The following was submitted anonymously as it pertains to the writer’s personal experience regarding mental health in the last two years.
“The excitement of dreams coming true is beyond the description of words.” – Lailah Gifty Akita
I left school dying to go to university. Couldn’t wait. So excited that I stopped sleeping in the run up to leaving home. I had dreamed of this, and essentially everything I worked towards in school was a means to an end. The end being university, even though I wasn’t too sure I knew what it was that I wanted to study. I spent my first year at university in a hall of residence, and for the most part, it was a great experience. I met tens of people in just days and people were so often smiling and getting involved with community living. I loved that.
However, once the initial amazement subsided a little, it became very quickly not a question of “WOW! I’m at university! But more a question of “Oh heck… now what?” Classes started and I was surrounded by very big fish and quickly began to feel a little overwhelmed. Fortunately for me, in my main courses I found a group of very motivated people, who really did help me through, and I owe a lot of my confidence regarding grades and exams to them. I came out of year 1 with a more than reasonable GPA and a smile on my face.
“Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always want.” – Daniel Handler
In semester 1 of this year I started feeling very low. I didn’t fully understand why I felt the way I did at the time, it didn’t make much sense to me. Over the last 8 months I have tried and failed to understand why I felt like this. I tried to attribute it to factors such as making the choice to completely change degree at the start of this year. This meant leaving the friends I had made in the cohort of another course and having to start fresh. I struggled more and more with the thought that all those close to me seeming to know exactly what they were doing with not only their degrees and careers, but whole lives. I started viewing myself as less than other people simply because I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, and my passions just didn’t align as much with my career path as theirs did. On top of this I stopped sleeping properly.
“Perhaps I should just bury myself and become a diamond after thousands of years of intense pressure.” – Lemony Snicket
There were good days and bad days. Some days I woke up in the morning delighted to seize the day. Other days, I woke up in the morning not wanting to brush my hair, not wanting to get out of bed, let alone go to uni, having not showered off the previous day. These days were far from being seized, I couldn’t even face them. I would lie in bed at 3PM and wonder what on earth I was doing with my life, drowning in a sea of Netflix in an attempt to make me happier. I kept trying to remind myself of how lucky I was, I have an amazing family and friendship group, an education and the opportunity to further it and I basically had the world at my feet. But for a while I didn’t feel very lucky. I went to see the doctor more than just a handful of times, and I was irritated because there was no quick fix. I became increasingly angry with the world because I didn’t feel like the bubbly person that other people sometimes saw in me.
I’ve been told that depression and anxiety are like the broken limbs of the mental health world because they’re so common. This comment upset me when I thought back to all the casts I had signed my name on in primary school. I was often met with smiling faces and a story about how they were doing something ambitious on a trampoline, fell, cried, and were suddenly greeted by the sympathy of 30 9-year-olds. I couldn’t boast a colourful hunk of Plaster of Paris, and no one was signing my cast. A few friends knew that in the past I had had mental health issues because at times I could be quite transparent about it. However, it got to a point where I stopped feeling comfortable opening to close friends about my own, more recent, mental health issues because I became quickly ashamed of them.
“In the midst of winter, I found there was within me, an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus
In about May of this year, a good friend of mine posed a certain extra-curricular club to me, as a way of de-stressing. I did something very similar when I was in high school and had lost touch with it since coming to university, due to getting caught up in study and work. For a long time, I was extremely hesitant to go along as I always had another excuse lined up in my head; I would be too tired, I had too much uni work to do, I wanted some down time… For the first few weeks it was a case of literally forcing myself to go along despite not really being in the mood but each time I came home from this club, I was so happy. I forgot that uni can be fun, and it fully is what you make of it. I met with people and connected with new friends. This first club was the gateway drug into others, all that bring me so much joy.
I was happier, I was more comfortable talking about the problem I had been having with friends, and they were so understanding and offered so much love. As with any health issue, it takes time to get better and for me it really has been an ongoing process of reminding myself that that life is full of many simple pleasures. Even now I’m not 100% but I’ve found that even when I don’t feel like it, socialising with like-minded people really does make me feel good.
“Que sera sera”
An unfortunate reality is that sometimes life is like a 12×12 Rubik’s Cube that takes more than just 20 minutes to solve. It can be frustrating, sometimes you want to throw the Rubik’s Cube at a hard wall and never come back to it. Even if you love puzzles, it’s annoying, and it takes time to solve.
But this blog was written because when it comes to mental health struggles, you are never alone. It’s beyond okay to accept help from outside sources and from other people. It took me so long to realise that there will always be a listening ear and a hand up from someone. I cannot stress enough that you should never feel ashamed of feeling low or anxious. Many people feel the same way that you do, you’re just not aware of it.