Set up by Sophie over at One Unique, Huddle and Cuddle is a campaign to help raise awareness of mental health issues buy using the means of social media. Influencers have teamed up to help this campaign and to spread the word, allowing people to never feel alone by sharing their experiences with you. Huddle and Cuddle wants people to get involved by talking to people, whether it be an influencer, family member or a helpline about their thoughts and challenges they may come across. (See the end for links!)
Until getting in contact with the lovely Sophie, i’d started this post and had it sitting in my drafts for the longest time. As a new lifestyle and beauty blogger, I was concerned that talking about mental health would detract from what I intended my blog to be about. However, about a month ago now, I wrote a blog “tips for managing your anxiety” and was actually really surprised by how much love and support that post received. I actually even received a few private messages from people thanking me for talking about my struggles, and sharing their experiences with me. It’s so important to talk about mental health, and that’s why when the lovely Jess (Queen Sapphire UK) suggested that I wrote a piece for the huddle and cuddle campaign, that I decided to stop worrying about what people would think and do it. Mental health is something that affects hundreds and thousands of people every day, and it should be talked about candidly, as though it was just another part of everyday life. Because, it is!
What I’d like to discuss with you guys today is the issue of mental health surrounding graduate life and my experiences with anxiety and depression; as I feel that this is an issue that’s becoming very real, and very common in today’s social climate.
When I was younger I had always been a “gifted and talented” child. If you don’t know what that means, in some UK schools they have special groups or classes to recognise those with the highest academic potential/achievements. This was great, though when it came to high school and trying to fit in with a peer group who weren’t yet old enough to view smart as sexy – it meant mostly that I was viewed as different. Kids don’t always like different. Since I had already been bullied quite heavily in primary school (so much so I was moved schools), I started to resent this, and rebelled. I turned my back on my studies so that the other children wouldn’t tease me for being a nerd. Unfortunately, I was a very tall girl, with glasses, enormous eyebrows and a tiny top lip. Now, I still joke with Mum that sending me to high school without introducing me to tweezers and a razor was basically child abuse.
However, no matter how much I pretended, the damage had already been done. I’ve seen memes about the internet that say something along the lines of:
“Raise your hand if you were a gifted/talented child who grew up to be an anxious adult with fragile self esteem and a perfectionist streak that makes you abandon things if you’re not good at them.”
I think the fact that I’ve seen this shared several times suggests to me that putting this sort of pressure on people so young has a really lasting effect. No matter how much I fought I always would put immense pressure on myself to excel at everything I do. This is both a blessing and a curse, as though it means I am very hard working, it also means I am very reluctant to try and do anything new or fun if there is a chance that I will be bad at it. Throughout my whole life it was a case of “you did good, but you should be doing the best”, “I just think you’re capable of more”. At one point, on receiving a B in Maths (despite this being my worst subject by far, and on top of that having meningitis during my GCSE’s and missing half my school year) my Grandad smiled at me, and said “Why wasn’t it an A?” I knew he was joking, but it was something that stayed with me for longer than it should have. Because of this, I have always been anxious and jittery about school and my academic prowess. Good is never good enough.
When it came to university, I couldn’t wait to escape my small town and the small town mentality that comes with living in rural Norfolk. (It isn’t stereotyped as being full of inbreds for no reason!) I wanted to get OUT.
University was sold to me like it was the only logical path of progression for someone of my caliber. I would make friends, finally find people on my wavelength and be guaranteed a great graduate job when I graduated.
For me, since I hadn’t had a gap year like most of my new friends, I spent my entire first year partying, because I knew the grades didn’t count. The best part about being naturally intelligent is that (admittedly somewhat conceitedly) I knew that I wouldn’t even have to try just to pass. I was out in the clubs 3-5x most weeks, and saw this as my equivalent to a gap year. However, I knew that when I went back the following year I would have to seriously step up my game.
In the end when I graduated I walked away with a 2.1. 2% off a 1st Class Honours. I tried not to think about that 2%, and focused on achieving a great grade despite battling quite severe depression and agoraphobia in my second year. Then, I didn’t go to my graduation over a misunderstanding with my mother- who meant to express concern about my self-esteem, but that I shouldn’t go because I’d put on weight and I’d hate the pictures. I also, subconsciously felt like no one wanted to go because of that 2%. I didn’t get the highest grade, so why would anyone want to watch me go up on stage?
In retrospect, I was worried about going on stage. Deep down, I’m about as introverted as they come, and I did (and still do sometimes) despise my post-depression body. I was worried about all those things, but I secretly wanted someone just to be so proud of me that they would convince me to change my mind. Of course, since they didn’t realise anything was wrong, and they just thought that it was an extension of my introversion, no one did. I didn’t go- and between you and me, I spent my graduation day alone, and cried myself to sleep.
