BSc (Hons) Surviving Intense Anxiety & Becoming a Big Phoney

I often think that that’s what I’m actually studying.

I started the new term at uni 4 weeks ago. I feel that I’ve kind of shot myself in the foot by going part-time because I don’t know anyone in this year group (the year group below the people I’ve been in classes with up ’til now) and it can be very difficult to stay informed of things that are happening as part of the module. I wasn’t able to make friends with anyone in the previous year group so I suppose it doesn’t really make much of a difference, but I am saddened that I didn’t get to know the mature student or the woman I spoke to while in the Algarve a bit more, as I felt they were both very genuine people who I could’ve got on well with if it wasn’t for my SA once again ruining everything. Still…I do feel a bit out of my depth, having suddenly been thrown in with a bunch of people who I don’t know but who all know each other and already have well-established friendship groups. This term should hopefully be less stressful than the complete and utter nightmare that was last term (post on this coming later), due to only having the one module, though there are still the lab sessions (which I can sometimes find very difficult), and an upcoming networking event.

I had a really awful day last Thursday. My class had a field trip to the beach to take some sediment samples (yes, it was about as exciting as it sounds). The traffic on the way to uni was horrendous due to an accident, and I started to panic, thinking that I would miss the coach and therefore miss the field trip (which, as boring as it was, is what a large part of the module is based on). So I was already very anxious before even getting to uni. Then, when I got to uni, I saw a small group of people from my class waiting outside. I stood around awkwardly with them for a little while, without saying a word, before going inside. Maybe I’m just imagining things but I’m sure I heard one of the guys from this group saying something negative about me. I thought I heard him say: “That girl seems like an arsehole”, or maybe he said: “That girl has a rocket up her arse” (in reference to my fast walking speed, particularly when that anxious). Or maybe he was talking about someone else or he didn’t say either of those things. That’s the trouble with SA – you never really know. It can make you quite paranoid sometimes. To my relief, the rest of the class was waiting inside the foyer of the uni, as the coach had also been held up in the traffic. Someone who I’d talked to very briefly before said hi to me and introduced me to a couple of her friends, but no one really said anything after that, so I just stood there feeling really awkward.

The coach ended up being over half an hour late and being on it massively triggered my SA. There were 2 lots of 3 seats in each row, and the gangway was very narrow, so we were all packed in like sardines. I ended up sitting with the person I talked to before, and her friend, but again, the conversation was very awkward and I felt really anxious the whole time. The woman’s friend asked why I’m part-time and (because I don’t want people to know about my mental health issues) I ended up lying that I work 4 days a week and that I’m also learning to drive because the bus journey to and from my uni takes up over 3 hours of my day (that part is true). A number of people asked why I’m part-time on Thursday. I hate having to lie to them about this but I feel that there’s no way I could possibly tell them the truth, due to stigma and being thought of as less of a person. It’s ridiculous how much I feel I have to lie to people, and how far I will go to conceal my anxiety/ depression issues. I already feel completely useless for going part-time despite it being the best thing for my mental health. I’m aware that I have it easier than most people my age. I still live at home and don’t have to pay my parents any rent money because I have no regular source of income, and I don’t have a job because I still haven’t been able to get one. I feel like such a pathetic baby and so inferior to everyone else. I think I’ve completely given up on the idea of ever trying to make friends with people from uni because that entire friendship would be based on a lie – the lie that I’m not an anxious wreck ,and sometimes a suicidal wreck, who has no proper offline friends, does nothing at the weekend, has a history of self-harm, and so on. I’d much rather just keep myself to myself and not let anyone get close. I feel like I can only be friends with fellow anxiety/ depression sufferers because most people with no experience of these things just don’t seem to understand. My mental health problems are always the elephant in the room when it comes to potential friends (actually, they’re more like the morbidly obese blue whale, with bright pink neon stripes down its sides, in the room). I feel that I’d really have to tell potential friends about my SA almost straight away, or they’d probably end up thinking I was rude or unfriendly or just very strange. But despite how open I am about everything online, I don’t think I could ever let anyone outside of mental health professionals know about my mental health problems. I try my best to hide them from other people. I feel like such a fake and a fraud. My Edinburgh online friend was talking about how he stopped lying to people and keeping his mental health condition a secret years ago. I wish I was brave enough to do the same but I’m not.

