Written by Trinity Barnatt
I remember the weeks leading up to starting university. I had the date circled on my calendar – September 23rd – the day the next chapter of my life would begin. It was a new chapter, definitely, just not the chapter I had envisioned. Perhaps, its just that I held my expectations too high or maybe its past mental health struggles but I found the first few weeks of university to be agonising.
On my first night, all I wanted to do was settle in and unpack but I felt compelled to go out and socialise. A drink was practically forced into my hand as I was bombarded by names. I felt as though I repeated myself endlessly that night: ‘Trinity…English…a little town near Peterborough, if you know where that is”. I was overwhelmed and exhausted, and I ached from the continuous nodding and smiling to information about people I couldn’t recall if I tried. That was the first and the last night I spent outside my flat.
The next few days I spent bonding with my flatmates – after all, I have to live with them for the next year so I need to get along with them. I’d like to highlight that word ‘need’ because that’s exactly what I felt – a need – and when you feel as though you need something, there is no longer a freedom in that action anymore. Don’t get me wrong, my flatmates are great (and I’m not just saying that because they could read this) but the constant socialisation was exhausting. Then we throw alcohol into the mix; an inevitable depressant to stir up trouble. It was the first Saturday night and the night started off strong, and so did the spirits. After hours of singing and social smoking, an argument interrupted the fun. An argument which lead me to discover that I was not the only one struggling with my mental health in the flat. Everyone looked as though they were having the time of their lives and I had felt utterly alone my misery of my new life, but it turns out people just masked their pain well.
The freedom and independence that university offers is advertised as a positive and, before starting university, I had believed that completely. I know now that it is more of a negative. Self-destruction and isolation are at your fingertips and there’s nobody around to tell you ‘no’ or ‘enough’. It is truly dangerous and makes all the sense it the world why mental health issues in students is so high. I find it crazy, how there are always people around, there is always noise (no matter what the time!) yet my room feels so silent, so lonely. I have to remind myself daily I’m not alone, not matter how isolated I feel.
So I suppose, I hope the take-away from this rather depressing account of my university experience so far, is that we as young people have learnt to hide our pain really well…
… and you’re not the only one that misses your mum.
Trinity Barnatt is a first year English student at University of Leicester, originally from Bourne, Lincolnshire. You can find her on Instagram here: @trinity_b._