“The moment had that feel about it, that before-and-after feel, as though this was going to be the end of one time and the beginning of another.”

I was allocated my final year project the other week. I got my first choice, which was great. The topic sounds really interesting and very relevant to my future interests. However it is mostly a simulation based project, and I’ll be using software I’m unfamiliar with. I went to speak with my supervisor last Friday about it – probably hoping for some reassurance, but I came away more nervous than ever. It turned out to be 15 minutes long where hardly anything was said, and 10 minutes later I realised I still had a lot more questions. I was quite possibly even more confused than I had been, but I’d been too nervous during the meeting to focus.

I went to the library afterwards to scour through books on my thesis topic and on the software but came away with little results. I then headed into Town (the city centre), had some lunch at an Asian restaurant – some very underwhelming Ramen but the restaurant was very empty, which meant it felt OK to be alone. I’ve been to this restaurant before and the food isn’t amazing, but the restaurant has a good atmosphere and nice staff, and it was cheap enough. Then I went to Starbucks to chill out for a bit, flicking through one of the books and trying to make sense of my thesis and mostly failing. I was waiting to go see a movie. I’d left uni at around 11:15am, and the movie was at 2:30pm. I’d gotten into town around 12pm and killed an hour in the restaurant – reading whilst slowly, methodically working my way through my food. Then I had another hour to kill before going to the cinema – hence the Starbucks – and at the cinema thankfully there were queues to eat up some more time. The one downside of being alone – it feels awkward just hanging about by yourself. Eating alone is fine, you’re doing something, as is watching a movie, it’s the in-between bits that get a little bit anxiety inducing.

Anyway, I’d wanted to see Belle since I’d heard of it and I was pleased to find it was worth the spectacular amount of time I had to waste before I could see it. The lead actress put on a great performance. It had some cheesy moments – it wasn’t subtle, and I thought at times it was too focused on romantic love, and I wondered how that was taking away from the story, but I enjoyed it and the time passed quickly. I emerged from the cinema in the late afternoon and headed home, having had a good day. I came home and my feelings quickly caught up with me though, and I ended up spending a good few days moping around the house, mostly watching dramas whilst cross stitching for hours, of all things, trying to get my thoughts away from the dark places. I’ve gotten really into cross stitch these few days – it gives me something to focus on so it can feel like I’m doing something whilst relaxing, so I don’t start getting lost in my thoughts. I had my results coming out on Tuesday and I was worried about that and my project and the long summer without work or anything much planned at all. I was even worrying about 4th year and graduate job hunting, already.

By Monday I managed to get myself together a little and I’ve been trying to maintain this all week – trying to wake up early, get chores done, eat properly. I try to remember that it all adds up in the end- the 45 minutes spent on Japanese, doing just one chore a day. As for the eating, I’m trying to eat all my meals at the table, without doing anything else (I was a big fan of eating whilst on my computer or phone, and its easy to overeat when doing that), trying to have more herbal tea and water than juice and soft drinks, trying not to eat after 9pm. Just integrating small, easy changes in order to work towards the big changes. Trying not to get too caught up on the big, scary end goal and instead focus on what I can do right now, what little differences I can make, trying to set up better habits really.

Oh, and I got my results and they were fine. I’m a bit disappointed with some of my marks though – I feel like I should have done better. In particular I’m disappointed on my thesis mark – and I cannot help but wonder if its because of the messed up presentation and interview, how many meetings I missed, the fact I didn’t take a large leadership role…It’s all my fault, of course. I am working up the courage to email my supervisor to ask if there will be any feedback. I want to know what was wrong.

Today I went to the library again to pick up another book. I’ve still not really gotten stuck into my project though. The books are shoved away in my bag, where I don’t have to see them, where I don’t have to think about my project and how overwhelmed I feel about starting it. I don’t even know where to begin. I’m going to put it off as much as possible.

