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.