I overdosed at university: This is my story

Anita battled depression since she was at school

Anita battled with depression since she was at school, and went through a variety of treatments and medications that failed to help. She ended up trying to commit suicide while she was in her first year at the University of Edinburgh. This is her story.

I live and grew up in York and went to a school in the city. I think I’d always been prone to low moods, and I’ve always had very low confidence and self esteem in general – I spent too much time worrying about how others would view and judge me that I never took the time to do things that would make me happy to be me. I’ve tried and so has my doctor to establish a cause but I couldn’t identify a single trigger. 

I’ve always seemed like a bubbly person to my friends, I had lots of wonderful friends at school and I did well academically so I never believed I actually had depression. I felt that I shouldn’t be sad when there was nothing actually wrong. It was more of a psychological state of mind where I was always overthinking all my actions and behaviour.

Anita

Anita

However, when I arrived at the University of Edinburgh in September 2014 I had already been diagnosed with depression since February that year. Some of the symptoms I described to my doctor were a constant low mood, lack of enthusiasm for things I used to love, lack of sleep and general indifference to everything. However, I was diagnosed when I was 17, so they sent me away with self help guides and told me to return if it worsened.

When I did return they sent me away again with more self help books and told me that I couldn’t be given any medication because I was too young. At this point, about six weeks after my first visit, I felt helpless and had lost a lot of faith in doctors.

Once I did get to university I ignored all the signs of my depression and denied I had it, and refused to go back to a doctor even when it got worse. Eventually through lots of persuasion from my old school friends, who knew what was going on, I went in October 2014, and immediately the doctor listened to me and diagnosed me with severe depression and anxiety. I was offered a variety of treatments from medication, to therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and again self help books and programmes.

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In my case I reacted very badly to the medication I was on. Even when my dosage was doubled, I could not cope with the side effects – they included nausea, vomiting, mood swings and lethargy. Around the end of January 2015 after six weeks of being on a double dosage of medication I overdosed. After this my doctor wrote a letter to the university to inform them of my situation because I had been struggling to attend classes, keep up with coursework and I was strongly considering dropping out. I do English Literature and French, and thankfully the department for both were understanding and gave me special circumstances and extensions on multiple occasions.

After my overdose my doctor changed my medication, and once again I had to deal with the side effects. The side effects were similar to before, but this time I had panic attacks and paranoia to deal with too. I struggled with them, so I voluntarily stopped taking them just before the Easter holidays. I purposefully avoided going to the doctors when I ought to have got my repeat prescription. I ignored and rejected the calls from my doctor enquiring about me.  Eventually my depression worsened and it got so bad that I was avoiding almost all human contact, even with my family. I avoided my flatmates, pretended I wasn’t in my room, cancelled plans with friends and ignored messages. 

Unfortunately, shortly before exams were due to begin at the end of April 2015 personal events happened which hit me hard. It caused me to fall deeper into depression. By mid-May and mid exam season I had been to student support seeking special circumstances and they were very understanding, gave me the form and helped me out as much as possible. Unfortunately before the deadline for the special circumstances form, I acted upon suicidal thoughts again.

This was my worst point. I remember thinking I wanted to die and was so consumed by this thought that it was the only thing I thought of all day, even at night I didn’t sleep because I imagined how and when I could try commit suicide. I didn’t sleep for several days, until I overdosed.

A flatmate and an old school friend took me to hospital – they’d done the same when I’d overdosed in January. I don’t remember what happened in January, but I remember everything from the second attempt. I think it’s the memory of it which encouraged me to to get better – when I was in the hospital afterwards, my childhood best friend, also at Edinburgh, visited me. I think seeing her sit by my bedside crying whilst I was attached to a drip was a wake up call for me and really made me want to overcome my depression rather than let it win.

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From that point, I began to be a lot more proactive with combatting my depression and I committed to not letting my depression nor my anxiety catch up with me.

The student support office for my course was so helpful and made me feel at ease about my studies – I really cannot sing their praises enough. Even though I did not manage to hand in my special circumstances form in time, I explained to them what happened and they helped me inform the right people. Thankfully, I just about progressed to second year and now I am a lot better and preparing for my year abroad.

I’m still off medication because my mind was so muddled and cloudy when I was on it, and without it, I can think better and do more. I’m also having less check ups with my doctor. My friends mostly found out about my hospitalisation and depression/anxiety via the blog I started – I’ve had such a positive response from so many people and I still get messages from people coming to me for advice.

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