On Friday I sat my final second year exam and with that, my second year of university came to a close. This year has gone so quickly and it’s a scary thought that in a year’s time I’ll be (hopefully) finished with my degree altogether.
It’s fair to say that my second year of university has been a million times better than the first. Freshers was a difficult time of trying to find my feet, especially after coming to university almost directly from a long CAMHS admission, and I struggled in many ways. It took me time to find my people and to get my head around this whole university thing.
This year I’ve been living in a student house with my course friends. I’ve found this to be a lot better than living in halls. I’ve loved my bedroom this year, it’s been my safe little space fully equipped with cushions, soft blankets, and an abnormally vast collection of fairy lights. I’ll be sad to leave this place for good, but I know I’ll be able to recreate this in the Third Year House.
There have been a fair few lows this year. A withdrawal from my medication towards the end of 2017 led to a sharp increase in anxiety that really impacted my seminar attendance in the Autumn term. In December I was hospitalised for days for a severe incident of self-harm that could have easily killed me. And I’ve had problems with alcohol. Alcohol tends to exacerbate whatever I’m already feeling tenfold, so when I am feeling suicidal or anxious or worrying about something, this doesn’t tend to end very well. Towards the end of 2017 pretty much every time I was drinking I was ending up in very dangerous situations.
But let’s not focus on the negatives. I want this to be a positive post. This really has been a great year.
My attendance and engagement with university has been 10x better than first year
Although I did struggle to attend seminars towards the end of the Autumn term, I’ve worked really hard all year to try and minimise missing classes. I know some people consider it ‘normal’ to have poor attendance in first year because ‘first year doesn’t count’ but my reason for not attending seminars was arguably not normal: I dreaded and went out of my way to avoid classes because I was so embarrassed about my anxiety. Knowing that I was going to have to sit in a room with people who I didn’t really know and at any moment I could be picked on by the tutor, it felt safer just staying at home.
This year has been better. In Spring semester I missed hardly any seminars or lectures. I spoke to all my tutors about my anxiety prior to seminars starting and they were all really understanding. I still sit in seminars feeling incredibly uncomfortable, but I have tried to contribute and have *even* made friends in some of my classes this year.
And I’ve got some pretty damn good grades too
I shan’t speak too soon for Spring semester, but in Autumn semester of second year I was delighted with some of my results, especially as I had been struggling towards the end of term. It’s a lot of pressure to keep an average of a first up, but it’s given me the confidence that I was lacking in the first year. And it’s a big ‘f*ck you’ to some of the nasty thoughts in my head because actually, I’m not stupid at all.
I’ve found the area of English I am most interested in
I did English Literature at A Level and always associated my love for English with reading books. I still love literature and I have loved some of the Lit modules I have done this year (especially Literature and Popular Culture), but it turns out that what I’m good at and more importantly what I’m really interested in, is Sociolinguistics. Tying in my love for my subject and my passion for mental health research, I’ve found that I am incredibly interested in health communication studies. In my third year I am planning on writing a very exciting dissertation on language used on online mental health recovery networks. This is something that actually really excites me, and an area of research that I would love to pursue post-grad and beyond.
I’ve made best friends for life
Like I previously said, first year was a bit of a struggle. Social anxiety has often prevented me from making solid friendships. However, I’m really happy that in the last year at university I have really consolidated friendships and made amazing new ones too. Turns out that I can form healthy relationships with others (haha BPD, I win!) and in the past year I’ve also had opportunities to reconnect with old friends. At the end of 2017 I was able to visit several friends who I had met when I was in hospital, and it was really lovely to be reunited.
I am super excited to be living with my closest friends for third year. There’s nobody else I’d rather de-stress with.
I’ve returned to my pre-admission weight and made progress at the gym
In the summer of 2016 I was overweight after a year of being on olanzopine (works well for some, not so well for me) and for spending the majority of that year on a PICU where a) I was literally in the same room all day everyday with nothing to do but sleep and wait for the call for Snack Time, and b) the food options were limited. For months at a time I had a jacket potato twice a day. I’ve been working to lose that weight since then, and I’m happy to say that not only am I a healthy weight but I am back to the weight I was before I was admitted to hospital. Which for me feels like I’ve returned to the ‘real’ me.
I’ve also loved going to the gym this year. Since September I’ve been going to the gym usually 5 or 6 times a week, although there have been times where I have sensibly calmed down for a week or so to let my body recover. The step machine is my best friend at the gym and I feel physically strong. I’m excited to see where I can go with the gym in the next year and I’m hoping that I will finally find the courage to hit the weights.
Second year, you’ve been brilliant. I can’t wait to see what third year has in store for me.