Part Five – Taking a Break From University

Posted in Mental Health, Personal

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

After a  few weeks of feeling down and miserable, I decided to make an appointment with the advice centre in my university. I broke down in their office detailing everything I had experienced – from the first ever panic attack 3 years ago to the suicidal thoughts 3 days ago. They were so kind and understanding and completely non-judgemental.

They were so kind and understanding and completely non-judgemental and for once I didn’t feel like the huge mess I told myself I was – but like a normal person who was having a tough time.

They provided me with lots of information. Contact details for external counsellors and CBT therapy, advice to contact my university’s disability service to allow for any delayed assignments/missed days, and the reassurance that there were so many other people they’d spoken to that were in the same place.

Then they suggested I take a year out from university, which I immediately dismissed.

I’d never heard of anyone taking a break from university, only dropping out. All through school I was told that dropping out was the end of the world and the worse decision you could ever make – how could anyone suggest that to me? Dropping out always has this huge stigma around it, and I was always led to believe you were a quitter or a failure if you left. I was shocked someone would advise me to leave as if it wasn’t a huge, life-changing deal.

I left their office, determined to try to push myself more. I started to register myself with the disability service and tried to push all the thoughts of leaving to the very back of my mind.

But it’s all I could think about for weeks.

I started researching other people’s stories. I spent hours scouring through student forums and help-lines asking for advice and reading the advice given to others. I didn’t find any conclusive answers, just a sea of ‘do what’s best for you’ and I became frustrated because I didn’t know what was best for me anymore. My whole life I’d been desperate to go to university because that’s what makes you successful, but here I was, the most miserable I’d ever been. I didn’t enjoy a single day, but 6 months from the end of my degree I felt it was too late to drop out or give up. I’d come so far, how could I leave before the final hurdle?

I went back to the advice hub and asked for some more information about taking a year out. They helped me understand it wasn’t me ‘giving up’ but putting myself first. Clearly, university wasn’t helping my mental health and I needed to take some positive steps to try to make my situation better. I was still unsure about what to do, but all the fear was gone.

Immediately, I phoned my boyfriend and explained what they had said to him and immediately he supported the idea. He had seen the changes in me more than anyone else, and he could see I was at breaking point. I was glad for his support but still so conflicted to take such a huge step. I’m indecisive at the best of times, but when it comes to huge decisions I’m stuck. It seemed like I was at a huge turning point in my life and I couldn’t work out what was best at all. The more I thought about it, the more a break seemed to appeal to me but I was so worried. I was scared of what people would think of me, what I would tell my parents, my coworkers. I felt like I would help myself to leave, but let everyone I cared about down. It was an impossible decision.

It was an impossible decision.

I arranged a meeting with my head of year to discuss what would happen, it hypothetically, I did leave. By now I had pretty much swayed myself into believing this was the best choice for me but I needed the reassurance that it wasn’t a huge mistake on my part.

I was so nervous to meet with her, but she was so understanding and helpful it made me cry. I explained it all again to her, right from the first ever panic attack to where I was now, and she confirmed I had to do what was best for me. She told me that university ‘isn’t supposed to be this hard’ and reassured me that all of my classes and lecturers would still be there for me when I returned the next year. It was the most helpful conversation I’d ever had. She told me that I had to make sure I was looking after myself first, especially after I told her about the lack of motivation and falling behind. It was true, staying there in the state I was in would never let me reach my full potential. I’ve always been academic and loved to learn, but that had all disappeared and I lost all confidence in my abilities.

When I left her office, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted. I discussed the meeting with my boyfriend who, as always, was amazingly supportive. I even spoke to my closest coworkers and managers at work to gain their insight.

I had already made up my mind but I just needed the reassurance that I was making the right decision by others’ standards.

The hardest people to tell were my parents. I spent weeks in my room planning out how the conversation would go, but I was never sure of their reaction. I was the first person in my family to go to university and I felt that taking time out would convince them all I was a failure. I was so nervous when I sat down and asked them if we could talk, and shakily I explained the situation to them. I’d always been so honest about my mental health, and they knew when I was having panic attacks and they knew I had started antidepressants which I think helped their understanding. They saw that I hadn’t been myself recently and, of course, were determined to help. Like me, the works ‘taking a break’ caused them to panic because they jumped to the same conclusions as me and thought it meant giving up. It took an hour of explaining it to them, everything the advice centre and my head of year had told me, but eventually, they were able to take a step back and see it wasn’t the end of the world. They told me that they would support me either way and that I had to make the best decision for me either way. This was the same thing I’d heard from everyone, but it was different coming from my parents.

