Modern Languages Student, Emily, talks about her experience with depression, anxiety and loneliness and encourages others to speak out about how they are feeling.
Starting university in a new city and a new country entirely was challenging and it was at this time that my mental health began to be affected.
Although things improved, they worsened again a year later and I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I made the decision to take an interruption of study and received help from a therapist. Doing this was the best decision I made, and I finally felt as though I had a purpose again.
Since seeking help, I’ve become a Wellbeing Champion in the hopes that I can help others who may be feeling a similar way 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.
What is Loneliness?
Loneliness is a painful awareness that you don’t feel connected to others, which isn’t necessarily the same as being alone.
Change is commonly linked to loneliness, especially if it’s out of the person’s control. This can include moving to a new city, going through a breakup or losing a loved one. Pre-existing mental health conditions like depression, anxiety or low self-esteem, are also often linked to loneliness.
My mental health began to take a toll when I started university back in 2015. Being in a new city and a new environment certainly has its challenges for everyone, and in my case, coming from another country made it even more difficult. However, as others began to settle in and make new friends, I found myself continuing to struggle. Several months in and I still felt incredibly lonely and out of touch with everyone, to the point where I considered dropping out of university at the end of the autumn semester.
Although things got better eventually, a year later I was back under that grey cloud. Deadlines and coursework doubled, and soon enough I was struck with “burn out”. I can still clearly remember struggling to get out of bed each morning, as my body felt completely drained and exhausted. I couldn’t handle the pressure and would cry almost every night. My anxiety inevitably worsened and I got to the point where even the thought of attending lectures was all too much to handle and I would often skip them altogether.
This time last year, I was over a month into my year abroad when everything came to a halt and I had a mental breakdown. That was when something clicked and I knew I had to come home. After careful consideration, I made the decision to take an interruption of study and was given two months of rest by my doctor. Shortly after that I began therapy and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
I remember feeling at an all time low, sleeping terribly, losing all interest in my hobbies and shutting myself off from the world. Coming back home in some ways felt humiliating. I was struck with guilt having missed an incredible opportunity to study abroad and felt as though I was letting a lot of people down. But my therapist helped me immensely, from looking at strategies to overcome social anxiety, to EMDR sessions (I promise it isn’t as scary as it sounds!) Of course, it wasn’t easy – therapy isn’t something that works overnight, it takes time and trust. But soon enough, I was able to leave our sessions with a spring in my step and a feeling of gratitude, knowing that I was perfectly capable of anything.
Taking a year off from my studies was the best decision I made. Not only to improve my mental health, but to finally be able to make time for all the things I was never able to do. After all, I made it very clear to my parents that I would not end up on the sofa watching telly all day (only for the first month or two maybe..)
I finally felt as though I had a purpose. I volunteered in the early hours of the morning, attended language classes twice a week, reunited with long-lost friends and made new ones. To top it all off, I was finally enjoying my favourite hobby again: dancing.
I could not have done any of this without the support of my family and Lisa, my therapist. My advice to anyone going through a similar situation is to remember you are not alone. I know I sound like a stuck record but if you ever feel overwhelmed and unhappy, please reach out and talk to someone. Whether a parent, sibling, best friend or counsellor, don’t suffer alone. I spent far too much time in denial, thinking other people had it worse, thus feeling even more guilty.
Anyone is welcome to counselling, there isn’t a list of what’s acceptable and what is a waste of time. Feeling stressed is enough to talk to someone.
The minute you start to open up, the better it gets.
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,
Emily, Modern Languages Student.
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.