As I was walking to university today I passed by a charity book store. I go there sometimes as they have quite a good selection. I’d never really thought of working there. However as I passed by I noticed on the window “volunteers needed” I ducked into the shop, and pretended to be browsing as I wondered if I could really have the courage to go speak to the lady at the counter and enquire about the sign. I’d only meant to enquire. However the result was: I have a shift on Friday morning. It happened so quickly and I’m unsure of the impression I made, although I left the shop feeling quite elated. I’d done it! I’d seen an opportunity, and I’d gone for it without any hesitation. Just like that. I felt pretty proud. Later, after a few hours at home doubt settled in – I began to worry. I’m frankly terrified. This will be my first job after all. But I’m also glad and amazed at how easily it happened- after so many job rejections it felt good to just have this just happen. It’s volunteer work so unfortunately I won’t be earning money, however I’ll be able to spend a bit of time outside the house, doing something useful, gaining skills that will be just as valuable as a paid job. I really need work experience, and I really can’t be locked up on my house all the time, so I think it will be good for me. I’m so nervous though. I don’t know what to expect. I hope I don’t mess it up.

I’m taking a massive leap outside of my comfort zone here. I hope it works out.

“There’s an albatross around your neck, all the things you’ve said, and the things you’ve done. Can you stand the person you’ve become?”

I finished my third year of university on Monday, with my group presentation and individual interview. Neither went particularly well or badly.

The presentation was in the afternoon, just after lunch. I met up with my group members in the morning and we made last minute changes and ran through it a couple of times before heading to the lecture hall for the actual thing. There were two members of staff watching us. One of them is one of my favourite members of the faculty, and the other was someone unfamiliar but who my group members had assured me we did not want to get as our moderator. We got set up and ran through it. It was not too bad – everyone did well with some minor stumbles from nerves as you would expect. The one professor (the one I like) seemed reasonably interested, although the other professor looked incredibly bored and disinterested which was off-putting. I could look at neither of them as I ran through my section. I had taken my anti-anxiety pills which meant I could just about present properly, although I was aware of how robotic I sounded. Then we got to the end of the presentation and to the questions part and this is where it fell apart. The bored professor started asking us very strange questions, and I was very grateful for my other group members attempts at answering as I had no idea where to even begin, although we were all of us baffled and it showed. It ended up with him making fun of us for not knowing the answers.

It was not great, and our presentation kind of fell apart because of the question section.

We then had a break before our individual interviews. I went off to the bathroom and when I came back my group members had disappeared, and the interviews started. I ended up waiting outside the room so I could get my stuff. As I waited another group came out from a close by lecture hall and to my surprise, they began to chat to me. We all stood there, waiting, talking amongst ourselves until we were told we could go to another lecture room to wait. Of course I had to wait to be able to get my things, which I did, and then I went to the lecture room and sat all by myself, fretting over my interview, going over my notes but not really being able to concentrate, concerned that I didn’t know where my group members were or whose interview it currently was (It was in alphabetical order.) Eventually I went to hunt down my group members, and I conveniently bumped into one of them who told me where to find the rest. There was actually just one of my group members sat there- which meant I was next. (His surname came after mine.) I sat down next to him, pouring over my notes and more anxious than ever. Then I was called for my interview. There was a table set up at the front of the lecture hall – the two interviewers sat on one side, and a chair on the other for me. The set up made me think of the interrogation rooms I’d seen in dramas. The interviewers were different to those who were present for the presentation and they were much nicer. They asked me about what I thought the project was about, what areas of the thesis I had covered, asked me in detail about those areas, and finally what role in leadership I had taken. All fairly OK questions, not the grilling I had been expecting.

I was anxious but the pills kept me from panicking and beginning to babble. Still I didn’t convey nearly half of what I should of to them. I have a feeling I did not come across like I had done as much as I did, and that I did not have the right idea about the project. At one point one of the interviewers actually seemed surprised by my answer to his question, and not in a good way. I felt so embarrassed afterwards, and so annoyed at myself for failing to mention certain things. Like always, five minutes later I had all the answers. At least it was over. At least I had not panicked.

