A lesson on mental health

Discussion, life

A lesson on depression – for those that haven’t experienced it themselves

You may be struggling to understand someone who has said they are ‘depressed’. Depression is an illness that the majority of depressed people don’t understand themselves, so how can we expect somebody else to understand? To be honest, we don’t expect anyone to.

A few things you probably should or want to know:

  1. People who are depressed do not expect you to understand, neither know how to deal with them nor know what to say.
  2. Everyone’s mind is different, and so everyone’s mental health is different – it cannot be categorized, nor always empathized.
  3. As much as you may want to, you can’t fix it – all you can do is help them.
  4. Matter of fact is, people with depression (and other mental health ‘issues’) are ill.

For me, depression is an emptiness that exists inside of me. Most of the time I don’t know why I’m sad, or exhausted, or feeling hopeless or afraid. I often wonder: Why am I so overwhelmed by such a small thing? Or why am I feeling so down?

A lot of my actions do not come from how I want to be, or think – they come from my illness (as though a symptom of a sickness or other ‘physical’ or ‘medical’ condition). My mind feels clouded, like a fog is covering the happiness that quite frankly is often right in front of me – a sunny day, a happy relationship, a good friend. For me, I struggle with not only depression, but mild anxiety. And on top of this I struggle to cope well with and manage my anger.

I thought I’d put together a list of ways that other people have previously helped me day-to-day:


Self-esteem Discussion and Anxiety Update

Discussion, life

Previously, I have spoken about my personal experiences with anxiety and how it has affected me in the past. With moving to university one week ago, not only do I feel as though my anxiety has rocketed to various heights, but my self-esteem has been challenged and pushed to levels that I have struggled to cope with – so I figured I’d provide a little update about my anxiety triggers and also how these and my self-esteem have changed throughout the summer and my first week at university.

Moving to university in a new city was daunting. Of course there were the usual nerves – about moving into a flat with nine strangers, starting a subject that I was unsure of actually being good at and having to face the challenge of putting myself forward to try new things. I was fearful – as I always have been – of ‘putting myself out there’ and I knew that studying Journalism at university would require me to do so.

Since being at university I have taken part in netball trials, thinking that after coaching it in secondary school and having been playing the sport from a young age there may be an opportunity to play competitively in the university team. Little did I know that 60+ people had planned on turning up for trials; many with previous experience in international and county teams. There I was: red-faced, sweaty and shaking after running around in my goal attack position. Then I was hit with embarrassment upon being told I hadn’t made the team. Seeing so many other girls getting through and being chosen for the team, also still well presented after 2 hours playing the sport, made me feel pretty c*** about myself.

My anxiety has been triggered numerous times on nights out but I have found this to have worsened recently. Throughout the summer I found myself to not enjoy regular nights out in Cambridge, and would panic in clubs in Spain – with being in a different environment. At one fresher’s event last week I had to leave early – it was a foam party but I never even saw the foam. I became overwhelmed by the huge number of people surrounding me and I felt so small and vulnerable. Panicking, I found it hard to breathe – fully aware that staying at the event would not help me at all, I walked back to my flat angry at myself for panicking. How come everybody else can survive a night out? Why do I work myself up into a panic as soon as I’m in a large crowd?
I think seeing other people having fun but often showing little respect for everybody else around them causes me to both feel angry and anxious and I prefer to remove myself from these situations. Although I feel guilty, and do not want to ruin the night for anybody else.

Although I am loving being at university: with getting to know the people I live with; exploring a new city; studying a new course; and gaining more independence whilst living away from home – there are still anxieties that are preventing me from fully enjoying the experience. I am just grateful for the new friendships that I am building here at university, as well as the old friendships that still offer me help from afar. It’s comforting to know that those friends still at home will always be there to give me the strength and courage to get through the change that is currently occurring in my life and those new friends help me to just have fun and enjoy my life and opportunities here.


My Personal Experiences with Anxiety

Discussion, life

Over the past six to seven years I have come a long way. There are some things that I have only ever spoken and opened up about to a few people. Over a number of blog posts I would like to discuss some aspects of my life that I feel should be openly discussed and not pushed to one side to be ignored by society. In this blog post I will talk about my own experiences with anxiety.

