University Stress

I finally have a weekend where I don’t have to work on coursework. I’m using it to try and recover a little bit before beginning the next large piece of coursework. Where to begin…my anxiety has been pretty bad lately and now depression is starting to take hold of me again. I hate that just when I think I’m making some progress, depression will suddenly decide to show up and sucker punch me in the face. It’s so discouraging because I really just want to make progress and actually have a life but that’s now even more difficult. Having depression as well as SA makes it a lot more difficult to cope with and overcome either of the two. The depression magnifies the SA and vice versa.* I still don’t really know whether my depression is S.A.D or if it’s caused by the loneliness brought about by my SA, or both.

* There is scientific evidence to prove this but I can’t be bothered trying to find it again right now, and I don’t want to depress anyone else. I may do a post about this at some point in the future.

Things at university haven’t exactly been great so far. Despite being part-time, I’ve already had to ask for an extension on a piece of coursework because I was in such a bad way when I was writing it. Having to do that made me feel completely useless – everyone else is on the full-time course, and they have social lives and some of them have jobs, and they can manage it – and made me wonder if I should even bother staying on to do honours. It’s not because I don’t feel intelligent enough – though my intelligence appears to be decreasing by the day due to (I assume) the changing of the seasons (more on this later) – it’s just that I honestly don’t know if it’s even worth the strain it will put on my mental health. These doubts are amplified by the fact that I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life and I’m worried that this entire degree will have been a waste of time. There’s also the worry that even if I do stay on and get good results (which I have so far), I still won’t be able to get a job because of my SA. I also felt ashamed having to admit to student support and my tutor that I’m struggling. I managed to get through all of last year without asking for a single extension, so I feel really disappointed in myself. It took me until 3 days after the deadline to get it finished. At the mental health charity I had been going along to, one of the women mentioned that she’d tried to return to college a few years ago but had found it so difficult and stressful to keep up with the coursework, often staying up until 3am to get things finished. To be honest, I’ve done far worse than that. There have been times when I’ve needed to stay awake for 40 hours in order to complete a piece of coursework and then attend uni later that day. For this latest piece of coursework, I ended up getting so stressed and feeling so awful about myself that I’d up crying almost every time I sat down to work on it. I usually don’t even give myself proper breaks when I work on coursework, which isn’t healthy, but I feel it would just take me even longer if I did. I just sit in front of my laptop from the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed, and still end up getting hardly anything done because I’m such a perfectionist and I get far too stressed out and beat myself up. I’m just so lucky that student support have been fighting my case all this time. I wouldn’t have made it through the first semester of first year if they hadn’t. Struggling with coursework just makes me feel even more inferior, despite the fact that I often get some of the best results in the class. I don’t know how I’m going to cope with the honours project, if I do choose to stay on and do it. I don’t know why I find everything so difficult or why it takes me so long. I feel so useless.

My anxiety has constantly been challenged since the first day back at university. Lab sessions for the third year module begin tomorrow. I’m worried about that because I found being in labs very anxiety-provoking before, but this time I won’t know anyone there so it may be even more difficult. Student support did mention finding me a mentor to help with labs again, so at least I’ll have that if I find it’s too difficult to get through labs alone, but it never really helped before. I’m finding the fourth year module (the one where I’ve already had to ask for an extension) extremely stressful in regards to my SA. There is so much group work in the tutorials and I’m always the only person there who doesn’t have a group. No one even sits in the same row as me in the lecture hall, which makes me feel as if no one likes me or wants to be around me. If I know there’s going to be group work, I barely sleep the night before, and my heart starts pounding and I start shaking as soon as I enter the room. I did manage to stand up and ask if I could join another group a couple of weeks ago. I was extremely nervous but they said I could join them and they were friendly towards me. I even managed to help them out because I’d already done all the recommended reading and highlighted relevant parts, whereas they hadn’t read anything. I also managed to contribute a lot (for me) during the group discussion. Then last week, there was a group quiz on things we need to know for the biggest piece of coursework. I was really annoyed about the whole quiz thing, because people who had already decided on groups could have each picked a specific topic to study, whereas I had to look over all the topics. For the most recent piece of coursework, we were encouraged to have discussions with our classmates to make sure that we didn’t leave anything important out. I wasn’t able to talk to anyone about this, which obviously put me at a disadvantage. Having SA seems to put me at a disadvantage in a myriad of ways at university. Anyway…I was worried that I’d end up being all on my own and looking like a weirdo but I did manage to ask the mature student if I could be in a group with him and a couple of other people. And I was fine, despite some shakiness, once I was in the group. It was actually quite a positive social experience. Speaking of which, we had a field trip a couple of weeks ago, and the woman who I spoke to while in the Algarve came up to me and said: “Hi. You’re Gemma, right?” Apparently she’s usually not good at remembering names, but she managed to remember mine after meeting/ talking to me just once. I don’t really know how to explain this, but little things, like someone remembering my name or someone trying to talk to me, just make me so happy. I’m truly grateful whenever someone does try to make conversation or tries to include me. Positive social experiences are like a drug for me. I just wish I could actually show that and have the ability to keep a conversation going.

This is going to sound weird but it has recently occurred to me that maybe other people at university don’t think I’m a weird loner and they don’t think all the things about me that I believe they do. Now I’m sure there are probably people reading this who are thinking: “No shit, Sherlock” right now, but it is so difficult to accept that the beliefs I have about how other people see me may not actually be true. It’s actually quite disconcerting to see how many cognitive distortions I have and how different my thoughts and beliefs may actually be from reality. I’m hoping I can continue to face my fears and talk to people there, though I do think it’s a bit late, given that this is the last semester that I’ll see any of the people I started uni with.

Edit: I read this back and laughed as I imagined putting: “there is scientific evidence to prove this but I can’t be bothered trying to find it right now” in one of my assignments for uni.

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