This weekend I went to Oxford to meet up with some old uni friends. We went for afternoon tea at Malmaison and basically had a massive chinwag – I haven't seen any of them since Jess' wedding in September. And. It. Was. Amazing.
The afternoon tea at Malmaison - amazing!
I haven't been to Oxford for about two years, since the Engineer took me there on a weekend away when he proposed to me. It was so nice to go back to my old university town and wander around the streets again. It brought back so many memories – while I was sitting on the bus into town, I had a huge smile plastered across my face as we passed places I used to visit; the Waitrose where I'd go on a Saturday morning for my lunch and a paper, restaurants I went to with the Engineer on our date nights, the old house where I used to live with six musicians (that was a fun year...). I got into town slightly early so I went for a wander around the shops and it just felt wonderful to walk the streets that I'd been up and down a hundred times before.
But Oxford hasn't always held the best memories for me. The first year of uni was the best year of life (so far) – having that freedom and independence of living on my own for the first time, meeting the Engineer, making new friends...it was great. But then, at the very start of second year, I was hit with severe anxiety and panic attacks for the first time. It was awful and it cast a shadow over the rest of my time at uni – I no longer wanted to go out and socialise, I was too terrified to even get the bus into town; all I wanted to do was stay in bed and cry. I just wanted to be alone. My whole world turned upside down – suddenly, I didn't know who I was or even what was happening to me. This was at the time when mental health wasn't as widely spoken about so I didn't know that, actually, what I was experiencing was normal. I genuinely thought I was going mad.
After that, I hated Oxford. I couldn't wait to leave. I had so many bad memories that took the place of the good – the Chinese restaurant that I went to with the Engineer where I experienced my first panic attack, the places I forced myself to go on nights out with a few close friends when all I wanted to do was stay in bed and cry, the house where I would lock myself in my bedroom and refuse point blank to socialise because I just couldn't face anyone – I felt like my life was falling apart and I didn't have the faintest idea how to put it back together. And in a way, I guess I thought that if I fled Oxford and lived somewhere else, that I would somehow leave all the bad stuff behind with it. But I didn't - I had to learn to accept that my anxiety and my depression would follow me wherever I went - it's a part of me, not my surroundings. And over the past few years, I've begun to realise that my anxiety does not define me, or make me a terrible person; it is part of who I am and I have to accept that if I ever want to move on with my life, my anxiety will probably always be there in some form too. It's not Oxford's fault I became a nervous wreck; it was just the place I happened to be in at the time.
The good thing is though, that despite all this, I can now return to Oxford with a smile on my face instead of fighting the urge to run away and hide. Yes, I can acknowledge that all those bad things happened, but I now realise that the good times (and there were hundreds of those) more than make up for the bad. Now, I can't wait to visit Oxford again, whether it's with the Engineer for our anniversary, or simply making time for old friends (which are the best kind).
This weekend wasn't just about meeting my friends - it was also about me meeting my demons face to face, and walk away smiling.
Love these ladies xx
Have you ever had to deal with anxiety or depression? Have you ever subconsciously linked it to a place, like me? How was your weekend?