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Finding self-compassion in Cambridge

An important reminder

I found myself staring up at my ceiling, finding patterns in the painted swirls: I got lost in a world of sailors, witches and fairies. If I looked hard enough, I could find any formation. I'd often lose myself
in moments like these when I knew I should have been working. Why couldn’t I devour all these fascinating ideas, I thought to myself. Why couldn’t I join a sport? I knew hobbies would help. I would try to have fun with friends, but instead I became lost in the appearance of the room, viewing their smiles and laughs in slow motion.

I felt physically and mentally paralysed. Unable to cook, to read, to enjoy chatting to others: I was trapped in a cycle of utter hopelessness. I didn’t feel I was living up to my peers and their shiny achievements, and, as I sat in my room day after day, I became desperate for a sense of purpose. I
was then diagnosed with severe depression.

Cambridge is undoubtedly a place filled to the brim with talented people: which is a double-edged sword. They're often quirky and quick to
surprise you with unconventional knowledge and hobbies, which can be both inspiring and isolating. I've seen so many wonderful friends lose
their self-esteem as they watch their peers win challenges or play for Varsity, alongside gaining firsts. Socialising can be hard when you’re stuck in a negative head-space, as it can create resentment and

So many feel they don’t have a place here. I’d go to libraries and be unable to focus on even a single article as others would sit in the same seat studying for hours; but one thing I believe students need to remind themselves is that we tend to know ourselves well. I know I don’t work well abiding by the eight hours rule: I'm at my best when I work fewer but smarter hours. I know I don’t want to play for Varsity, or mindlessly “network” with everyone I meet. I have had to remind myself of why I'm
passionate about my degree, and that it’s okay to be the dumbest person in the room, because I'll leave having gained the most.

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Juggling Cambridge and depression is tough: it’s no romantic feat. I truly believe it’s so important to reach out: to a friend, a chaplain or a tutor who can help you navigate your options. After having
done so, I have so much more hope for my second year. I wrote this as a gentle reminder to anyone reading to remain compassionate with yourself. To improve your relationship with yourself, and to become your own friend. This simple piece of advice doesn't replace seeking professional help, but if we are the friendly voice in our heads then it helps to produce a mindset conducive to progress. When feeling negative, speak to yourself in a gentle tone with the words
you’d use on a friend. Cambridge can be an isolating place, so try to be your own best friend, as any place feels more like a home with compassion.

Images are author's own.