I walked down to the bus stop, where I just missed one bus and was ignored by another. I felt myself beginning to cry. Not over the missed buses, no. I just felt very tired all of a sudden. I just wanted to be home, away from university. I really could have crouched down and started to sob right there. I felt so completely finished. It has been an exhausting year. (I did not, thankfully, give in to that temptation and managed to blink away the tears.)

But now I’m free! I’ve spent the past few days wallowing in the excessive amount of free time I now have. I’ve basically spent the past few days sleeping, watching dramas… I did catch up on chores and I’ve been trying to eat a bit better. I’m trying not to feel too bad about being lazy though. Next week I’ll try to integrate some slightly more productive things into my time and be even more focused on eating well. For now I’m letting myself relax. Telling myself its OK, everything’s OK. Telling myself to stop worrying about results and fourth year and just focus on now.

You can tell I’m not being entirely successful.

On Sunday I’m going to meet up with my dad to go walking, which I am looking forward to, and over the weekend I should receive information about what fourth year project I have been assigned, which I am not looking forward to.

“I would stare at the grains of light suspended in that silent space, struggling to see into my own heart.”

On Wednesday, I went for a walk. There is a nature reserve about 45 minutes away from where I live which I had been meaning to visit for oh, months. I have travelled abroad by myself, eaten at restaurants by myself, but the simple act of walking without a purpose in my local area by myself filled me with anxiety. But on Wednesday, I was determined. I set out with google maps as my guide. I walked, and I walked, and 45 minutes later I suddenly found myself out of the urban sprawl, at the nature reserve. The air was fresh, the smell reminding me of my village where I usually live. It was quite amazing that the nature reserve was right there, tucked so close to the city. I don’t mind cities but not English cities – I find them claustrophobic. England is a small country, and I’m always aware of that, but no more so than in the city. At least in my village, or when I go walking, in those empty spaces you can pretend for a moment to be in a place much larger.

I breathed in deeply the fresh air of the reserve, soaked up the bright sunlight, swatted away a million little bugs, and listened to the sounds of birds chattering. I followed the path past a lake, and then walking along a river, the countryside on the other side with lush green fields, a herd of cows resting in one, on the river barges occasionally passed through. I curved round back to the lake, and sat at the lakeside, cracked open my book and read. It was very peaceful, very still. At some point I looked up and caught sight of them – three herons, fishing in the shallow waters at the edge of the lake. I sprang to my feet, still clutching my open book, and fumbled for my camera. I spent a moment filming there before I remembered to put away my book. Then I stood, and filmed, and watched in amazement as they fished, and ruffled their feathers, and groomed each other. I had never seen so many herons, and so close. I was utterly enthralled, and it was many minutes later that I tore myself away, settling back on the bench and reading some more until I realized I should probably get going back home. I continued on the path, following the lake round, and ended up back at the entrance. I got back to the city and walked back to my house, feeling happy and relaxed and more than ever, I was grateful to end up living where I currently am. I’m a long way from the city center, and even my university is an hour away, but I am so happy with my location. I like being tucked away in the suburbs like this. Its quiet here, it feels safe, and I’m close enough to everything I need, with direct bus routes to uni and the city center, and on Wednesday I realised that the countryside was just 45 minutes away from me, and I like that. It feels like I have an escape route.

I needed that break, too. Since then its been back to university work, with my group presentation and individual interviews tomorrow. My anxiety levels have, consequently, been very high. There were meetings on Thursday, Friday and even today. I got through Thursday and Friday meetings OK, but today…not so much.

