College Days

So, only a few days ago I finally finished my final year in college. What is an achievement for anyone, was a particularly big deal to me, as not only did I nearly quit countless times, but I barely even thought I’d be alive at this point.

I do feel that my college experience was especially tumultuous, but maybe I am just being self-centered with that mindset. However, the past few days and weeks I have found myself reflecting on the past four years, and to that I felt that the best way to process each individual year would be to write about it.

Before college even began, I experienced one of the most, if not the most, traumatic thing in my life which was watching dad die. Not something I will get into now, if ever, but it’s not something I wish on anyone to see.

That really had a major impact on me and especially on my mental health, which I am still trying to process, nearly four years later. It was a turning point in my life. And in the midst of that, I was finishing the Leaving Cert, waiting on results and desperately not wanting to go to college in September.

As the weeks flew by, I struggled to leave my house without having some sort of a breakdown or panic attack. It was a very dark point in my life, and I really struggled with coping.

From there, I began college, which was by far as easy task for anyone. But bare in mind, I was having panic attacks on a very regular basis, and held back tears for a lot of that first year. I was also incredibly shy, but in saying all that, I did enjoy making our terrible little productions and learning all these new skills.

To help me get by, I began taking anti-depressants, and was seeing my doctor on a regular enough basis. I went to a therapist, I was seeing a psychiatrist on occassion. All of this was to help me get back on my feet. Which to a point, I did, but if we’re being honest, I am still trying to this day to be 100% okay again.

First year of college, I was vulnerable. I was shy. And I was afraid. Even just to send a message in our groupchat was taxing for me. My heart would race and I’d start overthinking every character of the message.

When I think back to that first year, I see a lot of grey. I was unhappy. But I persevered.

My smiling angel.

Towards the end of the year, I somehow managed to convince my mam that we should get a dog. Both of us needed something to brighten our darkness, and I still thoroughly believe it was our greatest decision.

When Emmers entered our life, she was anxious and afraid too. She had a trauma and had gone through a lot in her past year, much like us. It was and still is an absolute treasure to me to see her develop from being so scared and nervous, to becoming this genuine ray of light who licks away the tears when I cry. Or who cuddles into me to cheer me up. Who just wants someone to look after her, play with her, and show her that there’s not just bad out in the world.

I’ll never forget that day that we naively walked into Dog’s Trust’s rehoming centre in Finglas, and didn’t realise that our lives were about to be changed for the better.

As well as as Emmers, I also managed to meet some people who changed my life around aswell. Namely, Amelia and Andrew. Some of the sweetest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and are still my amazingly close friends of this day. So just a lil thank you to them for being so kind and wonderful!

The second year without Dad turned out to be ever more challenging, as I’ve learnt that the first is when your trying to come to terms with what has happened, and the second is when you realise that they’re actually gone. On top of this, my aunt also died and we were pretty damn close. So that hit me very hard.

I hated every second of college. It was as though I had gone backwards ten steps. I was back to not coping at all. Panic attacks, breakdowns, they had all become so part of the routine that I even found my own little spot in the college to cry and be alone. It was the one place I felt I was able to collect my thoughts and breathe again.

That year was definitely the darkest in my life. I felt thoroughly alone. I was anxious, depressed and suicidal. I still don’t understand how I managed to finish college that year. I was ready to drop out so many times. Thankfully, I had an understanding lecturer who was there for me, listened to me and encouraged me to stay.

Of course, I had good days too. I was lucky enough to travel to Amsterdam with my friend, Grace, as well as Brussels with Mam. Grace is the most enjoyable company, its so easy to feel relaxed around her. And then for me and mam, I think we just really need these little breakaways to enjoy eachothers company without the stress or memories around home. Looking back, I think I just needed some excuse to get away from college.

But in saying all that, I do also think a lot of my ‘happiness’ at the time was more so masking than anything else. While first year was grey, second year was pure blackness.

Unfortunately, I ended up to the point where Pieta House was involved. But, they were nothing short of amazing. My therapist there was outstanding and patient and kind. I still have his words ring through my mind when I find myself struggling again. I will never be able to thank him enough for all that he did for me.

Cliffs of Moher

The summer before third year was pretty wild in all fairness. Some of my family came over from Spain, which is probably when I’m at my most content. We went around Ireland, showing them, Glendalough, the Cliff’s of Moher, Galway, Dublin, and everywhere in between.

This summer there was a crazy heatwave and so thankfully for them we were able to show them how beautiful Ireland can be when it’s not covered in rain.

Inbetween travelling the country with them, I was also working four jobs. The local cinema, a promotions company, an online travel company, and as a ghost writer. All of this was to ensure I had enough money to travel for a month across Europe, through Interrail.

Unfortunately, another death of a close family member occurred, but I was determined to not be set backwards again.

We left to go travelling on the 29th of July, and I returned one month later on the 29th of August. What an experience! By far, this was one of the highlights of the past four years. We started in Paris, then went to Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Karków, Budapest, Split, and afterwards, I flew to Barcelona to spend a week with the family. It was just amazing. Something I will never forget, and that’s for sure.

By the time I was back in Ireland, third year of college had just rolled around. Although I had struggled so much the year prior, after enough deliberating, I decided to take this new year by the horns and move to the college’s town.

This was a pretty major feat seeing as at least when I was struggling the year prior, I was always able to at least go home and see Emmers. This year however, I was jumping straight into this enviroment. It was scary, especially for me to have so much extra time alone with my thoughts. But ultimately, I feel like it was the right decision.

