Anxiety Disorder

Fears About Returning To Study

This week is Orientation week for uni. Last week, I found the book list for one of my subjects and was getting ahead with some of the reading. I justified it by saying that I loved philosophy and if I knock the most of the heavy reading out of the way now, I’ll have more time to focus on

  • 1) trickier subjects (psychology)
  • 2) other philosophy reading
  • 3) My online work.

All logical ideas, especially when you are returning to study after a 10-year absence. Then, you realize, that the semester hasn’t even started yet and I’m getting started on an essay. That isn’t due until May.

This can easily be reframed as showing the drive of a dedicated student, keen to make her mark and take full advantage of her second chance. Or it could be seen for what it is: someone who is so scared of screwing up that her anxiety is taking study to the extreme.

To fully understand, I need to go back 10 years.

In 2008, I was expelled for non-attendance. I had failed 2 units that year by not attending classes nor submitting any coursework. This, after doing the same for both semesters the previous years.

I wasn’t well. I didn’t notice it until partway through the first semester of 2007. I went to my first lecture about 5 weeks into the academic year. My grandmother had passed away and there had been a lot going on behind the scenes. Everything felt foreign. I felt invisible. So I stopped attending.

I’ve written in the past about dissociation and delusions. It took years to find the right medication and life just sucked. I wasn’t ‘together’ enough to defer uni and set up proper support. At the time, I didn’t care. I’d dissociate every time I walked to the shops. I was convinced I was going nuts. It got a lot worse before I got better.

I hated how I didn’t get to finish uni, and always regretted how I handled things. I still nightmare about it. And yet, for years, I wanted to return to study. I love the challenge. I love learning and nerding out on the subjects I love.

Now I’m here, I’m convinced I’m going to fuck it up.

Logically, I know that I won’t. Yes, I have limitations, but I also have a brilliant mind. I’m a lot more prepared this time. I’m aware of the support services and intend to make good use of them. My cognitive issues are going to prove challenging but the experience will help me find workarounds that I can use in the future.

It will be a great challenge. It will push me intellectually, expose me to many new ideas and be a positive part of whatever my next steps may be.

I also know that the first year, especially the first semester, is going to be a bitch. I’ll have to deal with the uncertainty and fear, and accompanying insomnia. I’ll probably limit any hobbies out of fear I’ll fall behind. I am already taking an unfair “us vs them” view – the t”hem” being the students who haven’t faced any challenges in their lives.

Already, some of the forums are active with over-enthusiastic students keen to get ahead. I don’t have the energy to keep up. I want to accomplish great work and yet I suspect I’ll struggle to get through each week.


I am writing this in the hope that it will the first part in a series of how I adapted and thrived at uni. To do that, I need to observe and document my initial reactions.  Some of these initial essays may be boring and offer no practical solutions to specific fears. However those fears need to be captured, so I can then explore various coping strategies.