My University Experience

Hey guys,

So this post will be about my time at university. I really struggled with uni, however  I know a lot of people who have loved every minute of it, so if you feel as though you could be offended by anything on this topic, I wouldn’t read this post. This is my experience, it’s nothing to do with the friends I made – I did make some lovely friends. This is not a reflection of my friendships.

I was really excited to start uni. I’d been living in the states, so I was honestly looking forward to being in the UK where I was legal and able to finally go out! I love meeting new people so I was looking forward to that too – just the freedom! I couldn’t wait. All throughout my first 2 years, the social side of uni was amazing, but the academic side was always my biggest downfall. Since day one I felt as though I was so out of place. Everyone was so keen to get to know the lecturers and answer questions in the lectures and seminars, and I just wasn’t interested! I only got to know one of my lecturers, and that was because I had a full blown anxiety attack outside of a seminar class and he literally had to drive me home (a 45 minute drive – embarrassing isn’t even the word). First year was a breeze and looking back now I did the bare minimum – enough to pass. I just wanted to go out and enjoy myself! and I only ever seemed to be enjoying myself when I had a drink in my hand. So don’t get me wrong, I did have some AMAZING times, but they only ever seemed to be when I was on a night out or getting ready for one.

I got anxious whenever I had to go into uni, the horrible feeling in your stomach – every single time. I think people just thought I was lazy when I missed lectures but it was honestly because the feeling it gave me thinking about going in was so crippling I just couldn’t convince myself to go. I don’t know why that is yet. Maybe I’ve never felt as though I deserved to be there, like I’m not smart enough or worthy enough. I had a few comments by some people about our high school education, and they could not believe I had been privately educated and did really well – It was a huge surprise to them, but they commented in a really rude way that has stuck in my mind since they said it. It was as though they were saying there is no way you went to private school and there’s no way you got good results… One part of me thought, well we are at the same uni and we both had the same requirements so if you deserve to be here so do I, but the other part of me thought gosh maybe they’re right. Maybe I’m not ‘Durham Material’. I’ve always been life of the party and I love having a good time, but when it came to the academic side I was a recluse, I didn’t feel confident in my intelligence, and by the comments I got – no one else was either.

It was really lonely sometimes. Like I said before, most of my friends were so keen to get involved in the academic side, and the sports. I joined netball, which had training sessions every Tuesday and this was hard. I’d go from being so confident on a night out, to just unsure and self conscious. Anxious that people didn’t like me and were judging me and talking about me. There were so many confident people, I guess I felt inferior. I just couldn’t find my place!

At my uni during my freshers week we had Wreps and Freps looking after us during events in and out of uni, the Freps partied with us and it seemed like such a fun job to have. I tried my absolute best to get as involved as I can in first year, so I decided to apply for the Free job for the new freshers. Everyone I spoke to about it said I was pretty much guaranteed it, but I didn’t get it. I tried even harder second year to get involved with my college in every aspect, and I was told I was guaranteed it again, but I STILL didn’t get it. I just didn’t understand. At that point I just thought what is even the point? I had tried to hard and it didn’t pay off – in my social life and at uni – my work never seemed to get the top marks no matter if I spent every waking hour in the library and was confident in the assignment.

If you’d read my anxiety blog post, you’ll know that I had a really rubbish relationship for the first 2 years of uni, which really did not help at all – I should’ve known better really! I wasn’t doing as well as I wanted in my academics, I didn’t get the Frep position for the second time, my relationship had completely gone to sh!t and I just did not know what to do with myself. All I knew of uni was my relationship, so it was hard to see how I’d cope with not having that in my final year. I went to summer dreading going back. Luckily in the summer I met H, which turned my life around for the summer.. until reality hit us and it was time for me to be back at uni. By the Christmas holidays I was dead set I wasn’t going back. I thought about all the crap I had been through, the heartbreak, the let downs, the tears, yeah I only had 4 months left at uni, but WHY would I put myself through 4 more months of absolute misery when I’d already had over 2 years of it? It didn’t make sense to me. I wanted to be home with H, creating a life for us together – not sitting on my own in my uni bedroom not being able to get out of bed. Those last few months were torture. I stopped going out, I’d stopped going to netball training and stopped competing in the games all together, I didn’t socialize. I didn’t want to be there, and the whole time I was there I was depressed and anxious. Keeping up with friendships was too much stress for me, and I couldn’t handle it. Just having one conversation felt as though I had the whole world on my plate. It was horrible. I even missed lots of family events because I couldn’t bring myself to go, knowing I’d have to actually hold a conversation.

