Friday 10 November 2017

Medication and Moving to University

Lauren explores her experiences with medication and moving to university with Mental Illness'

- Lauren Brooks

Everybody tells you going to university is the scariest but greatest thing that you’ll ever do, but no one ever tells you what to expect when you have mental health difficulties. I, myself, suffer from social anxiety, which is when you feel so scared to even speak to someone, that it paralyses you; OCD, which causes people to think irrationally and become compulsive with certain habits in order to prevent a certain event which they think will happen. Finally, I also suffer from depression, which is like a dark cloud that is constantly over you, no matter how hard you may try to get rid of it. During the summer, I had an exact plan of what I was going to do, I was going to slowly wean myself off my anti-depressants so I could become stable enough to cope without them. However, I didn’t realise just how much my mind, at that moment in time, still needed the medication in order to function.

So, once I tried to wean myself off, first by lowering the dosage through the advice of a doctor, I started to become very low in my moods or I would begin the day on an okay kind of mood, which would eventually go downhill. Telling my parents that I was struggling was hard, as it felt like in a way that my self-control and plans had been taken away from me, I wanted to stop taking the medication, so that I could start at university afresh and not have anything preventing me from socialising, like I wanted to enjoy a few drinks and experience the sensation of getting tipsy, like your usual kind of eighteen year old.

My doctor luckily let me keep a packet of my higher dosage, so that if I ever needed it I could go back to it, taking that tablet in the morning was tough, as I knew it would be another six to twelve months, before the doctors would even consider letting me off the antidepressants again. But, after seeing just how much the medication helped to make my mood okay again, I decided that my mind was telling me that it wasn’t quite ready yet to take the stabilisers off the bike yet. So, a few days later, it’s A Level Results Day, the day I had been waiting three months for, the anxiety and dread filled within me, as I knew this would be the day I found out whether I had made it into university or not.

My anxiety filled mind kept me awake the whole night practically, making me panic about the worst outcomes possible, so at around half six I got up, went downstairs, turned on my laptop, went on the UCAS website and that’s where I saw it, I had got into university. I could hardly breathe, I was so shocked, relieved and in wonder, all of the blood, sweat and tears had been worth it. Throughout the three weeks prior to my arrival at university, my family and I were in such a rush trying to get all the stuff I needed together and sorting out my accommodation, but also those three weeks felt like the longest few weeks of my life.

So, when arrivals weekend came, I was relieved that it was finally here, but also immensely nervous, what if my new flatmates don’t like me? What if I don’t like the course? What if my anxiety makes me feel unable to speak to anyone? Safe to say, my mood was very up and down on move in day, so when the time arrived to say goodbye to my family, I was in floods of tears as I watched them leave, despite knowing that they were only an hour’s drive away. At first, I found it very overwhelming knowing that I would be living on my own for three whole academic years, responsible for looking after my own safety and wellbeing.

I also struggled with immense loneliness, keeping myself in my room, afraid of showing people my real self, in case they didn’t like what they seen. Going into university, I had extremely high and ridiculous expectations that I would meet friends straight away, but now I realise that it doesn’t happen overnight that it takes time. Getting used to living on campus at university isn’t easy especially with mental health issues, but the rewards you get out of it, is also amazing. You feel so much more independent and able, you get to meet new people, venture out of your comfort zone. If you are struggling, my advice would be, don’t stay quiet, tell someone. Because you never know, someone else may be feeling exactly the same as you.

"Hi, I'm Lauren, I am a first year student studying Social Work. I suffer from Depression, OCD and anxiety, I am writing for Student Minds to try and help others."

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