University life and Real Talk about Mental Health: Royal Holloway

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

With first year finished up, I wanted to reflect and let people, who are worried about heading off to uni with what feels like a mental disorder stapled to their forehead, know how it went for me. 

Since I can remember I've always been a nervous child. I would get sick from anything that would spark worry in me. Since mental disorders weren't ever discussed or taught when growing up, I thought surely it had to be something that was physically wrong with me. My mum would always tell me my stomach problems started when I was around 8, when I was drinking a hot chocolate abroad and suddenly became instantly ill. I went to the doctors numerous times and every time they found nothing. I would get different tablets to try and nothing would work. I decided to take matters into my own hands at around 12 or 13 and research online. I found the illness IBS and was convinced this was what was wrong with me. I went to the doctors, got tablets, and still nothing helped. 

It wasn't until I was around 15 I started hearing about Anxiety and what it can do to you. I think I knew for a long time what I had, I just didn't want to accept that I had a mental disorder. Eventually, during my first year of A levels, I was struggling to leave the house without a panic attack that would leave me ill in bed for days. I knew it was time I went to the doctors and got help. I got therapy and tablets, which eventually made me in the best state I had ever been in in my life. The second year of A levels were stressful but I was no where near the state I was the year prior. I had supportive friends and family. But obviously there were people who are not so supportive. My advice is to push those people out. If they think a mental disorder is a joke, then let them. You can't change peoples minds, you can only change your perception of their opinion. It's an opinion that should mean nothing to you.

Going to uni I decided I wanted to be near London, since I figured I would get a better job in the digital industry. This was around 5-7 hours away (driving) from home. I was always expecting to freak out about leaving but it just never happened. I don't know if it was because I hadn't given university a thought and pushed it out my mind until a couple days before leaving, or because my mind was in a better state. When arriving, I can honestly say saying goodbye is the hardest thing I've had to do, and no one could pay me enough money to feel the sadness I did. Each day quickly became better but my anxiety was getting worse, and I was getting sick nearly every night. I was alone, far away from home and freaking out. I had to keep telling myself it was all in my head. After the first few months passed and I had stopped making myself sick with panic, my mind adjusted to my situation and a weight had been lifted off of me. I felt free and independent. If I panicked it was on me and no one would have to deal with it. 

If you're worried about going away and having to face new people, the way I saw it was I had a clean slate. I wasn't anxious Sarah, I could be whoever I wanted to be. I think the idea of re inventing yourself is exhilarating. New people, new friends, new everything. This doesn't mean you have to hide your mental state. I found it easier to be very vocal about it if I knew I had made friends that I wanted to stick with. It's easier to let people know so they know what to expect if you need time alone sometimes to recover. 

Freshers week can be daunting but you don't have to go all out. I honestly had a pretty chill freshers week. I think I only went out once, and found things to do that wasn't completely out my box. I always had trouble drinking or going out and staying calm but now I'm adjusted to the lifestyle haha.

Find and surround yourself with people who bring you happiness. Uni is a roller coaster of emotions, and you'll really get to know yourself and want to find out who you are, change it even. Being around people who inspire you to be better and make you like the person you are can be hard but it's worth it.

So here are my coping mechanisms:

  • Prepare yourself when going to uni. With my student welfare I had set up safety nets if I wasn't feeling so good. I got student disability help and had people to talk to every month to make sure I was doing okay. 
  • Make sure you have someone that you can call as soon as you start to panic about anything. They can level you back down to earth. 
  • Remember to tell yourself it's all in your head. None of this panic is real. Tell yourself where you are and that you're safe. 
  • Going to the gym and doing exercise is so good for your breathing. I find now that if I even feel a little nervous, I can breathe my way out of it. 
  • Don't be unrealistic. The panic isn't going to simply disappear but it's also not going to be constant. There will be ups and downs, but remember that you don't want a disorder to ruin your chances.
  • Tell someone at uni about what you have. Letting at least one person know will help you more than you think. 
  • You may be in a new place, and sure it can be scary, but it's also the start of your new life. 
I hope my story helped at least one person. I remember when planning to go to uni I was trying to find people going to uni with a mental disorder too and nothing was online. There are so many people out there who are just like you, you're not alone.


You Might Also Like