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The start of three years at University

I learned just how stupid some people are; how many lack personal insight or people skills and have no idea of personal space, routinely invading mine. I studied my fellow students as they heaved their way through the doors I was entering, snorting with the effort and storming ahead of me to get the seats at the front of lectures. Now I know I was really skinny but  still, trying to get two people through the narrow single doorways at Uni was nigh on impossible and, if they thought I wanted to bring attention to myself by being anywhere within a ten-foot radius of any lecturer, they were sadly mistaken. Those lardy arses who bulldozed past me, kissing their teeth or tutting were welcome to their prime seats.

Having only recently recovered from a lengthy psychotic episode, I still felt really shy, nervous even, and constantly prayed to someone who’d help me stave off the ever-impending anxiety attacks. I’d sit somewhere in the middle of the lecture theatres, trying not to be noticed, and quickly avert my eyes or pretend I was taking notes if I caught a whiff of a question coming my way from the attending lecturer. At times I was so busy monitoring my pulse and breathing that I probably missed half the lectures and questions anyway. This wasn’t too problematic as It seemed most of the lecturers read straight from course books and meant I could catch up and read any handouts during breaks or at home.

However, I hadn’t bargained for the the seminars and classes which normally lasted between one or two hours and where we were expected to work in smaller groups, normally around eighteen to twenty students. We’d be further split up to around 2-4 people, to discuss some topic or other then complete a written task before feeding/presenting our understanding back to the group. Oh, my word! If I’d known that I would have to stand up in front of everyone and speak I would never have applied for the flippin’ course. I knew I’d end up panicking and making an absolute fool of myself,

Nonetheless, after practicing for hours in front of a full length mirror at home, where I’d present my findings calmly and with a flourish, maintaining good eye contact and waving my hands theatrically in time with my speech, I thought I’d cracked it; I could do this. For all that, the first time I stood up to address the class, I dropped the acetates I was relying on to distract my peers as I spoke. Taking in huge gulps of air as I bent down to retrieve said slides, I could feel the heat rising up from my neck and hear my heartbeat pulsating in my ears. I swayed and felt nauseous as I stood up, increasing my anxiety tenfold. ‘Please don’t let me have a panic attack’! Though not sure who I was asking. By now, I could see my heart leaping out beneath my clothes like one of those Disney cartoons and felt sure everyone else could see it.

It appeared as though a lifetime had passed before I was able to gain some composure, when I finally raised my head and saw a few of my well meaning contemporaries, smiling, encouraging me, willing me over the finishing line, so I began. With trembling, sweaty hands, a fake smile and a bloody great boulder in my stomach, I managed to stumble my way through my presentation and answer some easy questions. There was no waving of my hands and no calm, just relief when it was over and I was able to watch my peers presenting. At this point, not sure I should be glad but, I could see that I wasn’t the only anxious student in the room because those following me also muttered, mumbled, lacked eye contact or their presentation wasn’t really relevant.