First Year of University

Everyone tells you that the first year of university will be the best year of your life, and in many ways it is.  However, in some ways it is also the most difficult. 

What is so often neglected to talk about is also the sheer amount of change that happens all around you, and how sometimes it becomes overwhelming.  There are a lot of things to juggle, making friends, going out, trying to organise your timetable and find classes whilst exhausted (and most probably hungover and coming down with freshers’ flu), all while trying to make a good impression on the people you’ve been told are going to be your life-long friends. 

I don’t mean that to sound scary, because freshers is so much fun, but it’s okay to also feel overwhelmed, unsure and a little scared about it all too.  I think the expectation that first year will be the best year of your life sometimes makes it all a little harder to deal with, because you might feel like you’re doing it wrong if it’s not as perfect as you thought.  I guarantee you you’re not. 

Change isn’t supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to be unexpected and unpredictable.  There will be amazing high points, but you have to expect that there will be low points too, just like with everything, and then you can make sure you look after yourself until things inevitably get good again. 

Another thing to bear in mind is that, whilst it is true that you make some of your best friends at university, this does not necessarily mean it’s immediate.  So, don’t worry if you struggle to find your perfect friendship group in the first few weeks, or whole first semester even.  For me, my friendships changed so much and so rapidly all throughout first year, and it was only by the end of second semester that I felt I really knew who my close friends were.  Although struggling to find where you stand with friendship groups isn’t something people generally openly talk about, I think you’ll find it’s something a lot of people feel in that first year. 

That’s not to say I didn’t have such a good time, because I really truly did, there is such a wide range of diverse people to get to know, and I’ve definitely cried more tears of laughter just this year than the rest of my entire almost 20-year-old life combined.  It’s just I think too often people say their first year at uni was the best year of their life, just because that is what is expected.  Personally, I have a feeling year 2 is going to be just as epic, if not more so. 

So, if you’re off to university this autumn have an amazing time, good luck, and don’t worry if it’s harder than you thought.  That’s normal!

Just remember sometimes the expectation that something is going to be the best thing ever, makes it a little harder.

Living with Depression

Depression is different for everyone, it is a mental illness, and everybody’s minds work differently, so I’m sure that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.  For me though, my depression isn’t something that is obvious to anyone around me, such to the extent that I have managed to keep it hidden for 5 years.  It’s not like how you hear in the media, that I had a psychotic break that lead to it, or something dreadfully tragic happened to my family and triggered it.  For me, my depression didn’t surface out of any one major event, but rather it is just something that is a part of me. Depression runs in my family, and evidently, I got the gene. 

There were triggers that made it worse, that made me realise that there was something wrong, of course, but I know now that the things that happened that caused my mental breakdowns really just brought these depressive feelings to the forefront, when I think really they were always there. 

My reaction to feeling like everything was spiralling out of control, like I had no purpose in life, like I was worthless, wasn’t to ask for help, but to put a strong emphasis on how together my life was, so that my friends would think that I was more than fine, that I had a perfect little life with everything figured out.  That could not have been further from the truth.  For me though, having other people believe that about me, somehow made it easier for me to believe that too, or at least it gave me motivation to keep going, to get up in the morning and keep doing well in school so that my perfect reputation wouldn’t be ruined.   

When it’s written out like that, I guess it seems sad that so much of what happened in my school life, I only really did to convince people that I was fine and normal.  Now I want to make sure I do things because I enjoy them, rather than for any other reason.  I called it ‘survival mode’ in which the focus of my life used to be just ensuring that I created a persona that would allow me to get from waking up in the morning to going to sleep in the evening, without raising suspicion that I wasn’t okay.   My mantra used to be, ‘this day has to end.’  Not exactly a healthy or appreciative way to live your life.  It’s not really living at all. 

Not everyday was dark though, I definitely had some really good times and some really good friends too.  It was just in those low moments everything that was going on in my head made me believe that I didn’t have anything good going for me, and anything good that had happened I somehow managed to make into a negative, where I saw myself as not good enough, clever enough, pretty enough.  Maybe it seems shallow to people who can’t understand, but essentially it felt like there was a black hole in my gut and every good feeling I was capable of got sucked in and I was left with an empty void, or just such deep sadness I hardly knew where it stemmed from.  I just knew I needed it to stop but I had no idea how I was meant to just miraculously become happy again.  Back then, I didn’t know it was depression, I just thought that something had gone wrong in my brain, that maybe I was crazy, and so I shouldn’t confide in others, because I would just become a burden. 

Now I know what it is, it’s easier to handle, because I know not to ignore the signs of a potentially bad day.  I can do things to alleviate it, or to lift my mood.  I have a network of friends now that know the truth and I can reach out to if I need to talk.  There are other things too, like exercise that I make sure I get time to do, because it makes me feel so much better afterwards, I feel lighter, happier and like I’ve really achieved something, which helps to expel any negative thinking.  A great example of that was just today, I woke up feeling pretty low, and then my sister was very off with me and I started doubting myself and blaming myself for her low mood, but I got myself out and did a class at the gym which made me realise that it was all in my head, and allowed me to get past it so I could enjoy my day and be productive. 

Sometimes, it’s simple things like changing the way you live, that allow you to lead a much healthier life, both in mind and body.  I have to make sure I take care of myself and my mental wellbeing so that I don’t slip back into old habits which harboured that negative thinking.  I talk to people and confide in them when it gets too much, I eat healthy, I do exercise at least a few times a week, and I have this, my writing which is an outlet I greatly need sometimes.  I’ve never been happier. 

I can’t lie and say that things aren’t still difficult, and there aren’t still points where it feels like I’m getting nowhere, and it’s always going to be this hard, so what’s the point?  The point is, now I have accepted this for what it is, I won’t let it own me, I have my process to deal with it now.  We fight depression because there is a life worthy of living, and for me that is how I get from today to tomorrow, having a goal in my mind of what I want my life to look like, and I know if I ignore my depression then that’s not going to happen, so I face it straight on. 

That’s how I live with it, with the knowledge that I will beat it.   

Are we all alone at heart?

Is a part of being human, being alone at heart?

Are we all struggling with battles that no one else can see, that makes us different people on the inside?

I feel like I’m lost, and not because I don’t know what I want to do with my life, because I’m pretty certain of that, but because a lot of the time I feel so cripplingly alone it’s suffocating.

But why?

I know I’m not, I have good friends, best friends, for the first time in my entire life, I have people who care, that I can talk to.  Yet, it’s like this feeling of absolute loneliness is embedded so deep inside of me its never going to matter how many people I have telling me that they’re there for me, I’m always going to be alone inside.  It is suffocating. 

The worst part is every time I get to a point where I should reach out, talk to a friend, my mind makes up a million reasons why they wouldn’t care, why I shouldn’t bother them, why we’re not as close as I thought we were.  The voices in my head make me believe that I have no one, and I still haven’t figured out how to tell them they’re wrong.  Maybe because, it had been true for so long it’s hard to believe it’s not anymore. 

They say the hardest part is telling someone that you’re struggling.  I think the hardest part is to keep telling them.   

I think that’s why I started this blog, because talking to people about what you went through in the past seems to be something I’ve mastered, but I still struggle to let people in when it comes to the things that still get to me. 

Or is that just a part of being human, that we’re all alone at heart?

One thing we can be certain of, is that we don’t live in a society that is designed to be accepting, but that at least is something we can change.   I hope by being more open and accepting of everything and everyone we can put an end to that.

Maybe then, it will not be so difficult to figure out where it is that I, and all of us, belong.