Monday 8 January 2018

What I learned about my mental health in 2017

Emily explores how her experiences during 2017 have helped her to learn more about her mental health.
- Emily Maybanks 

2017 was an important and strange year concerning my mental health. I have written previously about how having ovarian cancer, and the aftermath of this experience has impacted my mental health. However, having learnt a lot from my mental health in 2017, I am entering 2018 with overwhelming feelings of excitement for new opportunities, fear for graduating in the summer and the unknown afterwards, and determination for doing the very best I can. However, there are three key things I learnt about my mental health last year. 

First of all, I received a new mental health diagnosis in 2017, which threw me off course completely. Following a major laparoscopic operation in April to remove a tumour and my ovary, I was diagnosed as being post-operatively depressed in May 2017. I’d never heard of being depressed following an operation before my diagnosis. I felt ashamed about being post-operatively depressed and I didn’t tell anyone about it for months. However, eventually opening up about it and realising that people didn’t think I was completely crazy was reassuring. 

Secondly, I learnt a lot about anxiety last year. Before my operation, I was incredibly anxious and scared. I was afraid of the unknown; it was my first ever operation and it took me ages to realise that it was okay to be terrified and anxious. In the hospital, following my operation, an older lady told me that she’d just had her fourth operation and she still felt scared beforehand. I’ve also been quite claustrophobic for most of my life. I hate crowded places and I rarely go on nights out at university for this reason. In August 2017, whilst working at Reading Festival, I took on a very big challenge of watching Bastille perform on Reading Festival’s main stage. The crowd was massive and I felt quite uncomfortable, but, once I got lost in the music of my favourite band, it was worth it. 

Finally, I’ve learnt that talking and sharing my story is a good way to cope with what has happened in my life. I started writing for the Student Minds blog in 2017 – for their summer and Christmas blog series. I also started editing the Swansea University Students’ newspaper as both Creative Writing Section Editor and Deputy Editor. Sharing information about mental health through the Waterfront newspaper, and the wider Swansea Student Media platforms has been really useful.

My name is Emily (Em). I am currently in my final year studying Modern Languages, Translation & Interpreting at Swansea University, where I'm also the Creative Writing Section Editor and Deputy Editor for The Waterfront - Swansea's student newspaper. I wanted to write for Student Minds because I have experienced depression and anxiety as well as other health issues, and I support friends who have also experienced mental health difficulties. I am also a passionate writer and writing has been important in my mental health experiences - both in helping me to cope with my mental health, as well as sharing my story in order to help others.

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