Life at University With Social Anxiety
So your starting university. You've got everything packed, well almost - wait, did you pack that extension cable? Your eager to go and get started but your nervous about everything being totally new to you, but also a little excited right? Starting at university comes with different levels of anxiety for everyone, it's completely normal, however if your suffering from a mental health issue, such as social anxiety disorder, things can seem a lot more daunting. I am personally now in my third year and studying drama, and I to suffer from social anxiety disorder.
"But wait...how can you have anxiety issues if your degree involves performing?" I hear you cry. Trust me, it's all been heard before. It's different, it feels different, to be a character and rely upon portraying them, is an awful lot easier than just being plain old boring little me. Being a little shy, and having anxiety problems are very different things, however the symptoms can stem from plain old shyness. Your asked to dinner with a group of people you don't know 100% - you pretend your busy, your sat in a lecture or seminar with you eyes firmly glued to floor so that your lecturer doesn't call on you for an answer and have people stare at you. We've all done little things like that, but social anxiety disorder can escalate and leave people incapacitated and completely unable to leave their bedrooms or houses.
Freshers week, a time to completely let your hair down and celebrate your new found freedom from the folks right? From the eyes of social anxiety disorder, it's a crowded and packed room (in the dark might I add) full of people you don't know, who are not in control of what they do due to the overly ambitious amount of alcohol and God know what else they've been consuming for the past five hours solid, rubbing and grinding up against you with barely any room to breathe let alone plan an escape should you need one. The room starts to spin, your heart gets so strong and loud you can practically feel it in your ears, you stumble and try to sit down but just get pushed back into the mass of writhing bodies that seems to swallow you whole until....the room goes black and you feel your legs finally give in beneath you as you slide down to the floor. Panic attacks were very common place for me in my first week of university, "clubbing" always scared me and made my social anxiety go through the roof, I was more of a house party kind of girl. But during freshers, your encouraged to socialize and meet as many new people as you can possibly shoe horn into the week - I felt I simply HAD to go out and join in.
Student accommodation, on the website/brochure it all looked so brilliant and home-y right? The first thing you learn to accept at university is that student accommodation is poor quality, in most aspects. Something will most likely go wrong in the first week, the shower will break, the washing machine will explode, someone will set the microwave on fire after leaving a fork in (there's always one...) that kind of thing but the most likely cause of anxiety relating to accommodation? Moving in with a number of people that you quite honestly know nothing about, will you have anything in common? Will they like you? Will they be nice to you? Your most likely to spend your summer prior to starting university worrying about just that, and quite frankly it will do you no good whatsoever. Just remember, you are all in the same position and they will most likely be just as anxious to make friends as you will - don't worry yourself before it happens.
Lectures, seminars, workshops....all new words you've never really experience in school or college before, they sound oh so exciting don't they? And yes, you will learn a lot in them, if you can cope with so much information being offloaded onto you in one sitting then yeah, they are very interesting. However, all social anxiety has to note is the large crowd of people seated uncomfortably close to you, they're staring at you aren't they? What's wrong with you? Have you got something on your face? Don't they like your clothes? Oh God, they're laughing at you aren't they. Why are you seated in such tight rows, you can't just get up and escape you have to sit through this hell for around three and a half hours. If this is the case, email your personal tutor and book a personal tutorial so you can speak to them and explain your condition. Then you can speak through some options, whether there are certain situations that you can be excused from and not miss out on anything vital. You'll find that they will be more than helpful and it's very useful to have a member of staff who understands how your feeling - especially if it needs to be taken into account for extensions on assignments.
So yes, your first weeks (well, year really...) of university can be terrifying at times, however it will also be one that you will never, ever forget and WILL look back on fondly no matter what you think now. If you feel you are struggling to cope, talk to your universities S.U. (student union) and ask about what counselling services they provide. These are most often free of charge and can be over as long or as short a period of time as you chose, don't be afraid to look for help, the support is there and it can help you get through the year. So, ignore the potential problems that crop up, sit back and enjoy the best few years of your life.