“Overcoming Mental Health Issues At Uni”
Everyone told me it would get better by Christmas but it hadn’t.
Everyone told me I’d stop crying so much but I wasn’t.
If you’re reading this, you might be feeling the same as I was
during the November of my first year. Freshers was a blur of tears, stomach
pains, anxiety and general miserableness.
Why was I so unhappy? Why couldn’t I get settled? I had thought I would be fine.
The day I went to uni I remember waking up to my mum saying ‘Alice, we’re almost there’. I lifted my head up from the pillow leaning against the tower of stuff I’d piled into the car and could see the road signs pointing to Cardiff. My stomach dropped. At that moment, I wanted the journey with my parents to last forever.
The next bit is a bit of a blur, but I do vividly remember being in my room and my parents saying goodbye. I was sobbing, and I remember wishing more than anything that I could leave with them and be back at home.
I took five minutes and then went into the kitchen to meet my new flat mates. We’d already chatted via Facebook, and I’d organised us tickets to go to an event I’d heard about through a promoter. First of all, this was a bit of an error. If you’re reading this and you’re going to uni next year, the first night you should mix with your block as much as possible, not just your flat, or do something organised by your halls or the uni. We missed a key night of bonding for our block of 30 people with just the five of us.
Nevertheless, we still had a great night and I felt happy. Yet I woke up the next day and felt awful. I quite literally couldn’t stop crying and I felt unbelievably homesick. This continued over the next few weeks: happy when I was out, wanting to run home during the days.
I used to get homesick when I was little but by the time I was about twelve, I loved sleeping away from home, was fine on school trips, and holidays with friends. The issue during my first term, however, was that I couldn’t shake the fact that I was there for three years. The idea of big holidays in between where I could go home didn’t make it any easier either, I still had to spend the foreseeable future here. I really liked my flat mates, and even at that point I really liked Cardiff. I just couldn’t get settled.
I didn’t have lectures on a Friday and didn’t start until 11am on a Monday and I just couldn’t resist going home to Birmingham. Error number 2. I know it’s so hard to hear this but going home will just make it worse. I’d begin to feel better on a Thursday, only to go home and spend Sunday night and Monday morning in tears about having to go back. It was a repeat cycle; if I had stuck it out until the middle of term, at least, I would have gotten used to it.
“ Homesickness is a rocky road that you’ve just got to keep walking down and pushing through ”
If you’ve been going home loads this term, do your best to resist going home for as long as possible after Christmas. Going home doesn’t just affect your emotional state, it can alienate you from your new group of friends. You’ll miss out on stuff that would make your friendships stronger and make you feel happier.
One thing I know better than anyone, is that being told to just ‘stick it out’ and that ‘it’ll get better’ isn’t in the slightest bit useful. Some people just won’t understand how you’re feeling, which can make you feel even worse and alone.
Unfortunately, homesickness is a rocky road that you’ve just got to keep walking down and pushing through. I know how severe it can be and how it can make you feel genuinely ill.
I cried on Christmas Day. I just didn’t want to go back to Cardiff.
Yet how could I live with myself afterwards? What was I going to do, stay home in Birmingham forever incapable of being away from home? I knew I had to push through this and not let homesickness defeat me.
Although I felt sick as I journeyed back to Cardiff, I decided to make more effort this time. I decided to sign up for a 10k, make more effort to attend my lectures and get my teeth into work, join the society I had had my eye on, and actually attend stuff I was invited to. I booked a train home for my reading week, half way through the term, and used that as something to work towards.
It wasn’t just being busier that helped so much, it was getting out of the viscous circle that made me head to my room and watch movies instead of getting myself out and about.
Gradually, I noticed I wasn’t feeling as bad. I started to look forward to the plans I was making on the weekend and, even if there wasn’t much going on, I began feeling satisfied by hanging around with my flat mates or others in my block.
By the time reading week came around, I had lost weight from training for the 10k, was averaging a 2.1 in my course, and suddenly found myself surrounded with friends. I only went home for a long weekend as I wanted to be around for the various nights out that were going on during that week.
‘Blimey’ I thought. If only my first term self could see me now.
If you’re reading this and still feeling horribly homesick after Christmas, then I know there is nothing I can say to change the way you’re feeling. What I can say, however, is try to take it by the horns. You aren’t going to let homesickness defeat you or determine where you go in life. If you’re in uni you’re here because you’ve earned your place here! Don’t throw that away.
Make some plans to get excited about and push yourself, you’ll forever be grateful to yourself for staying strong and pushing through. As I am.
Written by Alice Webster, 9 months ago