Today I went to my meeting all prepared for running through the presentation, to find my group members were not. So I sat and read, assured that I had done my bit, letting my group members work amongst themselves. The time came to run through the presentation – I stood up and started – and was immediately halted by my group. “Slow down!” I had practised it, gone through it so it was exactly the right time, and it was all paced exactly right when I went through it by myself. But standing in front of my group members my heart began to race, I felt my chest tightening, I felt myself beginning to shake. I began to rush through it, scared that if I stopped I would begin to stammer, would not be able to get through it. I couldn’t breathe. My group members were laughing. It was humiliating. I wanted to cry. I sat back down, as they offered me advice, still amused. I had been so confident! What had I been expecting? I felt totally knocked off my perch. Did I deserve it? For sitting there so calmly, quietly reading as if I was above them all? That’s what they must be thinking, I thought. Anxiety held me firmly in its grasp. They were pushing me to continue. I took a long drink of water. I tried to continue but I couldn’t get the pacing right and eventually I had to sit down and give up. I’ve been through it some more tonight but it hardly matters – its fine when I go through it myself. Its just when facing an audience that anxiety wrecks everything. Like it always does. I want to appear so much more intelligent and put together than I actually do in public – in private I’m such a different person. I feel like such a different person. I wish I could show this side to people – this quieter, more intelligent, more thoughtful side of me. I resolved to take my beta blockers tomorrow. I don’t really know why I did not take them today, I think I wanted to test it without them. There is also the individual interviews to worry about. Basically, the supervisors meet each group member and grill them to asses their contribution. I’m resigned to not doing well for it. How could I? I’ll either babble like an idiot, or end up unable to say anything. I can never express myself properly. Can never present the image of myself that I want to. I cannot resign myself in the same way for the presentation of course- my group members are depending on me for that. The interview will just affect my mark, but the presentation is all of ours. I really hope the pills work and I can get through it. That I can talk slowly, calmly and get my ideas across.

“You never thought things would turn out like this, did you?”

I had my second and final exam on Thursday. I totally blanked out during it. The paper was just fine. I recognised all the questions from the past papers- could visualize all those times I had sat and gone through it, but I could not for the life of me write it down. I felt tired and I couldn’t think straight. I wanted to be worried about it afterwards, but I just felt relieved, happy to have it done with. These past few days since have been a blur – sleeping too much, eating badly, binging on dramas and the internet. The semester isn’t even over but I’ve settled comfortably into a lazy post-uni routine. I’m not happy. I spend my days lazily, laughing, wasting time away, but end them crying. I can’t get rid of my sense of unease, of my worries.

I wish I was going somewhere this summer. Last summer I went to Japan, the summer before that it was Singapore and moving to Malaysia, the summer before that it was South Africa. Last year I went to South Korea, Thailand and Japan. It was so great to be travelling like that. My finances are too much of a mess to do anything like that this year. A part of me is tempted to dig into my – admittedly meagre but still existent – savings. I know I shouldn’t – but I just want to get away. Yes, I want to run from it all. It did not quite work when I went to Edinburgh earlier this year – so I want to go further.

I was going through my old journal entries earlier. “Although I don’t mind taking the long road, I do want to end up where I originally planned,” I wrote once. Well, I’m not entirely sure I’m ever going to end up there. After I failed my A levels and was given another chance to go to university I saw it as my fresh start, my chance to work towards my own happiness. I made a bunch of goals for myself, big and small to check off. Criteria for happiness and turning into an adult- go to university for my foundation year, do well so I can transfer to the course of my choosing to do electrical and electronic engineering, study abroad in second year, get a internship after my second year, then get a good job at the end of it all. My ultimate dream was never anything grand – just a steady 9-5 job, a small apartment, being able to travel, move abroad. Meanwhile I wanted to learn to drive, make friends, learn how to cook and eat properly, learn Japanese, learn how to apply makeup, join a society and learn something new. There were things I wanted to do and things I thought I ought to do because that’s what everyone my age seemed to be doing. (Or had already done – I was already behind my peers a little because I had suffered from depresssion, heck I was behind the from the moment I immigrated to this country and since then I’ve always felt like I am playing catch up.) Anyway, I had everything planned out and I thought that if I just worked hard enough it would all unfold just like that. I was so full of hope for that future.

