Why my first term sucked and why my second didn’t – This Space

This article is written in collaboration with This Space, a submissions-based blog dedicated to mental health and reducing stigma surrounding the topic. You can check them out here, and if […]

Cambridge mental health the tab this space

This article is written in collaboration with This Space, a submissions-based blog dedicated to mental health and reducing stigma surrounding the topic. You can check them out here, and if you’d like to submit, please email [email protected]

Studying at Cambridge had been my dream for a long time.

I mean, it looks like Hogwarts. There’s a library with a copy of every book ever published. Pretty cool huh?

When I eventually got in, I thought I was going to have the time of my life.

I didn’t.

When I finally got here I just felt overwhelmingly scared. I was absolutely convinced that I was ‘doing it wrong’ in some way; that after all the hard work  I was wasting an amazing opportunity.

My melodramatic facial expressions bring so much to the show

Like the opportunity to become Villager 4 on the ADC stage

Although I met lots of interesting and lovely people, people who I now feel happy to call my friends, I felt somehow distant from them. I tried to force myself to go out to Cindies or Life, I always found myself feeling overwhelmed. I would return home early or lock myself in my room in an attempt to escape the fear that was beginning to dominate my life.

This self-inflicted isolation grew to the extent that I would stay in bed for full days, terrified of someone knocking on my door and discovering my secret: that I was not supposed to be at Cambridge. I knew that everyone else was having a better time than me, and eventually I stopped trying to enjoy myself.

That’s when the panic attacks started.

Hair_pulling_stress

Away from my boyfriend at home – the person who I had seen as my support system – I felt more alone than ever, and completely unwilling to motivate myself to enjoy any opportunity presented to me. As I watched my relationship begin to crumble, I felt unable to cope even being in my room anymore.

I ran away to the park.

Sitting on a bench in the drizzle for four hours in an attempt to overcome my panic, a thought occurred to me: maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t normal. Maybe it wasn’t my fault?

I rang my friend.

That was the first positive step I made. I told her about not getting out of bed for days on end, I told her about shutting myself off from everyone I knew and cared about, I told her about hiding in my bathroom for fear of being ‘discovered’. She was the one person who I felt might understand, and the first person who said the words which signalled a turning point in my first term here: “It shouldn’t be this hard.”

So I went to the doctor, who, unsurprisingly, told me that I was suffering from severe depression and prescribed me antidepressants.

This terrified me. I didn’t want to face the fact that I had a problem. But, with the support of those closest to me, I did, and I can honestly say that it is the best decision that I’ve ever made.

I didn’t want to acknowledge that I had to rely on something external to myself in order to function ‘normally’.

I didn’t want to acknowledge that I had to rely on something external in order to function ‘normally’.

I began to enjoy my first term; I no longer wanted to shut people out. I stayed up talking with real humans! I went to talks at the union, I finished essays on time.

It was still hard when I first started taking the antidepressants – my mood was all over the place and I had trouble sleeping, but, eventually, the fog began to clear. I began to feel like myself again.

Returning to Cambridge this term has shown me how unwell I really was when I started here. The fact is that Cambridge, in all its weirdness and intensity, can act as a catalyst for any pre-existing mental health issue, no matter how ‘mild’. Now that I’ve addressed it, I can see what an amazing place it is, and, finally, I can begin to enjoy myself.

Whatever situation you find yourself in life, if it ever gets too hard, please seek help. Everyone deserves to enjoy their life.