College Students Discuss Struggles with Their Mental Health

College is a time for exploration – figuring out what we believe, learning what we want to do with our lives, and meeting a lot of new people.  It can be a time of great stress too though, and when we have a mental illness this can make our adjustment to college life hard.  Sometimes, just adjusting to college in general can bring depression to the forefront.  Here are stories from students at three universities, discussing their struggles with mental illness – everything from depression and anxiety to OCD and anorexia. 

 

Leeds University Students Discuss Their Mental Health

 

University College Dublin Students Discuss Their Mental Health

 

Trinity College Dublin Students Discuss Their Mental Health

Advertisements

Frustration, Arguments with Friends, Life, Everything

Tonight was a rough night. 

Today actually started out amazing!  I got great news – which I will reveal in a later post at some point.

But, the day ended horribly!  I feel bad and I don’t feel bad at the same time.  I went to a support group meeting and spent some time talking to a few friends after.  We got into a discussion that just ended with me blowing up.  I majored in sociology and am extremely open minded and liberal.  Anyway, yes, I should have been more open to letting them have their views, but I guess when it comes to social issues regarding race and social justice – I just cant sit back on stuff when specific comments are made.  They were not saying horrible things or anything of that matter – don’t get me wrong.  But it still struck a chord with me.  I just blew up, I lashed out, I yelled. 

The things is, I feel bad about how I reacted, but I don’t feel bad about what I said.  My anxiety and depression haven’t been the best lately, and I don’t want to blame my reaction on my mental illness, but I also don’t think I would have had that reaction if my meds were working correctly.  I did gain control and just walk off – granted it was in the middle of me yelling – I walked off in the middle of it before I kept doing it. 

I feel really bad though. I feel like a failure.  I feel like I just messed up my life again.  I literally started this day off on such a high note!  And I ended up so low.  When I woke up, I had this plan of completely starting my life over, not that I can’t still do that.  I just feel like, if I was going to do that and then already fell so deep within 24 hours – how can I keep going? 

I know I will get over this.  I know life will go on.  But getting into arguments with your friends sucks!  These people are my main support system here.  I go to this support group, and I only am close to a few of these people in it, and I just yelled at 2 of them.  I don’t even know if I want to go back?!  I know things will go back to normal, but it is going to take time.  And that makes my anxiety worse, and my depression worse.  I feel like I lost my support system – and it was my fault.  I always screw things up. 

I’m going to try to not think about it all though.  I may take a day off tomorrow – I may get on and off here, look around, try to do the daily prompt, but if I don’t get on here — I think I might just take some time to decompress after what happened.  Let out my pent up anger and anxiety that I have held in over the years from the abuse and trauma and everything else that I am only now dealing with.   

Facing the Storm

In Tampa, during the summer, it rains a lot! There are storms almost everyday, or at least that is how it has been this year. Even in the rain, summer is beautiful and I learn a lot through it. 

20140722_180408

In my life, I feel like I get rained on a lot too. I feel like my life is a storm. There are ups and downs, and a lot of the time, I feel like it is mainly downs, it feels like it is raining and raining and raining and the thunder and lightening roar down around me.  The sun doesn’t seem to be up at all. 

This bird though, he just stands tall in the rain!  He stands out there and faces it!  Jumping from car to car, playing in it, basking in the rain!  He doesn’t hide from it.  He doesn’t run away from it.  It doesn’t hurt him.  Sure, when we have problems in our life, it may be hard, and it may hurt, but we can still stand tall going through them.  We don’t have to run away.  Just like this bird, we can go out into the storm, we can stand in that rain, we can face it. 

When I saw this bird, I was walking out to go to my NAMI meeting.  I wasn’t having the best day, I was going through a “storm.”  But I saw this bird on top of my car, then he jumped to the car next to mine.  He just freely exposed himself to the elements.  I needed to be like that.  I needed to push myself to do that – to be stronger, to not curl up into a ball.  I know I am strong, I just need to come out of that curled up ball and show my strength to myself. 

20140722_180402

Being Friends with Someone With Mental Illness – What You Can Do To Help

Friendships with someone who has a mental health disorder can be quite tough at times.  In fact, my group of friends is quite small.  Most of them actually are other people that have a mental illness, because they understand what it is like.  But I have friends that do not, and they are great! 

I know that sometimes, being a friend or in a relationship with someone with a mental illness can be hard sometimes though.  You don’t know what to say when certain topics come up, you don’t know how to react to certain situations, or maybe you don’t know what they are looking for or what help they want.

Being someone with a mental illness, there are a few things that friends do that really help me and I think most people with mental illness would say they look for in a good friend:

 

1) They listen – My true friends simply listen.  They don’t judge me and they just listen.  They don’t try to think ahead to what they are going to say next or how to respond while I am talking.  They carefully pay attention to what I am saying, then they take the time to form a response if one is even needed.  Many times I don’t need a response, I do not need advice, I just need someone to listen.

2) They support me – They validate my feelings and show me that I am not alone.  They cannot always be present in person 100% of the time, but they let me know that I can text them or email them, Facebook them or leave a voicemail, and when they get it they will get back to me as soon as they can.  They let me know that they care and that they are going to be there for me.  They are empathetic. 

3) They ask how they can help me – Sometimes, they don’t know what to do.  Sometimes I don’t even know what I want them to do.  I just ramble on and on.  So they ask me what I am wanting.  What do I need?  This question gets to the bottom of things.  Do they need to drive me to a therapy appointment? Do they need help studying for a test because of stress? What type of support is needed.  It may seem direct, but there are nice ways of saying it, “What can I do to help you?”, “I want to do my best to support you right now, how can I do that?”, “What are some of the things you need right now?”

