SA and my life – Part 3(3) (University)

I was extremely anxious about going back to uni after such a long summer break. I felt extremely alienated since I’d had almost no social interaction with anyone besides family and mental health/ HFA professionals. In the introductory lectures, everyone else seemed to be eagerly talking to others about everything they’d got up to during the holidays. Everyone – even the people who previously seemed to have no social group – was sitting, talking to friends. Besides a mature student who looked to be in her fifties, I was the only person there alone. My mood had improved a lot since the beginning of the year, but it was extremely disheartening to be reminded of how socially stunted, inept and isolated I am.

To my great surprise, JW got back in touch with me after us having no correspondence  whatsoever for the previous 4 months. It my sound awful, but I honestly wish that she hadn’t. I feel incapable of forming friendships because I can never let people in. I’m too afraid of being hurt. I can never just be myself around people. I reveal nothing. I feel that I could never reveal anything about my anxiety or depression for fear of stigma, so I try my best to put on an act. I don’t really understand WHY she got back in touch with me. I tell myself that no one would possibly want to be friends with someone like me. Surely she must long be sick of me by now? I find it hard to understand why people make the effort with me, really.

Overall, my first semester of second year was much better in terms of my mood. I still had intense urges to self harm; I still had many days and weeks when I was suicidal; I still had to ask for extensions on assignments because of my low mood and anxiety; but I have thankfully reached nowhere near the depth of despair and darkness that I did this time last year. Perhaps finally having access to a medically certified S.A.D lamp is one of the main reasons for this. I use it for about an hour and a half each day and it certainly seems to have taken the edge off my depression and improved my energy levels slightly. It was finally given to me by my psychiatrist in October (after he forgot it the first time he was supposed to bring it) as a trial. I will be buying my own next year, since this one seems to have helped a lot. I also implemented a few other things (I will write a post or series of them later about what has helped my mental health and what hasn’t – hopefully it will be of some help to others) to try to improve my mood, such as regular exercise, adequate sleep (not easy in combination with uni, but I did try), getting a good supply of omega-3 fatty acids, healthy eating, exposure to daylight whenever possible, CBT, trying to keep myself (and therefore my mind) busy, etc. I can only hope that these things in combination will continue to help.

A couple of weeks after I went back to university, my mum and I told my grandparents a little bit about how my mental health had been – we simply told them that I had felt very depressed and had been on anti-depressants in the past, and that I’m very anxious around people and find talking to and making friends with people extremely difficult. We also told them about my S.A.D. We didn’t mention anything about self harm or suicide because I didn’t want them to know about any of that. I just wanted to mention the bare minimum required for them to understand the difficulties I had been facing and not to make me feel worse by saying things like “Why are you in bed at 4pm? Don’t be so lazy!” or “You just need to go up to people and smile”. My grandmother was quite accepting of my depression and anxiety (especially since my aunt suffered mild depression in her teens). She said that she had wondered and was sometimes concerned about my lack of friends and the fact that I seemed to be “a bit down” or get myself “all worked up” at times. My grandad wasn’t quite so understanding – the first thing he said when we mentioned my social anxiety was “Yeah, you’re just shy” and he has made a few jokes about mental illness/ seeing a psychiatrist, which haven’t helped. He has, however, been quite accepting of my S.A.D – apparently one of their neighbours also has the condition. Whilst neither of my grandparents really understand much about my mental health, my grandmother has been quite supportive and both have been okay with me using my S.A.D lamp and sleeping a bit more at times.

So yeah…I’ve pretty much written my life story up to this point now. Hopefully it’s provided an insight as to what it’s like to suffer from depression and SA. As I mentioned, it’s now the Christmas holidays, so I will be updating my blog more often. It’s nice to finally get a break from the constant studying and assignments but I’m now forced to deal with the extreme loneliness which always seems to be amplified during the holidays. I’m going to try to keep myself as busy as I can in an attempt to take my mind off things.

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