Homesickness is just for clingy prepubescent kids, right?
Having been dropped off at Uni for the first time by my parents, I was totally unprepared for the sheer wall of emotion that hit me with the realisation that I was in an unfamiliar city, with no friends and no family nearby.
Oh, well, it will pass, I thought.
Two days later I was on the phone sobbing to my Mum that it was all horrible. I couldn’t handle the pressure, no one liked me and I was clearly going to fail my degree.
It will get better, she said.
The next day I had my first panic attack.
But what if it doesn’t get better?
Fast forward a few weeks - I wasn’t sleeping, had stopped eating and was stockpiling sleeping tablets (just in case).
I still can’t understand how I managed to flip from a happy-lets-explore-the-world-and-see-what-I can-make-of-it kind of person into a suicidal one in a matter of a few days. But I know how I started to turn back.
Although she hardly knew me, the girl across the hall knew what I was going through; having been sent to boarding school aged 11 with little knowledge of English she knew a thing or two about feeling alone. And the guy in the next staircase would just let me talk, no judgement. The college nurse got on to me and insisted I see her regularly for a chat. And a family friend who lived in the city came and took me out (making sure I ate something whilst she was at it).
I don’t think any one of these people individually could have stopped me sliding even further into depression, but together they saved my life.
So what do I have to say if you find yourself struck down by homesickness or depression? You MUST tell people. This is hard - being vulnerable to practical strangers - but trust me, acting to change the situation will help!
We were created to be in a community. It takes time to rebuild that once it’s lost; the good news, however, is that we get to make new friends and family, and can even find we have exciting new roles to play.
I hate to admit it, but my Mum was right. It did get better.
[Originally published Nov 2011]