Wellbeing Champion and Biomedical Science Student, Abbie, shares her experience of anxiety and depression, and encourages others to talk about how they’re feeling.
When anxiety and depression began to have a huge effect on my life, I found it difficult to talk about how I was feeling. I struggled to even put what I was experiencing into words.
Speaking to a counsellor helped immensely. As well as regaining confidence, I could better communicate what I was feeling with my loved ones and this has been so important to where I am now.
Since seeking help, I’ve become a Wellbeing Champion and helped with the university’s ‘What’s on Your Mind? Let’s Share’ campaign because I’m passionate about ending mental health stigma, and I want to help others who may be struggling to know that they are not alone.
What is anxiety?
‘Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life – for example, you may feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam, or having a medical test or job interview. During times like these, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal. However, some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect their daily lives’ – NHS website. Find out more about the symptoms and treatment of anxiety here.
What is depression?
Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days. Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you’re depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days. Some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They’re wrong – it is a real illness with real symptoms. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness or something you can “snap out of” by “pulling yourself together”. The good news is that with the right treatment and support, most people with depression can make a full recovery’ – NHS website. Find out more about the symptoms and treatment for depression here.
My experience with anxiety and depression stems from the effects of a series of emotionally abusive relationships. These relationships made me feel worthless, alone and left me with incredibly low self-esteem and self-worth. Manipulating, controlling behaviour and emotional abuse can be direct but also very subtle, and this is why I often shied away from discussing my experience. My feelings weren’t tangible to most, so it made it difficult for friends to help me and for me to explain in a way they could understand.
In addition to this, I had always been told that being upset and anxious is “normal”, which is to some extent true. However these feelings were ruling my life. It was not simply a short burst of anxiety but a constant feeling of being on edge/threatened.
I attempted to deal with these emotions through either being as busy as possible to avoid confronting these feelings, or in contrast, spending days on end not leaving the house because I could barely face getting out of bed. I felt like a shell of who I was, like I had lost all the positive traits about me. This low self-worth made me put myself in questionable situations with the aim of gaining validation.
Due to this combination of behaviour, it took me a long time to seek treatment and it is has been an ongoing battle to feel I am even worthy of seeking help. However, once I did, it made a world of difference to my wellbeing and shaping the person I’ve become. Through counselling and medication, my mental health has improved dramatically.
Having a voice outside of my situation and without bias (e.g. a counsellor/therapist) allowed me to explore my emotions and experiences without judgement and without preconceived notions of why I was feeling a certain way. This was certainly a turning point in both regaining confidence and learning how to better communicate what I was feeling with my loved ones.
I always remind myself that I know myself better than anyone else and not to take other peoples opinions on my mental wellbeing as matter of fact. Over the past 4 years, from my initial diagnosis to delving into different therapy options, I have learnt what not only what work well for me but for those who want/are trying to help me. Being patient with yourself and those around is so important whilst you work through your own feelings, diagnoses and how you want you and those around you to help you manage your mental health.
With this, there is certainly a no one-fits-all approach nor is there a “miracle cure” when it comes to mental health because experiences of mental-ill health are so varied. However, reaching out to those you’re worried about or personally seeking help (this doesn’t just refer to medication/therapy but whatever you feel helps your wellbeing), regardless of how big or small you feel the problem is, is always a step you can take and you should never feel as though you don’t deserve that.
What’s on Your Mind? Let’s Share more about mental health
Watch our #LetsShare video, featuring Cardiff University students and staff, who have been brave enough to speak about their own personal experiences of mental health, in support of the Campaign.
Students have also shared their experiences in a series of blogs:
Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service
The Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service can offer support to anybody experiencing any sort of difficulty.
One-to-one therapy appointments are available to request via an Online Self-Referral Form, which can be found on the Our Appointments Page of the Student Intranet.
A daily Wellbeing Walk-In Service (15:00-15:45: Monday–Friday and Wednesday mornings: 9:30-10:15 at the Student Support Centre at 50 Park Place) is also available.
Wellbeing Workshops offer information, support and self-help resources on a variety of mental health difficulties, and several therapeutic Courses and Groups are also available, offering a safe and confidential space to explore issues and develop new skills over the course of several weeks.
The Disclosure Response Team
If you have been affected by violence or abuse, or are aware of a fellow student being affected, there is a specialist team at Cardiff University that can support you.
You can use the online Disclosure Response Tool to make an identified or anonymous disclosure,
Abbie, Biomedical Science Student and Wellbeing Champion.
Your Student Life, Supported.
The Student Support Centre has a range of services dedicated to helping students make the most of their time at University, including: Advice & Money, Careers & Employability, Counselling, Health & Wellbeing, Disability & Dyslexia and International Student Support.
For further details of services, events, opening times and more find us on the University Intranet.