed as an outsider for avoiding Fresher activities and with the stress I felt from watching others enjoy their time and yet feeling unable to join in myself, it seemed a valid option, particularly when coupled with the absolute certain that I was inevitably bound for failure. The next day, in a last-ditch attempt, I isolated myself by moving into a studio flat in halls, typically used by post-graduate students. In doing so, I felt removed of the pressure of being the odd one out and yet I made socialising even more difficult for myself. With lecture halls of 180 students, I never seemed to see the same person twice, and as the weeks went on, more friendships seemed to have formed and I resigned myself to sitting alone, trying to focus on studying whilst being ever conscious of my own isolation. A sort of social anxiety began to take over me, for a reason I can’t quite pinpoint, leaving my room for any reason seemed overwhelming, I simply did not want to and could not bring myself to leave meaning I went days on end without seeing another human being. I often found myself traveling home at weekends, or having my mum come down to visit. In essence, this is the summary of my year, not only stressing myself over the workload and convincing myself I was destined to fail, but lonely and isolated. Over the year, I had a few incidents of self harm, including my lowest moment to date- taking more than my dose of antidepressants (a desperate attempt to rectify my low mood) leading to a trip to A and E. Can you see why I found it hard to write anything other than negativity? I spent the last ten or so months an unstable mess, feeling a burden to anyone who knew what I was feeling.
Now, however, I look back on these moments and feel a sense of pride and achievement because here I am- finished my first year of university, completed all my exams and assessments and set up with a house (including flatmates) for my second year. I have plans in place over summer to try and deal with the issues I’ve faced in this year, so that I can throw myself into second year with enthusiasm, perhaps even joining a society. I can appreciate the amount of perseverance just finishing the year took and from that, derive a sense of pride. So my positive message is that sometimes you can do things in the most unconventional way possible, differently to how you perceive everyone else around you to be doing it and still be successful in achieving the goal you set out to achieve. You can turn negative situations, even a whole year of them, into a motivating force, a reminder that you can do it, even when the world seems dark and unlivable. It’s incredibly likely that my positivism will quickly fall away to my default negative belief system, but I believe that it’s important to really recognize the moments when positive emotions consume you- as my favorite author once said, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”.