November 4, 2014

For me going to university had always been something I had wanted to do: ever since year 7 I had aspired to go.Sophie's Blog I wanted to go for the academic side but also the social side and the friendships that you are always told will last a lifetime. But one thing I certainly never expected was to develop a mental health condition at the start of university.

I slowly made the choice to talk to my friends about it - I am so glad I did

I started university with no knowledge of mental health illnesses and didn’t know anyone who had suffered from any form of it. I went through sixth form without a hint of a mental health illness. It was only until a day in my first term of university sat in a lecture hall when it all started. I was sat in a hot, sweaty lecture theatre when suddenly I felt like I needed to escape.

I then went through the toughest time in my life. I was unable to eat, I hardly left my flat and I found it hard to go to lectures or even go on nights out. I slowly made the choice to talk to my friends about it, and looking back now I am so glad I did. My best friends were extremely supportive and even though none of them had suffered themselves, they supported me and the issues I had to deal with, never once doubting me or my ability or our friendship. I wouldn’t have made the leaps I did in those three years without them, and my confidence would never have improved. I guess this blog is a way of me thanking them for that, too.

I now look back on how far I've come

Three years on and my mental health illness affects me in more ways that I ever expected. It affects me in so many different ways; low moods, insomnia, nausea, head rush and sweats. And at my worst it stripped away my ability to function ‘normally’ like all my other friends, classmates and family were doing. It took away my ability to concentrate on my university work. It wasn’t just the mental aspect of my illness but also the physical. I would find myself spending hours in bed not wanting to move, or hiding away from those that loved me the most.

After finding support in my friends I visited to doctors at university to ask for help. It took me many trips to the doctors and them asking me ‘are you just nervous’ or ‘you might just be ill or tired’ for me to finally look externally for help. The doctor merely asked me ignorantly stupid questions which made me question myself even more and then go on to prescribe my anti-depressants without even offering me CBT. I eventually saw counsellors and CBT therapist after weeks of waiting and even though they helped to an extent I decided to find my own help. Then I came across Kim. She may have cost heaven and earth but looking back on how far I have come now, doesn’t make me regret it one bit. I have now struggled with anxiety and panic attacks for three years and even though I used to take medication, I now only see a CBT Therapist every two weeks which is a more suitable prevention for me.

I have learnt massively that I need to open up more and be more honest

How I judge my own mental health is different to how others judge me. I am critical about myself which probably doesn’t help me at all. I manage to show compassion to my friends and family. I manage to find compassion for anyone suffering with an illness but I am often unable to show this same compassion to myself. I am always trying to be ‘normal’ and not let my illness stop me from doing what everyone else is doing. I struggle to praise myself and always feel I can do better.

Many people are still unaware of my problems but that’s fine and right now I am happy. I still deal with panic attacks and I still have to worry about taking that step on to the Tube every day but it gets better: and the more you conquer your fears the easier it becomes. I feel anxiety is like a phobia, the more you conquer those fears through CBT and battle against those problems, the easier it becomes. I have spent three years being ashamed of my mental health illness and it has only been in the last six months where I have begun talking about it and telling people about my mental health illness. I have learnt massively that I need to open up more and be more honest, and to of course ask for help when I need it. I need to persuade myself first though, before anyone else can be told.

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