You know when someone asks you “how are you doing?”, and you´re saying “I´m doing fine!”, but actually you aren´t?
According to The Guardian, more than 20% of students in the UK suffer from a diagnosed mental health issue. (Weale, 2019) The dark figure is certainly way higher. In many classes, we are taught about the importance of mental health and are told to turn to counselors in case we experience some tough times. But honestly, who really thinks about themselves when they hear those things? I surely didn´t. I mean everyone has bad days. Everyone feels sad, or exhausted sometimes, especially in college.
For years, I had experienced phases that would last for days or even weeks, when I just couldn´t bring myself to doing anything. Everyday activities like taking a shower or walking, and especially going to class took me all the energy I had. And after I had done everything I was supposed to, I didn´t manage to do anything else than just laying down in bed and listening to something on my phone. This phase would pass, and after a while I got up again and things didn´t seem so hard anymore. I thought that this must be what everyone goes through every once in a while. It can´t be anything serious if it passes again...
Well, last year, during my second semester of studies, I had another phase like that. But this time, it just wouldn´t end. On top of that, I was extremely sensitive and moody. There was not one day going by, on which I didn´t cry and didn´t fight with my boyfriend. He grew more impatient with me and more worried about me every day. One wrong word or move by anyone and I would snap. And every time I behaved like that I felt guilty about overreacting, but I just couldn´t do anything to stop myself. I couldn´t associate my emotions with anything, they were either negative or non-existing. I was just numb. But in contrast to my mind, my body felt something: Pain. I had pain in my limbs, just like you do when you have a bad flu, and my head hurt constantly. I took pain killers, but they only helped to some extent.
Finally, my boyfriend convinced me it was best if I went and saw a counselor. So during reading week, I made an appointment with the wellbeing team. Not knowing what I was supposed to do, I was sitting in that chair, scared that I was going to be told something that I didn´t want to hear. After I answered all questions the best I could and explained how I felt, I got a result: “You show symptoms of Depression and Anxiety”.
I called my boyfriend and my family back home and told them what I had learned. A few days later HULT announced that classes would be moved online due to the spread of COVID-19, so I flew back home. I thought that I might feel better being around my loved ones, but instead of my mental health improving, it got worse. My family couldn´t understand why I was not doing anything and crying all the time, so they blamed my behavior on me being lazy and whiny. At this point, I experienced at least two panic attacks a week, without knowing what it was. I don't have much recollection of what I did during the rest of the semester, but I finished my classes.
After my finals, my mother took me to a doctor. From him, I got my diagnosis: Depressive disorder. The real deal, not just a "symptom of…". There are many ways to cope with mental illnesses and work on getting better. Everyone is different and in most cases it strongly depends on the source of this issue. In my case, the doctor explained that the depression is mainly based on my body, so he prescribed some medication and talked to my parents. After this, everything changed. I started actively working on my Mental Health to get to a stable condition. I got off the pill and started taking anti-depressions. This helped my body recover, and by building the necessary hormones and enzymes that my body was lacking it gave me the chance to concentrate on my mind. I tried to do as much as I could without getting exhausted and got more comfortable sharing my struggles and emotions with people. A few months later I finally got off the medication.
My journey hasn´t been easy and there were many ups and downs along the way. But now, half a year later, I can finally say “I´m doing fine!” without having to lie.
Weale, S. (2019, March 05). Levels of distress and illness among students in UK 'alarmingly high'. Retrieved January 23, 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/mar/05/levels-of-distress-and-illness-among-students-in-uk-alarmingly-high