As time has passed I have been able to tick off so many of those boxes- I got into university, I got to study abroad, I got to travel, I joined societies and tried new things. But nothing was OK. I put my all into my degree, and have managed to struggle forwards, but everything else had been left behind. I never quite managed to learn to drive, I never quite managed to learn how to connect with people again, I struggled with my weight and my appearance and eating, and finally, I couldn’t get a job. So now I’m questioning, and I’m fearful. What if everything doesn’t work out? I’m beginning to realise that there are some things that no matter how much you want them, or how hard you work, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll obtain them. Its an obvious thing, isn’t it. But I was so wrapped up in my dreams and my hope that I couldn’t see how I was setting myself up for this sense of failure – that I was loading myself with expectations, burdening myself with them. Its a double edged sword having goals. It gives you the strength to keep going, but you can get so attached to them that it makes you inflexible, it makes you put yourself under pressure, messes you up. You set yourself up for being crushed when you can’t meet your expectations for yourself.

And I’m scared. I tell myself to let it go. I have to be more flexible with my future, I have to be more open to disappointment, to taking a different path if necessary. But my dreams mean so much to me. I have these pictures in my head of how I want things to be, and its these fantasies that have kept me going. I clung so hard to the future I wanted, to the person I wanted to be, and now I realise, it may not happen.

We’re always told to dream big, that if we work hard enough and are positive enough then everything will work out. But its not like that, is it? Sometimes you have to be realistic, sometimes you have to let go, adjust to new circumstance. We cannot have everything we want and that’s OK, I know that. Its learning how to take the opportunities you have and to make the most of what you have got that counts. Staying positive and believing that even if its not want you want, maybe it will be what you need. But it’s hard to accept. I may not end up with the job I really want. That graduate job I crave may not end up belonging to me, and maybe it isn’t the right path for me. I may not end up living where I want. I may never be able to live abroad, or travel as much as I want. Again, is this really what I want or need any more? I’m probably never going to be able to look how I want. That’s also OK, it’s better to be healthier than to pressure yourself to look how you think you should. I’m always going to struggle socially, and this is something I have to work on- my expectations of other people are also just as ridiculously high as my expectations for myself. I think part of all this is learning to accept myself – both my strengths and my limitations. If I give it all up though, will I really be happier? Because what on earth do you do when you give up your dreams? How do you keep on going, moving forwards, when you are not sure what you are going forwards for? Just what pictures should I keep in my mind to give me strength when it gets hard? Do you just keep going for the sake of it? How? When it hurts this much.

“There should be just one safe place in the world.”

I had my first exam of the semester today. It was fairly terrible. I was feeling pretty OK about it – I’d done a good amount of revision I thought, and the past papers were fairly similar. Of course the exam turned out completely different from the past papers, with some very odd questions. By the end of the exam I felt panicky, but I couldn’t hold on to that emotion. When I left the examination hall I was worried but mostly I just felt relieved. One down, just another to go. I’m not looking forward to the next, as it is my weaker subject compared to the one today – and well, my one today did not go well which does not bode well for the weaker one. But at least its just the one left. And I’m not going to hold onto those emotions either. I’m just over this semester. I want it done with.

Of course, my calm state might have a lot to do with the pills my doctor gave me on Thursday. As mentioned in the last entry, I was called back to my doctor. I finally worked up the courage to phone on Wednesday, and went to see him on Thursday. I was a nervous wreck, sitting there in the waiting room, shaky and at a loss as to what I was going to say. Why was I even there? But once I sat down with the doctor it turned out OK. I forget sometimes how lucky I am to get a doctor like this, who is putting in so much effort in my treatment. My doctor is really nice, and its great that I’m able to see the same doctor for my appointments – I feel he knows me by now, and I have dealt with him enough that I’m beginning to trust him. It helps that he’s very friendly and cheerful. He’s very positive and optimistic and I like that about him – it makes me feel optimistic. It makes me feel that yes, I can get better. And I greatly admire my doctor for being able to be so upbeat despite what must be a stressful job. It makes me trust in him as a doctor. Doctors who make the effort to have good ‘bedside manner’ are the best. I feel very blessed to have been able to meet such a great doctor, as I do not think I would have the courage to go speak to him last year about this, and to carry on with these appointments, otherwise.

