The first year at university is usually considered one of the most pivotal years of a person’s life. You’ve finally plummeted out of the nest into the confusing yet exhilarating experience of university and are left to fend for yourself. In my experience, first year was simultaneously the best and worst year of my life. It was the year that I, alongside approximately 20% of students across the nation, faced the gruelling test of learning to live with depression at university.
You know when you really, really don’t want to do the hoovering? The carpet looks like a massacre has occurred and you know it’ll only take ten minutes and you’ll feel so much better afterwards but still, you’d rather chop off a limb than do it. It’s the same when you’ve got a 9AM lecture in the morning after a night out that you somehow convinced yourself was a good idea. ‘Lectures aren’t optional,’ you tell yourself, ‘your degree is the real reason you’re here, you need to go.’ But despite your best efforts to coax yourself out of bed, your stomach is churning, your head feels like it’s full of hot lead and the thought of spending forty-five minutes pretending to be absorbed in a lecture when realistically you’d be suppressing embarrassing memories from the night before, is utterly unbearable. So you succumb to your hangover and switch off your alarm before burying your face into your pillow, using your duvet to shield you from your responsibilities.
That feeling, desperate, exhausted, unsettled; a grey cloud pushing down hard, the lead in your bones, the rocks in your chest – that’s how I feel all day, every day. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how depression takes its slow, steady, and painful toll on your life. I used to get excited when mum announced that we were having chips for tea, but now I can spend the day drinking prosecco on the beach with my wonderful, amazing friends in the beautiful British sunshine (yes, it really exists!) and not feel a thing. Although few and far between, there are still good days; I can still be found harassing the DJ in the cheese room in Oceana with endless song requests, or spending the majority of my student loan in Urban Outfitters.
Some have expressed concern that it must be more difficult to deal with depression at university, due to questionable sleeping patterns, increased responsibility and being away from home. However, the unpredictability and intensity of university keeps you on your toes, proving that things have to get better as nothing stays the same for long.
Furthermore, university allows you to study a subject that you have a genuine passion for, thus meeting deadlines seems fractionally more manageable and lectures can serve as an escape from the confines of your serotonin-deprived mind. Navigating your way through those first few years of adulthood at university can be draining, but more often than not, it is terrifying and exhilarating.
Throughout my childhood, I have been deemed an “overachiever”, as have the vast majority of university students. Therefore, when depression takes that slow, steady and painful toll and I neglect my responsibilities and need help, I feel like a failure. I still laugh, I still get giddy and tipsy, I sometimes even get up before midday and I can admit that my new sunglasses really do look good on me – but something has shifted. I need help and there is no shame in that.
It is essential to remember that just because the word looks dull grey, shaded in with a pencil, all tumbleweed and rain clouds, it doesn’t mean it really is. Just like the British sunshine, true happiness does exist. Life changes like the weather; it will get brighter eventually.