December 8, 2014

Depression. Mental Illness. Three words that cause people to treat you differently, that make you stay quiet and tell yourself this isn’t happening. This isn’t you.

I started to struggle, I got behind

Depression is not like a fever or a cold: it doesn’t just go away. It lingers. I had a fantastic summer this year. I worked abroad, I went backpacking, I saw my friends, I got to drive. I was happy; the happiest I’d been in a long time anyway. My anxiety was near non-existent but it was always there, watching from the sidelines. When term started in October I had a new plan; it needed to be better than my first year at university. I was going to be OK, I was going to beat it. Then work hit, a massive increase compared to last year, I started to struggle, I got behind. I went back to old self-harming habits; I was in a bad place. Then I started missing lectures - enough lectures I had to tell my tutor what was going on. I had to go back to counselling, had to build a support network, had to start taking action if I wanted to keep the lifestyle I loved.

Talking to a counsellor is actually really helpful

During my first year I’d found my work load hard to handle; I’d suffered from panic attacks (though that wasn’t anything new) and, finally, I signed up for counselling. To those who haven’t been through it, that doesn’t sound like much but when you spend every day terrified someone is going to notice you’re not ok, it’s a big step. It’s acknowledging that everything isn’t ok and that you can’t do this on your own. Counselling was painful; I find talking about my problems difficult. I’m scared what people will think and that they’ll treat me differently. Last year I told three people about the panic attacks and that wasn’t easy. However, talking to a counsellor - someone that doesn’t know you - is actually really helpful. I think that is why I managed my first year: I passed with a high 2:2 and although my tutor wasn’t thrilled, I was. I could come back.

Most people that care about you want to help

This year, when things started getting tough, I knew I had to build myself a bigger net. This started with telling my tutor what was going on. He’s a nice man but I’m scared of people knowing. Luckily, he tried to understand. His response “take as much time as you need” showed he hadn’t dealt with students like me before. Anyone that knows about depression, knows that my condition varies daily and time off doesn’t necessarily help. On the other hand, I’ve now got extra help.

The next part of my net was friends. The three from last year had grown a little distant over the summer. The first people I confided in were close friends though I didn’t manage to tell them in person. Writing it down is ok, but saying it tears me up. I also have to admit that both times I wasn’t sober. Both friends have helped and, due to their positive reactions, I’ve had more confidence and have managed to confide in more people. Most people that care about you want to help. I mean, I’ve had days where I’ve curled up on my sofa and cried because I don’t know what to do or who to talk to. However, when you explain your day, most friends’ reactions will be to support you in any way they can.

Thank you to the people that have been there

I may have a support net now; friends, an understanding tutor, a great GP and a fantastic counsellor but it’s still tough. This week I managed three days and that’s an improvement on the last few weeks. Talking about my depression is the best decision I could have made and despite the feeling that I’m still a mess, I’m still here and without my support net, I might have taken my own life, and I definitely would not be at university. Thank you to the people that have been there.

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