Hello everyone, following on from my previous post about going to University with a chronic illness, here is a post all about University and mental health. This post was written by my beautiful friend, Alex, who is currently in her final year at University. So if you’re at University and you’re also struggling with your mental health, keep on reading!
University Pressure and Mental Health ~ Time to Be Kind to Yourself!
There is always something that sounds so selfish about “me time” or “putting myself first” isn’t there? The guilt that you’re letting someone down, or the fear of people saying “they’re fine” or “they’re just lazy” when actually, we all wish we could be just lazy, right? It’s better than the constant battle with our own minds every single day.
It’s often not a “choice” to stay in bed all day just because you feel like it. And it is not a “choice” to not want to socialise for days, weeks or even months. Many advocate for mental health, I see posts all over social media on World Mental Health Day about how important it is to look after others, the classic “it’s okay to not be okay”… but how many of those people posting actually check up on those they know who are crumbling? …. You know what I mean.
Mental Health, is still a very taboo subject even in 2018 *rolls eyes*. So why is this? Why can society still not grasp that when the brain (you know that really important organ that directs everything we do) is suffering, that person needs help and support, not “hope you’re ok” comments every single day? As much as that is nice, actions speak louder than words people.
“There is so much more to you than a grade”
I can’t help but feel University is the biggest criminal of this. It’s a constant cycle of pressures, expectations and deadline. All of this is to meet statistics for league tables and judge your ability to be something on a grade, right? That’s not forgetting the crippling debt most students have, or trying to work a job at the same time. Never forget that there is so much more to you than a grade that makes up a statistic.
I’m in my final year of University (no idea how I got this far) so yay right? Well, I am currently on the sick for two weeks and counting…why some of you may ask? Mental health, nothing more, nothing less. I have no idea when I will return and I have no idea if I will leave or stay. There is so much pressure from people saying “you’d be stupid to leave now it’s only 8 months” but 8 months is a long time when the thought of going in makes you feel sick and you cry at the thought of facing it. I have finally realised that I have to do what’s right for me, no one else.
“University turned out to be the thing that broke me”
Now, I’m hoping that some of you reading this can relate and if I can make someone feel better or not afraid anymore then I have done what I came to do. For years I have suffered low moods, lost many family members, parents divorce…all the usual stuff and I was aware that going to University might be a huge challenge BUT I was pursuing my dream career so how could I EVER be sad? Everyone was so proud of me. But University turned out to be the thing that broke me. I couldn’t tell you why, I couldn’t tell you how…but it has.
What I want to get across is that suffering from mental health whilst at University is NOTHING to be afraid or ashamed of. How many of you have rang in sick and said something was physically wrong, sickness most likely? When in reality you’ve cried yourself to sleep, not brushed or washed your hair in days (dry shampoo being a favourite of mine) and you can’t get out of bed to go in. Putting my hands up, I’m one of them!
But recently, for the first time, after two weeks of constant crying, not eating and feeling so low, I rang in sick and told them. I said I was upset, feeling very low, not ok and I needed to go to speak with my GP. To my surprise, no questions were asked, however, there was no attempt at ensuring I was ok either. I felt good about this. I felt proud that I had taken that step and said actually its not physical it’s mental. THAT is something that we should all be able to do, and not be afraid to do.
“Put yourself first”
A huge part of mental health, like any illness, is self-care (that’s in bold because it’s that important) and the ability to put yourself first for once (yes, I’m talking to you) and try to rid your mind of the stress of University and the pressures that are put on you. I can’t ever stress enough how important it is to take time to yourself and not feel guilty for not completing that piece of work or not writing 100 words on that essay, because YOUR health comes first above any of it. You’re not a failure, you’re just going through a very tough time and your mind wants to shut out from the world and that is OK! I also think it is SO important to never feel guilty for doing something, crying, being happy, going shopping , staying in bed…whatever it is you do to cope, keep doing it!
Never forget that there are things University can do to help, so PLEASE don’t ever pressure yourself to get the work done if it is making you feel worse. University can provide extensions on deadlines and there is student support at most Universities that will be more than happy to help. But you have to do this in your own time, it has taken me… what like two years to find the courage to speak up? That is totally ok.
Self care has to be done in order for you to be the best version of yourself, and it has taken me years to understand what that means. It means taking time for yourself, doing whatever makes you happy and not feeling guilty for it, it’s understanding that not everyone will care and ask how you are even people you classed as close friends, not everyone will understand and that’s ok and it’s for you to take some time to discover what you want/need in life.
“You are not a failure”
If that choice was to leave University, you are NOT a failure and you are NOT letting anyone down. It’s YOUR life and you need to be truly happy…there are so many options out there, so many different paths to explore, don’t ever be stuck on one path if it’s making you truly unhappy. (There are also people at University you can talk to about this, some Universities have specific teams that help students with thoughts of leaving).
“Be kind to yourself”
Don’t ever think you are alone, because you are truly not and I hope reading this has provided some comfort to some of you that you are not alone. I want to finish this off by asking you to take time to think about yourself and if you are like me, lying in bed trying to hold it together, putting on a brave face everyday, then I salute you. I salute every single one of you who is struggling at the moment and whoever you are, whatever you are doing, be strong, don’t be afraid, and most of all… please be kind to yourself.
I will leave you with a little thought; everything you’re going through now will only make you a stronger person in the future. Keep fighting warriors; there is no battle like one with your mind.
Until next time,
Can I give a massive thank you to Alex for allowing me to share this on my blog! I really hope this post has helped you, if you can relate please do leave a comment below!