“Sharing my story wasn’t easy, but once I opened up, I found an incredible support group and a better understanding of myself. Speaking up for mental health is so important- for yourself and for your community. Your voice matters”
hese incredibly relevant words for university students was uttered by pop artist- Demi Lovato, who was subject to media attention with her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, self-harming and eating disorders. Leading to multiple stints at rehabilitation centres in the U.S.A. University is a stressful environment for young people with self-imposed (and tutor-imposed) academic pressures, coupled with the desire for sporting achievements and a booming social life. However, this term for many people is crunch time so to speak, first and second years are fast approaching exam season and third years have that dreaded “D” word to look forward to- dissertation. Something that seems incredibly daunting at this early stage. My head is just about poking out from under the pile of library books.
To further complicate things, I was diagnosed with anxiety mid-way through my second year. It’s a horrible and at times disabling condition. Made worse by the fact that with little contact time, if I don’t make an effort I could so easily isolate myself and remain in the flat where my thoughts could fester. I don’t resent people for this, but since anxiety is a mental, internal battle it’s often not as notable and hence taken as seriously as physical, external signs of illness. This is why Demi’s insistence of vocalising problems and fears that anxiety and mental health sparks is vital. I, along with other anxiety sufferers, have a sassy, bulshy personality that deceivingly masks my internal thoughts and low moods. A defensive mechanism I think.
As a sufferer, I experience such symptoms as tingling, jitteriness and hot reactions to temperature changes. Note the internal reactions linked with anxiety. My friends, who really know me, recognise when I’m having a tough day with my anxiety and are great at calming me down. Whether that’s sitting with me on the edge, at the back of the lecture hall or distracting me with their humour and endless support. Therefore I urge anxiety sufferers to speak out about how they feel to a mate, a family member, a doctor as it opens up a field of possibilities of help. Sigmund Freud after all said that talking acts in itself as a “cure”, sorry that’s my English degree coming through!
I’m not wanting to sound bleak, claiming that the rise in student anxiety sufferers is going to soar at this stage in the term. All I ask is to be wary of others and keep your body as well as your mental health a priority. The words of wisdom I can pass for how to cope with anxiety are the following- listen to music to calm down and escape, do some exercise to release those endorphins, repeat the mantra- “I control it, I won’t let this control me”, attempt to compartmentalise those horrid thoughts into a mental box and most of all speak out. Lovato received messages from her fans in her dark days that subsequently inspired one of her tattoos and this is a message that I want to promote today – “stay strong”.