It started quite innocently, with feeling empty inside, all the time. Slowly but surely I started abandoning things I used to enjoy, like socialising, cooking and exercising. Instead of flourishing during classes I was withering a little bit more every day.
To put it bluntly, last year was very difficult and talking about it isn’t a cakewalk. However, not long ago I heard someone talking about how their story changed lives of others. This is what I want to achieve by sharing mine.
I couldn’t fall asleep at night and I felt quite miserable. I had plenty of unanswered emails and dirty dishes in the sink because it felt like it required more energy than I had. I started missing classes as I’d often wake up long after they have started. I felt trapped in my flat but didn’t feel relieved when I went outside. I was often absorbed in thoughts about the meaning of life, and plenty other philosopical-ish topics. I had days when I’d wake up at 3 pm. I had nights when I would toss and turn until 3… 4… 5… 6 am because the sleep wouldn’t come. I had days when getting out of bed was an achievement. I had days which I spent in their entirety under my duvet. I also had days when I went to the uni and pretended that everything was fine. Sometimes I wouldn’t eat because cooking felt like too much of a challenge. You get the drill. I spent hours on my bed crying — I felt helpless.
One day I was sitting on the staircase with my friend, drinking coffee. She knew that I’ve been missing classes and that day was just another of her attempts to cheer me up a bit. After taking a sip from her mug she said ‘Maybe you should try counselling’.
At first I thought that my situation is not big enough to ask people for help. But after a few minutes of the talk I agreed that it’s what I should do. I emailed university counselling service. They quickly got back to me and said the first appointment available they have is in 3 weeks time. I thought that by then, I’d be fine. I didn’t sign up.
I felt better and started attending classes again but in 3 weeks time I was laying in my bed, again, crying because I felt terrible. I’ve decided to email the school mentor and ask for a meeting with him. A few days later I was sitting in his office, telling him the whole story. I cannot stress how grateful I am for going to his office that day. He told me what I can do to try and get better — go see the GP and discuss how I’m feeling, email the head of the degree and let him know about my health situation, sign up for counselling.
From there things started shifting. I will be honest and admit, it wasn’t an exponential improvement, nor it was only going up. At times, it felt like I was taking a thousand steps backward only to take a thousand and one forward. But it paid off in the end. I attended my exams (not without a dose of anxiety, of course) and passed them. Sometimes I was feeling happy. I cleaned my dishes regularly and went on many walks around Dundee.
Mental health issues are more common that we’d like to think. Just because depression, anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorders (and many other mental health issues) don’t cause a rash or broken bones, it doesn’t mean people affected by these issues don’t suffer.
If you or someone close to you might be affected by a mental health illness, please don’t ignore it. The true bravery comes from admitting that you need help and seeking it, not trying to deal with everything alone.
Some of the things that helped me through the darkest of times:
- amazing support from trusted friends, who allowed me to lean on them when I needed to
- book ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig
- poems by Sabrina Benaim, especially ‘Explaining my depression to my mother: A conversation’
- camomile and mint tea with stevia/honey before going to bed
- travelling, walking and yoga