Around 800 days ago I became a fresher, and around 2000 days ago I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. With that maths, I have spent a large amount of time dealing with my mental health in a place where you would not wish to deal with your mental health – university.
You might wonder what it feels like to be a Type-A, obsessive-compulsive individual and full-time student. From personal knowledge I would relate the experience to standing at an empty crossroad, looking left and right several times to be safe, finally taking the plunge into walking ahead, and getting hit by a large truck anyway. Add into the mix the several hundred pedestrians around you who’ve taken the same path with blasé confidence, and somehow made it across safely.
That is what it feels like to be me right now. A third year art student, who fits the cliche of the ‘troubled’ artist – yet, lacks the presumed free-spirited qualities of a talented one!
My teacher urges me to ‘just relax!’, my therapist encourages me to be mindful – neither of them have anxiety. I don’t blame them still. I know I should chill out. In ironic fashion, it’s a task that frequents my to-do list. It’s just, without trying to sound too whiny…university is HARD.
That’s not to say my situation is unique either. It is a common, accepted fact that university is hard (yes, even art degrees are difficult!). Anxious or not, exams are awful for everyone, and essays suck. But if like me, you struggle with anxiety, problems tend to accumulate themselves at such a rapid pace, the problem you were originally worried about manifests into thoughts of failure and, OH GOD, will I be a success?, OH GOD, what if I never graduate?
You get the message.
For me, a large part of my anxiety is based around cleanliness. I’m pretty obsessive about my room and my surroundings. Everything has its place and purpose. Challenge me to dig out an object in my room and I guarantee to have it for you in less than 0.5 seconds.
Without sounding too arrogant, Marie Kondo better watch her back because there’s a new girl in town, and she’s not messing about with this feng-shui stuff. She’s obsessive, she’s compulsive, and boy does she know her way around a sock drawer.
Naively I assumed most people were like me before starting university. Similar to how Sims have needs, I believed my bars would resemble a strikingly similar ratio of green to those around me. Granted, my sociability would be a little lower than average. But I assumed there’d be a common baseline for cleanliness that I could at least level with.
Then university started and instead of basking in the joy of living with like-minded people, I instead learnt what waffle-stomping is (don’t google it), why you shouldn’t mix mushroom soup with couscous, and most importantly, the necessity of a plunger. And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
To sacrifice that knowledge for a cleaner three years of living would be to sacrifice some of the most amazing memories I’ve had at university. In a strange turn of events, my happiness is largely indebted to these strange, wildly messy humans.
Therefore to contradict myself entirely, I retract my earlier statement by admitting that, whilst I’ve spent 2000 days suffering from anxiety, I have done the most amount of learning and growing in my 800 days since becoming a fresher.
You see, sometimes the hardest decisions are the best ones. And in my case, I can most definitely say that is true. So if you’re in a similar situation to me and feel like its all a bit too much, don’t give up. Not just yet. Get a counsellor – there are some amazing ones out there, even some funny ones! Join a society, or don’t. But try and make friends. You’ll be surprised by how many weird and wonderful people are out there. Open yourself up to experiences – you won’t regret it.
And finally, if you are to take just one piece of advice from this article, may it be to never EVER, walk around student accommodation barefoot.
Trust me on that.