Wednesday 7 February 2018

It's okay to reach out

Hannah shares her experience of anxiety around her dissertation and how reaching out for support helped.
 - Hannah Morton

At school, I’ve always had to work hard and had been a fairly average student. I’ve also been a pretty good procrastinator and when you team this with my anxiety, you can easily become a master of avoidance. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since my mid-teens however when it came time to go to university I believed I’d beaten it. For the first two years of my studies, things were generally fine but then came my third year and my dissertation.

I had decided my title and study for my dissertation, spent the summer abroad carrying out research and found the papers and books to refer to. However, when it came to writing, I’d freeze. I can’t tell you how many hours spent staring at that blank document desperately willing myself to write something. My dissertation had become such a big deal to me that I was completely overwhelmed.

I continued all my other work.  Coursework, readings, exam revision, that was all fine but when asked how my dissertation was going, my response was simply, ‘it’s going’. Truthfully, it was going nowhere. I disengaged with my supervisor and buried my head in sand.

In March of my final semester, it became too much. My anxiety had become so all-consuming; I fell into depression. I just felt complete despair and had an overwhelming feeling I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to leave my bed; sleep was an easy escape from reality. I was certain I was going to have to drop out of University, right at the last hurdle. I felt so weak and disappointed in myself.

Continuing my studies felt impossible but one day I managed to find some strength and did something I should have done a lot earlier, I reached out for help. I made an appointment with my GP and told him everything they gave me a prescription and referred me to a counselling service. I then pushed myself to ring my mum and tell her what had happened. This was something I was extremely apprehensive to do but when I did the biggest emotion I felt was relief. I was able to get support and though it wasn’t easy, I managed to complete and submit my dissertation, finish my third year and graduate!

When you’re struggling it can feel exceptionally lonely and it can be so hard to reach out to anyone. I was ashamed of myself and felt everyone would judge me and think badly of me. In reality, everyone was so supportive and I only wished I’d been able to do it sooner.

It is important to reach out in a way that is right for you but honestly, it is absolutely worth taking that chance. This experience also taught me that if you’re determined, you really can do everything you need to do.

Hi, I'm Hannah. I graduated in 2012 and have depression and anxiety, I have done since I was around 14/15yrs old. I wanted to write for Student Minds as my mental health has had a big impact on my life, both negative and positive, including my studies. I'm now a mental health blogger and campaigner, working in Student Support, hoping to help others with similar experiences. 

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