I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety 6 years ago, and as a young person, this has shaped almost a quarter of my life.
As a university student, living with a mental illness comes with its own unique challenges. Whether the challenges are living away from a supportive family network or simply being away from home comforts it is often a struggle for any student living with a mental illness. For me, living away from home has never phased me although home is always nice to come back to when things get a little too much. My support system is heavily formed of close friends and academic staff who play a big role in my everyday life as a student.
There is no common cycle to my low mood and depressive episodes which make it particularly difficult to control and live with, never knowing if each day will be a good day or a bad day. This not only affects me but everyone around me. Some days staying in bed with the curtains drawn is my only option. Although these days have become a much rarer occasion within the past year or so, they do creep up on me unexpectedly with no real trigger. On the unfortunate days that the low moods do occur it is often the biggest challenge to reach out to someone for help. It took me years to feel I could really rely on anyone without feeling the guilt of being a burden.
The idea of feeling like a burden is something that weighs me down so heavily and is often the obstacle between me suffering in silence and opening up to someone. I have to admit that some days this obstacle gets the better of me but some days I have the strength to persevere and reach out to my friends. Feeling like a burden is no one’s fault and shouldn’t be felt by anyone regardless of mental health but somehow it plays a big role for many people who experience mental health. For me a few phrases are repeatedly present in my thoughts when facing the issue of ‘being a burden’; “there is nothing anyone can do or say to help me”, “I don’t want to burden them with my troubles when they can’t do anything to help or change them” and “they wouldn’t want to know what is going on in my head right now” are just to name a few. I think the idea of being a burden stems from a lack of education of mental health and is something that needs to be addressed. If ‘being a burden’ is the hurdle preventing someone suffering from reaching out and getting help from a professional or a loved one then it should be something that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
On my particular bad days, I tend to isolate myself, not physically but emotionally. I often become mute in groups of people, I am absent from conversations and interactions and it is a difficult thing to hide. Luckily, I have a few very good friends who know instantly when I am not feeling myself. It took me a while to break down this wall to allow people to see my suffering but I have found it is something I have not lived to regret. Having those friends who know and can subtly pull you aside to ask, “Are you okay?” and being allowed to answer with “no, but I will be” actually helps a lot more than it should. Just knowing that people are looking out for you and care enough to check on you breaks the barrier of feeling like a burden. Of course, I am not asking for every person I know to ask me how I am doing every day, but the one or two friends who I feel completely comfortable around to answer honestly makes all the difference. The couple of friends I have felt comfortable enough to rely on during my darkest days have either experienced mental health in their family or have been educated and conducted research in the field, which I feel is not down to chance. The more people are educated, the less mental health is seen as a taboo topic which would help anyone to open up about their mental health.
Throughout my studies at university, I have faced countless periods of low moods and depression. However, with the help of mental health professionals offered through the Disability Service within the university, I have felt confident that my health would not interfere with my education. Through this service, I have been offered special circumstances for exams, opportunity to meet with a Mental Health Mentor every week funded by Student Finance and deadline extensions where applicable. Without the help of the university’s Disability Service, I wouldn’t have made it to the end of my third year, which highlights the importance of researching into mental health in young people.
Although my mental health is a part of me, it does not define me. It is a battle I must face every day and without the support from close friends and the services offered at university it would be a life full of loneliness and silent suffering
If you would like to share your story please send it to us at Personalstory@miricyl.org