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear that can be represented in so many different ways and can be determined by a huge number of factors. It is completely normal and everybody will experience a sense of anxiety at some point in their life; however in some people it will show more so than in others, and in some people it will have a greater effect than on others. Learning to cope with your own anxiety can be difficult, but it is achievable and there are a number of ways to improve how you manage your anxiety, how you reduce your anxiety and how to identify your anxiety triggers (I have linked some sites at the bottom of the page that I found of help, as well as an online test that should help to identify your own anxieties).

Personally I have struggled with my anxiety. In some circumstances it has made me feel isolated, I would constantly ask myself questions: Why am I like this? Why is nobody else having a panic attack right now? Why can’t I do what everybody else is doing? What is wrong with me? Why am I not like everybody else? In some circumstances it has caused me to lock myself away and stop taking part in certain activities. And in some circumstances it has affected my ability to socialise, or even take part in everyday activities such as shopping or attending lessons in college.

I’d say my anxiety levels were at their worst and heightened throughout secondary school and sixth form. The first year at sixth form was definitely a learning curb when it came to my anxiety, as I felt under more pressure in various areas; including achievements in college, meeting new people and conversing and working with people in lessons. My anxiety affected my willingness to attend lessons because I would feel uncomfortable in class, I wouldn’t be able to speak up and I found the work challenging – but felt as though everybody else around me was succeeding. So one year into college I’d had plenty of tutor meetings, I’d been put on the referral list and was monitored on the lessons I attended. Due to isolation – from not feeling good enough for a class and feeling as though I had nobody to talk to in some classes – I entered a downward spiral of not going to lesson, not completing work and therefore feeling even worse in the next lesson I attended. I became fearful of attending lessons and so would choose to not go. At the time it was the easiest option.

I have such vivid memory of some of the times my anxiety really took over. One day I was in town shopping alone, and suddenly all the noise became a constant buzz that seemed to me as though it was getting louder and louder, sounding like laughter. My mind painted an image of every single person in the shopping centre turning to me and laughing, completely mocking me. I felt so small and as though I was suffocating. I felt completely isolated and just wanted to run away, with my thoughts going crazy and my whole body shaking, I just wanted to scream. I was having a panic attack and I just felt extremely dizzy. The only option I had was to divert upstairs to a bench, listen to some music and try to feel more on top of my emotions. After around half an hour to an hour of sitting there, I eventually felt the courage to return to shopping, but the whole event formed another fear. Because I was unaware of what exactly had triggered the attack – which was most likely a number of factors – I was so fearful of being alone in public because I was both embarrassed and scared about the physical effects. There have been incidents since in which I have had to call a friend to help me and walk me back to somewhere more peaceful, because I have just burst into tears or felt completely weak and faint.

Attending events such as those in nightclubs or the junction in Cambridge became all the more difficult throughout sixth form, and numerous times anxiety would reduce me to tears in queues and lead security to think twice about allowing me into such events. It made it all worse, with ever-growing fear that anxiety would completely take away my freedom. There were also some people who made it worse. And some that I had strong relationships with were often unaware of the extent to which some very small actions of theirs would affect my thoughts and worries – but they couldn’t help it because a lot of the time it would just be me seeing things to be worse than they actually were.

Anxiety has stopped me from taking part and going on to do so many things in the past. Learning to drive still hasn’t happened, and at nearly 19 years old I still have not had a single driving lesson. I guess at 17 my anxiety made me feel so small and nervous, I was afraid of sitting in a car with an instructor, I was afraid of being responsible for a car and anybody in it, and I was afraid of being out on the road. I had a fear of being in control but also of losing control and so until this day I still have not started driving.

Although anxiety has taken its toll in so many areas of my life, I now know how to better manage it. After many conversations with teachers, the college counsellor, study skills advisors, friends and through online medium, alongside researching self-help and deciding in my mind that I had to take back some control, I learnt my triggers and I learnt how to better deal with those triggers. I cannot sit here today and say that my anxiety has completely disappeared, as there will always be triggers around and I will come across new anxieties throughout my life, but I can sit here and say that I feel a lot better and less fearful.

Two years ago I would not have ever imagined how much I would desire to go out on and absolutely love a night out. I would never have thought I’d have met so many new people through conversation. And I would never have thought that soon I may be going on my first ever driving lesson and I kind of feel excited about it!

I have decided that anxiety will not take over my life, and as much as I may sometimes struggle with my anxiety, I am determined to take back control in my life and be able to have more freedom to take part in the activities and events that I do want to take part in but have felt that I couldn’t take part in, in the past.