Stress is destroying my university experience Watch
I’m posting this because I really need help and I don’t know what to do. I am a first-year university student and I’m struggling on my course due to my mental health issues. I’ve submitted both my essays and an important assignment worth 40% of a module late (don’t worry, my university is lenient when it comes to missed deadlines so I only lost 8-10 marks for late submission), and I’ve been doing badly in all of my modules. I suffer from depression and social anxiety and I don’t have a good support network here. I have no friends here, only classmates I talk to during class, and my closest friend lives in another country, so, while she is there for me, it’s not the same as her physically being here. Sometimes when I’m upset I don’t talk to people for days, but, at sixth form, I had a friend who would always talk to me whenever she saw me, even if I could only give one-word replies, and we would go for walks sometimes to relieve stress. I still go on walks and spend a lot of time in nature, but it’s not the same as having someone around you in person who supports you. I wish I had someone who checked up on me when I’m struggling and unable to ask for help. My classmates also find the course difficult, but their struggles aren’t the same as mine. Being so stressed all the time and getting low grades has a bad effect on my health, and I’m finding it hard to stay positive in this situation. I’ve actively tried to improve my situation but my stress and low self-esteem keep ganging up on me, and, when I’m drowning in stress, I can’t think clearly and it’s like I just can’t function properly. I lose motivation to do anything. I always think to myself, “next week I’ll finally pull myself together”, but I’m so behind on two of my modules that I don’t physically have time to catch up while also studying new things, which makes me stressed again. I have a test every week as well as a lot of reading to do.
Since I started university, I wanted to access the mental health services they had, but I received an email saying I had to have “medical evidence”. However, I am unable to see a doctor because of my social anxiety. The thought of talking to someone I don’t know in a city I’m still not familiar with in a practice I’ve never been to makes me extremely uncomfortable and there’s no one here who would be willing to go with me. The thing is, depression and social anxiety aren’t my only issues and I need to see a doctor about other problems I also think I may have, but I’m unable to see a doctor.
Since I started university, I’ve already had a mental breakdown because the stress gets too much, and I often end up eating at ridiculous times like 2am because I’m too tired/unmotivated to cook and no one in my flat is interested in sharing meals with me, so I have to go to sleep early and wake up in the middle of the night (so that I have more energy) to be able to have dinner. Most days I have my lunch at the same time my flatmates have their dinner. Sometimes I spend the entire day not eating because I’ve run out of food and I’m unable to leave my bed, let alone go to the shops. I’m currently eating at 10:30pm and the last time I ate was 14 hours ago.
I’m not enjoying my course or university life at all. I don’t regret enrolling at university, but university life is too difficult for me. I spent the first few months feeling so sad and lonely, and, now, even though I don’t feel that lonely anymore, I feel like a massive disappointment because I can’t hand my assignments in on time or do well in my tests, and I feel so stressed because I did so badly in my aforementioned essays and assignment because of the mark reduction due to late submission. I also did badly in my A level exams and didn’t achieve my predicted grade in any of my subjects and that’s also been eating away at me. I’ve tried my hardest to study and do well, but, because of my depression, I have bad days where I can’t study at all, and I end up feeling stressed because I haven’t studied at all that day, and I’ll end up staying up until 3am studying so that I’ve at least done something. It makes me sad because I think I would enjoy the course if it wasn’t for all the stress it causes me - it makes me so sad hearing my classmates say that they enjoy their lessons, when, because of my depression, it’s hard for me to enjoy anything, not even my interests.
I thought my depression had improved a lot, but, during the Christmas holidays, I barely did anything and just stayed in bed all day doing nothing, even though I wanted to study. I just couldn’t.
I’m in need of some advice, I really don’t know what to do. I’m very upset and disappointed in myself for doing so badly on my course, and, while I know I don’t want to drop out, I feel like I’m wasting my time here. I’ve already been at university for a few months and I’ve spent most of it stressed, lonely and upset. This isn’t how I expected university life to be. I studied a lot more at sixth form but now I have to put some of the energy I previously used for studying on cooking and washing-up. I don’t know why but sometimes I spend over three hours in total each day in the kitchen, which takes its toll on me. I have actively tried to make friends but no one seems to be very interested in being friends with me, and I have tried so hard to manage my mental health issues but it’s hard because I’m not on medication or receiving any sort of assistance. If anyone replies to this, thank you so much in advance.
Student life, in partnership with UEA
Reading half of it:
I'd say you need to prioritise. I recently learnt that keeping things simple is very helpful. Especially my day-to-day. Give yourself 3, maybe 4 priorities and just stick to them everyday. For example that could be your coursework, socialising/going out, and whatever else, maybe going to the gym for example. And then just stick to those 3, or 4 even. Whatever other time you have, spend chilling out or doing whatever you feel like doing in the moment. Sounds to me like your feeling very overwhelmed and maybe a little bit of focus and simplicity in your life might help. Just have a simple life. But at a happy one.
It is a common experience to feel that the GP is going to misjudge you or won't respect you (even if only secretly) or will be dismissive, however patients bursting into tears due to anxiety and depression induced stress in an initial assessment is very very common (I did, and I'm a man usually regarded as stoical by those who know me, I spent the first several minutes unable to say a word due to feeling that I wouldn't be able to control my crying if I started. The doctor, who had never met me before was a complete professional about it).
Please watch the video: Depression the secret we share, by Andrew Solomon on YouTube, to help you understand you are not alone in this. He is an internationally respected, humanistic, voice on depression [you will also notice he talks about anxiety too in the same talk].
I worked for universities for several years. One thing I noticed is that students often didn't know all of their options and suffered unnecessarily as a result. Medical grounds might allow you to defer for a year without penalty for instance (universities are heavily unionized, so mental health is a big thing - your students union should be able to give you advice on this kind of thing for your specific institution). If a deferral is not for you, you would probably get reasonable adjustments on exams and deadlines; take some of the pressure off.
The requirement of medical evidence can sometimes be met by speaking to a university counselor for an initial consultation; it might differ for smaller universities, but larger ones usually have some kind of medical school, even if it is at a different campus for that uni, you might be able to access that - keep in mind that they will have met many students like you with very similar issues).
The disrupted sleep pattern is rather serious; not only does it enhance the effects of anxiety in some people, it disrupts the brain's ability to store and synthesis information efficiently. That needs to be dealt with. When you see a Doctor, please be sure to emphasise your sleep loss, its a very important symptom and they need to know about it.
May I ask which subject you are studying?