With their support, I was able to make my decision and on the 11th November 2016, I had my last day at university.

The whole process was done in half the time it took me to make up my mind. I had to fill in a form describing my reasons for wanting a break and that was it. Two weeks later I received my letter in the post telling me that my application was successful, I was due to complete my course starting September 2017 and that was it.

That was about 5 months ago and I haven’t regretted my decision once. Taking a break obviously isn’t the best choice for everyone, but it definitely was for me. It’s given me time to look after myself and pursue a range of hobbies that are helping to improve my life every single day! I’m still hoping to go back to finish my last year in September this year, but taking this time for myself has been the best decision I ever made and I am so happy I decided to put my own needs first.

*This post is part of a series*

http://www.samaritans.org // 116 123

http://www.mind.org.uk // 0300 123 3393

http://www.sane.org.uk // 0300 304 7000

http://www.elefriends.org.uk

http://www.supportline.org.uk // 01708 765200

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34 Comments

  • Reply Brig (Fashion Idea Queen)

    Congratulations on making the decision to put yourself first and take care of yourself – your happiness and well-being are most important.

    April 3, 2017 at 1:28 pm
    • Reply clairelouiisexo

      They definitely are the most important things! Thanks so much for reading xo

      April 4, 2017 at 9:58 am
  • Reply Tiffany

    I’m so glad everyone was so supportive of you and your decision! I’m also really indecisive and never know whats best so it’s great that you had everyones help and support in making that decision. A year out sounds like the best thing for you, sometimes we all need a break to reassess everything and work out what we want!

    Tiffany x http://www.foodandotherloves.co.uk

    April 3, 2017 at 4:07 pm
    • Reply clairelouiisexo

      Definitely, I’m so glad I took time out for myself – it’s really helped me get back on track! Thanks so much for reading lovely xo

      April 4, 2017 at 9:59 am
  • Reply lois

    I am so sorry to read that you have felt the way that you have done but it must have been great to talk to people about it and for them to be really supportive. It is important to take time out for yourself and I hope that it makes you feel better!
    Lois x
    http://www.lifeasloismay.wordpress.com

    April 3, 2017 at 4:24 pm
    • Reply clairelouiisexo

      Thank you! I’m so glad everyone was so supportive and it really feels like I’ve done what was best xo

      April 4, 2017 at 9:59 am
  • Reply abbeylouisarose

    I’m so glad that you made the right decision for you, m’lovely! It sounds like you were going through a really tough time and that leaving was the best thing you could have done! It’s wonderful to hear that you had such great support from your boyfriend, family, and uni staff!

    Abbey 💋 http://www.abbeylouisarose.co.uk

    April 3, 2017 at 4:25 pm
    • Reply clairelouiisexo

      Thanks so much for reading! It was definitely tough, but I’m glad I had such positive people around me xo

      April 4, 2017 at 10:02 am
  • Reply Sophie

    That’s wonderful that everyone was so supportive and that you were really happy with your decision in the end ~ you’re not a failure for needing a break, sometimes things just get too tough and we need to recharge and return to things with a fresh mind 🙂

    I hope you make it back to uni in September and achieve what you wish academically. If not whatever you choose just keep moving forward and working hard and you’ll never fail <3

    sophieannetaylor.com

    April 3, 2017 at 4:43 pm
    • Reply clairelouiisexo

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment, I’m hoping things will look up now regardless of what happens in future xo

      April 4, 2017 at 10:03 am
  • Reply Jessica | growchangeaccept

    Thank you for sharing this post! So glad you did what’s best for you and that you got the support you needed!

    Jessica | growchangeaccept.co.uk

    April 3, 2017 at 4:55 pm
  • Reply Rachael

    That’s great everyone was so supportive! And I’m glad the time out is really helping! I’m really enjoying this series, it’s so interesting to hear someone else’s experience with anxiety and university
    PaleGirlRambling xo

    April 3, 2017 at 5:01 pm
    • Reply clairelouiisexo

      Thank you! I feel really lucky to have had such great support xo

      April 4, 2017 at 10:04 am
  • Reply Britt K

    I am so glad that you were able to get the support that you needed! Taking a year off is definitely not giving up – its prioritizing what you have to do to me happy, healthy and successful in the long run, its just going to take a year longer to hit the goal of graduation 🙂 The difference now is that you can cross that stage when that time does come with a smile on your face!

