Friday, 28 October 2016

The English Student.

If I haven't already said that I now do an English degree: I am studying for an English degree. Someone said to me the other day that they were torn between history and English but eventually decided that with English they didn't really see the point. 'What is the point?' they asked. 'That is the point.' I said, not really sure what I meant but thinking it sounded clever and elusive.

Thinking about it an English degree is probably the most selfish degree you can do. For three years I will swan around reading books and making grand statements about them that ultimately mean nothing whilst my truly clever friends learn how to save lives and how to solve the economic crisis and reverse global warming (hopefully). What do I give back from learning how to read?

Reading English is selfish because you're there to improve your own understanding of the world around you, of literature and of ideas and of human emotions. Here I am trying to improve my own brain, so far for the good of only me. How do I return the favour of an improved brain?

I know I'm a first year, and worrying about what comes next is futile, and I'm not even really worrying. I think I'm just wondering why I'm here. What am I getting from this for £9000 a year? Why did I choose this course? Who will it make me at the end of it?

I bloody love reading so that's the main reason I'm here. I love Shakespeare and Donne and Spark and Larkin and all of them. I love all of them even if they're rubbish. I'm here to work out if they're rubbish. I'm here to work out why I like them. I'm here to think and think and think about it all. And that is selfish, and I haven't worked out its meaning yet, but for now I really don't have to.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Oversharing is my best flaw.

I think if I were to pick a person in my life who definitely 'overshared' their stories, their opinions, their anxieties it would be me. It would obviously be me; I write about subjects that deeply trouble me and share it on the Internet where I can never take it back. Oversharing is my best flaw. 

Is it a flaw? I get a lot from it. I connect with people and create friendships through sharing. I tell people openly about my life and the way I am because that is how I understand them. Obviously I don't tell them anything intimate, but I also don't hold anything back. If I keep things to myself, things that worry me, it makes me ill.

I also share a lot on this blog, and in other writing, because I am not ashamed of it. Everything I write about is something that I want other people to know. Last week I spent a while thinking about whether I should publish a post because I was scared that it was too much. I shared moments of real vulnerability that had happened behind closed doors with people I barely knew. I didn't want it to be whiney, either; "oh poor me, pity me, pity me." I just wanted to write about it, to express it, and to share whatever came out. I made the right decision; sharing brought me kindness and friendship and connection. I regret nothing in that post. 

I share myself with people because I enjoy the connectivity it brings me. It means I have less things in my mind to be afraid of, because I can release them easily. I don't fear judgement, because it doesn't matter. I fear rejection, because it makes me vulnerable. But still, I believe, I am better open to the world, arms stretched, ready to take everything in. 

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Firstly there's panic.

I think I've written enough about my anxious disposition for it to be very clear how terrifying coming to university would be for me. I think it's terrifying for most people. Here is the room you will live in for the next year; here are the people you will be friends with for the next three years; here is the false start of your adult life. I just wasn't expecting to revert to such heightened anxiety as I would feel as a child.

I thought on the first day that the crying when my parents left (on their part too) was pretty minimal for what I could be feeling. I thought on the second day when I felt quite hungover that I was bravely ignoring the tension in the pit of my stomach reminding me of past school residential trips. I was terrified of school residential trips.

On the third day, however, I realised pretty quickly that I was absolutely not okay with being in this strange new place, with these nice but unknown new people, and I felt almost drowned with the terror that came with this realisation. Or did the terror come before?

I went to my new, strange room to experience old, recognisable panic attacks and begged my parents to come and take me home. I went to this room to sob about the horrible strangeness of it all, and I locked myself in the toilet to do the same. I rushed passed people filing into the drugs and alcohol talk, telling them I'd only be a second, whilst desperately hoping the nurse would give me a good enough excuse not to cry in front of a room full of people. I burst into tears as soon as I entered the nurse's office. I couldn't tell her why I was there for a good few minutes. All I could say was "I'm so embarrassed, I'm so sorry."

Mum kept offering to come and see me, to come and calm me down. I was too scared that if she did I wouldn't be able to let her go without me. That I'd pack up the car and demand she take me home.

Eventually, after the fourth time I called her crying that day she made the decision for me. "Don't worry about wanting to come home," she said, "I wouldn't let you anyway."

An hour and a half later she was there. I calmed down for a moment, but I'd made myself so sick with worrying that I'd entered that vicious cycle of fear = illness = fear = illness. I begged her to stay the night, I was absolutely paralysed with panic. We spent the night watching iPlayer on her phone using 3G and she coped with the noise from a corridor inhabited with new freshers late into the night and then we finally fell asleep.

And then, in the morning when I woke up and she was getting ready to drive back home I realised I was very, very calm. I didn't feel physically sick with anxiety. I was going to let her leave without me, I didn't even question it.

Now, only a week later, it feels as if none of that actually happened and the emotional twinge from the memory is more like remembering a bad dream. I actually feel happier and more peaceful than I have in a while. The sudden disappearance of fear feels almost heavenly. My chest isn't tight, I don't need to run off to cry every half an hour, I've stopped feeling completely afraid.

I'm not expecting to have suddenly cured myself of all anxiety in the last week, I don't think my life is now emptied of all emotional crises. But I'm just really, really happy that I didn't go home because I'm really, really happy that I'm here. And I'd like to tell all the crying Mollies that it's definitely 100% worth it to stick at it because the crying doesn't last. The fear doesn't last, it never does. I think I'm learning to remember that.