Experiencing and coping with adversity

The blog has been pretty dead lately, and with good reason. I’ve been going through a bit of a rough time which has momentarily turned my life upside down. But rest assured, I’m much better now!

I’ve been working on this blog post since things started going sideways (so about a month), and didn’t want to publish it until I was back on my feet and ready to share. So, this is a rather big post.

– This is your cue to get a cup of tea and a biscuit, and return –

Dealing with academic pressures

I just wanted to go back to a previous blog post I wrote about going through the mid sem blues, and say thank you for the kind comments!

Mid semester is truly a crazy time. You know, trying to work through all your assignments and staying somewhat sane?

It’s becoming very real that I need to start planning for life beyond undergrad, and that scares the living daylights out of me. I’m in my final year and a bit (I’m graduating mid next year), and need to start thinking about the road ahead. Constant chatter from people who are already applying for grad positions and whatnot, freaks me out.

Am I suppose to be applying for things at the moment? What postgrad am I going to do? Do I have to find a supervisor now? Where do I start? WON’T SOMEONE JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO?

And it’s difficult to face big questions like, what am I doing with my life, what am I going to do after undergrad etc.

I haven’t found an answer to those questions yet. And I’m okay with not knowing the answers right now. There are still many people out there who have been out of uni for years, and still don’t know what they want to do. I know that in time, I will figure things out.

With those academic stresses aside, I’ve been going through some other not-so-fun stuff at uni.

Being bullied and harassed at uni

It’s something that I never thought would happen at uni, but it happens, and it happens across every University.

I was just unfortunate to have been caught up in these sticky situations.

Side note – I have no intention on ‘naming and shaming’ the people involved. This blog post is about sending a larger message.

The first incident is straight forward. Inappropriate texts were sent by someone who shouldn’t have been in contact with me, and it complicated a great thing I had going. But this situation was minor and didn’t bother me as much as the other.

Second incident is…complicated. I was volunteering with a Masters student at uni, and I was also seeing a guy from the same department. Long story short, I was unaware that they used to be in a complicated relationship, and things went extremely sideways when she found out I was seeing this guy.

Abusive text messages were received, nasty things were said about me, and…you get the jist right?

Struggling to come to terms with it all.

Why did this happen? Was it my fault? What did I do wrong?

I didn’t understand why I was being called all sorts of nasty names and being threatened by this person.

Losing trust in myself

I asked myself endless questions, which only confused me even more.

Was I over-exaggerating? Was I making a big deal out of nothing? Maybe if these situations happened in isolation, I wouldn’t be this upset over it? Maybe it is my fault. Maybe I’m just a weakling.

I ended up giving in to the fact that I couldn’t trust myself. My judgement was impaired, I couldn’t tell what was ‘right’ or ‘real’ anymore. My mind was tearing itself apart.

Feeling rotten and alone, and coping with anxiety

A lot of crying was had.

If anyone’s met me in real life, you’ll know I’m not the person who gets into arguments, all this name calling business…I’m not that kind of person.

Being introduced into this very messy situation was horrible and confronting.

Attending classes became a huge challenge. My lecture theatre was right next to her office (99% of my lectures are in THAT theatre), and I was terrified of her. Especially when I found out that she has previously hit him. I was scared that I might be on the receiving end if I bumped into her.

I remember sitting in the lecture theatre feeling nauseous, hands trembling, heart going into overdrive, and having to leave so I don’t lose it in the lecture.

So I stopped going to classes.

This whole situation with the Masters student broke my heart a little. I was more disappointed and crushed that I’ve lost a mentor and a role model over something so stupid. And I’ve also lost a great volunteering opportunity.

What makes this slightly more complicated is that – I had my heart set on doing my Masters in the same lab she was working in. And this has thrown that plan out the window.

Even though I was surrounded by so many great people in my life, I’ve never felt so alone. I didn’t know who to talk to, and I didn’t know how to bring it up, didn’t know what to say. It’s not because I didn’t have people to talk to about this, I was scared. And everyone was already super stressed about assignments, I didn’t want to worry them and add on to that stress. I didn’t tell my family too, because I didn’t want to worry them.

