TW: mental illness, depression.
Poor mental health is something I’ve struggled with for many years. At the end of my second-year at Warwick, though, I was in the best place emotionally that I had been for a long time.
I was in a happy relationship, was at a healthy weight for the first time in many years, and spent that summer travelling with friends and making headway with experience in my planned career. On paper, I should have been coming into my final-year as strong as ever.
Things, however, quickly unravelled. By the end of the summer break, I began obsessing once more over my body image and weight, quickly descending into the same old cycles that I’ve consistently struggled with.
On paper, I should have been coming into my final-year as strong as ever
Depression hit again, my anxiety reached an all-time low, and I pushed people away to the extent that I felt wholly alone. Despite reaching out by the end of Term 1 for medical intervention, finally getting a diagnosis for an eating disorder and being put back on medication to tackle my other issues, things had simply deteriorated too much.
Over Christmas, I hit a wall, and just couldn’t get myself in any form of productive mind-set. I could barely perform day-to-day tasks, let alone sit down and attempt the essay and dissertation work I knew I needed to complete.
Depression hit again, my anxiety reached an all-time low
The only way I can phrase it is that I physically couldn’t make my brain do what I needed it to, that it felt like something was in the way.
It was at this point that I made the decision to temporarily withdraw from Warwick. As a massive perfectionist, this was something I’ve struggled to come to terms with; it felt like a failure, like I was giving up.
As a massive perfectionist, this was something I’ve struggled to come to terms with
All through secondary school, we have it pushed on us that university is the end-goal and priority, and yet I was jumping ship literally months before the finish line.
What I have to remind myself on a daily basis, though, is that I physically couldn’t continue with my degree. Having hit a crisis moment recently and nearly having to be hospitalised, that was even more apparent: if I can barely get out of bed in the morning, or hurt and hate myself to the extent that I do, how on earth could I attempt to finish my degree to the high standards that I hold myself?
All through secondary school, we have it pushed on us that university is the end-goal and priority
My department were, for the most part, brilliant. My mental health being known already, they accepted my decision with minimal questions asked, and all I had to do was send off the form.
There have been some issues, though. I still, for example, received emails from Tabula about essays I no longer had to submit, and I had my tutors emailing asking where I was, when I assumed they would have been informed – not a particularly fun email to send when you’re already struggling massively with mental illness.
My department were, for the most part, brilliant
The University too took almost two months to officially approve my withdrawal, with the waiting causing some stress. This is not up to scratch.
I still have days where I feel sad that I won’t be graduating with my friends, and that my life has had to go on pause whilst I try to get better. Fundamentally though, health should always come first, and there should be no stigma in having to take time off, no matter what the reason.
The University too took almost two months to officially approve my withdrawal
At the end of the day, a year or two is nothing in the scheme of an entire life’s worth of education and work: it should be acceptable to take things at whatever pace you need to, and not like you’re failing by taking a slightly different route through life.
Though it often feels like University is the first sign of adulthood, we are all still so young, and need to protect and take care of ourselves wherever possible.
We are all still so young, and need to protect and take care of ourselves
For me, this means stopping, reflecting, and receiving much-needed help and treatment. Whilst I may not feel great about it now, I know I will not regret this decision in the future: it is what me, my body, and my mind need to happen.