It got to a point where once I got within 5 minutes of university my heart would start racing, I’d feel teary and panicky – there was once my bus was super late, and I was going to be SO late to a seminar. I messaged my mum because I had gotten myself into such a mess about it, thinking what if I go in and he embarrasses me in front of everyone, what if he’s cross with me. She just said to knock, explain the situation and apologise for being late. I got to uni, got outside the room – at this point I was 35 minutes late, over half way of the whole seminar. I stood outside the room and I instantly began to panic. My breathing was fast, heart rate up, shaking, crying hysterically and I couldn’t speak. I ran to the uni student services to see if they could help me, but there were students in there – I didn’t want to wait too long as I wanted to go back to the seminar room and explain that I didn’t just not show up. I went back to the seminar room as time was running out, and as soon as he asked me what was wrong I burst into tears and couldn’t speak. He offered to drive me home, and I explained all my anxiety issues. He did his best to help me, he really made the last few months a bit more bearable – he excused me from an exam because I had missed SO much content, which did take the pressure off!

I haven’t stopped feeling anxious about uni until literally yesterday 20th June at 2pm. Which is the day I got the results of my degree. I have NO idea how but I managed to get an upper second class degree, which is just so bizarre to me. Feels like they’ve made a mistake but I won’t be saying anything!!. I finally feel like I’m free to be me and to get on with my life, it’s over and done with and I could not be any happier. I’m not sure if I’m glad I did it, I mean it’s great that I have a degree, and I didn’t quit (I rarely quit anything, it’s my biggest downfall sometimes!). But being at university made me into the person I used to be. It dragged me back and I was at square one. I won’t look at university as the best 3 years of my life, it’ll be 3 years of life lessons and tests of my strength! which I’m sure I’ll grow to appreciate, but for now I’m happy its over and I get to enjoy my life! Honestly I’m really anxious that I’ll go back to feeling crap again, especially when I have no reason to. It REALLY scares me. I just want to do things that make me happy, and I’m hoping this will be enough to keep my recovery moving forward rather than backward.

Like I said, uni is not for everyone. It really affected my mental and physical health, and to me nothing is worth that. In hindsight if someone had come to me and said that they knew 100% how my mind and body would react to the stress, I wouldn’t have even thought about going. Uni can be the best years of your life, unfortunately for me it wasn’t – but fortunately for me I’ve gotten through it with a good degree! If it’s taught me anything, it’s that I CAN overcome challenges, and I have strong willpower.

I wanted to write this because you hear a LOT about how amazing uni is and how it’s the best times of your life, and I felt a lot of pressure because of this. Pressure to have a good time, to make life long friends, to mature and have more responsibility. I don’t regret going, not at all – but I would have loved to have had someone been honest with me about their experience instead of painting a rosy picture.

YOU can do whatever you set your mind to. It will be hard, and you’ll want to quit, but let your feelings when you’ve finished be your motivation. The feeling of the weight lifting off your shoulders. Nothing is unattainable if you set your mind to it!

lots of love

Caitlan x

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My First Experiences of Anxiety and Depression

