a student is isolated and nervous in a crowd of other students

Preparing for My First Day of University

COVID-19 hit the world in 2020. The whole of Scotland went into lockdown. All schools shut down. The two-week lockdown ended up lasting for months. That meant my last year of high school was cut short, and there was no prom or graduation. No final exams either. All of us were stuck at home, waiting on updates from the government. Lockdown kept getting extended and extended until it became our norm.

A glimpse of life before my NMO diagnosis

My health problems also began at the end of 2020. In November 2020, I caught long Covid, and a lot of symptoms stuck around even after testing negative. Hair loss, fatigue, appetite changes, and mental health issues. Everything slowly built up, and it felt like I was constantly unwell.

Throughout 2021, I had weird symptoms like dizziness, headaches, and blackouts, but I didn't think anything of it. The doctors kept saying it must be due to stress, and they couldn’t do anything about it. So I just dealt with it, thinking it was normal and there was no way out.

The impact on my social life

I was a social and easily approachable person, and it wasn’t hard for me to make new friends or start conversations with people I had just met. But that was when I was seventeen. That was when I was in school five days a week, had a friend group, and went out every other day.

I’m twenty years old now, and I hardly go out. I spent the past year recovering from the damage NMOSD caused me and practically spent most of my time alone.

After high school, my college course was all done online through video conferences and online submissions. During the two years I spent studying that course, I was sitting at home and interacting with almost no one, including my close friends.

I didn’t go out much, either. With many shops being closed and social distancing implemented in my home town, we couldn’t do much.

Isolating myself

I became a homebody. I was always in my room or the living room watching TV, and when people tried to meet up with me, I’d make excuses. I just liked the comfort of my own home and, most importantly, being alone. If I did decide to go out, I’d come home completely drained and upset for no apparent reason. I had personal things going on, which made my mental health much worse than ever before.

I would avoid my family and sleep all day, so I didn't have to be alone with my thoughts or around people pretending to be okay. I wouldn't be able to go through a day without having extreme anxiety and crying. At some points, I wouldn't be able to eat because the constant anxiousness would make me feel sick.

My coping mechanisms

But then, there were times when I only got comfort from food, so I would turn to binge eating. Nothing about my life was healthy. I was either losing weight rapidly due to health issues or gaining weight rapidly due to comfort eating. There was no in-between, and it caused me to have body image issues and many insecurities.

Nothing will get in the way of my education!

After my attack and gaining weight because of the steroids, the symptoms of my NMO, the deterioration of my mental health, and being used to staying home all the time, I was so worried about what life in University would be like.

This would be the first time in over two years that I would have something on almost every day, every week, continuously I couldn’t avoid it because I knew I wanted to do this course. I would be forced to interact with people, and I couldn't make any excuses to avoid going in. I needed this degree, and I wasn't going to let my anxiety get the best of me.

But how would I reintroduce myself to the world, being completely different from who I was in 2020? What would people think of me?

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