Lately, my anxiety has been… bad.
I thought I was doing better, that I was learning to manage it and cope and get through. During the summer, I had some seriously anxious periods, including while travelling, but they were generally triggered by specific events or environments, so they seemed more logical than some of my other anxiety. And, while they weren’t fun, I mostly got through them without too much difficulty.
So I thought I was in a good position to start the new year at Cambridge, that I’d have the confidence and experience to get through anxious periods and get my work done.
I was wrong.
I’ve been back in Cambridge for just under three weeks, and honestly, my mental health has plummeted somewhat. The last two Wednesdays, I’ve had essays due, and have ended up taking anxiety naps all afternoon instead — that is to say, hiding in bed rather than doing work because I’m too overwhelmed to think. Last week, I managed to get a really detailed plan written, which made up for the failure to write an essay, but this ewek, I didn’t put a single word on paper. I couldn’t. It felt like my brain was screaming every time I tried.
Yesterday was my first properly unproductive day, actually. I talked about usually managing three or four hours of work, but yesterday the only one I managed was my seminar in the morning, and even there I kept spacing out and losing the thread of what we were talking about — I don’t think I contributed in a particularly meaningful way, and I also failed to do any work independently after coming back.
I’ve been hiding in books and TV shows, which have gradually shifted from being the thing I reward myself with when I’ve done work to the thing I do instead of work because it’s all I can face doing at that moment. Yesterday I kept having panic attacks, and the only time I managed to be calm for a couple of hours was while I was reading, because it distracted me from the inside of my own brain.
I feel better when I’ve danced or done other exercise, but I can’t practice too often for fear of annoying my flatmates and the people who live directly above me, and I’ve had quite a lot of bad pain days (mostly the aftermath of teaching beginners at our taster sessions), which has also limited my options for working out my anxieties in a physical way.
Because of all the dance I was doing at home, I lost some weight without really meaning to — and ended up feeling so much better about myself as a result. I don’t think I realised how insecure I was about my body until that moment. But that’s translated into paranoia now that I’m not dancing quite so much, in case I put it back on again, and I’ve ended up developing unhealthy thought patterns towards food and exercise which I know I need to stop in their tracks before they get any worse, but I don’t really know how to do that.
I’m a mess.
When I arrived in Cambridge I filled in a form for an appointment with the University Counselling Service, and I’ve been given an appointment next week, but I’m actually in a way worse place now than I was when I filled it in, and if I were doing it now I’d change some of my answers. (Particularly the one about issues with food. I didn’t think I had them. Apparently I do.) Cambridge has short, intense terms in which everything moves at a rapid pace, heightening every experience — including mental health problems. Within three weeks I’ve managed to find myself in a totally different position to how I was before I got back here.
I’m going to turn up at my counselling appointment like, “Hello friend, I know I said the situation was like this, but I actually have a whole three new issues now!”
I don’t know whether it’s just Cambridge, or whether the new meds I started taking for my headaches are having negative side effects. (They’re a very mild dose of an anti-depressant, so it’s possible they’d affect things like that.) I don’t know whether it’s because of whatever nutrient deficiency caused my blood tests to come back ‘abnormal’, because they haven’t yet told me what that abnormality was and whether it’s easy to fix (so of course I’m anxious about that). I don’t know whether there are other physical factors at play — or whether it’s just Cambridge.
But it’s reminding me of all the things I dislike about this place, even as I’m rediscovering its good points as well, and I hate that it’s happening so early in the year. This is my last year, and I want to be positive about, to enjoy it. I am positive about some things, but it’s hard to remember them when I’m sitting on the kitchen floor crying due to anxiety about an essay I have no idea how to write.
I’m telling you this because I hate picture-perfect portrayals of university. I hate studyspo blogs with their beautiful images of flawless work and clean desks, as though they’ve never scrawled their notes on crumpled paper surrounded by the detritus of a week’s Haribo consumption. I hate blogs that carefully curate the writers’ lives to only show the perfect bits, the highlights reel — because it’s just not true.
And because if I don’t tell you that this week I’ve been anxious and miserable and panicking, I’ll have nothing else to say that’s genuine.
It's cold and wet outside, and my anxiety has been super bad this week (lots of panic attacks, not a lot of work as a result). Buuut this flower caught my eye as I walked through Selwyn to my Welsh class this morning, and cheered me up a little. #selwyncollege #flower #nature #closeup #raindrops #petals #nofilter #gardens #purple
But I did at least go to my supervision today, even though I hadn’t written a word in preparation for it (and couldn’t access the notes I’d taken while reading because my tablet was refusing to turn on). And I got through it, even though I basically scratched half the skin off my upper arm while fidgeting due to anxiety while actually in the supervision (I really need to get a fidget toy to take with me). Today, I should probably do some translation for tomorrow’s Irish class, but then I can watch some more Lucifer. Or go to the ASNaC film night where they’re showing Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Or both.
It’s going to be okay, I think. It’s just… not at the moment. And I won’t pretend that it is, because that doesn’t help anyone.