When people ask me about my first year at uni I could say this:
‘It has been one hell of a year but I’ve grown a lot as a person. I’ve had so much fun, met some amazing people and made great friends. My course is really interesting; I’m excited for my modules next year and for this summer as I have a lot planned! The highlights of my year include the snowball, watching sunsets on the golf course, spending hours in the sun and a day at the weir and cheerleading. This has been the best year ever!’
I’d be telling you the truth. But that’s a totally romanticized summary of my year.
The reality is that if I had to use one word to describe my year, it would be ‘challenging’. I love living independently but it’s tiring to manage studying and a social life with cooking and cleaning and house searching and grocery shopping. Cheer really was the best thing I tried this year, although, the early morning training sessions meant I had to say no to a lot of nights out. I often struggled with lacking confidence in myself that I could complete my degree, which despite being interesting, is very hard.
In all honesty, I’d have to say the greatest difficulty I faced this year was with anxiety. After managing most of semester one and two fairly well (including January exams), I was hit with headaches, insomnia, palpitations and brain fog right before my second exam season. I tried listening to meditation videos before going to sleep early and kept a good routine with lots of exercise, healthy(ish) food and rest but my ability to work was deteriorating as my stress levels increased. I felt exhausted and alone and wanted so badly to drop out.
It had reached the point where anxiety was affecting my perception and ability to function and so I made a decision to talk to my GP about trying medication.
And I’m glad I did, because although I did still struggle with many of the same symptoms mentioned earlier, they were considerably more manageable. I was able to focus on revising and, with the slight increase in mental clarity, I was able to see that I did indeed want to finish my degree and that I wasn’t alone and actually had some really wonderful, supportive friends.
Although it was only a temporary solution during a very stressful time in my life and not one I want to continue using now that exams are over, this medication lifted the fog from my brain and let me see my life as it really was.
I am sharing this experience for 3 reasons. Firstly, for students, to reassure those whose uni experience has not been the smooth sailing life of non-stop fun that it appears to be on social media and in the stories told by other students. Secondly, to encourage anyone struggling with anxiety to seek support and to keep trying different options. And lastly, so when my friends and family ask me how my first year at uni went, I can just direct them here.