Anxiety and panic attacks ruined Freshers’ Week for me

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Anxiety and panic attacks ruined Freshers’ Week for me

My phobia of being sick meant I was having three to four anxiety attacks a day

Whenever you ask anyone what they expect uni to be like, people say it’s the best three years of your life. Moving away, going out, making new friends, university is hyped up to be so much. You move away into your cramped little flat expecting to have the time of your life, and when that doesn’t happen you turn to social media to make sure that it looks like you’re having an obscene amount of fun anyway.

First night in my new flat, some may say I went OTT with the fairy lights
First night in my new flat, some may say I went OTT with the fairy lights

At 18 years of age I couldn’t wait to move out, I was so excited to live this amazing independent lifestyle where I would find myself and have loads of mates and have an amazing time. So I packed up my things and moved into my tiny room in halls anticipating what a fantastic year I would have ahead. However this was not my experience. Throughout my life I have always had a phobia of vomiting, even typing the word makes my twitch. When I was stressed or anxious I had a habit of making myself feel sick which meant that I have have a panic attack, however over my time at college I had been totally fine. This is why it came as a bit of a shock when I began to have panic attacks again once at uni.

The first few weeks I was fine, everything was great with my flatmates and my friends from my course – I was having a ball. However as time went on my phobia manipulated itself into full blown anxiety. I was having around three to four panic attacks per day which turned me into a hermit who never wanted to leave their room just incase they were sick. This meant that I missed out on the whole socializing aspect of university which turned me into even more of a hermit; it was a vicious cycle. Along with the panic attacks I just stopped eating and sleeping all together, I was literally a nervous wreck wandering around campus.

I had such high expectations of what university would be like, so when I reacted like this I felt embarrassed and ashamed. Everyone else was having so much fun and I hated it, I was a mess who was on the edge of a breakdown. Whenever I looked on social media all I could see where all of my friends going out and having a ball, they were having the uni experience that I expected to have. In hindsight  I probably would have felt better about the whole situation if I removed myself from the social media sphere.

Beth was my absolute rock, she got my through my first year
Beth was my absolute rock, she got my through my first year

So I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling, I just kept quiet and dealt with it. I sort of just assumed that people would think I was a recluse who kept herself to herself, which in fact is the total opposite of who I am. Looking back, this was the worst thing I could have done. Keeping my emotions inside of me made me feel even worse. Keeping things in my mind made them seem 100x times bigger and badder than they were. This meant that my anxiety got worse and worse and come Christmas I had a full blown melt down.

Once I began to tell people how I was feeling things did get better, first of all everything did not seem so bad and it also meant that I could work around being at uni and at home. My first term had been ruined, but once I was back home I calmed down more so it meant that I could actually eat and sleep. After I told all of my uni friends too they were all so supportive, I actually glued myself to my best friend Beth as she calmed me down so much. Whenever I was with her I felt so chilled, she is the reason for me getting through the year.

My parents had suggested that I speak to someone at the university, see if they could find anything that would help me. I contacted student support and booked an appointment with someone who could offer me help. Speaking to them made me realise that I made myself feel sick all the time because I was scared of being sick while at uni because I was alone. My poor mental health was just an elaborate manifestation of missing my family and friends. Now I knew why I felt like this I could begin to tackle it, the university provided me with different ways to stop my panic attacks and try and calm my anxiety. I put these into use and managed to finish my first year with a high 2:1.

I decided to spend my second and third year living at home, even though I don’t get to have my own flat and live the independent lifestyle I still get to live a student one. I go out considerably more that I ever did in my first year which means that consequently I made more friends and had a better time.

Another pic of my first night with my fab flat mates
Another pic of my first night with my fab flat mates

I wanted to share my experiences as I know that come September loads of people will be in the same position as me, and I want people to learn from the mistakes I made in order to help themselves sooner. Don’t feel like you are a failure if you can’t live away from home, or feel that you’re a weirdo if you aren’t enjoying uni as much as you think you should do.

Too much pressure is put on people to go to university and to have fun when they get there, while at the same time everyone forgets how massive moving away is and living on your own is. It’s a huge step and it doesn’t always go perfectly, sometimes you can hit some hurdles but this is what makes you a stronger person.

Everyone has their own experiences of university and my experience has shaped me more than any idyllic first year would have. I consider myself to be a much stronger person after my first year and if I could share any advice with freshers this year it would be to not suffer alone, no matter how you feel nobody will judge you and you’re always better sorting things out that letting them fester.

@Layls_

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