Thursday 5 March 2020

Managing Anxiety at University

Lizzie shares her experience of anorexia recovery, changing universities and finding ways to manage her anxiety whilst studying.
- Lizzie

Throughout my anorexia recovery, university was my biggest motivation. I had struggled with my eating disorder for six years and after rushing into university, I found the process extremely overwhelming. I was suddenly away from my home, friends and partner and felt lost amongst the thousands of other students. After a semester, I remember packing up my things and coming home feeling extremely deflated. I wanted to attend university but felt I would never get there. However, with extensive support from inpatient units, community services, and my parents, I finally was in a healthier place and university became an option for me again. I could now be a Psychology student again and work towards becoming a Clinical Psychologist. However, despite the optimism and determination to succeed, I felt incredibly fearful of this new chapter. 

I have always been anxious ever since I can remember and was always referred to as “the worrier” in my family. Despite this, I naively assumed that my passion for the subject would override all of this anxiety and uncertainty, especially as the university was so much smaller and friendlier than my previous experience. I thought I could reinvent myself into someone different. Throughout the first year of my course, it felt like I was living a double life. I desperately didn’t want my course mates or lecturers to see me struggling but it took so much energy to walk into my lecture room, sit down amongst my peers and take in information. My mind was constantly filled with “what ifs” and negative self-talk, feeling that I would never be able to make friends and be myself. I felt this fa├žade of happiness and excitement breaking around me. I walked home every day so frustrated with myself. 

As the months went by, I contacted my university support team and told them about how I was feeling and the impact my anxiety was having on my studies. Speaking out was initially incredibly daunting, but quickly became such an invaluable resource for me. Saying my thoughts out loud made me feel braver and more in control. Throughout the rest of my first year, I slowly came out of my shell and felt more relaxed around my lecturers and my peers. I began to book office hours and asked for help when I needed to. I also formed a friendship group and began to really enjoy my university experience. 

Additionally, in my second year, I became a Mental Health Champion and Volunteer Teaching Assistant, with the aim of helping other students struggling with anxiety. It has been brilliant to get involved in extracurricular activities. I am really enjoying experiencing new things and realise I have SO much more confidence than I thought! As I am writing this, I am nearing the end of my second year. I still have days where I feel incredibly anxious and overwhelmed but I know that I am stronger than I realise. Through reaching out and talking about my feelings, I now walk into each lecture feeling braver and more confident in myself. I really hope to work in Clinical Psychology and help others believe how brave and confident they are too.

For more information on finding support, click here. For advice on supporting a friend with an eating disorder, click here.  

Hi, I'm Lizzie and I am a second-year Psychology student at the University of Chichester. I am incredibly passionate about mental health and currently an Ambassador for Beat and a Mental Health Mates Walk Leader in Chichester.

1 comment:

  1. Wow Lizzie, you are just an amazing and inspirational young lady, you have come so far in your own personal journey and still take time to help others, and I feel so proud to say I know you x