Missing out on graduation I think made it a bit difficult to really feel like a ‘graduate’. It was a few months before I even applied for my first job, because on top of this, in all honesty, i’d never really given myself a chance to get over my mental health and experience life feeling like myself again. (On top of this, I was busy planning my marriage after a whirlwind romance with my husband). However, when I did start applying for jobs, I had one choice word.
On top of all the stress I went though at university etc. graduate life left me feeling useless, stupid, lonely and unmotivated. I had never even felt like I was average before (academically), and now I was feeling lost, confused and betrayed. I wondered what life would have been like had I never gone to university. I wondered if I would have been better off just stacking shelves at 16 rather than spending so long in education when I clearly wasn’t employable. I felt so horrendously alone, and no one really seemed to understand what I was going through. At times I felt as though I genuinely was unworthy of oxygen. As I replied to 27 jobs in a month, I only heard back from one. Out of TWENTY-SEVEN! I was called to an interview, an hours commute away. I was offered a job on the spot, and was asked to come in the next day to shadow someone else. However, though it paid well, the position had been grossly mis-advertised. It was in sales. I had applied for digital marketing. Something I was well versed in already. When I inquired about this, I was told that that was a position I would have to work up to, and that I would be starting off handing out leaflets and making sales. Handing. Out. Leaflets. Had I REALLY just done 3 hard years at university to be told that I’m only good enough to hand out leaflets!? B*llocks. I thought, and politely and professionally told them to shove their leaflets up their arse.
After that, I became very, very low. This is a situation that’s becoming more and more familiar with this generation. The fact is, that so many people have degrees now compared to years ago, that there are just simply no graduate jobs. The ones that do appear, especially in small rural areas like mine, end up going to older people, or people with my whole lifetimes worth of experience. This is because people move to areas like mine for two reasons: to have children, or to retire. “Graduate” jobs are being given to parents and/or more… ‘seasoned’ professionals.
This means that I, and many graduates just like me are essentially left high and dry. I don’t want this post to be too political, but in this economic and political climate, (shout out to George Osbourne for adding further interest onto my already huge student loan) many of us feel alone, broke, and betrayed by an older generation that constantly tries to call us entitled when we are just trying to get by in the world THEY left us.
Now, this post has already been a lot longer than I ever intended, but I wanted to speak candidly about my own experiences. The whole point of this post was to chat to you guys about the methods I have/still use to cope. So, with no further ado, here it is!
5 THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT LIFE POST-UNIVERSITY
1. “Life is not a race. It’s a journey.”
This is one that I still struggle with to this day. As I mentioned, it is a constant internal battle sometimes for me just to be ok with not being “the best” at everything. However, it’s so so important to listen to your heart, your body and your soul and to appreciate that everyone’s journey is different, and everyone’s journey happens at different speeds. It’s OK not to have your sh*t completely together in your early 20’s.
2. Don’t doubt yourself.
No matter how many times you are rejected in your relentless pursuit for a job, please don’t let it knock your self-esteem like I did. The fact is, sometimes maybe it is something beyond our control. If one place turns you down, there might be another one far more suited to you right around the corner. You know the old saying! “When one door closes another opens”. Honestly, you have as long as you need to peak behind all the doors you want!
3. Do something productive with your extra energy
GURL. This one is SO important. I spent so long being miserable about my circumstances that every day I could literally feel my creativity being siphoned away. Then one day someone suggested for about the hundredth time that I should start a blog. So I did. Honestly, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
4. Don’t be afraid to take time off
Though it may be tempting to jump straight into the first job you are offered to feed your bank account, remember that this isn’t likely to be a job that also feeds your soul. For me I was forced between the choice between money and leading a the life I wanted to, and when it came down to it there was no question. Depending just how money orientated you are- you may want to think twice about a job handing out leaflets that would probably mean you were told to f*ck off approximately 100x per day.
5. Surround yourself with great people.
I know I said this in my post about anxiety too, but it’s genuinely so important. When you are going through tough, life-changing periods of your life you want people around you who will love and support you no matter what. You need people around you who want to help you, to build you up and to listen to you when you’ve just been to your 5th crappy interview in a week. Honestly, you need friends who understand and just get you. You’d be better off with no one to talk to than you would with that chick you used to party with in high school. You know the one, the one who feigns interest so that she can run to your other small town friends and talk about the fact you’ve still not got a job. (Never mind the fact she failed out of her degree and lives off her daddy’s money!)
Thank you to Sophie from One Unique for giving me the chance to feature on a campaign as meaningful as #huddleandcuddle. PLEASE head over to www.huddleandcuddle.com and check out more pieces from some great people about their experiences with MH. Also, feel free to follow @huddleandcuddle over on twitter for regular updates.
So there it is you guys! I’m sorry if this post felt super long, but I hope it was honest and detailed enough for some of you to be able to relate to this post! Let me know in the comments if you liked this post, if you have any similar experiences, or even if you found this post too long! You guys know I always love to hear from you!
Love, Francesca! x