Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Temporary Withdrawal: The Right Choice For Me

Em shares her story after deciding to withdraw from university because of a traumatic breakup and her advice for students suffering with depression.
- Em


My ex-boyfriend and I were dating for a year and a half before he proposed to me. The relationship felt magical and truly perfect at that time, which then became ever the more excruciating when he broke up with me and left me for somebody else. Thankfully, we didn't go to the same university so I wouldn’t bump into him now and then, but everywhere I turned was littered with memories of him. After a month, I called him and we got into a big argument, after which I attempted to take my own life. I was in such a dark place, and I wish I had taken the time to message a friend before I did it to explain what was going on.

Nevertheless, after what happened, I found myself back at home being cared for by my parents. I didn't feel like I was strong enough to go back to university, but didn't think I had a choice. However, my personal tutor suggested to me about temporary withdrawal, which is a way of leaving for a year and then coming back all refreshed and new. I applied and it was the best decision I could have made.

I was incredibly fortunate to receive support from my doctor and a counsellor. Both of them recommended that I try a different type of anti-depressant and also CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). My experience of CBT has been phenomenal (as great as therapy can be). It was terrifying when I first went to the therapy, but having an outlet for my feelings and thoughts has had an immensely positive impact on my life, and even inspired me to begin a baking business account on Instagram! My university has also put in place a great support system for me, including offering university counselling and frequent communication between my personal tutor and my doctor’s surgery.

Indeed, temporal absence from university came with some consequences. For example, I felt excluded from my friends and would get nervous about seeing them. I found that I wasn’t talking to them about my feelings because I was scared they were going to worry about me harming myself again, or that they wouldn’t want to share their own feelings with me. Later on, I opened up to my friends about my doubts; and in response, I was told that the best thing I could do for them was being honest, and they would support me with however I was feeling.

Taking a break from studying, as daunting as it sounded, actually led to a genuinely positive change in my attitude to academics. I never thought of myself as intelligent or particularly smart, but I came to realise that I LOVED studying! I reached out to module convenors and various academics at the university and requested reading lists and self-study resources that I could do. Having my own time and freedom to study the topics I liked at my own pace made me feel more motivated to read articles and academic journals. It’s amazing how interesting things can be when you have the time to read over them slowly and with less pressure. I also managed to get a job working in a gorgeous organic cafĂ©, which certainly improved my social confidence, and made me remember how much I love making people smile and laugh.

All I can say to people who are considering taking a temporary leave from their studies is, first thoroughly consider your situation, but more importantly, don’t be afraid to take the break if it feels the right thing for you. Give yourself time to heal and recover. Mental health is complex and the simple pressures of no longer having to do a weekly shop being alleviated had a massive impact on my wellbeing. Reach out to friends, with openness and honesty, and you will be amazed at the support people give.


If you or someone you know are feeling emotionally distressed, you can get in touch with the following organisations for advice and support: 

  • Samaritans (available for anyone struggling to cope and provide a safe place to talk 24 hours a day; Phone: 116 123)
  • Shout (a 24/7 text service for anyone struggling to cope and in need of immediate help; Text SHOUT to 85258)
  • HOPELineUK (offers confidential support and advice for children and young people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts; Phone: 0800 068 41 41)
  • CALM (offers anonymous, confidential listening, information and signposting for the campaign to prevent male suicide in the UK; Phone: 0800 58 58 58)

Student Minds share more information and resources on finding support for yourself and your loved ones





Hi! I'm Em, a die-hard veggie who has gone through tough times while at uni, and I want to help people know they aren't alone in their struggles.

No comments:

Post a comment