Back to Uni

The second semester of university starts tomorrow and I’m dreading it. Stress and anxiety levels are through the roof. The induction day was last week and I spent the night before lying in bed crying, and only managing around 3 hours of sleep because I was so anxious about it. I’m hoping that tonight won’t be so bad. I don’t know why but whenever I go back to uni after the holidays, I always feel much the same as I did when going back to school – i.e. a complete nervous wreck at the thought of all the bullying I’d be subjected to. No one has bullied me or (to my knowledge) made any negative comments about me in the time I’ve been at uni, so I logically shouldn’t feel this way but I do. It’s like almost 2 years later, I’m still trapped in the high school mentality. Not a single day goes by in which I don’t ruminate over different things that happened while I was there. I don’t know how to get out of that state of mind. I had an appointment with my psychologist last week and we both came to the conclusion that one of the main reasons for my social anxiety is that I automatically assume that everyone is going to behave towards me in the way that the bullies did at high school. Because it happened to me almost every day for 6 years, by lots of different people, at the time when my mind and views of other people, society, and the world at large were still developing, I naturally came to the conclusion that that’s how people are and how they behave. Everyone is cruel, shallow, judgemental, and out to get me until proven otherwise. And even if a certain person somehow proves me otherwise, there is still an ever-present sinking feeling that one day they will do something to break my trust or that they’re just putting up with me because they have to and are secretly judging me negatively. There is definitely an aspect of paranoia there that I can’t seem to get rid of. I simply can’t trust other people.

As well as the usual terrors of having to sit in a lecture theatre with 120 or so other people, and eating in the university cafeteria, the thing that has me most anxious about tomorrow is that I will have to talk to JW again all morning after not seeing her for over a month. She’ll want to know what I got up to during the holidays and I will have nothing to talk about. I won’t be able to keep the conversation going and I’m worried that I will once again be exposed as a freak. I don’t know if she’s figured out about my lack of friends yet but I fear that she one day will and she’ll mock me about it or something…I don’t know. I don’t think it’s really worth the effort. It sounds horrible but I don’t enjoy talking to her at all. It’s not anything to do with her, but simply because of how anxious it makes me feel and how boring/ pathetic I feel because I never have anything exciting to talk about.

Anyway…it’s midnight and I should be going to bed. I hope tomorrow won’t be as bad as I’m anticipating it to be. Here’s to another day of survival.

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6 Responses to Back to Uni

  1. Blue says:

    High school is the worst. Everyone seems to know, or at least ‘know of’, everyone else. One of the reasons I like university so much is that everyone seems so preoccupied/busy that they don’t take much notice of other people, especially in crowded lecture halls. Everyone also seems to be more autonomous, which makes being alone socially acceptable, in a way. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it … there are tons of students at my school who I’ve always seen sitting alone. It seems like a big deal to me when I’m sitting alone because I imagine other people are judging me, but when I see other people sitting alone I don’t think anything of it ….

    I feel you on the perils of small talk, though. I always feel like I live the most boring life and everyone else is like, “I went to Cuba over Christmas and then I flew to Paris for a night and then I sold one of my paintings for ten million dollars and then I came home and thought up with a solution to end poverty. What did you do?” Sometimes if I’ve done absolutely nothing, I say I was sick and people give me sympathy, haha.

    I hope everything goes well!

    • Gemma says:

      Hi Blue. My first day back wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be, though my anxiety was indeed very high the whole time. Thankfully JW didn’t actually ask about what I did during the holidays, but it was a strain for me to try to keep the conversation going and find the right things to say. Haha, I might use the being sick excuse sometime if someone asks. Good thinking.

      I don’t really pay much attention when I happen to see someone else on their own either but I can’t help but feel that people must notice my shaking or odd behaviour due to being anxious, and think I’m weird because of that. I wish I could just break down my barriers and trust people enough to open up to them. I keep thinking about high school and how I wasted my time there by not taking the chance to find out if some people there were genuinely nice/ not out to get me…It seems that uni is going to go exactly the same way and I will kick myself for it later.

      • Blue says:

        I’m glad your day didn’t end up going too badly!!!

        “It seems that uni is going to go exactly the same way and I will kick myself for it later.”
        Aww, I really hope uni won’t be like that for you. I’m hoping therapy will work for you. Have you had not-so-helpful therapy experiences before?

