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VP Employability & Engagement

Let's talk Mental Health...

I remember the day I realised I must be suffering with a disability. It was halfway through my second year at University, and it was a Sunday night after yet another week of going out and getting drunk from Monday to Friday.

                Friday night’s hangover had worn off by mid-afternoon on Saturday. Everyone I knew was being sensible and had spent Saturday night catching up with assignments. I had no choice but to stay in. Now, this should’ve been a good opportunity for me. Perhaps spend Saturday night catching up with my family and friends from back home that I hadn’t spoken to in a while. I had a whole day ahead of me to crack on with the pile of University work that was building up.

                But what did I actually do? I spent the entire weekend in bed, ignoring everyone who tried to talk to me and didn’t answer when my housemates knocked on my door to see if I was in. I couldn’t find the motivation to do anything if I was by myself for too long. By Sunday evening it dawned on me that this had been happening for a few months now, and that I only felt ok when I was surrounded by friends (which normally involved being surrounded by alcohol too). I knew I had depression.

                A lot of members of my family have suffered with depression before so I knew the signs of it, but because of this I always assumed I would notice if it started happening to me. I was shocked that I had gone months without realising what was going on with me.

                Even at this point though, I refused to accept it. I didn’t want to have this, I had seen how bad depression could get and I wanted to keep this to myself in the ignorant hope that it would soon pass. So I did what I knew made me feel better: distracted myself through going out with friends most evenings.

                There’s nothing wrong with seeing your friends, obviously, but it got to the point where I relied on it to be happy, and I was at a loss when they weren’t available. It wasn’t fair for me to expect this much off people who didn’t even know I was struggling.

                But I kept doing it; I still didn’t want to admit that I wasn’t ok. It wasn’t until the end of my third and final year at University was approaching that I realised I had to do something about this. It had been a year and a half since I realised I had depression so it wasn’t going to go away by itself. I was staying in Southampton to be a Sabbatical Officer and most of the people I knew from University were moving back home. My distractions and my support network were about to leave. This was the time to do something about it. I needed to get help.

                I started to tell my closest friends and family and saw a doctor who talked me through various options and support. Most people’s reactions were the same; they still are now when I mention it.

                “But you don’t seem like a depressed person?”

                “But you’re always happy, you’re always out doing fun things.”

                “Are you sure? I wouldn’t think you’d have depression. You don’t seem like it.”

                That’s because no one had seen me at my worst, no one had seen me unable to get out of bed or refuse to answer the phone or not bother to turn the bedroom light on. When I was with people I was myself. It was when I was alone that it hit me hardest.

                Now I’m a lot better. I still get the odd day where I can’t motivate myself to face the real world, but those are few and far between. I don’t go out and get hammered every night (strictly Fridays and birthdays now I’m working). Most of the time I’m a happy medium, and still spend a lot of time with my friends but in a more positive way, and I’m not so afraid to spend time by myself.

                So what’s changed? It was quite simple really; I talked about it. I talked to the doctor who is now treating my depression, and I talked to my friends and family who have been the greatest help. I can talk to them when my depression gets bad which is a much more suitable and productive coping mechanism than downing tequilas and slapping a grin on my face.

                So many people suffer with depression without anyone knowing, without even themselves knowing. Talking about it saved me, which is why I’m talking about it now. You never know who could be struggling with any disability, not just depression and they are suffering in silence. For me, the best treatment was to talk about it and be open. I have now beaten depression, and I keep taking active steps to stop myself feeling like that again. Like yoga, it helps me find my Zen.

                Don’t be scared to talk about a disability. It’s the only way anyone, including yourself, is going to know how to help.

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