I had a lovely but hard childhood. I grew up with my mums younger brother and sister (they’re near enough my age – it’s a long old story), we were like brother and sisters really. We played together – mostly picked on Mikey to be honest but that’s another story altogether. I adored my Mum, I worshipped the ground she walked on – honestly I think it was kind of an unhealthy obsession, but she was my world. My Mum had me when she was really young, a lot of people will have an opinion on this, but honestly – although our relationship has had it’s ups and downs over the years, she is an incredible woman. She has the most amazing work ethic of anyone I know, and she works everyday towards her dreams. It sounds so bizarre, but I have watched my mum grow up, just the same as she’s watched me grow up, and I couldn’t be more proud. She inspires me everyday. If I’m having a crappy day and I’m feeling really demotivated, I can call my mum and after 5 minutes I’m back on my feet again. The reason I say, our relationship has had its ups and downs is because I will not paint a fairy tale image of my life and the relationships in it – not that there’s anything wrong with that! if that’s what makes you happy, than you do that, but for me it’s not fulfilling or satisfying trying to portray my life to be something it isn’t. There were times I didn’t want to be around her, and she didn’t want to be around me, obviously I don’t know how my mum felt at the time – when you’re a kid you don’t think about how your parents are feeling, you only think about how you are feeling, but I know I felt like I had a lot to prove, and I wasn’t good enough. My mum was a young mum, but still managed to be successful, we lived in a beautiful place in a beautiful country, we had everything we needed – she made it in everyone’s eyes. It’s hard to keep up with that! I felt a lot of pressure in a lot of ways (It’s easy to create these pressures in your head), and honestly that pressure only just recently stopped when I finished university. When I say my childhood was hard, I mean I was anxious about a LOT of things, and I felt sad – I wanted to please everybody and make sure I was living up to their expectations – and its a lot for a kid to take on, and it made life less enjoyable and less easy.

My mum worked a lot, which is where my anxieties first kicked in – I didn’t want to be without her. I remember crying at the window whilst I watched her drive away, and it felt as though she’d taken a part of me with her. I felt hollow and didn’t know what to do with myself – A feeling I got to know very well over my life, especially with boyfriends. Maybe it’s signs of having an addictive personality? I don’t know, but there always seemed to be someone ruling my existence, and as soon as they left, I didn’t know who I was anymore. It was hard, it was painful, and it was debilitating. My parents separated before I was born, which meant I had to see my Dad every other weekend, and gosh did this take its toll on me. I think it affected my stability and consistency in life, and obviously – I just wanted to be with my mum!

I always felt that I was just a sad person. That no matter how good my life was, I was always going to be sad. I showered myself in sadness – listening to sad music, creating scenarios in my head of how terrible my life was and how depressed I was. At this time I was living in Qatar – which is a country I hold close to my heart, but I was still sad! I had lovely friends, a lovely caring boyfriend, a beautiful house with a swimming pool – a life kids my age dreamt of really!, but I still felt sad. The times I felt happy was when I was out with my friends, or with my boyfriend. I needed them to be happy, and without them I was hollow and miserable. It felt like I was happy until I walked through the door of my house – like it was a portal to misery. Honestly, I’m still trying to get my head around why it was like that, and I just think it was all to do with my relationship with my Mum. It kills me to say this, but at that time, she was a negative part of my life – we didn’t really talk that much, I didn’t want to do anything with her or my Dad and brother, I always had anxiety about her being unhappy with me or upset, which made me feel like I had to walk around on egg shells. That’s not an easy life to live when you think someone is always unhappy with you. I think to this day, in a lot of ways I tried my best. Yeah my bed wasn’t made everyday, and I found it unfair that it was my job to clean my own bathroom – but what kid wouldn’t think like that! but I felt that my mum despised me for all the little things I couldn’t comprehend – Now when I look back on that time, I know that this was all to do with my anxiety. I felt as though she hated me, and I wasn’t good enough. If she wasn’t in that great of a mood I instantly thought it was because of me and something I did. It was hard to live with! – Honestly I think I’ve just always wanted to make her proud and impress her. I think that this kind of took over my whole life, the need for acceptance. I just want to point out that my mum is the biggest positive influence on my life now. Positivity seeps through her skin, and it is amazing. She’s on her own journey, and I can see how she has changed her outlook on life, and the way she thinks and feels. We’ve both changed, and we’re so much more compatiable as mother and daughter now! I appreciate her and she appreciates me. Which is a beautiful thing. (Just wanted to make that clear before I carried on!)

