My first year of study was more difficult than it should have been because I was afraid that involved a lot of obsessive thinking. It would have been fine if I had been obsessed with my subject. I always joked that if I thought about chemistry as much as I did irrational things, I would get a Nobel Prize now! But unfortunately, I couldn’t make this mental change and my brain focused on anxious, irrational thoughts rather than anything useful. It got to the point where I saw my university advisor postponed for a year because I couldn’t concentrate on my work and could only do practical things like washing, as this didn’t require much brain power could do it with the treasure that is still there. It was tiring to cope with this constantly full inbox in my head. I felt that I couldn’t do the anxiety and chemistry classes together. But now that I’ve finished the second year of my studies and had the best year I could have imagined (although it was cut by Covid-19), I’d like to share how I got to this much better place:
Opening to people at the university
Calls to my parents often ended in tears (on both ends because they hated hearing me cry when I was so far from home). After the Christmas break in the first year, I took the plunge and opened myself up to my roommate and academic advisor about my fear. The reason I was reluctant to speak to my advisor was because I was worried that he would think less of me as an academic. I was expecting him to consider me less smart or capable because my thoughts weren’t practical, as you would expect a scientist to think, what nonsense! Mental illnesses can affect anyone, regardless of their ability, just like physical illnesses. The opening for her helped me to feel less alone in all of this. Just knowing that there were people around who knew how I felt was a great comfort and a crucial step in establishing the university as my second home.
Don’t talk to your thoughts
When I sat down to do some coursework or lecture notes, I threw in the towel shortly afterwards because I just couldn’t concentrate. It was like school when you were sitting next to someone who wanted to distract you from your work. But I finally found that the way to get through was to not give up on these tasks, because even if they took me twice as long as normal and didn’t meet my usual standards, it was still progress. It was still better than doing nothing, even if you wrote down just a few words from the lecture slides, you were still recording far more than if you hadn’t done anything. So I tried it and immediately felt much better and more in control. Yes, my progress was slow, but the point was that I did something even though the thoughts barked next to me and tried to steal my pen. It showed me that despite the thoughts that kept me from panicking when they got loud, I could make progress. Losing fear of my thoughts has taught me that I can do anything despite everything, including physical chemistry (which uses up a ton of my brain power), so I won’t panic when Mr. Thought decides to sit next to me take a lecture or in the library because I know he can’t stop me.
And remember, just as you were told by an adult when someone bothered you, “Ignore them and at some point they’ll get bored and leave you alone. Paying attention to them just encourages them.” The same tactic can be used for annoying thoughts are used. Don’t speak to your thoughts. Don’t even try to get rid of them by “solving” them. Finally I realized that I’ve never achieved anything by paying attention to the thoughts and now I accept just that they’re there, but I don’t look at them or interact with them so that they eventually fade away.
Please don’t give up if you feel like you’re constantly fighting with your thoughts, they can’t stop you, you’re so much bigger than them. And opening yourself up to someone at the university can be life-changing, as mental illness can be very isolating and difficult to carry. Fear doesn’t have to stop you from achieving your goals, and once you realize that, you will be unstoppable.
Hello! I’m Emma 🙂 I’m in my third year of chemistry and I want to tell my story about dealing with fear, especially during the transition from school to college, to inspire those who have difficulty not keeping their fear from it to let them get the most out of their university experience and to reassure them that things will be easier.