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My Mental Health and University

  June 13, 2016   

A guest blog from Kat Barwel, student at Portsmouth University

I am a first year Criminology undergraduate student at Portsmouth University and I have a long history of anxiety, depression and eating disorders, and ever changing diagnoses.

This often pulls me down as I feel so helpless on a regular basis and I question how liveable a life like this is when I am struggling. It is easy to focus in on the negatives surrounding my mental health and how it has been impacted by any change in my life. However, it has certainly not been all bad.

Getting into university was a shock.

Following a breakdown a couple of months before my A2 exams and with no motivation to prepare for the impending exams, getting into university was not only a shock but a miracle! I had felt so pressured in my first year at college and worked so well under that pressure, I remember the disappointment I felt on results day as if it was yesterday.

I suspect that was partially what caused me to hit a wall in my second year, the fear that I still would not be good enough regardless of how hard I worked.

Getting into university was so unexpected that I had just 4 weeks (very exciting weeks, I might add) to buy and pack up all the belongings I would need at university. Of course, amongst the excitement was worry and anxiety, but I was so happy I got into university the anxiety was at a minimum prior to moving.

Moving to university posed several challenges to me and my mental health.

I was very anxious about the initial move and meeting new people and this wasn’t something that eased throughout most of first term. Finding my feet, getting to know people and working out who I really wanted to spend time with caused a great deal of stress. That said, I now have a wonderful group of people around me who accept me for me.

Leaving old friends behind was also difficult. I really thought I would stay in touch with a handful of the group I saw at college. Amazingly those who claimed to really care suddenly either disappeared or quite happily caused additional complications in my life. Again this all sounds so negative, but it is not. I am so much better off without these ‘friends’ and university has taught me which people I value.

The important friendships do survive the course.

Things did not turn out how I expected them to but I am so grateful they have turned out the way they have.

During my A2 year, after my breakdown, I became very dependent on my parents for a lot of things. Leaving the house was difficult. Getting dressed and showered was often impossible and I had no choice but to be honest about what was going on. I worried that leaving home and trying to be independent following this dependence was going to be really tough, especially as I was 160 miles away from my loved ones if I did start to struggle.

I’m pleased to say since moving to university I have been very lucky and coped so well.

Whilst I have had days where I have wished I was at home, I remember that this is my new home and I am making a future for myself. Portsmouth has been such a positive place for me. I love being by the sea and now that the weather is starting to get sunny, Portsmouth is just more and more beautiful.

I would like to say that moving away to university has been easy...

...but it is said that nothing worth doing ever is. I have learnt so much about myself and although there are many dark days still, I am so much stronger than I was last year.

I am learning to recognise my own downs and learning how to get through them.

I am accepting that these conditions may be with me for the rest of my life and focusing on how to better manage them when they cause me problems is something I feel I could not have done without the independence university has given me.

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