Like many people, my University story started at the age of 18. I had just spent my final year of college studying excruciatingly hard and cramming every last bit of knowledge into the 1.3kg mass of tissue in my head, known to yourself as the brain.
Fortunately, my final exams were somewhat of a breeze, however, considering how hard I had worked this came as no surprise. Thankfully, I was able to get into my first choice of University and I was ready for my adventure to begin.
On the 22nd of September, I arrived at my dorms, smaller than I had expected but this didn’t dampen my excitement to begin my new life. I partied, studied, worked collaborative projects and partied some more. To anyone, this would sound like your typical student lifestyle and maybe you are wondering how any of this seemingly carefree lifestyle managed to impact my mental health as the title suggests. Well, allow me to discuss how everything seemingly crashed and burned quicker than I thought it ever would...
After months of partying, the occasional study group and maybe even the odd gym trip, you would fail to see how this would bother an 18-year old that much, if at all. However, it is what people didn’t see or hear that revealed the darker side of the story.
I had left the last 18 years of my life back at home, my family, my girlfriend and my friends. Some of my friends weren’t even at home, they were even further away in different universities. This isn’t to say I didn’t make friends at University, I made plenty of really good friends many of which are still in contact now, but it wasn’t the same. By now, you’re probably thinking that this just sounds like home-sickness and for the most part you would be right. Yet, In addition to this, no one saw that I wasn’t eating or that I would do anything to avoid going back to the cupboard like room I inhabited.
I had lost 21 pounds in the first 1 month and a half at University. Sure, I had always been lean but I was now looking unhealthily frail. Many of my typically tight-fitting clothes were now looking on the baggier end of the scale. What’s more, I had stopped speaking to people, I would sleep for 17 hours a day often missing important lectures and shifts for work.
In total, it appeared that swapping my usually healthy lifestyle for the many toxic traits one acquires at University without regulation took a large un-warranted tole on my body and mental health. After a trip to the doctor, I had been prescribed 50mg of anti-depressants (Sertraline) and diagnosed with mixed anxiety and depressive disorder. Safe to say that I could have waited a little longer before beginning my new adventure at university.
After being unable to escape the pit that my mental state had entered, with many nights spent sleepless and full of tears everyone knew it was time I took a stand. I began to take part in physical training and dropped out of University, at this point it was not the place for me to be. After dropping out, I knew that I still wanted to pursue a form of higher education, but this needed to provide some structure and be closer to home where I could retreat to if necessary.
Thankfully, I was able to find an apprenticeship (working in a job but gaining higher level qualifications at the time) where I was able to work as a digital marketing apprentice. For me this was perfect, I had a structured environment where I could go and work, get paid for doing so but also work towards achieving a higher educational level.
The Hardest Part
For many, the hardest part about leaving University can be the ‘acceptance stage’. Knowing that you haven’t failed yourself or the people around you by leaving is a difficult thing to accept and this truly plagued my mind for a long time. Initially, you will feel like you have failed and that you’re a disappointment and I think this is a good way to feel for a short period. It shows that you wanted to work for your dream and that you didn’t want to give it up!
Fundamentally, the biggest disappointment to myself would have been for me to lay down and accept the beating my mental health was taking. The fact that I stood up for myself and did what I needed to make myself happy shows more courage than staying where I was unhappy. Remember, health is wealth!
Now and The Future
Currently, I am in the same place that I started my apprenticeship – Reach Interactive. It is here that I am learning the ins and outs digital marketing, looking at how companies launch campaigns to increase engagement and the methods they use to get on the front page of google for certain searches. Thankfully, this has placed me in a much better state mentally and because of this, I am enjoying where I am at both mentally and physically. In the future, I hope to be able to stay at Reach, however, I am confident that if I am in a position where I need to search for employment elsewhere I will have all the skills required to do so.