A lot can happen in a year. This time last year I had avoided Fresher’s Week, avoided making friends, spent all my time in bed and had about ten friends. If that. This year I avoided Fresher’s Week (just not my scene) but on the flip side have: started CU, went to my first ‘house party’ tonight, actually go and see people, went on a weekend away with people I didn’t know and a lot of other stuff that I’ll talk about in this blog. It might seem small and trivial to you but if you know me at all, you’ll know that stuff like this terrifies the living daylights out of me. Big groups of people, small spaces, strange environments…they all kick-start an anxiety attack. But I’m getting better which is great news.
Where shall I begin? Well, let’s start with CU. I avoided CU like the plague last year; I had heard rumours about it not being great with a tonne of problems and didn’t want to get into that. Plus, a big group of people I didn’t know? Nuh uh, no way. I went once last year and that was only because I had been evacuated from my halls because of the storms that hit Aberystwyth. I simply felt uncomfortable and unwelcome and didn’t want to be there. So I didn’t go again. I had a few ‘friends’, well not really, who tried to get me to go but I point-blank refused. This year however, it is a whole different story. I turned down a Skype call with my youngest sister to go to a CU meeting…yeah. But how did I get from not going to CU to being a full-blown member? The annoying buzzing sound of the guy upstairs: God. Yep, you heard right, He went and prompted me to go to CU and I’m kinda glad I listened to him. Our CU meetings are on a Friday night and on that fateful first Friday when I went to CU, I had spent the whole day in bed. I had had a rubbish day and didn’t want to see anyone. Around half six, I went to get food because I hadn’t eaten all day and as I came back from getting food and sat in the living room: I didn’t take my coat off. Weird. My house mate was doing some work I think and he looked at me and asked ‘any plans for tonight?’ and I replied ‘I have this feeling to go to CU.’
It wasn’t a Louise thought, Louise would never go to CU. Louise avoids CU like the plague. So it was obviously a God prompt. My house mate looked at me like I was insane, I thought I was insane. But I went. And much to my annoyance, I maybe kinda liked it. There was a definite God reason why I was there that night and I’m still trying to figure out what that is…I think I might know but I need to pray about it some more. This was about two months ago. I thought to myself that was it, I don’t need to go to CU again; I can have my Friday nights back. How wrong was I? The next week I went back, with an army in tow this time because God was telling me to go back (plus, I may have made things a little awkward between me and someone – but that’s another story). When I walked in, I was met with more friendly faces than I had the week before which was great…I still felt a little awkward and a little out-of-place but I was getting better. The week after that I went by myself, controversial I know, but I went by myself and didn’t freak out and was met by even more friendly faces. And as the weeks have progressed I have realised why I am at CU (much to my frustration at God) but, I have developed friendships I had before I went to CU, made new friends and made a step towards fighting my anxiety.
Oh, one thing I forgot to mention about CU before I move on. After the main meetings, they all go to the pub for a little socialising and stuff…I don’t do pubs or loud places or busy places but that first week my friend Becca invited me to go and I tried to get out of it but she insisted (she’s quite persuasive) and I managed to go. I started to freak out but I made it through, I sat there fighting panic attack after panic attack but I want to beat this stupid anxiety so I stayed. Over the weeks, I have managed to go back to the pub and about three weeks ago, I managed to order my first drink – seems trivial I know, but this is a major step in my fight against anxiety.
Thinking about it, a lot of the stuff I’ve been doing has involved the CU… let’s talk about the weekend away. So the CU have this weekend away in a lovely place called Bala but a whole weekend with people I don’t really know, in a place I don’t know? Sounded like hell on earth to me. The thing is, I had this annoying feeling that I needed to go on this weekend away; that something was going to happen. Another problem was that my friend was coming to stay. She left Aber in the summer to start work in Newport and I haven’t seen her since August which is a long time!! However, God kept bugging me about going on this weekend away. I was talking to a friend (and house mate who goes to CU) about it and she said that something was going to happen. That God was going to show up and annoy everyone. Annoy is the wrong word but that’s what it feels like sometimes!! I was like, that’s it then. There are other factors thrown in there for why I decided to go but not the point. I told a couple of my friends on my course and that go to CU that I might go on this weekend away and they got quite excited. I don’t know why…
Anyway, I went on this weekend away. And I freaked out on the first night. My friend Phil came and sat next to me in the evening and was like ‘how are you?’ and I said ‘fighting a panic attack as we speak’ and he asked ‘who’s winning’. I love Phil to pieces, and when I said that I was currently winning the panic attack he was like ‘we’re going to keep it that way’. Phil’s had to deal with me freak out a few times so he knew exactly what to look for. Luckily, I didn’t have a full on freak out because that would have scared me and a lot of other people – thank the Lord. Being somewhere I don’t know really affects my sleep, like when I moved into my current house; I had new house insomnia for a good couple of months, so that Friday night: I got no sleep. Louise with no sleep is a very interesting mix – I can either be a right cow or an alright person, I don’t think I was a cow…well, no one told me I was!! On that Saturday, I read a Psalm that I had never read before and I’m not sure why. It really rang true and still does now:
You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.
