University Life

University Life

I’ve waited over a year to be able to write this post, and FINALLY, I am able to do so. Last week, I moved out of my absolutely horrific student house and left the city I have lived in for more or less 4 years. How do I feel? Elated, relieved, sad, lost, and a whole host of other emotions. 

With it being mental health awareness week, I thought it would be fitting to share my experience of university, because no matter how good your mental health is, most people that go to uni have some darker times.

I have been incredibly unlucky with my living arrangements, and this year was undoubtedly the worst. I spent house sat on the floor of my room with my ear against the door, because not knowing what they were saying about me was unbearable. I left the house early, and often got back late just to avoid them. The sort of people they are? The sort that complain about a hairdryer. The sort that go to crazy extents to be as petty as possible. The sort that called me a whore. The sort that pierced every single can of cider I had in the cupboard. When I think back about nights in that house, I think of the hours I spent crying because I couldn’t even go into the kitchen to make some food (and convincing myself to eat was hard enough already). Uni was hard, but the fact I detested having to go back to that hell hole, made living in Leeds agonising.

Uni in itself was harder than I had ever imagined, and I wish I had had more support/a better support network around me. It was only in my final year that I developed a rapport with one of the academics that meant I always had an open door and a drawer full of tissues if needed. Dealing with uni stress, on top of the whirlwind I had to put up with in my head, was hard. I won’t sugar coat it. Stress for anyone is hard. Stress with a mental illness can often feel impossible. Countless times I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish. (So I’m pretty proud of the fact I’m graduating).

I spent many, many times sat around campus in tears. Feeling lost. I’ve struggled beyond belief to the point of being in A&E and having to take 9 months out of uni. I’ve had to work with some pretty crap people, especially in my dissertation project. I’ve had to deal with a crappy boyfriend and learnt lessons regarding always watching your drink (pls remember to do this). But despite all that, I’m incredibly glad that I went. Perhaps I’m leaning towards this conclusion because my last semester of uni was probably the best I’ve had. I did my final year project this last semester which I genuinely really enjoyed (despite the stress and countless failed experiments), and I ensured I picked a module that had no exams (despite the stupid referencing system). I went out more and had more fun. I met some great people and even befriended a cat (eventually). 

I could list 101 reasons why not to go to university and 101 reasons why you should, but that would make for a highly prolix (…) list. University was not the ‘best years of my life’, and it wasn’t the experience I was sold it was going to be. But it also allowed me to develop some great friendships, meet new wonderful people, learn to be comfortable by myself, develop independence and self-discipline, and essentially allow me to grow into the person I really am. I don’t spend my time trying to please every single person in fear of them leaving. I don’t sugar coat everything I say. I’ve accepted that some people will like me and others won’t, and that’s completely okay. Although I am not a confident person, I have grown enough confidence to go out on dates – something that I only managed to do just over a year ago. I’ve come leaps and bounds since the time I was a fragile girl that was sat down in a room and told she had to leave uni. I came back as 80% Zoë and 20% ED, which is a heck of a lot better than it used to be. The Zoë percentage has sometimes gone down, but I’ll eventually get up to being 90% the sassy, sharp-tongued, dog-loving, David Attenborough-obsessed gal. 

University is where I have relapsed pretty badly twice, but it’s also the relapses that have made me hit rock bottom so that the only way left was up. I built myself up after being pushed to the ground repeatedly, and I am extremely proud of the fact I did it. Have I got the first class I always wanted? Nope. Does that make my inherently perfectionistic tendencies (thanks ED) angry? Yep. But I did it. I managed to live through some horrific flatmates, an abusive relationship, and despite all odds managed to get a degree, make some great friends and put myself out there. 

So to anyone thinking of going to university – don’t go in with the high hopes of them being the best years of your life, where you will meet loads of life-long friends. They might well be the best years, and you might make a big group of friends, but if you go in without these expectations, then university will be much more enjoyable. It’s hard moving away, having to be completely independent, and the actual studying is also hard. It won’t always be a great experience, but with the right support network around you (don’t leave it until final year like I did) it is manageable. Dig deep and find some bravery to put yourself out there. University isn’t for everyone, but it can still be a great choice if that’s your dream. And PLEASE remember that YOU are more important than any grade you could ever possibly get. 

Take care ladybugs x

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