Excuse me madam, but you don’t belong here.
Freshers week was strange because it was all online. Perfectly understandable as to why it was decided to not have all the freshers descend upon the Campus all at once of course. But still.
Everything was on zoom. I spent much of the week just trying to navigate the online tools and trying desperately to find out whether there was any prep for any of the seminars before the actual seminar.
On the second day of freshers week I was contacted about a Mature Student bulletin board, which quickly moved to a WhatsApp group which in turn then moved into sub groups from there.
It’s exactly what would have happened had we have all been on campus and meeting each other in person.
The tentative hello’s and introductions.
No one really knows whether they ought to just announce what they are studying or also include their age. When the age thing started cropping up I quickly realised I was on the maturer end of the mature student bracket.
I commented on this a couple of times and often got the response of don’t worry, most of my friends are older than me. It was lovely that strangers were showing such kindness and I didn’t respond to them because to be honest it really doesn’t bother me to be older. It was more an observation. Where I work, almost everyone is significantly younger than I am, so it’s quite a normal thing.
Then my timetable changed, they did warn us this could happen so it wasn’t a complete shock. I went from half my seminars/lectures on campus and half online, to the first week being completely online and on different days.
I didn’t know how I felt about it. A part of me though actually this is ideal because I can get used to the learning elements without worrying about making it on time and getting lost, and then once that bits locked in, I can get on with getting lost the following the week.
Part of me wondered how easy it would be to navigate social cues online.
It was all getting a bit stressful.
In the sub group I joined we organised to meet up for a drink, and I nearly didn’t go. Not because I didn’t want to meet new people or anything but because it was pushing the top end of my anxiety.
Covid protocol can differ from one establishment to the next and I get quite anxious in shops/places I have yet to visit since we went into lock down. As I don’t like not knowing what is expected of me. Some of the shops/establishments one way systems seem more complicated than brain surgery. So even if I was meeting people I had met before, I would be anxious. But these were people I hadn’t met, and I didn’t know what any of them looked like. As well as going into a pub I hadn’t been in since before the lock down and therefore had no idea what they’re protocols were.
I was super anxious and spent a good hour trying to figure out if I could make a valid excuse for not showing up. But I pushed myself to do it and I was pleased I did.
Though it did bring up another thing, I’m a non drinker and I never know whether to just address the fact that I’m only on the water or not. Whenever I don’t, someone always asks so I often talk about it before anyone does and then wonder if I’m just boring people with my sober jibber jabber.
Lots to worry about.
The first day of Week 1 of University was slightly weird, because it wasn’t actually at Uni.
Instead it was on Zoom.
The first thing our lecturer noticed about me was the bunting on my wall behind me.
Whilst I was thanking her for the compliment and explaining that my mum made it for me, I also suddenly thought holy crap what else can they see?
We bumbled through the seminar all mostly just trying to figure out the social construct for online seminars, how to actually use Zoom and where we find all our work.
As soon as I understood how to properly move through the platform our Uni uses, I was able to properly navigate all my other modules and realised suddenly just how much work I already had to do.
I think this is quite common to look at the actual scheduled seminars and lectures and think oh that's not much at all, but it's just a fraction of the work that is expected of us.
Totally doable, but totally overwhelming to begin with.
And I was overwhelmed. And the intrusive thoughts started pushing through. ‘Your stupid, your dad was right’ ‘you know they made a mistake offering you a place’ ‘this is not your world’ ‘you won’t last’ ‘you will fail’
I say intrusive thoughts, but not in the true sense because all these things I had heard before.
My dad’s behaviour ticks all the narcissistic personality disorder behaviors and I went no contact 2 and a half years ago. Unfortunately as much as his behaviour pointed directly to NPD, some of my behaviour also indicates having been the victim of it. More specifically daughters with nasricssit fathers.
My longest relationship was with another narc (its so common for victims of narcissism to end up striking up relationships and friendships with other narcs because even though they are incredibly toxic it’s also what we know).
Pretty much as soon as I moved to Brighton after that relationship broke down I was targeted by another narc who for a few years became my best friend.
He sniffed out my vulnerability like a shark does blood.
