What second-year blues really look like

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*These are my own personal experiences and I am not expecting everyone who experiences tough times throughout the course to feel the exact same, tough times can and do occur at any stage in the course. Please reach out if you start to feel like you’re struggling or that you need help with anything*

I started second year on a high as my previous post details. But around halfway through I came down to earth with a massive bump. There were times when second-year felt like it was never going to end. October came and I was struggling to see how I would even make it to Christmas with all the work I had to complete. I had a number of assignments all due within weeks of each other and I did not know when I was going to find the time to complete them all to the standard I wanted to. Every day felt as though I was walking through cement and I couldn’t see a way out. I shut myself away, I didn’t talk to anyone unless I absolutely had to and I just played it down as having a lot on. I became distant and stayed away from social media (a sure-fire sign that there is something wrong with me!). I became good at pretending I was coping when really I was struggling and too stubborn to admit it. I would sit at home on an evening staring into space, I had plenty of work to do but lacked the motivation to start any of it. I made to-do lists every day and binned them, I just became so overwhelmed with all the work I had to do once it was written down that I didn’t want to face it.

I was stressed. Eating nothing or everything, there was no in between. I was either sleeping for a couple of hours or sleeping all day. I started drinking, not to excess but I have never been a house drinker. Now I was drinking in the house every night.  I continuously put off starting my uni work because the amount of it felt like a huge weight above me, I know that starting it would have been the best way to start to alleviate the load but I couldn’t find the motivation to start. I considered leaving more than once because I didn’t know how I would complete the work. I left a 4000-word assignment until 2 weeks before the due date and was then surprised when I received my worst grade overall. I was messing up my own degree and at that point, I felt like I didn’t care. I was numb to everything, I felt like I didn’t possess any emotions anymore.

Now, this may sound slightly dramatic but this is an honest account of how I felt. I want to explain it so that other people who may be struggling can see they are not the only ones. I’m in third year now and I would still not say that I am 100%. At the beginning of third year I missed a placement because my mental state was not in the right place to be able to attend, and I had to concede that enough was enough and I needed help. I reached out to my gp and she was fantastic. She told me about her experience with anxiety and depression and that she understood everything I was feeling. Having her listen to me and tell me she understood felt like such a weight off my shoulders and I began to see that I wasn’t alone, other people were and had experienced the feelings I was. There was a way to turn things around and begin to get back to myself. I am slowly working each day to get back to ‘me’ and it is a slow process but I have a fantastic support network who I could not be without 🧡

 My tips for other students experiencing struggles:

  • Reach out. It doesn’t matter who to, a staff member, a cohort member, a friend outside of uni. Reach out on social media if you have to. TALK TO SOMEONE. I didn’t for so long and I could have changed things sooner had I not been too stubborn to reach out.
  • Take one day at a time. I was looking months in advance and it was scaring me. I started to concentrate on what I needed to do in the next 24 hours and it really helped to focus my mind and stop feeling overwhelmed.
  • Little and often. One hour a day on your work is better than nothing. I started by spending one hour a day and soon I was spending longer because I felt like I wanted to do the work once I started. All from forcing myself to do one hour a day.
  • Keep a journal and document one thing you have achieved that day. Even if it is just getting out of bed (some days that felt like a great achievement to me). Use it to look back and find some motivation.
  • Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to reach out. This was my problem, I felt ashamed to admit that I was struggling and didn’t want people to know.
  • Take time to yourself. If you need a day in bed, take it. If you need to turn your phone off, do it. Do not feel guilty for not replying or canceling plans, your own mental wellbeing is more important than things that can be arranged for another time.
  • If to-do lists are your thing, make them. They didn’t help me they just made me feel overwhelmed but I know they do help other people.
  • Check on your friends. If your friend is a quick replier but is now taking hours, or is usually a constant presence on social media and is ‘missing’, ask them how they are. Don’t take their first answer, keep asking. Keep checking they are ok and make sure they know you are there for them.
  • Organise social events. Having something to look forward to really helped to push me through the days when I didn’t want to get out of bed.
  • Open up to tutors and mentors. Even if you don’t want to discuss fully, just letting them know how you are feeling can really help and having someone else understand can make a difference.

