How I've survived uni life with anxiety and depression

March 25, 2015
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Being a university student is, by nature, a stressful experience. There are piles of assessments and essays that flood in and sometimes we just feel like giving up and spending weeks yelling “fuck it, I’m dropping out!” into our pillows in moments of desperation.

We move out of home and we’re subjected to the potential of shitty housemates and trying to scrimp enough money together to pay the bills. There are some situations, however, where outside factors can cause people to actually consider dropping out.

One of these factors can be mental health issues, or ‘invisible illnesses’, such as depression or anxiety. Despite some people continuing to palm these off as “just a rough patch” with misguided comforts of “you’ll be right”, these illnesses are very real and can have devastating impacts on someone, such as a student, who is under a lot of stress anyway. In fact, according to Beyond Blue, one in six people will experience clinical depression in their lifetime.

Who am I to make these statements, you might ask? Well, I’m recovering from both. I was diagnosed with depression and mild anxiety about four years ago. Triggered by some major personal losses, my mental illnesses made the end of my high schooling and the beginning of university incredibly difficult.

While I believe that these illnesses affect everyone diagnosed in different ways, my personal experience with depression was that I would undergo long periods of sadness, often for no real reason. When I started uni, I was nervous about making new friends, I was terrified of doing presentations in front of people I didn’t know and the mere thought of walking through campus was something that shook me to my very core.

What I’ve found, however, is that once you challenge the negativity, things will start to look up. I started my degree in 2013 not knowing a single person in my cohort, I was too anxious to even try and get to know them. Life took its course, and I learned how to embrace new friendships.

My experience also showed me that university students are very aware and eager to help however they can. In fact, the number of young people recognising depression and anxiety as a major issue is increasing rapidly every year and this was the first critical thing that seriously helped me start my journey towards recovery.

Every university has services available to help you as much as it can. I found that counsellors at my university were mostly there to listen, and that was the second thing key to starting my recovery. I literally walked out of every session with an irrepressible smile on my face. They have given me appropriate advice that is easily applicable to my daily life, and it’s something I am eternally grateful for.

The most important thing I’ve learned, however, is that everything will be OK.

As someone who’s slowly but surely recovering, and as someone also in his last year of uni, I’ve learned a lot about dealing with it and being able to study effectively.

Remember that people are there to listen, professionals or otherwise, and help is always available. Be sure to get enough sleep, try and lead a healthy lifestyle, surround yourself with positive people and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Depression is real, but it’s manageable and recovery is a possibility.

Jackson Langford

Jackson is studying a Bachelor of Communication degree at the University of Newcastle and is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.

Image: Rupert Parry, The University of Sydney

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