    Britt | https://alternativelyspeakingonline.wordpress.com/

    April 3, 2017 at 5:06 pm
    • Reply clairelouiisexo

      Exactly! Thank you so much for reading! I’m hoping to get there with the biggest smile on my face xox

      April 4, 2017 at 10:05 am
  • Reply Jenny

    I’m sorry to read that you felt that way but I think it’s great that you took control and did what was right for you and your mental health. I’m also really glad to see you got the support you need! University will be there for you when you’re ready but your own health is far, far more important. And for anyone that thinks taking a break is quitting or failing need to revaluate their own mind-set. Thank you for leaving the support numbers at the end of this post, too xx

    April 3, 2017 at 5:49 pm
    • Reply clairelouiisexo

      Thank you so much for reading! It definitely is, we all need to make sure we look after ourselves xo

      April 4, 2017 at 10:05 am
  • Reply Rebecca at The Radish Society

    I’m so glad that you were able to ask for help and then receive the support you needed! University is drilled into our minds but sometimes a break is exactly what is needed.

    April 3, 2017 at 5:50 pm
    • Reply clairelouiisexo

      It really is! It can feel so lonely thinking you’re the only one who isn’t enjoying it but it seems way more common than you think! Thanks for reading xo

      April 4, 2017 at 10:06 am
  • Reply Corinne & Kirsty

    I am really glad you’re better now and getting back on track. Uni is not for everybody or some people need more time before starting. One year later you’ll be more able to manage everything and will probably do great in September. Best of luck! xx Corinne

    April 3, 2017 at 6:05 pm
    • Reply clairelouiisexo

      Thank you so much! I’m hoping to go back 100 times better than before and smash my last year! xo

      April 4, 2017 at 10:07 am
  • Reply Emily

    I did exactly the same thing – it was the best thing I ever did! I’m back doing my final year now and I’m so glad I dropped out last year, it was too stressful and my mental health was awful. Now I’m better than ever and no longer had the silly worries about friends and being alone like I did last year.

    Well done gal, you won’t regret it, prepare to come back stronger!

    All the best,
    Emily

    April 3, 2017 at 7:59 pm
    • Reply clairelouiisexo

      Thank you so much for your comment! I’ve never known of anyone else to take a year out because of mental health, but it’s so relieving that it really did help you. I’m hoping to go back and be stronger than ever! xo

      April 4, 2017 at 10:07 am
  • Reply Claire Ray

    It’s good that you got the support. It’s also great that you realised what you needed to do for yourself x

    April 3, 2017 at 8:21 pm
    • Reply clairelouiisexo

      Thank you! We definitely all need to remember to put ourselves first xo

      April 4, 2017 at 10:08 am
  • Reply Bethany

    I took a year out after only my 1st year. Stress and health issues just bombarded me and i was ripping my hair out. In the end i wrote a really emotional email to my tutor and she fully supported my decision. It was THE best decision for me.

    April 3, 2017 at 10:33 pm
    • Reply clairelouiisexo

      I’m so glad you did what was best for you! It’s so helpful to know that it really improved other people’s situations, thank you for sharing! xo

      April 4, 2017 at 10:09 am
  • Reply melissa major

    Its great you got support, you know what the best decision is for you
    melissa major recently posted…Lush Lovestruck Bubble Bar | ReviewMy Profile

    April 4, 2017 at 7:12 am
  • Reply Anna nuttall

    I had this girl on my uni course who complained how miserable she was. It drove me mad! i kept telling her to see someone about it – but she never listen to me. She ended up staying on (for 3 years) but spent the whole time being a pain in the neck.
    Moral Of the story, don’t be this girl. So good on you for taking a break. xx
    Anna nuttall recently posted…My Rose Gold Fashion LookMy Profile

    April 4, 2017 at 10:33 am
    • Reply clairelouiisexo

      Thanks for reading! Oh no! I feel like more support and awareness needs to be put in place in universities xo

      April 4, 2017 at 10:54 am
  • Reply This Time Next Year | clairelouiisexo

    […] to head back to university in September this year after taking a year out (which you can read about here) and so this time next year I’ll have had my dissertation all handed in, about to start my […]

    April 5, 2017 at 1:01 pm
  • Reply Victoria Anne

    University is right for some and not for others and luckily universities are so understandable when it comes to people like you. It is always reassuring to know they want what is best for you and the support is there from those who care about you xx hope you are feeling great at this point in the year and you bounce back stronger than ever when you go back in September!

    I credit you for posting about this, lovely reading x

    July 3, 2017 at 3:57 pm
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