I am only ever a message away for any student nurse who needs to talk/rant/ask for help.

Love,

T x

 

Let’s talk about second year blues

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If you’d asked me in the summer months about second year blues, I would have told you that it was a little bit of a ‘myth’ and that if you kept yourself organised you would be fine. I even wrote a post containing tips to survive second year . My first module of year 2 was Research Methods and is often described as the worst module of the whole degree at my university by previous cohorts. I fell in love with the subject and wondered what everyone had been making all the fuss about. I achieved 95% in the assignment and genuinely thought I was set for the year…I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Autumn came and the second year blues hit me like a train. I lost all motivation to complete work and began leaving assignments until close to the deadline date, something I don’t do because I get stressed easily and not being organised is a trigger for me. My assignments were not up to my usual standard because of this and still I sat confused and upset when the results were released and I hadn’t achieved anything like the results I was used to. Instead of spurring me on to complete work early like I usually do, a rubbish result (or so I thought at the time) knocked me for six and I continued with no motivation wondering what the point was. I completed another assignment and submitted, knowing it wasn’t my best work but believing it was good enough to stay within my targets. Results were released and I was ready to quit university altogether that afternoon,  it was my worst result to date and the feedback felt brutal. I spent that weekend in what felt like a hole, at the end of my tether with this whole experience and genuinely thinking about leaving. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve had more negative days than positive days in year 2, I can probably count the number of truly positive days on one hand if I’m being brutally honest.

Second year blues are real and should be discussed more. It’s not enough to preach on and on about positivity, staying positive etc, because it really isn’t as simple as that. It’s hard to remain positive when every single day at university feels like a knock to your confidence, when you leave placement everyday wondering if you will ever really know enough to be a nurse and when every result makes you question whether you’re even intelligent enough to be doing this degree. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve cried in the car park after a placement shift before setting off to go home, just from doubting myself and a decision I’d made that day or because I didn’t know something that I really feel I should by now.

My first placement of second year was amazing, I spent 6 weeks with the best team and felt like I knew what I was doing even though it was out of my comfort zone. I thrived in an area that is extremely specialised and that I was terrified of before I started. When I began my second placement of year 2, it all unravelled. I like being out of my comfort zone, but this was a whole other level. I knew nothing. And that’s not me being dramatic, I genuinely knew nothing. I was an adult branch student nurse, walking into neonatal having never really held a baby before, let alone cared for one for a 12.5 hour shift. Everything was so different to adult branch, it was like starting the degree again with no previous experience at all. I enjoyed the placement and my mentors were fantastic, but I spent the four weeks thinking I wasn’t showing my full potential because it was so different to what I’m used to and it completely threw me. I started my third placement of year 2 having lost all the confidence I’d gained from my critical care placement and not even knowing if I wanted to be a nurse anymore.

Year 2 has just felt like one knock after another and I will be glad to see the back of it. I have 8 weeks left of placement before year 3 starts and I’m excited to get back onto the ward and gain some confidence back ready for year 3. In all honesty, I still don’t feel 100% myself and if it wasn’t for certain people this year I don’t think I would still be at university now because I couldn’t have coped without them.

If you feel like you’re struggling at any point, reach out to someone. It doesn’t need to be a lecturer, it can be a friend or someone in your cohort. Even find someone on social media who you can confide in, don’t bottle it up like I did. I felt embarrassed to admit that I was struggling and keeping quiet for so long probably hasn’t helped the way I’ve felt for the past 4/5 months. I don’t think the ‘positivity brigade’ help at all, as much as they may think they are doing good, it’s hard to go on social media and see positive things all the time and no one talking about how hard things can actually be. I’m not saying people need to be negative nellies all the time either, but it’s about time we all started to show the real aspects of our experiences within this degree. Not just the highlight reel of achievements.

Love,

T x