Our Dealing With… series allows students to anonymously write about difficult experiences in their life, whether it be bullying, illness or prejudice.
For as long as I can remember there have been what I always thought of as ‘dark’ periods in my life.
Times where, no matter how kind those around me were and how good things seemed to be going, I could not feel anything but a cold numbness and loneliness.
For years I dismissed this, feeling ashamed, as I perceived my feelings to be ungrateful considering all I had. However, as I grew older these times got more intense and longer, especially when under pressure in my academic or home life.
During secondary school my parents got divorced and I felt like my life as I knew it was falling down around me. At this time I learnt more about the history of mental illness in my family, particularly depression, and started to wonder if that was connected to how I was feeling.
I pushed these thoughts to the back of my mind as the idea of depression was too difficult for me to address, my parents had enough worries for themselves and I feared the reaction of my friends if I spoke about it to them.
At 16 I went to the local sixth form and pressure to fit in and do well academically was high. I became self-loathing and tried to find ways to improve myself to fit in and to reach the high standards that I set myself. This is when things first started to get out of control.
I had always found food to be a comfort, but when I was feeling down in college I was disgusted by my reliance on it. As a result, after eating what I deemed too much, I started a ‘purge’ to try and stop my weight gain.
Soon this habit became more than controlling the food in my body as I started to enjoy the cathartic effect. As I felt the food leave my body I, for a moment, felt like my worries were too and I felt that I deserved the pain and disgust that I felt in doing it as I had not lived up to my expectations.
Once I started at University things got worse than they had ever been. I was not enjoying my course and felt isolated in my halls.
Everyday became a struggle and I began to push people away to avoid the effort of trying to hold myself together and pretend everything was okay. However, I did try to address the problems and changed course when I realised mine wasn’t right for me.
I decided to return home for the remainder of the year so I could have a fresh start the following autumn. When home I thought things would get better but without any focus, I began to lose the ability to keep myself going.
I had planned to apply for jobs but instead spent days at home alone often breaking down with no explanation other than the constant feeling that I had failed and was worthless. I had no motivation to do anything as it seemed pointless and overwhelming.
In the evenings I would go out and drink to forget for a few hours the feeling that everything was falling to pieces. This was the time when I started to find solace in harming myself and I began to realise that I had lost control and could no longer cope on my own .
It took all my courage to confide in someone what was happening and instead of the reaction of disgust or shame that I was expecting, I finally felt someone reaching out to me.
With the support I now had, I sought professional help and began to recognise that I was not alone and that I did not have to passively wait in the hope that I would feel better soon.
I now know that my feelings and actions were a result of depression. Though this is something that I will probably have to deal with throughout my life I can now recognise the symptoms and seek help before I feel things are out of my control.
With around 1 in 4 people experiencing mental health problems in their life, the most common of which is mixed anxiety and depression, I know I am not alone. Coming to university is a big change in life and not everyone deals with it well.
If you feel you need help there are a range of services and sources of information out there. These include contacting your GP or organisations such as Mind (http://www.mind.org.uk) and, for eating disorders, Beat (http://www.b-eat.co.uk/).
Help is there if you reach out for it, some battles are too hard to be faced alone.
If you’ve dealt with a difficult issue and would like to help others in a similar position by writing anonymously about your experience please contact [email protected]