To mark University Mental Health Day, second year Social Work student Sophie writes about her battle with anxiety and the support available to students at BCU.
A while ago I was asked if I would like to write about University Mental Health Day. At the time I had no idea what to write but I agreed to. Now we are some time past that and I still have no idea what to write.
Being a student is difficult, and we all have some level of anxiety. It is normal to feel pressure when you are juggling a degree and general life.
I struggle a bit more than most, because I have generalised anxiety disorder. Which simply means, I have no identifiable triggers for my anxiety, which is probably the worst part of it because there is nothing to avoid. There is nothing that I can say with certainty that will trigger an anxiety attack, and I can’t always be sure that I know how to stop an attack.
I have no idea how bad it will be when it does start. It could be binge eating and crying, or it could be intrusive thoughts, audio hallucinations and the worst fear I have ever felt. Trying to balance that and do assignments has already made me leave one degree. It literally made my skin crawl to the point I couldn’t use one of my hands.
So when I returned to BCU I was terrified of it happening again. Then it did, it got so bad that I found myself sat with the head of the social work department, crying. I was so exhausted from not sleeping and studying for an exam that I just couldn’t take it anymore.
That is when I started to get support from BCU. To be honest I didn’t want it but, the staff supported me in a way that didn’t feel invasive. I wasn’t judged, I was helped. I was able to get reasonable adjustments and access the well-being team. That’s when I learnt about my anxiety, and what anxiety actually is. It was then that I took a step back, I asked to no longer be a Student Academic Lead and I removed myself from everyone. I needed to in order to get my work done. I just had to be alone.
It can be difficult for those around you to understand why you need to withdraw, or in some cases why you need to talk more than ever before. It is hard trying to figure out how to self care when you feel guilty for thinking about yourself.
Mental health is something that gets talked about, there is information around uni but it’s still not really discussed. It’s okay to take medication while you’re at uni. It’s okay to feel like you can not face today and it’s okay to tell someone that this is how you feel. If you need to sit in a corner alone, or you need to stand outside and scream, it’s okay. It’s all self care, and that’s what we need most. Being caring isn’t always sympathy or empathy, sometimes it’s just letting a person cope in their own way.
Anxiety isn’t my only mental health condition, but it is the one that I struggle with the most. I have days when my head feels like cotton wool and I am pretty sure I’m an alien. I feel like everyone hates me and I just can’t do it. I just can’t do this degree. That day passes, sometimes the next day is better, sometimes I need to see a doctor or the well-being services. Some days I just want to sit in an empty room, to get myself ready for the next lecture, and that’s something people don’t talk about.
The best things I have discovered at uni are the things no one told me about. I knew of the counsellors but I never knew you can access Cognitive Behavioural Therapy through BCU. I didn’t know that all the rooms are open and if the room is not being used, you can just sit in there. I didn’t know that I would stay after that day before my exam, but here I am.
I’m not fixed, I’m not better, I’m just coping and that’s enough for me. I know how to access support and I have learnt that my self care is unorthodox but there are reasons behind why I have to be alone. There are reasons for a lot of the behaviours and feelings that I wouldn’t have explored without the support of BCU.
My biggest fear was that my mental health condition would take over. The best thing that happened was exactly that. I understand myself and with the tools I’ve learnt in lectures I’m able to reflect daily and keep that work going, so that I’m always moving forward.
Sometimes I feel like an alien, but most of the time I feel like I can live with my anxiety.
To find out more about the mental health and wellbeing support available to students at BCU, please click here.
Click here if you are interested in studying Mental Health Nursing at BCU.
To find out more about University Mental Health Day, click here.