I’d lived with issues for a long time. Years. They came and went. I was sort of used to it.
It’s just the way it was. I knew these were problems but I never went so far as to get diagnosed. I took care of it myself. The usual, you know – self-medication. Self-destructive behaviour. It was a cycle I couldn’t get out of. In fact, I don’t know that I wanted to. I thought ‘That’s just who I am’, you know?
None of my old tricks were working any more
But in my second year, I lost it. An issue I had with addiction got completely out of control. I struggled to get out of bed. I couldn’t concentrate on lectures and course work. The stress was unimaginable and everything only seemed to make it worse. Through this I somehow still had a relationship, but that ended too. None of my old self-medicating tricks were working any more. I was sinking deeper and deeper.
I spoke to a counsellor at Queen’s and it really helped. I got a bit of perspective on things, which I just couldn’t manage on my own. I started taking medication as well, though it took a while to get the balance right. I moved home and my family have been great. We’re very close. But it’s been tough for them too, having to learn how to cope. How to talk about the issues. Talking releases pressure but it doesn’t stop the tank from filling, do you know what I mean? Because it’s not just me, it affects them too. That’s something you have to learn about mental health issues. Just like any other illness, it affects the person and the people around them too.
You realise you have do a lot of the treatment yourself. But you can
I suppose one way that mental health problems are different from, say, physical illness is in diagnosis and treatment. There’s no ‘take this pill, get this scan, have this operation’ and you’re all fixed. No. It takes time. And you have to do a lot of the treatment yourself. But you can, you discover. Things like getting enough sleep eating better, exercise, these work for me. Even a walk, a bit of fresh air, seems to help relieve stress. And the counselling has helped me recognise the signs of that pressure, the anxiety starting to build up again. These are techniques I’ll keep with me for life.
Learning about my condition has been a powerful thing too – reading up on it. You realise you’re not alone, it’s not only you. Other people have been here and beaten it. I feel better now than I have for years. I realised I’m stronger than I thought I was. Things can be managed. You can survive. That’s the lesson, I suppose.
Mental Health issues can affect anyone at any time. But confidential, professional help is available through the University.
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