Tamsin talks us through the often complicated relationship between clubbing and anxiety, and typically unrealistic expectations of a 'good night'.
- Tamsin McLeod
Fresher’s t-shirt packaged in tissue paper and overpriced yet apparently necessary textbooks in hand: I am identical to thousands of other ‘fresh meat’ on this foreign university campus. A campus I barely remember from the open day and now call home.
As a fresher, it’s deemed undeniably important to go into the negative numbers of your student loan to buy five jaeger bombs, followed by the sugar coma that are VKs for a new bolt record on a Wednesday night. Clubbing is necessary whilst deadlines are not, at least according to the guidelines of how to have the best first year at university. For many people, first year doesn’t count so obviously, us ‘freshers’ must be partying like there’s no tomorrow. Cheesy tunes, drunk texting and a non-existent sleeping pattern all in the name of a good night out. Napping and coffee replacing home-cooked meals and curfew in tribute to going out minimally twice a week.
This was the most anticipated aspect of being a first-year student and all I heard about in the time leading up to starting university. It was daunting and exciting at the same time. It created unrealistically high and idealised expectations of Freshers’ Week as I ran a hundred different scenarios in my head. My social anxiety was having a field day due to all these unknown possibilities of an alcohol fuelled first week of university continuing throughout the year. Except, that’s not now first year truly has to remain.
It is a lie to state that clubbing is a fresher obligation. Not every night has to be lived like it’s your last and you’re at one of Gatsby’s decadent parties, griming to some obscured remix. For many struggling with anxiety, the idea of clubbing is more daunting than exciting. This feeling of obligation to enjoy such occasions as a fresher only amplifies the anxiety as explaining why you’re turning down yet another night out seems too complex to explain.
For me the idea of not being completely in control due to consuming alcohol terrified me. What if I lost my housemates? What if I lost my phone or ID? What if I fell over onto the sticky floor? What if I looked stupid dancing? What if I am being too clingy? I mean I did attach myself to my housemate’s arm every night we went out. What if people expected me to drink more and drink every drink in the fastest possible time? Every thought about a night out started with ‘what if’ and ended negatively. This alongside the claustrophobic and rowdy queues did not fill my five-foot-nothing self with excitement, like it somehow did with everyone else on a night out.
Nights in are perfectly acceptable, but to be honest we all secretly miss going to bed at 11pm instead of missing half the day to get more than five hours sleep and avoid a hangover. Some of my best nights at university so far have been popcorn and pyjama orientated with my new housemates and friends.
If you prefer to stay in and anyone tells you, you’re ‘boring’ or ‘uncool’, don’t listen to them. It’s okay to stay in sometimes and it’s okay if social anxiety becomes too much some nights. And when these nights do happen, curl up with your favourite movie and a hot chocolate. Do not deny your feelings, or put them down. They are valid and so are you. Night in or nights out can both be good.
However, if your anxiety is at a place where it can be managed (which is a possibility for everyone, even if you don’t believe it now) I have also discovered the joys of clubbing on anxiety free days. The joys coming from putting some glittery eye shadow on and a cute outfit, dancing and singing at the top of your lungs. Going a little crazy with friends on the dance floor can lead to some of the best photos of uni – but so can the nights in were you all cook dinner together and chat about home.