22 November 2019

Starting Uni with an Anxiety Disorder

After a year out to take some time to work on myself, the time to go to university finally came around. One thing I have always held on to from it being reiterated every time I went to a therapy session, is that avoidance is the worst thing you can do. It traps you in the cycle and ever since I have been determined to break that cycle. I focused on this a lot in the year leading up to uni - ordering food/drinks, walking in to busy places, collecting my own prescriptions, walking into shops by myself, walking the dog alone, socialising as much as possible and even had a job at one point. I worked on myself mentally and emotionally by doing yoga, meditation, taking a new medication, and eating well. Overall I felt the best I've ever felt. I tend to give myself challenges, even if they are slightly too ambitious; I decided to not just go to university but to also move out and live there too.

Starting University

Starting university I felt a variety of emotions, the most prominent being excitement surprisingly. I finally felt ready to push myself and start the next chapter of my life. That being said, of course the first week was going to be difficult, however my second week seemed to be the hardest - it had sunk in that I wasn't just on holiday and that I would actually be staying there for the whole year. I started to feel lonely, scared and isolated wondering what the hell I had done and thinking I'd made the wrong decision and overestimated myself. I started comfort eating, not sleeping and finding myself in a constant state of panic being away from everything that makes me feel safe and secure. Honestly, I found the first few weeks really stressful and I was down constantly thinking I was getting swallowed up into this black hole once again that I promised I wouldn't let myself do. at some point I realised that I was doing all the wrong things and I decided to put in place all the things I'd learnt and get myself feeling better...

How I Am Now

I am finally back on track with my routine keeping up with fitness and eating as well as possible as I know this helps my mental state. I started back up with my yoga, meditation and journaling after the first few weeks of my downwards spiral which really helped physically and mentally. Importantly, I have made sure I get my work done early in the day to make sure I don't raise my anxiety levels unnecessarily and can then use my evenings to relax and do the things that allow me to switch off and escape. I've managed 10 weeks living away from home, I've walked around the city alone and have attended my lectures. I also have been travelling to my boyfriends and home at the weekends on the train alone which is something that I wouldn't have even considered this time last year.  University has forced me to push myself out of my comfort zone and I'm determined to finish the year and hopefully continue next year. I already feel so much more independent which has been so good for my confidence as I now know that I am capable despite the anxiety.

Unfortunately, I am still finding it really difficult to mix and to go into the kitchen/cook for myself but I expected this. In terms of socialising, I didn't manage to go out in freshers week which really got me down and I still haven't gone out since. Everyone seems to have clung to people in the first few weeks but obviously due to my anxiety making friends or even just meeting new people is the hardest part so I am yet to make any friends at uni. I still get lonely and I am still very anxious a lot of the time and finding it difficult to get a good nights sleep, however I know that I have come a long way so I am trying to focus on the positives instead of the negatives so I don't go down a dark downwards spiral yet again. I just have to keep pushing through and before I know it the first year will be complete!

What I find easier due to consistent practice:
ordering food/drinks
paying for things at the till
walking into busy places
emailing people
getting the train
living alone and more independently

These are all day to day things which has always been a big worry for me in terms of growing up as I knew the older I got the harder it would be to avoid. So, finally I feel the start of a weight lifting from being able to actually manage these things which has made me start to feel like a 'normal' person and gives me lots of hope for the future. This progress has mostly come from consistent practice of all of these things and NOT avoiding them. To cope in these situations when I was doing them for the first time I would go with people at first and gradually ease myself into them and now I have done them alone. I also used lots of little techniques like slow breathing, counting in my head and also little thoughts like 'I am fine', 'I can do this', 'its not going to be as bad as you think', 'what's the worst that can happen'. saying these thoughts over and over distract you from the physical anxiety and allow you to push through by changing your mindset and convincing your brain that these thoughts are true.

What I still find extremely difficult:
Talking to people
Asking questions
Making friends
Mixing with people
The unknown

What I do to reduce anxiety levels at uni:
Arrive early to my lectures to get a seat at the back and avoid big crowds
Walk out of lecture at the back of lecture hall to avoid queue and people
Sit at back of classrooms in the corner during tutorials
Wait until the kitchen is empty to go in
Email lecturers instead of directly asking questions
Alternative assessment for oral presentations - record alone in room

To end this post, I want to share my two favourite quotes which I am literally living my life by at the moment:)

"Face the fear and the fear will disappear"
"Be afraid and do it anyway"

Thank you for reading,

Molly x

© Molly Isabel . All rights reserved.