4) They are educated about mental illness – They know what is going on with me.  They do not assume I am faking it, that it is all drama, or that I am “crazy.”  They do not stigmatize mental illness.  They take the time to learn about what is going on with me by either listening to me tell them about it or by doing their own research (or both!).  This helps so much in the friendship.

5) They support me healthy coping skills – My good friends do not tell me I just need to have a drink or smoke pot or have sex to feel better.  My good friends tell me I need to do something nice for myself, get a massage, read a good book, exercise, talk to them or my therapist, etc.  My good friends understand that going out and partying late at night and drinking alcohol will interfere with my psych meds and mess up my sleep schedule thus possibly throwing my mental illness into disarray.  My good friends encourage me to go out with them for alternative activities like a movie or a comedy show.

6) They take care of themselves – I don’t want my friend to feel like I am a burden on them.  I want them to have their own lives and I don’t want to be clinging onto them.  Knowing that they take care of themselves first and put up boundaries protects them and me.  If they get overwhelmed by me, then it puts their mental health in jeopardy and most likely I will also be losing a friend.  It is so important when you are friends with someone with a mental illness – or anyone for that matter – you take care of yourself first.  Because if you cant take care of yourself, how can you take care of anyone else?

Daily Post – Predicting the Future, Looking at the Past

Word Press Post A Day – Back on January 21st, we asked you to predict what day #211 would be like. Well, July 30th is that day — how have your predictions held up so far? If you didn’t reply to the prompt at the time, is this year turning out to be as you’d expected?

 

I wasn’t even on WordPress back on January 21st, so I definitely didn’t predict what today would be like.  I do often think about my future though.  I think about my past and my future quite a bit.  I look back on my past and question why things happened, what would have happened if I had done something different, why didn’t I do this or that.  I focus a lot on my past.  People always say to look towards the future though.  I listen to them, I do look towards the future.  I question my future just as much as I question my past.  What is it going to be like, am I ever going to be “normal.” Yes, yes, what is normal?  I guess I should say, am I ever going to overcome this mental illness completely?  Will I be able to hold a job, be happy, be able to socialize with others without being in a panic, will I ever just be ok?  I can’t say that back in January I was expecting for that to all magically happen in July, especially on this day – but I do wonder if it will happen, and if it does, when will it happen.

I know it won’t though.  I know I am battling a lifelong battle.  I know that I am always going to struggle.  And sometimes, even seeing a future for myself in general is hard. 

In January, I did expect July to be better than what it has turned out to be.  I was hoping that I would be happier.  I was actually planning on moving back up to Indiana earlier in the summer, but in January I resigned my lease to stay an extra year here, to give it another chance.  I thought by now, I would have found out that it was nice here. It is nice here, but I’m not happy here, well not happy yet.  I suppose I still have until April of 2015 to find out if signing that lease for another year made a difference or not.  I just thought it would have happened already.

Living with mental illness is hard.  You can’t focus too much on the past.  You cant focus to much on the future either though.  There are too many what if’s both ways.  Too many should I have, could I have, and why’s.  The questions are endless.  I really have to stay in the present moment, and just think about today. 

An Autobiography in Five Short Chapters – by Portia Nelson

This is a wonderful poem that I was given when I was inpatient.  Then I was given it again while in therapy.  There is so much power in this poem and I feel like it represent my struggle with mental illness so much.  I feel like I have gone back and forth between the chapters of it multiple times in my life and I am sure I will continue to throughout my life. 

 

A POETIC INTERLUDE:  AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN FIVE SHORT CHAPTERSby Portia NelsonI

I walk, down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in

I am lost…. I am helpless

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again

I can’t believe I am in the same place but, it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it there.’

I still fall in…. it’s a habit, my eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

 

pothole

 

Daily Post – I Wanted To Feel Human, I wanted to Feel Alive. I Thought Suicide Could Do This

Word Press Post A Day – After an especially long and exhausting drive or flight, a grueling week at work, or a mind-numbing exam period — what’s the one thing you do to feel human again?

 

Feeling alive again, feeling human again.  How I long for those sometimes.  It is so easy for me to just feel numb and dead.  My depression can take over.  It can consume me.  Lifting a piece of paper, can feel like I just moved a boulder. 

Three years ago, I wouldn’t have done anything to feel alive.  After a grueling week, an exhausting week, a horrible exam, or anything that just overwhelmed me — I would have attempted suicide.  If I was alive, then I could die.  Bizarre thought process right?  That is how it was for me though.  Mental illness was lying to me, it was messing up my thoughts, my emotions, and really destroying my life.  Over and over again I attempted suicide, landed in the ER, the ICU, and in psych hospitals

Today, I don’t do that anymore.  I still have the suicidal thoughts, yes.  I reach out for help before anything happens though.  I also use my coping skills.  To feel alive, I paint, I juggle, I draw, I write, I spend time in nature, I do anything and everything to keep me from ruminating on whatever it was that made me have an exhausting or overwhelming situation.  I don’t do one thing to feel human again.  I can’t do one thing – for me, I have to do multiple things, I have to keep trying things and if one thing does work, I have to move on to another thing. If I don’t do that, then I might fall back into my old pattern – and I don’t want that.  If that happens, then I won’t even be able to be alive.