1 June 2017

Depression and University

It was mental awareness month in May and I've just completed University. So, I couldn't think of anything more fitting to write about.
Now University is great. Its quite an experience, it's a lot about time management, being on it with your work and it's also a lot about the sesh. It also meant I had to deal with the tide. The unpredictable storm in my head.
This is just my experience of how I dealt with depression in the last 3 years.

Coming to University for me meant freedom. It meant being able to grow up by myself with micromanagement from adults. It also meant for me to come to terms living by myself, meeting new people and being some where new, while trying to deal with depression.
I went to sixth form, which meant I was with people who I'd grown up with. Everyone had their perception of me already. Coming to university, I could be more me and open up.
I'm affected by SAD, which means seasonal affective disorder. It is where the seasons affect your mental health. So I'm quite bad in the winter months and then only get bouts of sadness throughout the year.

With my depression, its complex. A psychologist reckoning that I may have developed depression at a very young age, due to me "growing up too fast" and "absorbing the stress of others". With my heritage going back to South Asia we are always in bright and sunny weather, the winter weather in Europe is not the best, with shortened days and no sun for months, it doesn't only affect people with SAD, but it effects everyone in general.
So, obviously you start University in September, just has we set foot into autumn. I met my friends, I partied hard in the first week of uni, I was on a high. I was loving it. Then by November, I plummeted. I didn't have a job in first year, so I stayed in most nights. I began caving. I wrote a blog post about Living Alone which helped me open up to my uni friends about having depression. I hadn't told them till then, because, well, it's not something you just tell someone. "Oh btw, I get really sad sometimes and I don't know why exactly. Brain chemicals"

First year of uni was struggle for me with my depression. I had developed sleeping disorders, I became lethargic and sometimes few days passed before I'd even go into uni or talk to my friends. There was a time where my friends had managed to get into my flat and were stood outside my room knocking on the door, trying to figure out where I was.
"She's not answering, maybe shes at uni? she's not answering her phone or her messages". While they shuffled around, outside my room; I laid in bed, staring at my wall, with my hair in a tangled bun, wearing the same jumper I'd been wearing for 4 days wondering when I'd stop feeling shit and have a shower. I had my dark days. With my dark thoughts.

Its very easy to crave the sesh when at uni. Addiction is a real problem. Either that be drinks, drugs or sex. It isn't all rock and roll. When you experience it first hand, you understand the addiction and the spiralling sensation. Being a uni student, its the norm to drink all the time, go out and blow your cash on crazy night outs. This is the biggest mistake. People get sucked into that. They find their happiness by guzzling or snorting substances. That small high, that cloud 9 feeling for the night is what gets people hooked. The day after? The biggest comedown and hangover. Leaves you feeling sorry, sad and gross. The only thing to make you feel better? More booze and talcum powder. Its a vicious cycle that I've seen students get into. I have nothing against it at all, but its a big mistake to become dependant on it, to make yourself feel normal; feel happy.

Pets. They come in all shapes and sizes. Any university student can tell you about how much their pet makes them happy. Enter my cat.
Diego makes me happy. Looking after him and having him around pawing at my face in the mornings made me happy. My cat means a lot to me. I got him during a really low time in my life. During the Christmas period in second year, when I sat in my room crying, he would plod over and put his paw on my thigh and look up at me. I began looking forward to going home and playing with the mini poop machine. Its just an animal; that animal made me happy.

I didn't realise that they had counselling sessions at uni until second year, That was only mentioned in case we felt 'overwhelmed' or 'stressed' with our work. Now, I'm not the type of person who can talk about my feelings. I'm better when I can type or write it out. I begin to stutter or forget what I'm trying to say and instead just cry when I want to talk about my feelings. So those sessions were never attended. I was on and off anti-depressants and my emotions were all over the place. In my down days my friends would come into my room and drag me out. They wouldn't want to talk about my feelings, because they knew I hated it. Instead they cuddled me, gave me endless cups of green tea and fed me carbs. Getting a job second year helped too. it occupied my mind.
Then I had a dyslexia screening. Just has second year was ending I found out I had dyslexia, but somehow had managed to get through school life and sixth form without any teacher picking up on it. For some reason this slightly lifted a weight off me. I just thought I was an idiot for so long, I began to drive myself down.

One of the things that has been pointed out in every university across the UK is that there needs to be more support for students with mental health problems. Students are asking for it. University is becoming more stressful has the years go on. Students are thinking more about whether they should even come to uni or not. The only support I received from uni was to go and talk to the counsellor, who sometimes were over booked during assignment and exams season. That being said, people at university are open minded and the tutors have seen everything. I basically got through third year with the support of my tutors and now during the exam season with the help of my friends and boyfriend dragging me through. Many people at university have an epiphany and know what they want to go and do after. Either study more or find a grad job. Or some people have no idea. Like me. what do I do? But, it'll all work out.

Universities definitely need more mental health awareness and counsellors. 1 in 4 people in the UK suffer from depression. Sometimes it's hard to ask for help, however it is so very important. Even a chat, to reach out to someone and for them to reach out to you is enough.

University is an experience, but you're not going through it alone.


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