This week I bring to a post by a blogger who writes about coping up in college, mental health and how to stay ahead of your emotions while in college. This article sheds lights on some of the many things a student might face in college and the truth behind it.
Disclaimer: This post contains some sensitive information. Some topics discussed may be triggering to some.
Before you head onto the topic lets get to know the author a little bit.
You can get to know more about her at www.consciously-clean.co.uk
P.S. I know you may have guessed based on the title of my blog, but I’d hoped it may have shown you straight off, that University… being ‘normal’… IS possible!
Confide in your Tutors
However prepared you may feel you are, being a Fresher is of course going to be very daunting. After working your way up through primary and secondary school – potentially college/a job too – you’re suddenly the ‘newbie’ again. You’re away from home, family, friends, pets, your routine and… all the belongings that you couldn’t quite cram into your suitcases, or convince your parents to add to the carload.
This was exactly the situation I found myself in! I truly thought it would be wonderful. I finally had my independence and freedom from my parents… I was in complete control – although, I do still fear this was the main reason I left, but that’s not for this blog!
The first few days are a blur, with the first term as a whole not being to clear either, but I know I cried… a lot! I recall thinking the course wasn’t for me and what we were being tasked with was too basic. Nothing felt right, or that I should be there.
Being 22, I was considered a mature student, so on top of everything, I was older than the majority who had also started the course, but I was able to turn to a couple of friendly faces. I was adamant that I didn’t need to speak to my parents everyday but, who was I kidding?! Reassurance and wise words from my Mum and Dad were a huge comfort, but they told me what I needed to do…I did – what I thought was even scarier than moving to University – I spoke to my tutors… alone!
I explained my worries, struggles and a little history of my mental health, which, to my surprise, actually released inner pressure and my emotions as I wasn’t trying to suppress them. A few of the tutors had experience with Eating Disorders and another with CBT. It turned out that several current and past students suffer with various mental illnesses and that it’s an incredibly familiar trait in those who pursue a creative industry. Paul was course leader – with his partner, Clare – who were such incredible support through my whole time at University. Clare gave reassurance and was fully pushing for me to travel home and see my parents – every weekend is that was what I needed – which, I did!
Freshers isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
I’m not to sure what I thought Freshers Week at University would be like, but it’s safe to say, mine wasn’t quite what I had in mind. As new students, we started the week before everyone else, that consisted of introductions, waiting, a mini project we had to prepare for over the Summer, waiting, group and class meetings, waiting, tutorials and… you guessed it, more waiting around for the next instruction – all coupled with anxiety and homesickness.
The Freshers fairs that were held – well, fair – was a marquee in which several local companies were promoting their services, such as Dissertation Printing, Photography Equipment Hire and Recycling. The majority of the rest where Pubs, Clubs and Eateries. Every single Fresher seemed to be wandering around, making it impossible to see anything…or even move.
Although I was slightly, well, disappointed in this, I did get a few freebies – badges, key-rings, bubbles (not sure!!) Also, and most importantly – I made sure I went! I made sure I went with a fellow student, and… despite having no intention of going, I even signed up to a few things. Despite the emphasis on Alcohol, Events that start AFTER I’ve been in bed for at least 2 hours and the thought of companies advertising their costs of printing, I was so pleased and proud of myself for attending.
Don’t be disappointed if it’s a little boring, same-y and not quite your scene. Cliche, but, you truly are all in the same boat. Everyone IS nervous, even if their face and attitude says otherwise – even the tutors are nervous, with so many new responsibilities. Push yourself just a little and GO to what you can. Plus, the free bags and stationery always come in handy!
Think for yourself
Although I’d never been to a club in my life – that wasn’t essentially a teen disco at our local sports centre – flyer after flyer promoting events were pushed under my flat door, along with countless Facebook invites from people I’d never met.
Thinking I could do it, I ended up purchasing a ticket for one of the themed nights, as I thought I’d be less anxious if dressed as a Black Cat! I’d met a few people via Facebook who lived a few floors down from me, that I had arranged to go with – one of which I ventured to the University with the week before starting, to collect our bus passes.
Despite the fact I don’t touch Alcohol, I even joined a few people in the communal room for pre-drinks (what is that all about??) prior to their evening out one night – before disappearing back to my flat just before I fainted with anxiety over a drunk Fresher.
However, the event came closer and closer and I realised it wasn’t a feeling of ‘I can do it’, it was very much ‘I SHOULD do it’ – but for who?? Despite having bought a black dress, new shoes, bag and Cat accessories, I gave my ticket away on the night.
I mean, come on… I’m a Jean and Boot kinda girl, a Country girl, an early mornings and early nights girl…who only drinks water! I couldn’t be more proud of myself for not going.
But… Be open to new ideas
Now, I know this may sound quite contradictory, but bear with me – there is always the right time to think a little differently. For each of the Units we were set consisted of a physical Model, in addition to a Research Document to accompany it – bar a couple of just Essays.
From the onset, I was so fixed on what I had decided to do, I was adamant that was the only way, taking as little advice from tutors and such as possible! But, with one Unit in particular, I completely altered my approach – and AFTER I had made a start too!
To set the scene a little – we had to write an Essay on a topic of our choice (as long as it was industry related, of course) and create a model that, basically represented one’s views in physical form, to which mine was on the quality of handmade versus mass produced, but touching on (my passion at the time) of Miniatures and people’s perception of them being a ‘play thing’
As a result, my model was to be of a completely handmade, 1/12th scale room-box, in that I planned to depict a period kitchen, with open brick fire and spit roast – but ALL completely made my me. Set in my ways, with everything being-handmade by me, quite frankly, it looked absolutely terrible!
