My time at uni might have been improved if someone had told me that it's ok not to 'fit in' and not to enjoy it. In fact, I'd say over half the people I've spoken to have said they didn't enjoy uni, so I don't know where we got this idea that it's meant to be "the time of your life" where you make your friends for life and get up to lots of antics and partying. Actually I do know where we got it from: 'American Pie' and all the people parroting "uni is the time of your life" without having been to it or bigging up their - in reality - mundane experience.
I couldn't connect with anyone there. I thought it was my fault, but looking back I realised the people I was surrounded with couldn't meet me at the level of depth I needed.
I'd done the whole drinking thing in secondary school so it didn't excite me anymore. I'd done the "let's just be lads and joke and banter and never talk about anything serious" and that's fine, but I needed more on top of that.
I needed for people to share when they felt sadness, depression, anxiety, fear, paranoia, embarrassment. I needed to talk about my racing thoughts. But instead we could only talk about films, music, politics and make jokes.
I think this is because there was pressure to appear 'cool' and have everything under control. On the few occasions when I did open up to people, they didn't know how to handle it, and instead ignored it, changed the subject or dismissed it by saying something like "have another drink". I felt like I was not whole, like I was pretending and faking in order to fit in, which drained me of energy and left me feeling depleted instead of energised by them, which is how I think real friendships should be and how my current friendship are now.
My loneliness and mental health issues continued after university until I found men’s groups. They offered a space where I could let go of the person I thought I was meant to be and the life I thought I was meant to live and grow into my own person living a joyful, healthy and connected life on my own terms. They hear whatever I have to say, and simply listen, without jumping in to fix it or shutting down the conversation. This has allowed me to explore all the 'hidden' parts of my personality and grow.
Through the support and feedback of the men in the group I came to see reality more clearly and it became less distorted by limiting beliefs and negative thought patterns, which enabled me to be more confident and less fearful and worried of life. By hearing about other people’s stories and experiences I reflected on my own life and went from panic and habitual reacting to events around me to actively creating the life I want.