What I’ve learnt from my struggle with depression at university
It’s okay not to be okay
Roughly one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem this year, and the sad shitty truth of life is that most people will suffer from some form of anxiety and depression in their life. Edinburgh Uni is having a mental health week this week, which is a great thing because it means more people are talking and thinking about mental health issues, which we absolutely need to do. I've suffered with depression on and off since I was 11, and people really underestimate how scary it can be to cope with mental health issues when you're at uni and removed from the support network of your family.
Everyone is different and I'm no expert on mental health issues, but here are some ways of coping with having shitty mental health – from one miserable person to the next.
Don't suffer in silence
I literally cannot stress this enough. The people around you love you and want to support you, and if anyone ever responds with anything other than love when you tell them that you're struggling, they are trash and you don't need them. I've spent years terrified about being honest with people about my mental health, scared that they would judge me or think I was weak. There is nothing wrong with being weak, and carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders is going to suffocate you, not save you. A problem shared is a problem halved.
The easy thing to do is never the best thing to do
It's so easy to isolate yourself, particularly when you're at uni – you might not know that many people and you're in a new scary place and all you want to do is hide and watch Netflix. We all need self care days, but no problem can be solved by sitting in bed watching TV all day – sorry. The same goes for wanting to go home all the time. You can't fix anything by running away or avoiding it.
Go for that run round the Meadows you've been talking about since Freshers' Week. Climb Arthur's Seat. Do some yoga. Do anything. Just get out of bed and move, it won't make you feel any worse.
You can't hide your poor mental health with memes
You can only make so many suicide jokes before people get concerned. Have a conversation about how you're feeling.
Do the things your mum would nag you to do
Change your sheets, eat a proper meal, and get an early night. Oldies, but goodies, which again, aren't going to make you feel any worse.
It is okay not to be okay
Say it louder for the people in the back. There is nothing wrong with having mental health issues. It doesn't make you a bad person, or less of a person, it just means that you're a person. There is so much stigma around mental health issues, which we're gradually starting to overcome. The most important thing to remember is how normal it is.
Don't self medicate
Whether it's with drinking, food, or drugs, you will only end up harming yourself more.
Lean on your friends, but don't take the piss
Your friends are not therapists. It's easy to get into a habit of becoming overly dependent on your friends when you feel like shit, especially when you're at uni and away from your family – but you can end up damaging friendships if you expect too much from the people around you. Seek help from the people around you, but don't forget that sometimes you need to seek out actual mental health services, too.
Be kind to yourself
There is such an insane pressure when you're at uni to feel like you're having the time of your life. Uni can be fucking hard, and it's okay to feel like absolute shit – you aren't doing anything wrong. Don't beat yourself up over things. You're doing great.