The first month back at uni has been absolutely mental (pardon the pun) with so many problems and challenges surrounding me.
I suffer from SAD, which stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. In a nutshell, this means I get really tired, depressed, hungry and demotivated due to changes in the weather, sunlight and hormones. For over four years, I’ve experienced the same shitty symptoms and had to force myself out of bed… most of the time. Last year was particularly bad when I locked myself in my room at uni for about 4 days over the weekend. I literally didn’t leave my room unless it was to use the shared bathroom and boil the kettle. I slept most of that timeframe, showered once (I normally shower every single day) and binge ate a load of crap food (one of the only times I ate a pot noodle, which I find gross. Yeah yeah, bite me) stored in my room. I watched Pokemon, shit movies and didn’t work or speak to anyone. It was honestly one of the worst experiences in my life: I felt isolated, low, disgusting.
Since my Dad died in April, I’ve felt so much more anxious about everything in my life – it hasn’t stopped me functioning, but I’m worried that it will potentially make my looming SAD worse. A relative said that because I was anticipating it, I was setting myself up for it and thus guaranteed that I would have a sh*tty winter. She also asked if I liked being sad (which just irritated me) and that all I needed to do was change my thinking. Whilst what was said is true, SAD is more complicated than just feeling depressed or anxious, it’s the environmental changes that exacerbate negative or irrational thoughts and emotions.
As always, talking about mental health helps break down the stigma and can help us who are suffering. I struggle to trust people sometimes; I have a very small handful of people who I talk to about issues when they arise, and I have no wall around them. These friends are absolutely magical and I’m so lucky that I met them. One I’ve known all my life, one a few years and another a few months: it does not matter about time here, it’s those who stick around and understand you that make things easier.
In the past, I have not found talking to professional counsellors helpful, as when I’m most vulnerable, they’re not there – and when I’m at a session, things have ironically calmed down for the time being. But that’s not to say that giving them a go is a bad thing. There are plenty of people to talk to:
- SAMARITANS: 116 123
- CALM: https://www.thecalmzone.net/
- MIND: https://www.mind.org.uk/
- OpenDoor teams
- Local GPs may be able to recommend specific counsellors
My coping strategies have always involved listening to emotive and provocative music, writing fragments of songs and talking to friends. Recently, however, I have found that keeping busy, blogging and writing experiences and emotions down (without dates and names) in a a book that is solely private to me really powerful, as I don’t end up upsetting anyone else in the process, yet those thoughts are out and not bothering me.
I have also been researching into different aids, including extra (specific) vitamin supplements, meditation, blue/artificial sunlight light therapy, aromatherapy (to aid with sleeplessness) and weighted anxiety blankets. It’ll be interesting to see how these impact.
Other than SAD, anxiety etc, there have been some other issues surrounding me. A friendship that broke down due to being overly paranoid. Another seeing good friends of mine dealing with a recent suicide – a different kind of death compared to my dad’s terminal illness – which is extremely difficult to deal with. I have seen people tormenting themselves with “what ifs” (my mum too) and it’s so hard not to dwell on the hypothetical, but we’ll always do it. A word from me, is to cut yourself some slack and try not to get bogged down by it. Take a day off – I’ve written today off to focus on my mental health – and let yourself start again tomorrow. Take care of yourself, inside and out, mentally and physically.