Why I Dropped Out of University

By Milly Hailstone


It's Anxiety Week here on the BN1 Blog. For the duration, I'll be posting articles related to my own experiences as well as offering up advice on how you can improve your situation. It's important to talk about mental health, as I truly believe a problem shared is a problem halved. Please don't suffer alone.

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The first instalment of anxiety week is a recount some of what I went through while attending university. During this time, I had no control over my own head, no idea what was going on, or that things would get much better.



Quitting Doesn't Always Mean Failure


After finishing my A-Levels I was filled with so much hope. I couldn't wait to start my new student life, but unfortunately, it just wasn't everything it was cracked up to be. Looking back, I had a really rough time - my mental health was at an all-time low and I had no idea what was wrong or how to fix it. A few years back, I don't think I'd ever heard the term 'anxiety'.

A number of factors led to my sadness. I suppose for the first year I was just coasting along but during the second year, I became completely withdrawn. My course wasn't exactly inspiring, on the first day of each term the head of our course would give this massive lecture on how hard it is to make it in the fashion world, and that you need to be 1 in a million to be successful.


After this repeated lecture, I began to wonder why everyone seems to hold universities and degrees in such high esteem. I thought, "Why would a place of education continually try to crush my dreams?"  I was made to feel like I would never be good enough. We should be lifting each other up and inspiring one another, not making life harder than it needs to be. I was so confused.

I learnt a huge lesson when I left university:  quitting doesn't always mean failure . It's perfectly fine to stop doing something if it's having a negative impact on your mental health. #anxiety


A Sorry Chain of Events


Then, some other things in my personal life started to affect my poorly mind. My mum was in the hospital awaiting major heart surgery, my grandad died, and then my boyfriend at the time broke up with me. At the same time as this was all going on, I decided to, against the odds, start my own fashion line. The pressure was building, and I got the point where I couldn't walk up the stairs without struggling to breathe. 


My heart was just so tight. I immediately thought I might have a similar problem to my mum, so I went to the doctors for a heart scan. Luckily, there was nothing wrong with my heart. But, after this diagnosis, I couldn't get another consultation as I didn't have a physical illness. The doctor said I was fine, so I must be fine, right?


Soon the nightmares started to happen. I would wake up screaming, thinking that my mum was dead - that she'd died during the surgery. She's now 100% recovered and perfectly healthy, but my brain couldn't handle it. I was drowning in emotion and felt like I had nobody to turn to.

The whole time I was at university, I wore a mask. I acted super confident and tough so that nobody would realise that there was anything wrong with me. I hid it so well, that I even hid it from myself for a time. Student nights with £1 drinks allowed to me to drown my sorrows.


I stopped attending classes and lectures. I would just work-from-home during the day, then drive to uni to sew after 5 pm when there would be far fewer people around. However, I just thought everyone was constantly judging me and staring at me, so I would promptly leave the studio after 1 or 2 hours at most, to sit and cry in my car. I didn't want to live inside my head anymore.


Fast forward to summer break after the second year. I'm back at home with my parents for a few months, it seems like my stress and anxiety has melted away. Until, I realise it's just two weeks until I'm due to go back to University, the knot in my stomach is so tight and I can barely breathe. I had a bit of a mental breakdown in front of my mum and begged her not to send me back.

I rapidly quit uni, stopped paying rent on my uni house and decided that Brighton was the place I need to go to start a new life. However, that didn't exactly work out, and you can read about it here.


I was always running from something, I just didn't realise that it was myself. Now, I'm a little older and wiser, and instead of moving from place to place - running, I realised that no town or city can change how I feel, instead, I must do some inner work.