While we were at the beach, I managed get my feet stuck in the really thick mud that we were sampling from, and fell over into a pool of water, soaking my clothes. I found this very embarrassing and felt that I’d made an idiot of myself in front of everyone. If you have SA, it feels like things like this will always inevitably happen to you and not so much to anyone else. Whenever I’m with a new group of people, like joining this year group after being in the previous one, or going to uni after being at high school, it always feels like its my chance to make a new start and finally be how I want to be around people, and make friends, but I’m always disappointed. The depressing fact is that I could be with any group of people and be anywhere in world but my anxiety would still prevent me from getting to know people and opening up to them.

When we arrived back from the field trip, my half of the class were told to arrive at the labs for 3 o’clock, but there was no one waiting outside in the hallway when I got there. So then I panicked, thinking that I’d misheard, and plucked up the courage to walk into the lab (where half the class were) and ask one of the technicians what was happening. She led me through to a room down the hallway, were the module leader was briefing my half of the class. I felt as if everyone’s attention was on me when I walked into the room, which made me really anxious. I was really anxious while we were working in the labs as well. I don’t know why. It wasn’t anything difficult but one of the technicians had to explain what we were doing twice to me (despite the fact that I’d already read the instructions for that day), and even then I didn’t know what I was doing. My brain just doesn’t work when I’m that anxious and people probably think I’m stupid, lazy or don’t pay attention because of that. I try as hard as I can to pay attention but I’m still unable to take in verbal instructions when I’m anxious. It goes in one ear and out the other. And this makes me panic because I don’t know how I will last 5 minutes in any job if this is the case.

Just to add to what had already been a bad day, I spent 2 hours in the labs hunting through part of the sediment sample for marine animals (which were put into pteri dishes). I left my lab bench for 2 minutes to clean the sediment sample tray, and when I got back, the pteri dishes were gone. So that was 2 hours of work (probably literally) down the drain. Thursday wasn’t a great day.


I was supposed to be doing a non-assessed group oral presentation yesterday but I’d been ill since my birthday and still wasn’t feeling 100% yesterday, so didn’t do it. I feel really bad about this because it would’ve been a good opportunity but I wasn’t really prepared for it anyway. I don’t know anyone in this new year group yet so had to search the names of the people in my group through my university’s email system, then send them an email, hoping that I’d found the right people, because I had no other way of contacting them (or at least no way that wouldn’t make me extremely anxious). Someone finally got back to me saying that she couldn’t find me on on facebook but that I should add her so that I could be added to the group facebook page. By the time I’d done all of this and someone finally added me to the group, I had only one day (my 21st birthday) to research everything and put something together before meeting up with the group to put everything together (which also didn’t happen because I was ill). I will probably sound like an old woman here but it irks me a little bit that most people my age just expect everyone to have facebook and act shocked when someone doesn’t. I hate having a facebook account because that site does absolutely nothing for my mental health. I’m constantly seeing pictures of everyone else out partying at the weekend with friends, or travelling with friends, and so on.  And I hate having to add people from uni on there because I’m always sure it will be immediately apparent to them (from a lack of photos and so on) that I have no social life. Though I know that most people try to make their lives look better than it actually is on facebook, and my mum made a very valid point a while back when she said that no one posts on facebook about their bad days or when they feel really upset or unable to cope (I wish there could be some sort of support site dedicated to that sort of thing). Still…I think it would be better for my mental health if I no longer used the site, or only used it to contact family/ online friends. I unfortunately need an account for uni but will hopefully delete after I finish my degree.

As I feel so disappointed about not doing the presentation, I’m going to try my best to go along to my uni’s annual networking event which is also this week. I’ve decided that I will allow myself to take propranolol beforehand, as the prospect of approaching and talking to professionals is terrifying enough with beta-blockers, never mind without. I have visions of it going really badly and embarrassing myself but I want to at least give it a try.


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2 Responses to BSc (Hons) Surviving Intense Anxiety & Becoming a Big Phoney

  1. Wow, you’re experiences sound awful and I hope they sort themselves out for your sake. University shouldn’t have to be a place of misery or dread, but unfortunately for people suffering with anxiety, and particularly social anxiety, (I imagine) it can be exactly that.
    I’ve recently completely abandoned facebook too and it’s amazing! We use it to compare ourselves against others and forget that people only use it to show us the high points of their life, projecting delusions of grandeur from themselves. I’d be interested to hear how the whole “no facebook” thing goes for you!
    Just remember, chin-up 🙂
    One thing I’ve learnt in life is that time heals everything, things get better (I sincerely apologise for the cheesy pun!)
    All the best!

    • Gemma says:

      To be honest, this post doesn’t even scratch the surface of how awful most of my time at uni has been. I agree that people only show the highlights of their lives on facebook. Thank you for your comment. 🙂 I hope you’re right.

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