March 24, 2019

The Start of the Middle

So the sleepy story continues – thanks to anyone who took the time to read my first post!

My old history teacher used to start her lessons with only a whiteboard marker in hand and ask ‘what year were we on?’ someone would chime in ‘1914 miss’ ‘ah yes…this was the year that marked the beginning of the first world war..’ and she would rhyme off everything that happened that year for the lesson (absolute lady and genius, I owe my A-Level to her!) So I suppose in the same fashion…we left off at the secondary school era…

I was approaching the teenage years and the tiredness was getting heavier. I used to play netball for the first three years of secondary school and then I was sick for the trials and just didn’t bother going back. I felt sluggish in everything I did. I scheduled a visit to the GP which consisted of bloods taken, being told I wasn’t anaemic and basically all this tiredness was indicative of a growing teenager (not sure how much growing I did though!). The doctors had no answers to why I felt the way I felt or the tiredness that often crept in. The routine of coming home from school, throwing my schoolbag down and promptly falling asleep in front of the TV for an hour before being woken for dinner was normal apparently. When I fell asleep I would be out cold within minutes and nothing woke me. One time my brother-in-law had a computer delivered to our house. He had come to collect it when I was asleep, involuntarily face down on my textbook. I awoke a few hours later and saw that the computer was gone! I looked round me panicked and said ‘Where has the computer went??’ to which my mammy, bemused, was like ’Eh he was in there a few hours ago and collected it and you were asleep the whole time’. ASLEEP . FACE DOWN ON MY TEXTBOOK. But sure that was normal for me, the standard tale of sleeping my life away.

I survived school and got the grades I needed to go to University to study Law with Politics. I look back on my University time fondly. It was a time where I made some friends for life and shaped me into the person that I am today. Awwwww….naw I mean living off £1k for five months or so would teach ya how to budget and encountering RARE BEARS who like to play classical music at 1am with no headphones on – by jaysus if this person guesses who they are I don’t even care this was unacceptable behaviour……coulda threw on a bit of Calvin Harris like that would have been more tolerable than the shite they used to play! For anyone who’s a fan of classical music I mean no offence….you just have to realise that my little uni self wasn’t really in the form…but sure now we are all flat out with the Calm app and listening to it while we meditate..changed times!!! My first year of uni was definitely an experience, I moved into Elms village and got a great floor of (mostly) like minded people. We loved the student union every single Monday (RIP Connected Mondays), the Bot Thursdays and the wee pre-parties we used to throw in our kitchen four nights of the week. The week consisted of four days and up as early as you could on a Friday to get home to your nice clean home with  your Mammy there to wash your clothes and feed ye food that was more nourishing than a bowl of pasta every day with a packet of Dolmio thrown in.

For anyone wondering whether to move into Student Accommodation or not – DO IT! I’m even grateful for the people that I DIDN’T get on with because sure life would be boring if you were always in the company of people you liked and those interactions make the best stories. We learned to love those who we thought were a bit weird but hilarious anyway. I think everyone had a floor-mate who they never saw, like we were convinced that this person tunnelled their way out of the floor. They never appeared in the kitchen but no-one ever encountered them in the hallway. How did they leave the building? How did they eat? We will never know. There was also the individual who hated everyone else and refused to mix with everyone else. I distinctly remember someone moving in who had moved out of their previous building because they were too rowdy and went out too much. That was super awkward as we most definitely went out during the week and also played with the fire that was ‘bring as many people back for a party after a night out until QUB security cop on and throw them out’. Safe to say, they weren’t a fan of the group and after the first rowdy encounter ate their dinner in their room rather than mixing with us hooligans. We had a PHD student from Greece who stayed on our floor for a semester. We absolutely loved them but I think they thought we were all a bit crazy. We proof read their essays before submission and took them on a trip to the Giants Causeway, cause you know we might have enjoyed the sesh but we were a cultured bunch too. After climbing all the steps on a grey windy day, they mumbled ‘a lot of steps’, I’m not sure they were that impressed with it but sure we tried! That was the lovely thing about our floor, we made an effort with everyone. Well, almost everyone (note – don’t surf someone else’s mattress down the stairs and then expect them to be your friend after – sorry if you’re reading!). There’s also the person(s) on your floor who you know full well doesn’t do a tap of work and then dusts off the library pass at exam time and takes up residence there for the week prior.   A word of caution if you are thinking of doing the same – DON’T. These people are like unicorns, they appear and shine in exams and then disappear into the ether again. Stop trying to be them, if you had to put in work to pass before then you still do! They will always be chilled out geniuses and you will always have to put the work in and sweat the bit out. I could write a book on uni alone and survival techniques but I will get to the purpose of why I am writing this particular post.

