When I was younger, I had an idealised view of university. I created montages in my head of joining societies, making life-long friends and enthusiastically walking to lectures and seminars. In 2016 however, my outlook was different. Throughout my adolescence, I had struggled with anorexia and after a four-year battle, I was now able to become a Psychology student. Yet instead of feeling optimistic, I was filled with an intense fear.
After reaching this milestone in my recovery, I naively assumed all symptoms of my eating disorder would disappear. I was so desperate to start university and immerse myself in a different environment and find out what this new chapter would hold for me.
I packed up my belongings, travelled to Southampton and moved into halls. Throughout the first term, I quickly became involved in “fresher” life and juggled academic work with dance societies, a part-time job and visits to my boyfriend. I was determined not to look like I was struggling. However, in reality, I felt increasingly overwhelmed by the demands of university life and quickly began to relapse into disordered behaviour.
Looking back, I wish I had spoken to the support staff at the university for help or talked to one of my friends about how I was feeling. Yet at the time, I felt embarrassed, ashamed and that I had let people down.
Under the direction of my medical team, I was advised to suspend my studies. I packed up my belongings, moved back home with my parents and took a year out from my degree. However, as I started working towards recovery again, I was determined to eventually return.
Time quickly passed and after my year away, I decided to leave my course and focus on making sure I was in a really good place physically and mentally in my recovery. At the time it was an incredibly hard decision, as I wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a Clinical Psychologist. I remember travelling home after the meeting and feeling like I had taken a step back, that I would never reach my aspirations. However, looking back, prioritising my health was the best thing I have ever done.
Slowly, I started to talk about my struggles with my eating disorder and vocalise my thoughts and feelings. Reaching out to health professionals, family and friends who wanted to help was initially daunting but ended up being invaluable. As I practiced these conversations, my confidence increased, and I began to peel myself away from my perfectionist disposition. As the months went by, I moved to Chichester with my boyfriend and after lots of support, was discharged from Eating Disorder Services.
In early 2018, I submitted my personal statement for the second time and got accepted to study Psychology at the University of Chichester. I was still apprehensive but had built up enough resilience and belief in myself that I could succeed. I contacted the university prior to starting for additional support and listened to a lot of motivational music to overcome my first-day anxieties!
As I write this, I have just finished my first year at university. If you are starting university in September, I can wholeheartedly tell you what an incredible opportunity it is - by finding friends who make you laugh, a subject that inspires you and a new-found enthusiasm for the future. However, if you are having doubts about the university process, or decide it isn’t for you, then that’s okay too. Taking time to really focus on seeking help and working towards recovery should be the ultimate priority.