I really tried to hold everything together. I smiled through the pain, pretended that everything was okay, and that I can deal with it on my own.

But you can only keep things together for so long before you fall apart.

What to do?

At that point in time, I wanted to withdraw from uni and escape from all this. I was already really behind in all my lectures, I didn’t think I would get my assignments in on time, I couldn’t be on campus without feeling sick. But withdrawing from uni was the easy road out, and running away won’t solve anything.

So, I was tossing up whether I should speak up about what was happening – which was a difficult decision for me.

If I did speak up, I had the potential to damage these peoples lives, the reputation of my department etc. And I’m not particularly keen to do that.

But if I didn’t speak up, and this happens to someone else? More bullying, more harassment to someone else at uni? I couldn’t live with that. I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through what I’ve just experienced.

It didn’t help that said the guy involved didn’t want me to tell anyone about what the Masters student was doing to me. I was mad and hurt by his response. (Yeah, we’re not together anymore).

Speaking up and getting help

I very rarely ask for help. And when I do, it’s a pretty big deal for me to ask for it.

I knew I needed to speak to someone about what was happening to me, and the hardest part was reaching out for help.

Talking to someone you trust

The first person I turned to was my boss at work (I’m unbelievably lucky to have such supportive people at work). I wrote an email asking if we could catch up, and that I really need to speak to someone about something, and it took me 2 whole days to build up the courage to send that email. And when I sent that email, I freaked out, and frantically tried to un-send the email (which is quite funny thinking about it now).

Talking to the student centre

Next came the Science Student Centre – because you know, you go to your student centre if anything goes wrong at uni. I wanted to book an appointment to see an advisor (because my studies were affected by all this), and I saw that the staff member was booking a course advice appointment for me.

So I told him that it wasn’t about course advice, it was about someone that was bullying/harassing me. He told me that these appointment were probably not going to help me, and that I should go to the Safer Community Program (SCP) who are more specialised in this area.

He showed me SCP’s website, read off the screen about what they do. Then scribbled down the location of their office and told me to see them.

Yes it was the right thing for the student centre staff to refer me to SCP. But…I wanted to see an advisor because my academic performance is going downhill, very quickly too, and I was on the verge of withdrawing from uni. (In his defence, I did not explicitly say my academic performance was declining.)

Luckily I have worked with the Safer Community Program before (blog stuff), so I knew the staff members there and felt comfortable to contact them. But if I hadn’t met them beforehand, I wouldn’t have gone to them.

I expected that my student centre would help me, and do more to support me that day. It took a lot for me to walk all the way to the counter and tell a stranger that someone in the faculty was bullying me. And to leave a bit empty handed…yeah, I was a bit devastated. It felt like they didn’t care.

Safer Community Program (SCP)

I cannot thank them enough for everything they’ve done for me. I probably wouldn’t still be at uni without their help.

After the science student centre, I got in touch with SCP. Everything was managed professionally, they took the matter seriously, they helped me make appointments to see an advisor at the student centre, helped me get an earlier appointment to see a psychologist (more on that later).

They played a significant role in helping me get back on my feet, and they are just amazing.

Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

So yes, Safer Community Program helped me get an earlier appointment to see a counsellor – which I was really thankful for because appointments book up far in advance.

When I was going through the mid sem blues, I tried booking an appointment to see a psychologist, but was told the next available appointment was next month. NEXT MONTH. It would’ve been too late. So I was quite discouraged to see a psychologist after that.

SCP explained to me what to expect when I see a psychologist. But I couldn’t help but feel really anxious on my way to my appointment.

It’s a bit ironic – having a anxiety attack on the way to see a psychologist to help with your anxiety.

It was nerve wrecking and somewhat painful sitting the waiting room, next to many other people who looked as grim as I did. We had to fill out a health and wellbeing questionnaire before the appointment. Then I spent the rest of the time awkwardly playing on my phone, waiting for my name to be called out.

Even though the psychologist I spoke to wasn’t right for me, it’s a matter of trying other psychologists, until you finding someone you like.

Getting back on track

Sometimes you just have to go, fuck this – I’m not letting some people make me feel miserable. I’m going to suck it up, move on with my life, and continue to do good things.

