As part of our new Looking back series, students take a retrospective look at their darkest points and examine what has changed. In this article, an anonymous student talks about how the counselling services got them on the right track.
I turned up to University, on the most part, mentally healthy. However, by Christmas my mental health had deteriorated massively. Anxiety hit me like a sledgehammer and it was taking over my life. For example, I would often ask my friends if they wanted to watch a film in the evenings, one night they all said they were too tired or busy. My instinct was not to just accept it as normal, but to lock myself in my room for a number of days, experiencing numerous panic attacks, adamant that they all hated me and that they were watching a film without me.
I refused to go to the doctor because I had become adamant the doctor would tell me I did not have any kind of mental illness. I had hit crisis point.
My anxiety started to affect my long-term relationship, which became consumed with me constantly needing reassurance that I was loved and that I was not a burden. Understandable, my girlfriend after 3 months of that found it hard to deal with. I went through a period where I did not sleep for three days on account of staying up, worrying that my friends hated me, that my family did not love me, that I was ruining my relationship. I would spend evening upon evening in my small room shaking, crying and fearing the worst possible scenario for every single friendship and relationship I had formed over my lifetime.
I had become suicidal, feeling like release from this kind of existence was better than combatting it. I refused to go to the doctor because I had become adamant the doctor would tell me I did not have any kind of mental illness. I had hit crisis point. My friends and my girlfriend had tried their best to get me to get help and I avoided it. One evening in particular sticks in my mind. I had not slept for 3 days, and I had an episode on account of my sleep deprivation: I blacked out and was roaming my friend’s flat karate chopping things, speaking gibberish and shouting about how I hated old people and people who used Zimmer frames - all of which I don’t remember. It sounds somewhat funny, but it was scary. At this point I realised that I needed help. My girlfriend organised a doctor’s appointment, my friend sat down with me and made me register for student counselling services.
I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, insomnia and obsessive tendencies. I was experiencing extreme sleep deprivation as a result of my anxiety. After signing up to student counselling services I started on a group CBT session, where I became aware that I was not alone in my issues. I began to establish mechanisms for rationalizing my thoughts, for preventing panic attacks and for clearing my mind before sleep. I also began one to one counselling, which helped me talk through my issues in a deeper, more intimate setting. I started on medication both for my anxiety and my insomnia.
Fast forward to third year and I can honestly say that the reason I am still at university and - most importantly - am still alive is because I sought help from the counselling services. I needed professional help and treatment. I now have mechanisms for calming myself down and rationalizing my thoughts, I have panic attacks once every few months - as opposed to every day. I come out of my room. I go to university. I feel comfortable in my relationship. I am on a first in my degree. I rarely think that everyone hates me and when I do, I rationalize it. I feel comfortable in myself and I want to live and am happy to be alive. I cannot explain how important going to the counselling services is. I, for one, would not be here without them.
Unsplash / Max van den Oetelaar
If you would like to explore the Wellbeing services for yourself, you can do so at http://www.bristol.ac.uk/student-counselling/