Anyway, on Thursday we talked about where I wanted my treatment to go now regarding my mental health. More counselling was offered, but I declined. I’ve got enough to think about from the last round. Then medication came up. Its come up before- and I dismissed it then, too scared, not feeling like my problems were serious enough. This time, I hesitantly enquired about my options. In the end he prescribed me short term betablockers for anxiety- which I’m so grateful to have. I took my first on Friday as a test and it made me sleepy and sluggish, and it was strange, because my thoughts were worried, and usually that would lead to physical symptoms – feeling sick, shaky, my chest tight, my heart racing. Those kind of things. But it just wouldn’t. I didn’t feel entirely calm – but I couldn’t panic. It felt a bit weird, actually. It felt unusual to feel so relaxed, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Similarly in my exam today it was actually almost as distracting that I wasn’t having a panic attack than if I was – I was keenly aware of the absence of it. It feels downright strange to feel relaxed, how pathetic is that?

As well as that I’m currently thinking of going on anti-depressants. I’ve always been against them. Its not that I think nobody should take them – but I’m personally terrified of the side effects. And there’s also a stigma surrounding them isn’t there? It feels like I should be able to deal with my problems without medicine. After all its always in the news isn’t it – that as a society we are covering our problems with pills, that it is basically not good to take them. Its weakness, that you cannot deal with it without medicine. That the pills themselves don’t work, and are damaging us. The horrific stories of their side effects. Even when I research them – and I spent a good few hours on Friday trawling through the internet looking up information – the list of potential side effects from reputable sources are daunting. What if it makes it worse? I cannot help but think. But then I think – what if it makes it better? Its not like I’ve not tried to solve this myself. I’ve been through CBT twice. I’ve gone to speak to a counsellor a few times. I’ve tried enough, haven’t I? Its not a new thing…this. Its years of trying, years of ups and downs and further downs. Surely its not cowardly to want to take medicine? I know a pill won’t magically fix anything, but if it could just make it a little easier…is it so bad to want to have it a little easier?

The side effects are so off putting though. And the thought of more doctors appointments…is slightly exhausting. But I have the whole summer free, so it feels like a good time to try this. If it goes wrong, there’s nothing that can be affected. I hope. I’ve been thinking about this since Thursday and it always cycles back to despite the risks, I should do this. But I’m still unsure.

Lately I also worry about talking about all this here. I read an article about the dangers of talking about your mental health. And it was sad article, because it basically says to be extremely careful, especially in regards to social media, and its true, and it made me think. Can my blog be connected to me in real life? I do not think it can. But sometimes I do worry – where do you draw the line between wanting to talk honestly, and ending up being too honest? It becomes especially tricky when it comes to talking about things like this. Again, as the article said, there’s a lot of stigma and a lot of misunderstandings surrounding mental health. You wish to live in a society where this isn’t shameful, where you don’t end up fearful of someone finding out – like you’ve got some dark secret, not an illness. But its not like that. I’m already nervous with all the strange gaps in my CV, which cannot be explained, and at the possibility that one day I’d have to tell an employer of this for safety purposes. But right now, I do wonder about this on my blog. Its a fairly anonymous blog, but is it anonymous enough? Its too late to make it completely anonymous after all. Its just I do not have anywhere else to talk about this. Its not something you can talk to anyone about. I just want to talk about it, somewhere. This blog has always been an expression of myself, an online diary. I wonder if its old fashioned to keep this kind of old style of blog, and if maybe there isn’t a place today for these kind of blogs. Of course despite this, I’ll keep writing. I’ll cling to this idea of this being my “safe place” where I can express myself. I just do worry sometimes about it coming back to me.