      • Gemma says:

        Well it’s looking increasingly more likely that it will, but thank you. As for not-so-helpful therapy experiences…despite having regular appointments with mental health services since I was 15, it’s only in the last 3 months that I’m actually doing therapy of any kind. Back when I was seeing child mental health services, a psychologist was supposed to work on doing CBT with me but all she did was briefly introduce me to some breathing exercises and left it at that. In my appointments with my old psychiatrist, I’d just talk about what had been going on lately/ how I felt. Getting things off my chest did help a bit at the time but so far there has never been anything to reduce my anxiety in the long term. Often, I didn’t even see the point in going along to appointments because – since nothing was being done to actually address my anxiety – I felt that they were a waste of time. Most of the professionals I’ve seen are quick to push the drugs but it seems that few of them actually want to bother with things that will help in the long term. My new psychiatrist seems completely incompetent and appointments are only once every 4 months or so. Seeing him actually makes me feel a lot worse. If doing CBT with the psychologist doesn’t help then I honestly don’t know what I’ll do after that. Nothing changes and I feel that nothing ever will. I feel like I’m beyond help.

        Sorry for so much negativity – I’m feeling very down and hopeless right now. Thanks again.

  2. Blue says:

    Wow. I can’t believe you’ve had such bad luck with therapists … I’m really surprised and frankly a little outraged (so I can understand why you have little hope about therapy working this time around). Your psychiatrist scheduling appointments every 4 months is ridiculous — that doesn’t make sense to me at all. Every single one of my psych professors has said that CBT for anxiety takes a matter of weeks to complete. Maybe it’s because you’re seeing a psychiatrist? I heard they don’t put as much emphasis on talk therapy, and usually try to push drugs …

    I’m wondering if it’s viable for you to switch to a psychologist who you’d get along better with, one that seems like they’re actually competent. It sounds like your parents are just wasting their money and proloning your suffering … Maybe there’s even a psychologist in your area who specializes in social anxiety? I know that it would be stressful for you to go through another intake session, but in the long-run it would decrease your suffering.

    Another suggestion I have is the “self-help” approach. I’m doing this CBT audio therapy right now and it seems to be helping me a bit: http://www.socialanxietyinstitute.org/audioseries.html
    It’s pricey ($260), but when I googled more info on it, I saw some users on SA forums saying you can torrent it for free (though you didn’t hear that from me, haha). Originally, I was just planning to listen to it in order to get up the nerve to see a real psychologist, but I’m half-way through the series and it’s really helping me. I’m not 100% sure it will get rid of my SA completely, but I am dealing with social situations much better since starting it.

    Anyway, I think I should disclose that I’m a psychology student (in addition to having SA myself), so I’m bringing a couple biases into this response. My psych professors always stress the importance of a therapist and client getting along, and say that it’s one of the most important factors in whether or not the client actually gets better. They’ve also advised us to “shop around” for the best fit when we’re getting our own counselling, and to find someone experienced in our particular issues. It sounds to me like none of your therapists have had a clue about treating SA, which is really sad, not to mention entirely unethical.

    Sorry for this gigantic comment, haha. You don’t have to take any of my advice, since I kind of just gave it to you unsolicited, but I just wanted to inform you of some other options. From reading your blog, it sounds like you’ve been through hell and back, and I’m really rooting for you to get better.

  3. Gemma says:

    Apologies for the late reply – studying is taking up almost all of my time lately. Sorry for the confusion – appointments with the psychiatrist are every 4 months, but CBT appointments with the psychologist are usually once every fortnight (though I haven’t had an appointment in a while because he’s been off ill). I get the impression that doing CBT with him is going to take a lot longer than a few sessions to complete. He seems understanding and has been quite helpful but I can’t help feeling that I’m not really making any progress. I will continue in seeing him for CBT, despite being doubtful that it will help.

    My psychiatrist is (in my opinion) a complete waste of space. He’s wasted my time but fortunately not my parents’ money. Since he’s an NHS psychiatrist, no fee is involved. Perhaps you get what you pay for, I don’t know… The NHS mental health services are a shambles, in my experience. I’m not sure about going private…my parents probably wouldn’t be able to afford it. If I thought it would help and was able to cover most of the cost myself, I’d give it a try, but I’ve become so disillusioned by so-called ‘professionals’ that it’s hard to believe it would be anything but a waste of money.

    I’ve read a couple of self-help books and have tried doing a form of CBT that involves writing a ‘thought record’, which is what one of the books centres around. Sometimes it helps and sometimes it makes me feel worse. I do wonder sometimes if it’s actually possible for me ever to make progress without help from a skilled professional. I have the will to change but I don’t think I have the knowledge. I’m not sure exactly how one goes about overcoming the colossal twin demons of social anxiety and depression. I’m not sure how to change 19 years of deeply ingrained thinking patterns and negative core beliefs. I feel stuck.

    Thank you for the link. I’ll see if I can torrent it or find something similar for free. I’m glad that it seems to be helping you. 🙂 I completely agree that therapist and patient getting along are paramount to recovery. It’s probably why I feel so hopeless about getting better. Even the couple of professionals who have been understanding didn’t have much of a clue about SA or even weren’t aware of its existence – which is worrying, considering that it’s apparently very common.

    Thanks again for your comments and kind words.

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