*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.