My time at university has been a very mixed experience. I have experienced some amazing highs and awful lows, and my mental health has been at the forefront of a lot of this. I learnt very early on how isolating it is to be in a brand new city, while trying to battle with your own mental health, when it seems everyone else around you is having the time of their lives.
Four years on I still remember the first time I opened up to someone about my mental health in university. Two of my flatmates knocked on my door to check up on me, as they had noticed I’d been acting differently and hadn’t been out of my room much. They sat on my bed and I told them about what I was struggling with, and they just listened and didn’t judge. It made me feel like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, as I suddenly felt like I didn’t have to hide this side of them from them. Part of the reason I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about my experiences was that I felt like people wouldn’t understand. But in this first conversation I had with my flatmates, I learnt how they had their own experiences with mental health issues too.
As I’ve gone through university, I’ve become a lot more confident in talking about my mental health and in doing so have learnt how common these issues are. I have been surprised with the amount of people who have been struggling with their own mental health problems but on the surface appeared like there was nothing going on. Being able to openly talk about my mental health has helped me get through the struggles I have had. If I hadn’t opened up to my friends, then I wouldn’t have been able to turn to them for support when my depression got worse, or when I was experiencing side effects from medication changes. I am so lucky to have an amazing support network, an incredible group of girls that just seem to know the days that require us to all sit around with blankets, snacks and chick flicks. I believe that I wouldn’t have gotten through university without my amazing group of friends, but I wouldn’t have gained that support if I hadn’t have opened up and been honest about my mental health.
Talking about mental health not only reduces the stigma that is still attached, but it breaks down the invisible barrier that we don’t even know is there. Once people knew there was more going on than I let on, I suddenly felt like I didn’t have to act and like I could truly be myself. My anxiety and depression does not define me, but it is part of me, and being honest about that has allowed me to be my true self. Its exhausting having to have this internal battle with myself and to try to keep up an act to hide it. Talking about it has been the best thing I’ve done. So, take the time to talk about mental health, share your experiences and be honest with yourself, because it not only helps you but will help those around you who may be suffering in silence. You’d be surprised how much one conversation could change someone’s life.