I did that scary thing of speaking with my tutors, but I actually took on board their suggestions and help. I really thought about what I was trying to ‘say’ with my model, to which my approach was essentially going to result in the opposite.
The upshot is, it turned out absolutely beautifully, with it being one of my most favourite models of the course. If I’d of remained as fixed on my thoughts, I truly don’t want to think about what would have resulted!
So, although it is vital that you think for yourself, have ideas – original ideas, passion and are focused (but in the right ways)… your tutors are there to teach you! You are going to Uni to learn and be introduced to the wider world of your study. It’s Okay!
Tutors truly are lovely people… with good hugs too!
Accept the unexpected
Now, obviously this is a little contradictory, and a point that can have many causes and outcomes, but, seriously, you must try and accept the unexpected! Remember, things happen that are beyond your control – which, given the nature of my own – and many – mental illnesses, is a very hard aspect to cope with.
A relatively short answer here (thank goodness, your probably thinking!) but, during my 3 year course, several events happened that I wouldn’t have dreamed of occurring. No further detail will be said, but, during our very first week, a member of our course devastatingly lost her life, due to her mental health. I felt shaken, confused, scared, with flashes of fear as to if I could actually cope here myself – in addition to a sense of guilt. The previous week I got incredibly anxious and had actually cancelled plans to meet her in town – I, of course, blamed myself for her actions, but, no, this wasn’t the case in the slightest.
This truly isn’t everything but… I hope you get the picture!
Listen to your Body
On reflection – which always seems to be the case with me – this truly is something you must must must do! With my mental illness being comprised of many factors, this is something I have always struggled with and quite honestly, still do incredibly much so. I almost feel that I shouldn’t be preaching this as I don’t practice it myself, however, I DO know that it is essential, especially at University, being away from home, with added pressures of your course and being potentially vulnerable to peer pressure (yep, those 2 same old words! But it’s true.)
Whilst I never drank one drop of alcohol, smoked or took anything and quite frankly kept myself to myself, as the course went on I abused my body more and more as a result of my anxiety, OCD and anorexia. With countless other incredibly foolish actions, the main one (that still stands today) was my compulsion to exercise – particularly walking.
Most of the weekends that I did manage to stay, I walked in excess of 20 miles in just a few hours. Another factor was reducing my food intake more and more, some days completely skipping breakfast and/or lunch for one reason or another.
Not only did my various actions result in my mental and physical health deteriorating so rapidly by the end, but on one occasion I fainted, alone, in my flat bathroom! Thankfully – as everyone needs their parents when poorly! – I was on the phone to my Mum at the time as I wasn’t feeling well. When I came round, I was laying in between the toilet and the sink, having smacked my head on the handbasin on the way down. Mum had called the ambulance to come and check on me – but, with me being a Uni student and the fact that there happened to be yet another party going on at my building – they did knock on my door in a rather assuming way … drink? drugs? However, when they came in and saw me in my PJ’s, robe and all ready for bed – as well as my beautiful flat – they understood my situation. Apart from shaken, I was obviously okay, but, you must stop when your body says it’s time!
As I mentioned in an earlier point, I thought when I went off to University, that was it, I was now my own person, living my own life, not needing my parents (as such) and the few people back at home. But, this truly isn’t the case in the slightest!
My days, experiences, achievements, struggles, failures, worries, thoughts, ideas, plans, opportunities, progress, models and creations – my whole life I’ve shared basically everything with my parents! Why so different now?!
Text, call, email, letter, Skype, Instagram, Facebook – gosh, even Twitter! I did it ALL – and pretty sharpish after getting there too! When I traveled home for even one night, I took all I could fit in my suitcase the show them and involve them in my life as I always have – and have encouraged and been proud to do so!
After all, without their love and support, I wouldn’t have gone to University, let alone got to the end! Sharing photos, updates and such on Facebook especially also fuelled me with a surprising amount of interest and support from friends and family from further afield too – to which I’m in closer contact with now as well.
Your parents want to hear from you everyday, just to hear your safe, happy and doing well. Now, I know everyday might be a little over the top and I do understand that, but, please, please, don’t forget all they have done and continue to do for you. I for one know that if it wasn’t for my parents, I wouldn’t be writing this – my mental illnesses would have utterly beaten me.
So, even if it’s just a quick, Hi Mum/Dad – just do it – and don’t forget the ‘love you’ at the end too!
Keep on top
Basically, work your ass off. Beat the odds that may be – or you feel are – against you. I’m sure this is one of the first things most say to you… ‘just stay on top of your work and you’ll be fine dear’ – which is of course true – but I’m not only talking about that aspect of University life.
Keep on top of your studies, manage your work and time methodically, finish early if possible and hand-in on time. All of this is of course essential. But, you must keep on top of yourself – your health and wellbeing – your mental health. This truly is just as important (if not slightly more so) than your course as it is everything that makes you you, everything that makes doing the course possible.
Make sure you do all you can to stay as relaxed and grounded as possible. For me, this was (as mentioned) managing my time and even getting my work completed a little earlier than due, which enabled me to do some personal projects – (without a feeling of guilt from not studying) that pulled me back to ‘reality’ of sorts.
And also – keep on top of your emotions, your future and what YOU want for your future… and don’t change that goal for anyone – or that nasty voice in your head either!
Elenor writes about coping with mental health. Check out her blog www.consciously-clean.co.uk