When I was applying to universities, I felt like I had seen everything there was to know about them and was looking forward to the partying, societies I would join, and friendships I would form. Seeing the same kind of TikTok videos about how much fun university life is, especially at my university, gave me a glamorised lifestyle that was not at all realistic for me. Everyone talks about the clubbing lifestyle, especially during your first year, but no one talks about the other people, the people who may not fit in anywhere. Throughout my secondary school and college years, I struggled greatly with social anxiety. Going to university would be a fresh start for me, as I would be returning to study something I loved English, as well as Film, a new passion that I was eager to pursue. But I was unprepared for how much I would struggle, and despite the fact that my university provided ample accommodations and support, I quickly became isolated.
Anxious thoughts do not make sense and we know it, but we think it anyway. 'Everyone despises me,' ' everyone is staring at me' 'and My words don't mean anything,' are thoughts that run through my head all the time, and I really struggled with this while away from home. I had a lot of time on my own to think about everything I had said or done wrong, and it occurred to me that this is what my adult life would be like, left to deal with everything on my own and manage my own independence. My flatmates were extremely outgoing and party people who never stopped to think about me. With my friend from the same university having the same experience I thought was guaranteed, and people from my hometown seemingly having the best time ever, all I could think about was how I was the problem and how I wished everything would stop. Why was it that I was always the odd one out?
I had never experienced anxiety in primary school, so when I began to have mixed feelings about adulthood and covid during my first term as well as anxiety and low moods, I began to spiral. I remembered the carefree girl I used to be before being exposed to the harshness and cruelty of reality. I was surprised at myself for attending my lectures, but they were the only thing I really enjoyed, and even then, I felt I could not throw myself in as much as I wanted because I was so low. Self-deprecating thoughts were constantly in the back of my mind, and it felt exactly like my college experience when I felt so alone. With the cycle repeated yet again I felt anxiety would dictate my life forever, and after the first term ended I had little to no hope left. I almost thought of dropping out, but I was enjoying my degree despite everything. Furthermore, having no idea where my life was going at home would have made me feel even worse.
“All my grief says the same thing: this isn't how it's supposed to be. this isn't how it's supposed to be. and the world laughs. holds my hope by the throat. says: but this is how it is” ― Fortesa Latifi
I had a few friends from my course who had been my rock throughout the entire process. They were some of the most genuine friendships I had formed, and seeing them made everything feel a lot better. When it was my birthday, which sometimes stresses me out because sometimes I feel a need for performativity, I received a few presents, and I knew then that those friends were special. I kept the cards on display in my room to keep me grounded and focused on staying afloat.
Dealing with all of this and other issues surrounding my mental health, I decided that a life goal of mine would be to raise awareness. I have wanted to do this since I was 17, but having experienced anxiety as a legal adult gave me a new perspective, and with the experience fresh in my mind, I decided it was what I wanted to do no matter what. I made a mental note to keep this topic in mind for my dissertation, and hopefully it will influence my essay choices as I begin second year. Anxious voices are frequently pushed to the margins of the conversation. We may be excluded or judged, and there is insufficient education about people who experience society in ways that others do not. I have discovered that there is a certain way that you are expected to think and act, and there is little room for people who think differently. Often wee feel forced to form our own little cliques, which can be quite disorienting. It feels like there are very few kind souls who will look behind the wall we have constructed and make us feel welcome. After completing my first year, I have learned more about myself and my struggles, and I am inspired by my love of writing to help others understand us better. Hopefully, as people become more aware, they will recognise that there is more to a person than meets the eye.
" I've been quiet for years, I forgot how to communicate and hold a conversation. Analysing every sentence and how wrong it might’ve sounded I am making others quiet with my discomfort "