Having Depression at University
Looking back now I don’t think I realised how bad I had actually got. For years I’d been an unpredictable rollercoaster of emotion with no rhyme or reason behind my feelings. Most of the time I was melancholy, isolated, inactive and there would be the odd rare day I would actually be happy. It had been so long I had convinced myself that this was my personality, I was just a quiet, shy, anxious, sad girl. I was fairly good at pretending to be happy for work and for family. But I do remember a particular day I was at work, it was around half 8 in the morning, I had a 12-hour shift ahead of me. Standing in the bathroom of a resident’s room, I looked at the floor and would have given anything to just lie down and close my eyes. The urge was incredibly overwhelming, words cannot describe it. I didn’t know how I was going to get through the day or if I could cope all day with this feeling. I felt like I could stop living right there and then. I remember days that I would just sit at home and cry all day on my own, and sometimes all hours of the night, for no particular reason. But life went on and my only saving grace was that I was more scared of disappointing people than I was of dying. I had applied for a Nursing Degree because despite my sadness I was still moving through life, and it was just the next thing to do. I was accepted! So I prepared as much as I could, but could never have imagined the struggles ahead.
When I first started here at BCU I felt like my life turned on its head. I was back in education for the first time since I left school (15 years ago), I was not working full time, with the people I knew well, in a place I was comfortable in. I was thrown into this big city of Birmingham, a place I had only been once when I was younger and found myself getting lost on my first few days. I didn’t know where I was and I had no friends. I was alone, everything was new and different, I had no safe zone. Although I tried to be bubbly and approachable on the first day, that faded and I anxiously sat amongst the massive crowd of my half of the cohort feeling invisible and lonely. Everything seemed grey and cold and I was very low. I talked to a few people eventually and despite their kindness I didn’t feel a connection with anyone. My depression gradually became worse.
One day, sat at a computer, someone approached me. He knelt by me and we talked about the work I was doing. He said I should be more confident and asked why I wasn’t. That face was so kind and genuine I felt I could be honest, so I said, “I’ve tried to get help and I deal with it best I can”. At which point he held up a packet of tissues. I said, “You’re going to have to try harder than that to make me cry”. Turns out he didn’t, and in private, in a classroom, I opened up and tearfully told him everything.
I trusted this man. He had an aura about him of just pure kindness and patience and understanding. He was not judgmental, he didn’t question me, he didn’t argue with anything, he just listened to me. I felt safe, I felt for the first time this wasn’t my fault and I didn’t deserve to feel like this. He always encouraged me to get help, he made it clear he couldn’t and shouldn’t help me on his own.
Over time I got to know the girls who took me under their wing, I wasn’t so alone after all. Their kind words and patience kept me going, even when I was crying so much I had to leave a lecture. I sat outside the University sobbing so hard it was like the worst grief I’d ever felt, but kept getting messages of concern from all of them. They are always there for me and have been brilliant. I have now had a few counselling sessions with a University councilor and she is really insightful. Within the first hour she made me realise things I hadn’t and just knowing these things made my emotions easier to bear. I’ve begun to unpick my thoughts and feelings, its going to be a long journey but just starting on this road has made me feel so much more positive. I’m also taking anti-depressants which helps me think straight and see things are not as bad as they seemed before. I cannot describe the difference I feel from my first months at Uni to now. Its like the sun is out all the time, I want to talk to people, and I want to engage with the world again. I’m looking forward to being well and now I remember what I was like before the depression. My husband and I are falling back in love, I feel like looking after myself, which I never did before (I never thought I was worth it). I’m excited about my future at University and beyond. I’m applying to be a Student Academic Lead, and a Student Information Officer with the RCN because my confidence is growing all the time. It’s a huge turn around and if I hadn’t started University I wouldn’t have found the person that put me on the path to freedom. He told me I had to get help, he showed me where to go. If not for him, my friends, the councilor and the GP, I would still be sat at home wrapped in blankets, feeling alone in the world..
Victoria Cox – Second Year Adult Nursing Student