I dropped out of university because my parents were too controlling

They did background checks on every single one of my friends


Lauren started at Manchester University in September 2015, wanting to study Law. Just a few weeks in and crippled by anxiety, she dropped out. This is her story:

I didn’t really know if Law was something I wanted to study, but I felt kind of pushed down that route, so I found myself in Manchester.

I’ve struggled with anxiety since my early teens. I come from a small town and don’t have a great relationship with my family. They’re extremely controlling and I was barely allowed out back home, which meant I came to Manchester very, very anxious. I wasn’t mentally prepared to go to university when I did.

flickr: Pimlico Badger

My parents completely hindered my crucial years of development. Before I came to university I had no social skills and that made it really difficult to interact – I just didn’t know how to do it. I was wrapped in cotton wool, everything was a threat. I wasn’t trusted to go out and meet friends, and my parents did background checks on friends. It got to the point where I didn’t ask to go out anymore, I too was terrified of people.

My mum was just my dad’s puppet, and my dad projected his issues onto me. Being protective can be a positive sometimes, and maybe it didn’t come from a malicious place. But I think he was reckless in that he didn’t bother to consider that it might hinder my future. I wouldn’t be able to visit certain friends because of their socioeconomic background, we were by no means well off ourselves, but because they lived in what he deemed as ‘unsafe neighbourhoods’ visiting them would mean I would be corrupted and dragged into a life of crime – I mean really?

Being a hardworking student was key to avoiding conflict, and I was, I always performed well in school. But I can vividly remember one parents evening when my teacher brought up that I had recently started being a little too chatty in class. The moment she said that my dad flew into a rage, glaring at me to try and intimidate. My teacher had to calm him down and bullshit around what she had originally said, she could tell how terrified I was.

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I spent my early childhood being very shy and introverted. I played out occasionally on my street but there weren’t many other kids that lived on my road, I spent a lot of time by myself – even in the playground at lunchtime I would sit and draw by myself. As I got older I started to rebel a little here and there, had a group of friends through some of my high school years too. I became more anxious when I moved schools, the upheaval and barely seeing my old friends anymore pushed me into a spiral of depression and an abusive relationship.

Due to all this, I was very anxious when I came to Manchester. Things went from bad to worse. I lived in halls feeling extremely isolated and couldn’t cope with the changes that I was faced with. I basically locked myself in my room in halls – it was properly grim and prison-like too which meant I spiralled into depression again. I stopped turning up to lectures and seminars just a few weeks in. I realised I wasn’t coping and spoke to my academic advisor who also agreed it would be best that I dropped out. My lowest point came after that – I moved into a shared house, as I was determined going back home wasn’t the way forward for me. Initially, I had no job and kept myself in the house for months smoking weed to pull me through.

Anyway, things are on the up now. I sought therapy, I managed to get a job and I’ve recently moved into another house-share with some lovely and supportive people. I realised that years of not getting out and about hadn’t made me a very interesting person – it’s embarrassing. So I started pushing myself to try new things out. Going along to festivals, learning an instrument, I even tried burlesque! Now people want to get to know me, because I’m interesting – I’m seriously open to trying anything.

I’ve struggled at times – especially keeping conversations flowing, as sometimes anxiety likes to creep in and give me mental blocks mid conversation. But, my confidence is blossoming on the daily now and I’m proud of the person I’m becoming. University really isn’t the be all and end all, I’m so glad I got out so soon and decided I needed to get my shit together.

I’m now financially stable and have some good friends around me, so I’m winning at life in my own way. I haven’t got a strict plan at the moment, but I know I’m going to work in mental health one day. For me my main goal is just to see as much as I can and be happy right now.