I suppose what I am trying to convey from the above experience of uni is that from the outside looking in I was just like any other normal university student, loved going out with my new friends and embracing my new found freedom. But the reality was that whilst I had a great time there were dark times that I dealt with in private. When I lived at home I was in a strict routine of going to bed on time and now I was trying to keep up with going out 2-3 times in the week AND go to class the next morning??? I noticed that after a particularly late night I wasn’t able to get up in the morning the same as others. My friend on my floor came and knocked on my door before she went to class and thank GOD she did. I probably would never have made it to class if she hadn’t rapped my door. I’d swing open the door in my pjs blinded by the hall light and she’d be standing looking fresh as fuck usually saying sarcastically ‘GOOD! I see you’re ready for class,c’mon we are gonna be late!’. At the end of the first year I had made great friends and a few of us ended up moving out to a flat together. The second year was much the same but I noticed without my friend in my class rapping on the door I was sleeping in for class more often, I started to go out less but still the tiredness remained. At that time I LOVED making curry super noodles after coming home from a night out. I remember a time when I had put them on and sat down at the wee breakfast bar to wait on them… I was awoken by a nudge from my housemate who got out of their bed to tell me that I had fallen asleep while making them and that they had smelt the burning from their room. They were in disbelief that I had fallen asleep and had even taken a video. We laughed about it the next day but this was the first of many encounters where I had fallen asleep at an inappropriate time. All my housemates started to notice that I was sleeping in for class and used to knock on my door to make sure I was up. When I look back, I was incredibly lucky to have such caring people around me who didn’t know then what was wrong but took the time out of their day to make sure I got to class.

As I mentioned before, I was a bit of nervous wee student, always worrying about doing well. When we were at school there was constant feedback in the form of class tests and exams so even though I was always nervous about how I was doing, I was usually reassured quite often by teachers and family and if I didn’t listen to them, my grades would confirm that I was in fact doing well. In university, I had a class timetable that only consisted of 12 hours of class. This was far too long for a person like myself to be alone with their thoughts and wondering if they were good enough. On top of that, the majority of my classmates were not exactly my type of people. By that I don’t mean anything hateful I just mean that our personalities were very different. They were some of the most extroverted, privileged, confident people I had ever met, I was certain Jack Wills made half their profit off them and this was back when having a wardrobe of labels was NOT a thing for a struggling uni student nevermind wearing them to class every day. They drove premium cars despite no part time job in sight and would sit with the macbooks out in class typing enthusiastically. If you had read the reading list, they had read it back to front and if you dared to utter an incorrect answer in a tutorial the judgement was fierce (no pun intended). They both amazed and intimidated me with their very presence. This was more a reflection of how I felt about myself though. I had exceeded the entry requirements for my course and despite the tiredness had achieved two A*s and an A in my A-Levels. I deserved to be in those classes but I was struggling to see it, allowing myself to be intimidated by others bravado and confidence. I also wasn’t sure if I was doing ok because exams were once a term and so I sat for those semesters worried that I wasn’t going to pass the coursework and exams. Of course lecturers had contact hours but realistically who ever availed of them? it wasn’t something that was done in practice (unless you were a mature student….they love the front seat of the lecture halls and asking questions!!).

