Coping with mental disorders at university

It’s a beautiful, sunny day outside, but I’m curled into a ball in the corner of my dark bedroom, with my knees drawn to my chest and tears streaming uncontrollably down my face. I feel like sleeping until everything hurts a little less but my body and brain aren’t cooperating and have simply shut down. I try to scream, but no one hears me. I cry and shake violently, convinced that the only thing I have left to offer the world is the permanent removal of my presence from it, but, I’m too scared… too tired to do anything about it anyway.

A couple of weeks later, after countless medical tests, a diagnosis is given, along with a container of large, chalk-white pills. There is noticeable relief from my parents and aunt. I mean, nothing is physically wrong with me but I am sick. I’m depressed. While it kind of helps to have finally gotten a name for this weird “thing” I’ve been experiencing, I’m less delighted about the diagnosis, because I know it will return again. It always does. I’ve been slipping in and out of this “thing” for as long as I can remember. I don’t like what the pills do to me, though; they blur my vision (as if my eye sight is not bad enough) and upon my return to school after weeks of not attending, cause me to fall off a step just outside my classroom, from dizziness. I worry a lot, panic and cry, thinking that something… someone, is out to get me. But, it’s all in the head. This pain, this sickness, this sadness, it’s all in the head – and I can’t really explain it.

Now, 22 years later, I’ve lost too many people I love to feel any shame about the way my mind is built. How sometimes, it throws me in a cage with very thick steel bars to keep me from living a normal life and from the people I love most.

I know I am not the only one suffering from a mental disorder, which is why I have highlighted some helpful tips below. These have helped me manage my anxiety and depression over the years.

  1. Live a healthy life

Eat well-balanced meals that will help you feel energised. Also, limit your alcohol and caffeine consumption, because they can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.

  1. Know your triggers

My triggers might not be similar to yours but it is always good to know what can worsen your symptoms, e.g. the workload you have for lectures. Know your triggers, and know how to manage and work around them.

  1. Always take your medication

Don’t feel bad about being on medication because it is there to help and make you feel in control again. Your medication is there to help you get through the day when your depression or anxiety bugs you. And, if you accompany your medication with therapy, you could find yourself off medication and feeling much better. It’s a process.

  1. Work at it daily

Try relaxation methods e.g. journaling, exercising etc. Get a good night’s sleep (8-9 hours), practice reaffirming habits and know there are many other people out there dealing with the same issue.

  1. Use resources on campus

No matter how close you may be to your friends, it can get quite difficult to talk to them, so seeing a professional is a helpful option. Sometimes it is good to vent about your problems to someone who will just listen and not judge you.

  1. Accept that you are sick. Accept that getting better is possible.

Although it might be difficult in the beginning, don’t feel bad about feeling bad. If you keep punishing yourself for your depression, you will only worsen it. Be kind to yourself.

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