Monday 18 December 2017

Why seeking help now is vital

A positive message about seeking help at university (from experience), and why you shouldn't give up on your dreams.
- Mai Behmber

Hi, reader! My name is Mai, I am a bioscience student at Swansea University, and this is my story of how I attempted to make my way through university without seeking help to manage my mental illness.

From as far back as I can remember, I have had an obsession with the sea and all its creatures. I have killer whale, dolphin and even octopus cuddly toys from when I was little, and more books about the sea than I can count. But I have also, for many years, experienced a heaviness that I couldn’t quite explain. I can only say that it feels like a black hole in my chest that varies daily in size. Some days, it completely sucks me in, and all I can do is lie helplessly in bed. Other days, it’s tiny and barely noticeable. The black hole was still very much with me when I started university in September 2016. I was, as I am now, on a foundation biology course to then go on to do a degree in marine biology. In doing this, I am working towards my lifelong goal of becoming a marine biologist.

Before coming to university, I had been in treatment for a year trying to recover from my undiagnosed mental illness. However, about a month in, and a second medication change later, I stopped attending lectures as my paranoia grew worse and the black hole became completely overwhelming. I felt scared and alone. My thoughts were no longer safe, and I couldn’t escape to dreamland as my mind felt plagued. Instead of reaching out for help, I tried to combat it myself. I didn’t open up to my parents, I didn’t seek counselling. All I did was ask for another medication change. Although being on the correct medication is an important step to some people’s recovery, it isn’t complete without the help of your family, friends and professionals.

Halfway through the academic year, the head of course called me in and told me that the university felt it was best for me to suspend my studies, and to try again the following year. At first, I was devastated. I thought I had messed up my future and my dream career. Thinking about not going to university made me feel like I had no future. Then the university let me know that they had no doubt about me being able to achieve getting my degree. This gave me hope that I still had a shot at getting everything I ever wanted.

Suspending was the best decision that could possibly have been made, as it gave me a chance to seek the help I truly needed. During the six months away from university, I managed to find the right combination of medication and counselling with the help of my family.

I have restarted the foundation year and I couldn’t be doing better. My grades are great, my attendance is what it should be, my family are in the know with what is going on in my head, and the university have, in the best way possible, wrapped me in bubble wrap. It feels as if the black hole is still there but other people are helping me keep it manageable. There’s no way I can fall backwards without someone catching me, and for the first time in years I feel confident and supported. I am overwhelmed with the support I have been able to get from the university. I couldn’t be in a safer place.

Hi, I’m Mai! I am a bioscience student at Swansea University, and suffer from an undiagnosed mental illness. I wanted to write a blog for Student Minds to let students know that they’re not alone in
their difficulties.

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