Polly, Cardiff Alumni and former Wellbeing Champion, talks about her struggles with depression and anxiety….
My symptoms of depression and anxiety first started showing when I started University in 2015. Being in an unfamiliar place, away from my usual support network of family, a feeling of detachment set in.
Although I’ve always been a hard worker, I took to University work and the creation of a rigid routine as a convenient escape from my increasingly dark thoughts. This routine basically took on a life of its own, becoming a source of huge stress and anxiety if I wasn’t maintaining a perfectly ordered and highly productive routine.
It wasn’t until my second term of first year that I truly began to realise that these dark thoughts, coupled with a desperate pursuit of working long hours, was unhealthy. But even then it was very hard to come clean with friends and family as, in my mind, my mental illness was evidence of my failure to cope with the University transition.
However, with a combination of medication (don’t let the stigma around medication hold you back from exploring this option) and counselling, I began to be able to look at my negative beliefs and working routine with greater clarity.
I realised that denying myself time off from work and constantly analysing my performance even when I was having a break, was detrimental to my wellbeing and general enjoyment of life. Similarly, I developed effective strategies to ‘call out’ my negative thoughts as just that – thoughts. Rather than hard facts to be acted on.
Through this I have managed to overcome most of the symptoms of depression and anxiety I was experiencing. So I know that, it does get better!
However, at the same time, living with and tackling a mental illness is really hard work and often a daily challenge. So, to all those people still battling it, please remember it’s okay to be exhausted and even if you have a bad day, you’re still doing something really powerful.
I know I still have bad days, and it can be disheartening to feel those dark thoughts bob up again when life gets more stressful. But recovery for mental illness is not linear and fluctuation is completely normal.
I encourage anyone experiencing mental health difficulties to reach out to trusted friends, family or professionals because they truly can ease the burden. For me I know this is something I still need to work at as I still have a tendency to breakdown only behind closed doors.
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.
So Let’s Share more about mental health…
Mental health conditions are common; they affect 1 in 4 people every year. The #LetsShare Campaign is all about encouraging us all to share more about mental health so that we can improve our wellbeing and help break down stigma.
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.
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Further details of services, events, opening times and contacts search ‘support and services’ on the University Intranet.