This time four years ago I was preparing myself for university and all it entailed; the big move, the exciting new friends, the student lifestyle, not forgetting the degree of my dreams, or at least so I thought.
I do not want to but a downer on such an exciting time in your life but I just want to talk about how important it is to keep healthy and I am not talking about getting in your five a day. Although yes it is all very positive and exciting but no matter how old or prepared you are, going to university is scary. There is so much change and adapting to it is hard, I remember it all too well. From my first couple of weeks at university I struggled, I already had ill mental health and well, being away from home, not knowing anybody, starting a new course and feeling well and truly out of my depth added to the illness.
At the time I wasn’t aware of mental health, nor the help I needed. I do not recall having lectures or conversations about health and wellbeing whilst at university and it wasn’t until I started my current course, at a different university, I was made aware of the helpful resources that are available to students.
To cut a very long story short my time at university was bad, I didn’t cope well and my mental health suffered. During this time, I knew that I could not continue, I was ill, miserable and felt completely lost but speaking about it? Getting help and guidance? Out of the question. I was embarrassed, ashamed and not to mention a failure- again, so I thought. I could not be a university drop out, I could not leave my future plans and go back home, no matter what happened I would stick it out.
Sadly, I became sicker and sicker and on returning home after my first year it was clear to my family going back was no longer an option. I guess I was lucky, my family saw the signs and they persuaded me to seek help and leave university.
The feelings of being a failure lingered until I realised that it was okay. It was okay that I tried something I didn’t like, that I got onto the wrong path and that my future plan was going to change. It was okay that moving away from home was not what I had expected, that the ‘university lifestyle’ was not for me and that a career in fashion was no longer what I wished for. Slowly I was able to accept all of these things that had been building up into a huge pressure. Overtime I was able to see that what I did was actually incredibly brave, I put my health and happiness first.
I never ever thought I would go back to university, in fact the thought of it alone made me feel sick to my stomach however, four years later I am looking forward to going into my second year. A different university, a completely different degree and aware of the things I need to keep healthy. I no longer feel the pressure I did the first time around because I have learnt that we can only do our best and that life is too short to plan our futures. Focusing on the now, our present moment and feelings makes life so much more enjoyable. Leaving my first university was one of the best decisions I could have made and one I will never regret.
No matter how small or large it may be seeking support and help is so important for your health. If you are feeling alone, ill, homesick or lost there are people that can help. If unlike my current university things like student health and wellbeing aren’t spoken about here are some useful organizations that might be able to help you if you are finding something difficult. Student Minds, Mind, NHS, Gofal.
Whatever it is you are doing; going to university, a new job, an apprenticeship or a gap year, please put your health and happiness first, look after yourself and of course let others help to.
Thank you for reading, Nicole