Freshers’ week. You’ve finally moved out, you can drink and shag as much as you like. Best week ever, right?
My Freshers’ week, in theory, should have been just that. After all, I loved being busy and could generally drink a metric fuck-tonne. However, two weeks before I was due to move in, a death in the family worsened my already shady mental health situation. Starting Fresher’s week I was a nervous wreck – but excited. For the past two years, I had been dreaming of this incredible moment where I would finally move away and start a new life. Sixth form had been rough to me, and the prospect of a brighter future had been all that kept me going at times.
I pressured myself so much into forming a saner, calmer, cooler version of myself that no reality could possibly compete with my new imaginary self. It wasn’t like I wanted to change my personality, I just wanted a magical fresher-fairy to appear and abracadabra all my pre-uni problems begone. I told myself that I was settling in just fine, but the warning signs began appearing thick and fast; I was unable to sleep or eat properly until a few weeks in, I was convinced that all of my flatmates hated me, I would cry alone in my room.
You get the picture.
Meanwhile, all my peers seemed to be having the time of their lives. No one wants to be the first to admit that they’re having problems, so I smiled and laughed along with everyone else. However, I soon began to crack. I became depressed about being depressed; that this brighter future did not, and would not appear for me. After all, everyone else was coping fine, right? Self-harm and hysterical nights out ensued. Opening up only occurred when drunk, in terrifying, tear-studded rants. In the morning, that would only add to my self-loathing; afraid that I was the freak who was out of control. I attempted suicide twice in the first semester.
A year has passed since then. I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and tell myself what I know now. But, I don’t, and so I write this for anyone who may experience even a tiny speck of what I did.
Firstly, and I cannot stress this enough: IT IS OKAY NOT TO ENJOY FRESHERS’ WEEK. Sure, it might be the best week of your life, great! But equally, if you find it overwhelming, or even just more a little more stressful than you thought, that’s just fine. Your entire university experience isn’t defined by one week, one semester or even a single year. Freshers’ is a great bonding experience, but it’s not the only one you’ll have. Make the most of it, but judge that based on what feels right for you. You’re no freak if you hate it.
“Everyone’s in the same boat” might be a cliché hurled out at freshers, but there’s a reason you hear it on a loop. For most of us, it’s the first time we’ve lived away from home. Everybody is trying to give off the best first impression. This is especially true when it comes to mental health. I’d been told it was common at university, but I just couldn’t believe it with everyone else acting fine. Turns out, there were three people in the flat opposite me with a history of mental illness (and I was so convinced that I was the only one). Sure, they weren’t as hardly hit by Freshers’ as I was. But they got it. Once I opened up to them, and others around me, all I heard was empathy and encouragement. The worst had happened: I had completely exposed all of my perceived flaws to new people. And? They…were extremely kind about it.
I’m not writing this to try and instil some kind of fear amongst freshers. Plenty of people take to Bath like a duck to water (specifically, the ones by Fountain). The only problem is, you only ever hear about the good stories. This is part of the problem if you find yourself not enjoying yourself from the get-go. Looking back at my whole year, I’m so glad I stuck it out. Of course, I still have my off days and panic far more than I should. But, I finished my first year with a 2:1, a bunch of society memberships and a load of new friends (who I don’t have to lie to about mental health issues).
Maybe, you’ll decide that university isn’t for you. That’s okay too. What isn’t okay is feeling like you’re the only one not having the time of your life.
Bath also has it’s own short-term counselling service, right on campus. I was one of hundreds of freshers who signed up during Freshers’ week. I wholly recommend it if you’re finding it difficult getting settled in; whether or not you have a history of mental health. You don’t have to worry about them being judgemental, and they can tell you how to get longer-term help. Their website is: http://www.bath.ac.uk/counselling/
Some other useful contacts are:
University Security – Emergencies only: 666 (internal), 01225 383 999 (external)
Non-emergencies: 5349 (internal), 01225 385349 (external)
University Medical Centre – 01225 386655
Opening Hours: 08:00-18:00 (Monday-Friday) and 08:00-13:00 (Saturday)
Out of Hours medical help – Dial 111 for the NHS helpline when your own doctor’s surgery is closed.
Nightline – student-run listening and information service open from 8pm – 8am (term-time). Their number is on the back of your library card as they don’t want to make it publicly available Also by email: firstname.lastname@example.org