Mental Health & Me
As we come to the end of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020, I have decided to talk openly and honestly about my first ever experience with my own mental health, anxiety, and depression.
As part of my role as Student Services Officer, I will often work with students who are feeling anxious, worried, or depressed. But, whenever I say to any student who is struggling with their mental health ‘look, I know it can be tough, but I’ve experienced this too – you’re not on your own here’ I am usually met with a quizzical or surprised reaction. But we all have our own mental health stories, no matter how old or young, or what your circumstances. Mental health is universal, it doesn’t discriminate. And that’s perfectly natural – we’re all human.
My own mental health ‘journey’ as I like to refer to it, first began when I was about sixteen. Mental health, before this point, although being something I was aware of, was not something that I had experienced any issues with personally. To give a bit of context, I was just about to finish high school at the time. My overall experience there had not been the best (perhaps to put it lightly) due to me being subjected to some quite severe bullying throughout my time there, and I had experienced some dips in my mood previously due to this – but nothing that felt at all like anxiety. So, this was definitely new.
I remember waking up one morning, and just feeling different. Everything seemed scary, I just had this overwhelming sense of confusion, and it really was as though as I was suddenly completely helpless. A few hours passed by, and this feeling just would not budge. It was almost as if I was just engulfed in it, with nowhere to hide or escape. I had spent pretty much all day in bed, partly because I just felt so sad, and so alone. But at the same time, I really didn’t want to speak to my parents, or anyone, for that matter. And then two of my best friends knocked on the front door.
My friends and I have always been really close, and they were pretty much regulars at our house, so my mum usually always just let them in. If I were sitting in my room (usually reading a book or on my PC) they would usually come and find me and say hello. No big deal, right? But, today, for some reason I could not quite put my finger on, it really was. I did not want to see them. I couldn’t see them. And the worst, most upsetting part was, I wasn’t even sure why that was the case. I just could not face anyone. The best way I can describe how I felt, as I heard their voices and footsteps approaching, is pure, blind panic. Tears were streaming down my face, and I had absolutely no idea what was happening, or why. I remember actually crouching in front of the door, just so they couldn’t physically get in. I couldn’t even face my two best friends that day, and I felt absolutely overwhelmed in every sense of the word.
Shortly afterwards, following a couple more anxiety attacks, my mum decided to take me to see my GP. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression for the very first time. And I had absolutely no idea what to make of it. No clue whatsoever. I had just finished high school and was due to start college that September. And I was terrified.
Let’s fast forward just over ten years. And although I’m still on my own mental health ‘journey’, I’ve done things I thought I’d never be able to. I still have my own ups and downs, and although my anxiety, to a degree, will always be a visitor – it’s just that. It’s not a permanent resident, just a passing visitor. Feelings come and go, and I’ve learned to be a lot kinder to myself. Embrace every day, good or bad. And if it’s a particularly bad day (and they do happen) then I’m extra kind to myself. I might have an extra biscuit with my cup of tea or go out for a walk to clear my thoughts.
Things do get better, never give up hope. We are not machines, we have feelings, and thoughts. We laugh, we smile, but sometimes we cry, or feel sad too. And that’s okay. But you are never on your own. Taking that brave step forward for help and support is one of the best decisions I ever made, and although my journey is far from over – I can now navigate it with confidence, positivity, and in my own way.
In her role as Student Support Officer, Emily offers tailored support on a range of areas including the Disabled Student Allowance (DSA) application process, study skills support (e.g. Harvard referencing and planning your work) and general pastoral support. Emily operates an open-door policy and no problem is too big or small.
Applicants with disabilities or specific learning difficulties are encouraged to contact Emily as soon as possible in the admissions process so she can provide guidance on arranging support in time for the start of the course.
Find out more about Student Support at Backstage Academy via the link below.
To find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week 2020, please click on the link below.