Monday 21 October 2019

Relapsing at University

Kristina shares her experience and offers advice on relapsing at University.
- Kristina W.

In 2018, I arrived in the UK for a one-year postgraduate course. Everything that happened between the time that I got my acceptance and arrived at university is a blur. It happened very, very fast. As an international student, I was dealing with visa and financial issues and the stress was on.

I thought that once I got to university and got settled, everything would be smooth sailing. It was my second go-round after all. I knew my way around a university library, knew what to do during seminars and the prospect of workshops didn’t scare me.

I started self-harming and developed an eating disorder when I was around fifteen but managed to recover. As a postgraduate, during my first month in the UK, the combined stress of my course, job and settling in after a cross-continental move meant that I relapsed. 

Looking back now, I see it as a response to events that I couldn’t control. It was harder this second time around but I found some tips to help my second trip down recovery road.

  1. First of all, do not blame yourself. Recovery is not linear. Relapsing feels like a horrible slide backward, undoing all your progress, but that is not true. Eating disorder and self-harm relapse are common and you grow through your resilience against the destructive thoughts and behaviours that want to overpower you. 
  2. Seek help as soon as possible. No, it is not weak to seek help. It is vital self-advocacy. My university had a counselling and mental health service, as well as access to resources like Big White Wall which, while not necessarily medical, provided useful support and validation. The first step is the hardest one. After crossing that barrier, it gets easier.
  3. Be mindful of red flags and triggers, which is much easier said than done. Triggers and red flags are difficult to recognise and can differ vastly from person to person. Be mindful of your thoughts, behaviour and emotions to potentially stop a relapse in its tracks.
Finally, there are good and bad days. One bad day doesn’t undo three good days. The key to getting better is showing up every day and refusing to allow the destructive behaviour and thoughts to win. That takes time, patience, hard work, and yeah, sometimes relapse.

If you or someone close to you is showing symptoms of an eating disorder, help is available and further information can be found here.

Kristina W. spent a year as an international student at the University of Glasgow. Her experience changed the way she looked at her mental health for the better. She blogs about her student experience, money and career at

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