It’s taken five years, but I now realise that depression doesn’t define who I am

It’s not just about feeling sad

Something my mum always told me, and something I think everyone would benefit from was: “Treat everyone as if they are fighting a battle that you know nothing about”.

Last week, it was revealed that Sheffield was the seventh worst university for dealing with mental health in The Tab’s nationwide mental health survey. Mental illnesses are invisible, and unless you have had firsthand experience you probably have no idea what the big deal is due to the incorrect stigmatism attached to mental illness.

I, like many others, suffer with depression and anxiety. This is something I have had to live and work with for five years.

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Depression is definitely not just feeling sad, or, as some people would argue, lazy. It’s feeling numb but feeling everything at the same time, in fast forward, and your brain is in overdrive. The big smile I choose to wear on the outside is dramatically different to how I so often feel.

Starting university was the scariest thing I’ve done. Being an 18-year-old, launched into a very uncomfortable situation was literally hell. When my family left me in that bedroom on the first day I began to panic. How the hell was I going to make friends, go out and be a ‘normal’ fresher, when most days at home I struggled to get out of bed?

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First year began, and it was awful. I had lost interest in everything I ever loved to do and there were days I’d never leave my room. I was tired all the time, I could sometimes sleep for fifteen hours and wake up too exhausted to make food. I became a person I no longer recognised or wanted to be, self-hatred literally became second nature because it got to the point where I just couldn’t stand myself. I couldn’t face my flatmates; I got angry that they didn’t ask what was wrong and when they did ask I got annoyed.

The thought of socialising and alcohol was terrifying and I began to alienate myself from pretty much everyone. It took a breakdown in 2015 for me to realise that things had to change.

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Suffering from a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s important to tell people how you’re feeling and remember that they are not mind readers. My first year flat probably thought I was a lazy, grumpy bitch who never left her room because she was anti-social, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. If I’d explained the situation sooner things wouldn’t have gotten so bad.

As I enter into third year, most people would probably say I’m a pretty cheerful and smiley person. This does sometimes feel like an act, and of course we all still have days where we relapse. But I don’t feel guilty anymore for moments of happiness and overall I’m doing so much better and I’m determined not to give up on university. It’s taken five years to realise I am so much more than depression. It’s the tiniest part of me that at times feels so all consuming, but actually does not define me.

To anyone struggling never forget how incredible you are. You’re so brave and definitely doing better than you think, uni isn’t easy and battling all that you are and still going is amazing. Don’t doubt yourself.

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