I did a lot of stupid sh!t when I was in my young teens – some stuff I bet my parents don’t even know about today. I snuck out, I drank when I was WAY too young, I went to parties and hung out with people who were a lot older than me, I lied to benefit myself, and all of this took a toll on mine and my Mums relationship, but more importantly, my relationship with myself. I began to hate myself. I was 16 when my Mum and Stepdad (who I mainly refer to as my Dad) sat me down and told me we were moving away to the US, Texas. My life was turned upside down. My relationship broke down, I said bye to a school I loved and all my friends, knowing full well I’d probably never see them again. My depressive state followed me to Texas. It got to a point where I had to sit down with my parents and ask them to get me help, because I was depressed and anxious all the time. Honestly at first I don’t think they took me seriously, but eventually I did see a counsellor (I’ll mention this in another post). Once I had seen this counsellor I began a journey to positivity – starting with my health. I lost a considerable amount of weight, I solely focussed on this and it took over my life – but it didn’t work for very long. I worked on building my self love, but I don’t think I truly got there until recently.

Once I started University – a year after I managed to lose all the weight, I let negative things pile into my life until it had completely taken over, and I was an anxious mess again. I lost sight of my goal, and just dwelled in my misery. I didn’t like University – first year was fun, all we did was get drunk and party, but all in all I won’t look back on it as the most amazing 3 years of my life! I met a lot of amazing people, who I will keep in contact with – but there has been many downs for me ( which again I’m sure I’ll talk about in a separate post) My mental health broke down, which weakened my immune system, I was getting illness after illness, having more and more time from university, it was just a mess! I was constantly anxious when it was time to go in for a seminar, the anxiety when I had to check my student emails was crippling (even opening formal letters I get really bad anxiety), I was anxious about what people thought about me – if they really liked me or were saying things behind my back, I was anxious after every single night out thinking oh gosh I hope I didn’t embarrass myself (that’s EVERY night out – most of the time I wasn’t that drunk! it was just an anxiety for me). I was in an extremely toxic relationship with someone pretending to care about my wellbeing (for 2 years… yeah I fell for that for 2 whole years). I lost sight of the person I wanted to be … the person I knew I was capable of being. It got to the point where simply going in to university for a one hour seminar exhausted me , I felt as though I had climbed a mountain – and emotionally I had! My mum said to me on the phone that university for anyone is a marathon, and marathons are hard work! but I was doing this marathon in mud up to my knees. And she couldn’t have hit the nail on the head any better. Everything was hard work, emotionally and physically draining. Meeting friends was hard work, I tended to cancel plans and just stay in bed, doing university work was IMPOSSIBLE – my mind could never stay in one place. It felt like none of my life was going as planned, like I was spiralling out of control! I was living every minute of everyday with debilitating anxieties about every aspect in my life – I was back to where I started.

I was too anxious about being liked, about my weight, about where my life was heading, about doing well at university, about keeping up friendships and trying to keep a hold of my relationship, of money and my lack of it!, being away from my family. It’s exhausting. People who don’t suffer from anxiety will never really understand. I thought it was important for me to share where my anxieties stemmed from, you may relate to it in some way and it could help you realise where your anxiety has come from and how you can deal with it – and just accepting it. Being in denial won’t get you anywhere in the long run.

My anxieties began when I was very young – too young. I’m still coming to terms with how to deal with this, and to help myself, and this is what I want to share. It’s okay to not be okay, it’s okay to be sad sometimes. But it’s also okay to want to make a change, pick yourself up, look for motivation in a healthy way, think about how you want your life to be – set goals and work towards them – but it’s important to enjoy the journey along the way – don’t just wait until everything is perfect, believe me you’ll be waiting a hell of a long time. All this stuff is easy to say, and I have my days when I don’t want to leave my bedroom, it’s okay to have those days, as long as the next day you wake up refreshed and ready to carry on. I won’t just be posting about my good days and how happy I am, because in reality, my recovery is still going on. As I’m writing this I’m feeling really emotional, this was about starting from the bottom and explaining why and when my anxieties started and how I got through them – they’re hard memories to have, painful actually. Remembering all the times I would be up until ridiculous hours in the morning crying and I didn’t know why! I’m proud of how I’m starting to become more in tune with my mind and soul, and honestly I want to look after myself, I want to do the things that make me happy- and this is what I’m beginning to do, and without feeling selfish about it!

Feel free to contact me, I would love to hear from you

love Caitlan x

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