If I was to meet my 18 year old self now I would love to tell her to stop being affected by how others acted, she was as intelligent as her classmates and very much deserved her seat in the class. A lot of people struggle with their mental health at university and sadly it’s something that is not talked about enough. Of course university is a great experience but when it gets hard, people don’t want to admit they are struggling. They don’t want to admit that the photos posted on Facebook and Instagram of their party lifestyle are a far cry from how they feel about themselves about their classes on a daily basis or how they are struggling to adjust with life away from home. During my time at QUB, a few people in my class set up an initiative with the Student Union called ‘Mind Your Mate’ when they sadly lost their friend through suicide. This ran classes on learning to recognise when you or someone you knew was struggling with their mental health and what to do about it. This was a student led initiative, set up by students for students. It showed me the real power of people in making a change for the better. It still runs to this day under ‘Mind your Mood’ which is something those individuals should be incredibly proud of.

For me, I was starting to recognise that the feelings I felt were not normal. I didn’t know if it was the tiredness that was making more anxious or if it was standalone. I would open my books to prepare for my tutorials and fall asleep on top of them. I would pack my bags for the library, find a table, open my books only to wake up two hours later asleep on top of them. When I awoke, I would feel panicked and behind in my work which made me more anxious, it was a vicious circle. The first few years passed and I was sitting on a 2:1 classification. To me, this was grand but I was just scraping a 2:1 even though I was spending hours in the library preparing for tutorials, coursework and exams. It didn’t make sense to me. I kept trying to work harder but I often found myself in an anxious spiral unable to move forward. The anxiety and the sleepiness fed off each other. The more anxious I got, the sleepier I got and the sleepier I got the more anxious I would be upon waking. I felt utterly miserable and started to think that I wasn’t cut out for my course. I would write out routines for myself but struggled to meet any of the expectations laid out in them. I was also aware that nothing made me stand out from the rest of my classmates. I hated public speaking so I didn’t want to be a barrister, I wouldn’t have minded being a solicitor but I didn’t have any personal connections in the law world. When a programme called ‘Study USA’ was advertised…I thought this will be my solution, my escape from the uni experience that wasn’t panning out the way I had envisioned…..


Oooooh another cliff hanger…while I was writing this blog post I was listening to a few throwbacks from uni….for anyone that was at uni from the years 2010-2014 here’s a few throwbacks:

  1. Dynamite – Taio Cruz – the anthem of my fresher’s week, we came to DANCE DANCE DANCE DANCE – we hit the flo
  2. We found love – Rihanna ft Calvin Harris – I had a floor-mate who used to play this full blast before and after going out
  3. Party Rock Anthem – LMFAO
  4. Memories – David Guetta, Kid Cudi – all the crazy shit really is the best memories ha!
  5. Avicii – Levels – had a housemate who used to play this FLAT OUT. Also to persuade us to go out haha.
  6. Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen.
  7. Some Nights and We Are Young – Fun…. Always reminds me of the SU
  8. Ed Sheeran’s plus album on repeat all day every day. YOU AND I WHERE NEVERRRR MADE FOR UNI. Class lyrics like.
  9. Sky Full of Stars – Coldplay – anything they released in that time..
  10. Just Give Me a Reason – Pink & Nate Reuss
  11. Royals – Lorde….Lana Del Ray was there for the grim times too…as was Birdy, Paramore, even Beyonce.  My ability to relate to songs and be sad about it knew no bounds. BEST THING I NEVER HADDDDDD – me relating it to not getting a text back like, the dramaaaa haha. omg i nearly forgot ADELE..jeez hi..on REPEAT!
  12. Moves Like Jagger – Maroon 5- think this came out when I came back from America.
  13. Midnight City – M83 – we had to make a video of our time in America and everyone used this song haha
  14. Don’t Wake Me Up – Chris Brown
  15. Wild Ones – Flo Rida, Sia – mind everyone dancing to Low like they were off the set of Step Up hahaha.
  16. Everything released by Ellie Goulding during those years
  17. Titanium – David Guetta
  18. Summer – Calvin Harris – this reminds me of a trip to the Galway races I took with a uni friend and her friends, such a hilarious weekend! I remember it was played on the radio for the first time as we arrived in Galway..
  19. Pound The Alarm and Starships– Nicki Minaj
  20. Don’t You Worry Child – Swedish House Mafia ….this was more of an America song….boy were the lyrics SO ACCURATE to my life at that point.

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