12 May 2017
One Year at University at a Time...
Well, who would have thought I would be saying this a couple of years ago, but I have just finished my first year at Sheffield Hallam University; a year full of amazing memories, beautiful friends and a wealth of knowledge to develop and grow my future ambitions. If you follow my social media accounts, you may have noticed that I have made the most of every single opportunity that has come my way, and sought out many more! I do not think I have actually taken the time to think about everything I have participated in, worked on or helped with this year, until recent weeks and the events that I have attended. There is no denying that I have been busy, but I can honestly say that I have loved every single minute of it!
In the majority of my posts, I often emphasise my reluctance to look back on my previous attempt at university education. However, I think that during recovery from any mental illness, as important as it is to remain positive about the current moment and optimistic for the future, if possible, it is also important to reflect on how far you have come. I know for some, this can be a horrendously frightening, and potentially triggering act, in which case I would not advise doing so, but for myself, doing this at key milestones strengthens my recovery.
I always like to keep my writing positive, but I often think of some of the people that may be reading this, and hope that they may be able to relate to some of the difficult moments I have dealt with and see how life can change for the better if you can find the strength to reach out and ask for the help that you need.
I want to take you back to September 2014- the start of what I can only describe as one of the most distressing times of my life. I found myself stood in a room at Storthes Hall in Huddersfield trying to convince myself that the decision I had made to attend university was the right choice. It soon became apparent that it was not. The negative thoughts started, the unhealthy coping strategies developed and the brave face was quickly adopted. I am not sure if you know this, but trying to put on a performance and suppress exactly how you feel is absolutely exhausting. I didn’t exactly make it any easier by allowing Anorexia Nervosa to convince me that restricting my food intake, over-exercising and spending every moment analysing, scrutinising and fretting about food was the best way to regain control over the situation. Again, it soon became apparent that it was not.
I snapped. I could not take it any more. I literally felt as though my head was exploding. Anorexia had taken over my life and I had no idea how to make it stop. Not only did I feel trapped physically, but I also could not escape the endless mental chaos. That was when the panic attacks started. I cried endlessly, struggling to breathe, unable to talk and with no knowledge of how to stop. I confided in a couple of my flat mates at the time, but I was so embarrassed and so unaware of what was actually going on. I was a student, wasn’t I supposed to be having the time of my life? Why had I not met my best friends for life? Why did I not want to go out and drink until 4am? I felt like I was the only person that had not found myself living this amazing, carefree and fun-filled student life; and that was hard. In fact, it escalated the negative thoughts to a point where my health had left me with no other choice than to leave university- ironically vowing that I would never attend again…
Where would I have been? What would I have been doing? What would I have been passionate about? Who knows! But I can tell you something; my life would have been completely different to what it is now. Making that decision last January to pursue my dreams, send off my application and face the demons of my previous attempt at university was undeniably one of the most daunting, yet best decisions that I have ever made.
Looking back at everything I have achieved this year has been an extraordinary realisation that the moment I stepped foot into Rharian Fields Specialist Eating Disorder Unit on 16th July 2015, literally transformed my life. Every blood test, every tablet, every ECG, every meal, every therapy session, every explosion of emotion, it had all been worth it. But during that time, who would have known that being that sick would have ignited such a passion to prevent it from affecting anyone else. Sure, I wish this situation had not been the way in which I discovered this desire, but life does not always take the route we hope!
So, here I am, planning my second year at university (if I pass this years modules!). A house signed for, exciting plans for Sheffield Hallam SU Student Minds and ready to absorb the knowledge from the year’s academic schedule. First year was hard, and I anticipate my time at university to only get harder, but I am ready for the challenge. At the end of the day, any moment I have at the fantastic establishment that is Sheffield Hallam University is an absolute blessing. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to study there and no matter what happens during the next couple of years, I am proud to have made it this far and enthusiastic about the future that lies ahead.