Psalm 32 v 7
This verse just stuck out to me and after I read it I felt more at peace. The next verse also sticks out “I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” This challenges me so much because I can never hear what God is telling me or I refuse to listen; the later one is probably more likely, not gonna lie. And I think what I realised that weekend was that God is always with me, Jesus is always with me and the Holy Spirit lives within me. That even when I am completely out of my depth and thrown in at the deep end, I am not alone. That even when it feels like no one understands and that no cares, God does. He really does, and I learnt that on the CU weekend away. And it didn’t scare me anymore, well, it still does but I’m not as scared – like next year, I’ll be first in line to sign up to go!
I’ve been in Aberystwyth for over a year now, and I have never had a bonfire on the beach. Well, until last week that is!! In Britain, we have this thing called Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night or Guy Fawkes and basically there’s a massive bonfire and fireworks display in almost every town/city/village in the country. I would go into the history but I really can’t be bothered, if you want to know Google it. Bonfires on the beach are a common thing in Aber because you’re allowed and because most students come from non-beach towns they make the most of it. Or they just like stinking of smoke for days! As I said earlier, I spent the entirety of last year hiding in my room so never had a bonfire on the beach. But I was invited to go to one last week and I thought, why not? Be a laugh and I’d see some people and whatnot. I stayed for a good three hours which is insane and had a glowstick halo.
Being on the beach with a bunch of friends, around a bonfire, having fun is something I missed out on last year. There was a glowstick halo army (we looked cool, alright?), we almost got killed by a firework (no lie) and we had quite the warm bonfire. I amazed myself by staying for as long as I did, I amazed a lot of people around me because they knew I struggled with socialising and people…I think I made better friends that night though. By having a laugh (when I typed that I went all northern…I’ve been spending too much time with northerners, where are my southern friends?!) and by hanging out I got to know people a lot better and they got to know me a lot better…I don’t know why I didn’t think of this whole socialising thing before!!
And then we come to tonight, my first ‘house party’. Can it be called a house party? It was a party in a house so I guess it can…a Christian house party. Bet you never thought I would say those words did you? I don’t do well at parties or with people or places I don’t really know. I was down as a maybe on Facebook up until yesterday but then I decided, why not? Let’s go. Might be fun…and it was but about eleven am this morning I didn’t want to go. A) Because I didn’t want to see a particular person (well I did but didn’t. In the end it worked because I hardly saw them) and B) just my anxiety kicking in. In the end, I went, because fight the power Louise, fight the power. No, I went because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. Sure, I spent time hidden away in a corner or in the kitchen. Sure, I spent time avoiding people but thankfully there were people there who understand my anxiety. People who kept asking if I was okay, people who would make conversation with me, people who just made me feel welcome. I wasn’t there for long because I have Bible study on a Wednesday night and it over ran by a long way! I was only there for an hour but that was long enough…if there’s another one, either at their house or another house I might stay for longer. Depends on how I feel.
Am I glad I went? Yes. Did I want to run a mile? Almost. Did I spend the entire time trying to avoid certain people? Maybe… but I did it. I went to a house where I’ve been once, spent time with people who I’m only just getting to know and didn’t freak out. So I think I did quite well. To think that this time last year I avoided every single type of social occasion and now I’m going to a ‘house party’. How things change. I would continue my theme of posting a picture but I didn’t take one…and the one’s from tonight haven’t gone up yet. So sorry not sorry, maybe another time.
To think that this time last year I was spending every waking moment in my room other than lectures, Bible study, kids club and church. To think this time last year I had about ten friends who I saw rarely. To think this time last year I was such a shy, timid, cowardly human being. (Okay, something’s don’t change but I’m doing better!) To think this time last year I thought I was going to drop out of university at Christmas. To think this time last year I didn’t think I would survive the night a lot of times. I think I am doing incredibly well! Socialising still scares me. Pubs scare me, but I’m working on it; there are officially three places I can go to and purchase an alcoholic drink and not freak out. Big groups of people scare me. Weekends away and stuff scare me but I’m getting better; last year I had to be bullied into going on the church Girl’s Weekend Away but this year I won’t have to be. Last year I had to be bullied into going on Student Mission, this year I won’t have to be. There’s this thing called ‘Word Alive’ which I’m thinking of going to – terrifies the living daylights out of me but I think I can do it.
A lot can change in a year. And I hope some of the following pictures can capture that…