The prospect of starting university is a daunting one for most young people and you might not quite know what to expect in those first few weeks. All of a sudden you are thrown into an alien environment and surrounded by unfamiliar faces – it can leave you feeling a bit like a rabbit in the headlights. This experience can be made even harder if you suffer from a mental illness such as anxiety.
I know because I was in this exact situation this time last year. It was always touch and go whether or not I would make it to university last September, right up until the very last minute. I had suffered severe OCD, social anxiety and was still battling anorexia, so to say I didn’t feel quite ready to venture off into the big, wide world as an independent adult is an understatement.
Nevertheless, the pressure to keep up with friends, coupled with the dread of an entire year lacking in structure or routine (and the inevitable downward spiral that would most likely lead to) pushed me (however hesitantly) to give it a go. I’ll admit, part of me was excited to start a brand new life as a new and improved, more confident version of myself and leave the insecure, anxious Lisa behind.
(If only it had worked out that way…)
To be blunt, I found those first first weeks absolutely terrifying. I couldn’t bring myself to attend any freshers socials or lectures, in fact I could barely step foot onto campus. I locked myself away in my one-person studio flat and barely spoke to another living soul. I isolated myself, whilst everyone else seemed to find their forever-friends with ease. I felt lonely and a complete failure, convinced this was destined to be my uni experience for the next three years (three years of hell as far as I was concerned!).
Even after two weeks, I was adamant that I’d made a terrible mistake and that uni just wasn’t for me. I got as far as filling out and handing in a deferral form to the head of subject, on the condition that I would return the following year when I felt more ‘ready’ to face university. It was my temporary get-out clause and in the meantime I would figure out a way to drop-out for good. Luckily, he gave me the weekend to think about my decision (I decided to stick it out for a while) and things eventually became easier.
I forced myself to attend a week of lectures and on one fateful day (when I must have been feeling particularly brave) I approached someone on my course who was staying in the same accommodation as me. We became good friends and will be sharing a student house for second year! She then introduced me to her friend, who introduced me to her friend, who introduced me to her flatmates and before I knew it, I had a group of friends to call my own (I’m feeling a little teary writing that).
My piece of advice is this: no matter how weird you think you are or how reluctant you feel, use every ounce of your courage to approach a friendly face and say hi, because you may just find you click. Chances are, that other person is feeling pretty awkward too and is much more worried about what you think of them than what they think of you (hey, that rhymes!).
Thanks for reading,
– Lisa x