With mental health issues affecting around one in four people in Britain, I feel that as a young person there’s absolutely not enough discussion around the subject. Before coming to university, I felt like I was one of a tiny number of people affected by this, and university seemed so intimidating to me; knowing I’d be away from my friends and family who understood how I felt and knew how to look after me when I was having a bad day. In fact, when I came to university, I actually realised that so many people suffer with their mental health and that I was absolutely not alone.
By no means do I suffer to the extent that some other people do, but mental health is a big part of my life. Since age 14, I’ve suffered with moderate to severe anxiety, and that developed into depression which I’ve only sought help for over the past year and a half. I found that the scariest thing about the whole experience was admitting that I needed help, and I put this down to the lack of discussion about how common these problems actually are. When I was at school, we had absolutely no information about mental health issues, nowhere to turn to if we felt like we were being affected by this and this massively contributed to my sense of feeling like I was totally alone in this. Luckily for me, my mum also suffers from depression and anxiety, so I had a constant support system and somebody that taught me how to deal with this, but a lot of people don’t.
So, this article will be just a general steam of consciousness about how I deal with my anxiety/depression and how it’s important for this to be a more acceptable subject to discuss.
One of the main things that absolutely drives me mad about mental health issues is that so many people disregard medication as acceptable treatment. If you are able to get by without it and can cope on your own or with different forms of treatment then that’s fantastic, and good for you. However, many people can’t, and are made to feel ashamed about the fact that they need extra help to get through each day. I’ve seen countless articles/Facebook posts/tweets about how medication gives you ‘false happiness’ – this is absolutely not the case. For me, taking anti-depressants doesn’t ‘cure’ my depression, it doesn’t make it go away and it definitely doesn’t make me happy all the time. Instead, it means that when I’m having a bad day then I’m able to do something about it, I can tell myself that I know I need to get up and keep myself busy rather than lying on the sofa feeling completely hopeless. It doesn’t cure it, but it makes me better able to deal with the feeling and pull myself through it. I still get days where I feel like nothing will ever get better and days when I feel completely empty and useless, but now I’m taking tablets it’s easier to realise that I’ll get through it eventually. I’m not saying that medication is perfect for everyone, but by no means should other people make you feel bad if you need it; your mental health is a priority and you don’t need to listen to other people who want to control how you look after yourself (and most of the time they have no idea what they’re on about).
Another thing I failed to realise is that recovery isn’t a straight road. I thought that I’d gradually get better and better, until eventually my anxiety and depression wasn’t an issue anymore, and that’s definitely not happened. A lot of people are happy to say that when you start to feel depressed/anxious, that you need to get help and go to a doctor etc. but it’s rare to find people who talk about what happens after that. Young people are led to believe that once you get help, everything will miraculously get better. Instead, after you get help you’re still in a constant battle with your mind and things might still feel really, really bad for a while. There will be days afterwards where you can’t get out of bed, or where the thought of leaving your house makes you feel sick and shaky; but once you get used to the idea that you are going to have those days, it makes it much easier to get through them. For me, I find that keeping myself busy (although it’s much easier said than done) is a massive help. I can always tell when I’m going through a bad spell because my room is absolutely immaculate – I tend to clean to keep myself busy, and my mum takes full advantage of this by getting me to sort out the kitchen cupboards or sorting through wardrobes. A lot of the time it’s unbelievably hard to get the motivation to do this, but once I’ve started, I know I’ll start to feel a lot better, even if it’s only for a bit.
Most importantly though, is that you are by no means alone in this. Whether you’ve got anxiety and depression like I have, or something that seems a lot more sinister, talking and communicating with people is key. I used to feel like people would judge me or feel like it’s too much to take on, but you’ll find that the majority of people want to help you. Even if you feel like you can’t talk to your family or friends, there are a huge number of charities or organisations out there that are more than happy to just sit and have a chat. Getting everything off your chest is actually amazing therapy and works wonders. Needing to ask for help is nothing to be ashamed of – I still get days when I need to ring my mum and have her talk me down from a panic attack, or talk me out of a depressive spell. Just being around people is more beneficial than you’d think – even if somebody doesn’t know what to say to make you feel better, just having a conversation with somebody about something other than how terrible you feel helps to take your mind off things, and get you out of your own head and away from your thoughts.
Even though this has just been a bit of a ramble about my experiences, I hope this helps young people realise that you’re not weird for feeling like you’re in a black hole – more people suffer than you know, and telling people about how you feel is the first step to recovery. Finishing with a little bit of advice my mum always gives me on a bad day; you’ve felt like this before and you got through it, so you will this time too.