And that was how I got back on my feet.

I’m mad that these stupid incidents has thrown my life upside down. It has thrown my academic performance off track, I haven’t been able to be in the right headspace to do great things at work, I’ve missed a lot of events and 21sts because I was feeling awful etc. So I’m turning that anger, into motivation in the lead up to exams.

I’m going to pass all my subjects, wait no…I will pass my subjects AND do well in them. Then sit back and laugh at how silly this semester has been.

I’m also pretty stoked that I managed to submit all my assignment on time, with two H1s under my belt in this madness. So, ha!

They say success is the best revenge.

What now?

Student centre and I are friends again, despite the earlier mishap. We’re working together to see if I’m eligible for special consideration for exams (since I’ve missed about 20 lectures). At the moment, it doesn’t look like I’m eligible for it.

I am quite worried about exams (who isn’t). And I’ve booked an iTute appointment with Academic Skills next week to get some pointers on how to catch up on the gazillion lectures I’ve missed, and how to get back into this study routine.

Things are still a bit uncertain as to what will happen to the people involved. But that problem has been taken out of my hands and staff at Uni are taking care of it.

Well. That was fun.

This has been a massive blog post, and thanks for sticking it out to the end. Hope this answers a lot of the questions why I’ve been so quiet and withdrawn this semester.

It’s been a team effort from the University to get me back on my feet, notably the Safer Community Program and my colleagues at work who got me through it, and I cannot thank them enough for their support.

I really hope no one ever experiences what I’ve been through. The bullying, harassment, inappropriate messages…and I highly encourage anyone who finds themselves in my shoes to speak up and get help.

In particular, the Community Safer Program has been a huge help for me. And they’re very approachable. Here are their details if you ever need it:

Website: http://safercommunity.unimelb.edu.au
Email: safer-community@unimelb.edu.au
Location: 138 Cardigan St
Phone: 9035 8675

I am currently in a really good headspace, perhaps a bit exhausted, but mostly travelling very well!

So yeah, I made it out of all this conundrums in one piece. Woo!

11 thoughts

  1. Oh poor Daph! Breaks my heart! I saw you the other day and I was super excited cos I hadn’t seen you in ages. You were too far away to say hello to, and little did I know what you have been through! I’m so proud of you for getting through this! And I’m 39, and still don’t know what I’m doing with my life! Wishing you the best…

  2. Can I just mention that another great resourse is the UMSU Advocacy Service. They’re with the Student Union, so if you don’t feel comfortable with going to your Student Centre or SCP with your issue, they’re separate from the University itself, and might be a good option. They do all sorts of stuff, from academic issues to bullying and more. And of course it’s free for students. http://umsu.unimelb.edu.au/need-help/advocacy/

    1. They can also help if you’re unhappy with how the University is treating your Special Consideration application, or if you are facing issues with things like Unsatisfactory Progress or problems with your tutors and lecturers. Definitely give them a shot if you’re not happy with how the Uni is handling your issues.

  3. Daph, I’m so sorry to hear what you’ve been through! I just want to give you a big hug :(
    Everything will get better, and I’m so glad you’ve taken on this horrible experience as your motivation. Life is what you make it, and as long as you keep trying, everything will turn out for the better :)
    Good luck with everything!

  4. Wow what a story, it must’ve taken you a lot of courage to type it up and post it. I can’t believe bullying still happens at our age as university students, you would’ve thought people are mature enough to deal with things in a responsible and reasonable manner. I am glad you are alright now, much hugs from a fellow unimelb kid :) x

  5. It is so sad to hear what you have been through but so glad to hear that you have pulled through! No one deserves to be treated like that and it’s true, being successful is the best revenge. I hope the remainder of the semester goes well, you are just so awesome, love your blog, good luck!

  6. #Bitchesbecray
    the most cliché phrase applies here – “everything happens for a reason”!
    It sounds like Man wasn’t ready to be in a new/healthy relationship and if you’d been unaware, you might have gotten involved in more heartache/troubles!
    Dw you’re not alone in missing 432403914082093 billion lectures – plenty in the same shoe, myself included!
    Hope you’re feeling better :) x

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