Across the course of the last 20 years I had had at least two narcissists operating around me at any one time, and in the time since going no contact with them, I have been in recovery from it.
I have been able to work through and overcome most aspects.
My confidence, self esteem, empowerment, strength and just knowing myself enough to not be swayed by others. I have learnt how to set boundaries in my work life and socially but the two areas, both of which I could never truly work on without the actual experience of it is further education and love/relationships.
I didn’t go to University when I was 18 because my dad told me it was too expensive, there was no point in going if I didn’t really know exactly what it was I wanted to do and I wasn’t clever enough to get in anyway. None of this he said outright, but would feature heavily in his lectures, designed specifically as always for me to figure that part out myself. Thus gaslighting me into believing all these points were mine and not his.
And it worked.
It was only after I finally managed to get all my ducks in a row(which included going no contact with him) that I was able to start making the bigger changes. I went on the sugar detox, I stopped drinking alcohol and I started running again.
The goal had been to reset my unhealthy relationship with booze, to run the Brighton marathon (2020) and to feel healthy both mind and body. Going to Uni hadn’t been a goal but the empowering decision to change those things led me to gain enough confidence to finally stop believing my dad’s, my ex fiances and my ex best friends lies.
I applied and got in. Then covid happened and 5 days before we went in to lock down my dog was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
He died 6 months later, and it wasn’t until after he passed that I realised just how exhausted I was from that. Constantly on edge with every change in him being watched like a hawk by me, constantly on the phone to the vets asking for advice. Constantly wondering if his quality of life is still there. When he died my immediate reaction was shere relief. Then the finality of death and the constant images of his last days with me.
As days grew into weeks those feelings passed as I moved through grief. All of this was in many ways a good distraction from my nervousness of starting Uni.
It is so much change, that at times has been overwhelming but the healthy me, the me I had always dreamed I’d become is stronger than I ever realised and any intrusive thoughts that have popped into my head I have calmly and clearly addressed said thought and almost immediately rejected it.
Which is all fine and well when I’m awake, but when I’m asleep it’s a whole other matter.
For the first three nights of week 1 of uni I had terrible dreams/nightmares.
The first night my ex fiance burst into my bedroom and started shouting at me until I realised I was dreaming which instantly woke me up.
The second night my ex best friend did the same thing, burst into my bedroom and started shouting at me, until I realised I was dreaming and it woke me up.
The third night my dad burst into my room, and shouted until I realised I was in a dream.
Each of my dreams got gradually more verbally abusive, the things each of them had been things they had said to me in real life, but with more malice in their tone.
Whilst I don’t remember feeling scared or anything in the dreams themselves what I couldn’t shake each morning was that sort of grotty feeling. Partly because I felt like I’d been close to their toxicity again but also because in my consciousness I couldn’t quite shake the things that they had said. ‘Your worthless’ ‘no one will ever love you’ ‘your lucky to have me’ ‘your stupid’ ‘he will find someone better’
As much as I tried hard to forget the dreams and what they said in them, I struggled to. It hindered my studies a little bit as well because I then became quite paranoid that any moment I was going to get an apologetic email by the Head of the Foundation year apologising but that he had made a mistake and I’m just not worthy of a place at Uni.
It then reminded me of the other times I felt like I was an imposter. Largely any time I felt happy or truly loved. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I felt like I had been Scrooged. Not by the ghosts of Christmas past in one night, but the ghosts of my own past across three.
I suddenly thought of Bill Murray and then I thought of GroundHog day.
So far these dreams had been escalating and so far the only thing I had tried to do was bury them in my subconscious and move on.
This wasn’t working and because I now live by ‘if nothing changes, nothing changes’ I figured. Well I need to change it.
I took time out of my day to properly think about those dreams. The 3 stooges had all been sort of exaggerated versions of themselves like three dimensional caricatures. So too had their voices, there was something almost cartoonesque about them.
And all of them we’re outwardly insulting me, instead of their usual covert methods and I started to laugh. They looked ridiculous and what's more they looked desperate.
It was like my own subconscious was telling me to let go of this negative crap. I’m the one that got into Uni and I did so off my own back and based on my own application.
I am worthy.