For the first while, I was even living right around the corner from Amelia, which was amazing! She was a great support system to have so closeby, and I still cherish the evenings spent drinking wine and playing with her beautiful dog until all hours.

On set with Neil and our new friend for our third year music video!

In regards to my own course, I really tried to socialise as much as possible. Third year really sealed my friendship with Neil, who is one of the kindest souls. He was, and still is, my closest friend.

As tough going as I found it, I really did try to socialise as best as I could. And looking back, I do think I did a decent enough job at it. No matter how much I was dying on the inside, I always pushed myself to be more outgoing and personable. I think, in a retrospect, I would have to say that I am quite proud of myself, for persevering.

It was also in third year that I managed to truly reconnect with my best friend from our school days, Caoimhe. That was a comforting experience to bring back the familiarity and ease of our relationship along with the inside jokes that stem back to being fourteen years old again in some class that we didn’t care about, just wanting to have a laugh.

Third year was definitely different the the other two years as I really just wanted to finally experience college and not struggle. And to do that I pretty much decided to ignore my problems, which is probably (definitely!) not healthy, but one way or another, it seemed to work. I even stopped taking my anti-depressants towards the end of the year.

[Sidenote: never do what I did and just stop taking them. I ended up with the world spinning and a constant nausea for weeks as I didn’t wean myself off them. And from what I’ve learnt, they were lucky side effects, apparently it can be a lot worse.]

By the end of third year, I finally felt more at peace. For the first time in a long while.

For the summer before forth year, I mainly worked, but also made sure to spend as much time with my friends as possible.

Of course, to keep things on theme, there was yet another death in the family, which, once again, hit me hard. This time it was my close uncle, who not only looked a lot like dad, but also died of a similar illness just the week before his anniversary. And as it was Spain, in the midst of summer, I wasn’t able to get a flight to say goodbye. That hurt.

Thankfully I was surrounded by wonderful friends. Andrew who came over and brought me flowers the day it happened, and just chilled and watched crap with me while I was sad. Then, Amelia, who went to the effort of getting me a plain balloon and marker and bringing out to somewhere quiet, to let me write one last message to my uncle. Bare in mind, it was even her birthday! I was blessed.

I’m not sure if it was his death or what, but very shortly after it was as though a switch was flicked in my brain and I developed chronic insomnia. What made it even weirder, was the fact that up to this point, I was an incredibly sleepy person, who could have literally slept anywhere, anytime.

This had a major impact on my mental health. Absolutely no sleep for days and weeks on end was rough. I was back to crying and not being able to cope. My doctor ended up prescibing me anti-depressants again, but I couldn’t bring myself to take them. I refused to need them.

I felt particularly bad for Amelia who I ended up going away with at the time. Although it was a wonderful holiday, the lack of sleep meant I was short on energy, and was also tossing and turning throughout the nights, more than likely keeping her up, although she would deny it.

Similarly, I went to Spain at the end of August, and definitely kept my poor cousin up every other night.

Even though I had a lovely end to third year, I found myself stressing about the return to final year. I had moved into a new flat, that I liked quite a bit, and decided to give it a go. My motivation was that if I really wasn’t happy, I would just leave college, once and for all.

While those thoughts were floating through my mind, my grandad also wound up quite sick, and it was pretty not good there for a while. He was eventually put into a home, with the anticipation that he would be made comfortable, and that not much else could be done for him.

Grandad & I, around November

BUT my strong lil grandad, made such a recovery! He was put into the home around late September/ early October, and he is still going! He is currently better than ever, being super well looked after in an amazing nursing home.

Now, as far as a year in education goes, it was fairly disasterous. A lecturer that we were supposed to have for two modules was on maternity leave, and her replacement cancelled the first few lectures we were supposed to have, before finally quitting. We never even met her. It was as though this was an omen for what was to come. Every week, we would all hope for a full week, but, ultimately, we were always let down. The first three months ended up having more cancelled classes than actual classes.

By the time we ended up having the lecturer replaced, and finally full weeks of classes, it was just about Christmas.

We broke away for the New Year, with the anticipation of a much improved new semester awaiting us.

As for Christmas break, my friends from school and I decided we were in desperate need of a group holiday, and so we planned a trip to Edinburgh for a few days. This was the loveliest little holiday! Hot chocolate, great food and nearly all of us got a new peircing! (Which, is a blog in itself!).

Now, although this was a wonderful memory, Christmas just gone also meant my best friend moving away, which was heartbreaking.

The group of us organised a surprise meal and drinks for Amelia before she left. But its definitely strange not having her so close by anymore.

When we finally got around to going back to college, it went surprisingly well at first. No cancelled classes, assignments weren’t crazy. All was good.

Until, of course, Covid-19 turned into a pandemic and the world pretty much shut down. But, of course, we all know about that.

As I currently stand, I am surprisingly sad to have finished college, especially in such extraordinary circumstances. I’m also excited to begin this new, hopefully brighter, chapter in my life.

Forth year was most definitely a blink and you miss it kind of experience. It was memorable though. I finally felt as though I was content.

Over the past few years, I have made lasting friendships with spectacular people, however I’ve lost friends some along the way, some are probably for the best, but others I miss dearly.

It’s been quite a journey. I still miss dad and think about him every other day, and I’m still struggling. As I said at the beginning, I shocked I’m even here. But I am. And it’s been remarkable.

Memorable for sure.

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