Monday 17 September 2012

Efferty efferty efferty eff...

Within hours of dropping him off at uni I got the first message saying he didn't fit in with the other guys in his apartment and felt lonely... Then this lunchtime I got another message from him. I can always tell when something's up because his first message is always something like "Hi", and that's all.

He feels he's not ready to start university, feels on a different planet from everyone else, feels out of his depth socially having been isolated for so long while everyone else grew up. He feels as if he's years behind and way, way out of his depth. His natural instinct, because of the anorexia, is to isolate himself rather than putting on a brave face and going out there...

I spoke to him on the phone and he was in floods of tears saying he hated "everything". His room feels like a prison cell and he didn't enjoy the beach party at the accommodation bar last night.

So I got on the phone and spoke to someone in charge of the accommodation complex, explained the situation (i.e. about the anorexia, depression, etc) and then someone else called me back to find out more - except they couldn't say a great deal as, until 18 year old Ben gives his permission (which he will do), the Data Protection Act prevents them from communicating with me.

Having said this, I did have a good chat with them...

The upshot is that they're sending someone round to see him in his room, hopefully around now - someone skilled in counselling / mentoring. We need to see if it's salvageable i.e. if he will stay - or go.

The problem is that we will need to decide within the next four weeks to avoid any financial implications. But if he does decide to withdraw, he can pick up where he left off in 12 months' time.

It's early days, of course, and things may improve.

But they may not. Whatever he decides I am sure we can make the best of a bad situation. After all, I am used to Plan A, B, C, Ds... I am the Arch Problem-solver!

If possible, we need to avoid a knee-jerk reaction - the instinct to flee back to the safety of home.

But it may happen.

Or it may not.

I expect he's not the only one to be feeling pretty cr*p once it all sinks in that they've left home and they're in this little apartment room on their own...

Watch this space, I guess...

Efferty efferty eff.


  1. Hang in there. I can relate to the situation Ben is in and how he is feeling. As you say, you just need to avoid a knee-jerk reaction but if it's not the right thing for him at the moment, it will be disappointing but not the end of the world. You've come so far and done amazingly to get to where you are now, just hang in there :)Kirstie.

  2. Sorry Ben' initial feelings aren't as positive as you both had hope at uni. If it helps at all, I hated halls of residence and found it stifling. The constant noise made me want to leave altogether and I was miserable BUT I made myself join societies I was interested in and made friends with people on my course. I have made amazing friendships with my coursemates and when I got married recently 3 of them were my bridesmaids. The people I met from societies also have proved to be wonderful friends and we had an instant topic of conversation as we had a mutual interest. If I had judged my whole uni life by the people I was put in a flat with in halls I would have quit in the first four weeks but as you say there are heaps of like minded people out there probably in the same position. Encourge him to "widen his net", be brave and be open minded. Oh, and could he give his future bride a call to meet up with a familiar face? ;-)

  3. Without discounting the additional struggles of anorexia and depression, I will say that that all sounds pretty normal for somebody just beginning university. The more he can get himself out there (talk to people, go to events, realise that he's not the only one who's massively homesick...and I know this is easier said than done!), the easier that end of things is likely to be.

    Good luck to you and him both.

  4. without the added complication of a life threatening illness, my niece felt much the same at the beginning of her university career. Her mum tried to hook her up with the counselling service and also suggested that she make friends with the nice looking boy who had moved in at the same time as she did. Two weeks later and the niece stated that the counsellors were hopeless and the nice boy can't have stayed as he had not appeared in the communal kitchen. Six weeks later mum was frantic as counselling service would not communicate with her and neither would her daughter. Seven weeks later and niece announced that she and the boy, who had taken three weeks to come out his room except when he was sure there wasn't anyone else around, were an item and had lots of mutual friends who didn't necessarily do the hyper sociable clubbing scene but enjoyed their sci-fi and reading clubs immensely. No guarantee that this will happen to you but it does, often.

  5. One thing I'd suggest to tell him is that contrary to what the freshers culture says, he doesn't actually have to like the parties, and he doesn't actually have to party every night. My first year of uni was my worst mental health year EVER because I thought for ages that there was something wrong with me when I didn't want to be out 7 nights a week, out late every night, drunk every night, with people all the time... So I forced myself to do those things, hating it the whole time... It took me the best part of a year to work out that actually, I'm just not a seven nights a week party person - and I never will be. And that's OK! It was OK to stay at home on a Saturday if I wanted to, it was OK to only say yes to "early" nights out (i.e. nights where we went out at 7 or 8 o'clock, rather than hitting town at 11pm or midnight - awful!!). I really, really wish that someone had told me the first week that not wanting to do that stuff is perfectly OK, and that I shouldn't force myself through it in the hope that eventually I'd magically start enjoying it - it was never going to happen! I, too, spent many, many nights in floods of tears over this.

    Once I realised that that scene just wasn't me, I joined two clubs I liked the sound of (debating club and film club) and committed in my mind to going each week. They meant spending two weeknights out of the house, not getting home too late, and socialising with my fellow dorks. They would be the kind of people I'd have coffee with on weekends, before going home for an early night in.

    Now, I am 25, have lots of friends and am very social - but I spend most Friday and Saturday nights at home with a book. I spend heaps of time with my friends, but rarely drink and almost never go out late. The people I met at debating club are my best friends to this day. I have finally learned to socialise on my own terms and have never been happier - it was just SUCH a painful lesson to learn.

    Here is what I WISH someone had told me at the time:
    - You do NOT have to go to parties
    - You do NOT have to go out every night
    - You do NOT have to go to any event that sounds freaking awful
    - It's OK if you don't enjoy huge parties
    - It's OK not to like going out every night
    - It's OK to have one drink at the start of the night and then drink Diet Coke the rest of the night
    - It's OK to quietly take yourself off home at 10pm if you've had enough
    - It's OK to not hang out with certain people if you find them kind of gross. Just cos you're in the same year at uni, you don't have to be best friends
    - It's OK not to go to the big event that "everyone" is going to if you don't feel like it
    - It's OK not to enjoy the "uni party culture". You don't have to force yourself to
    - You will be assigned flatmates who are idiots. You don't have to like them or spend time with them. You do have to be polite to them and do your share of the chores
    - You DO have to find something social to do to keep from getting lonely. That might mean joining a club and committing to going every week (I emailed the debating club's president before my first time and told her I was nervous about showing up by myself - she arranged to meet me for coffee beforehand so I could show up with her). It might mean going for an outing with your most-tolerable flatmate, or one of your old high school friends, every weekend. I would sometimes ask a random stranger I was sitting next to in class to get coffee with me afterwards - a couple of lasting friendships developed out of that, and we actually ended up having a "lunch group" after one particular class for anyone who wanted to come (started by me and a girl I was sitting next to one day). You can volunteer once a week if you're too scared to join a club. You have to do something social at least once a week, but you get to choose what it is.

    So sorry for the essay!

    1. That is one awesome essay and I will read it to Ben today. I am so grateful... Batty xx

    2. This is what I learned the hard way at college as well. I finally found a place to fit in and (more importantly) realized that making my square peg self try and fit in the round hole of popular culture was a recipe for disaster. Ben might like the book "Quiet" by Susan Cain about surviving life as an introvert- I found it hugely helpful.

  6. Thank you all so much. Am going to see him today and have A Plan. Will report back later. xxxxxxx