Thursday 19 July 2018

Secrets, Shame, and Sharing your Story

Andrew explores why it took him time to open up about his mental health struggles, and why he resists being labelled as 'disabled'.

- Andrew

I was diagnosed with depression at seventeen years old. Fortunately for me I have friends who, at the time, convinced me that I needed to tell my parents something wasn’t right in my head. In my first appointments with many psychiatrist and psychologists I was told the same thing, almost word for word: ‘there is a chemical imbalance in your brain’ and ‘you aren’t producing enough serotonin’. During that time of regularly seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist, taking my daily medication (SSRI’s), there were only a handful of people who knew I had depression. My depression was something which made me ashamed.

While I was at university, I decided I wanted to keep it to myself and not tell the university. That was, until I reached my final year and was required to complete a final project. After a few mental breakdowns in the computer labs, I decided to tell my lectures and seek help. I was then directed to ‘Disability Services’. I can remember being on the phone to one of the university employees who help ‘disabled students' and I cried afterwards. He was extremely nice, but it felt devastating. Being labelled as ‘disabled’ really set me back. I can understand their reasoning for sending me to ‘Disability Services’, but it’s not the type of thing a 23-year-old wants to hear.

I had a few opportunities to open up about my depression. One occasion came when I was offered to share my story with a charity called Baytr back home in Australia, but I wasn’t ready and was just changing my medication. But once university finished, I felt free and didn’t feel the need to wear a ‘disabled’ label. 

Just before I moved to the UK, I sat down with the founder of Batyr for coffee in Sydney. He told me about Student Minds and said I should get in touch. When I eventually made the move to the UK, I decided I wasn’t going to let my depression define me. Writing my first blog for Student Minds in April 2017 was the first real moment I felt comfortable and fine with people knowing that I have depression. I even told my current employers about my mental health when I was offered my job.

Now I have regular sit downs with my managers at work and talk about my counselling, my workload, my mental health and if there is any way they can help me if I’m struggling. I can’t thank enough all those people who have given me support and so much positive feedback. I’ve learnt that being depressed isn’t something to be ashamed of, and it shouldn’t define you. In the last month, I have turned to yoga and crossfit to ‘exercise my demons’, as well as reading books about the human consciousness to retrain my brain to be more positive. 

Really, my journey has only just begun.

I am a twenty-five-year-old Aussie bloke; atfer buying my one-way ticket and making the big move, I came into contact with Student Minds and applied for their Fundraising Champions initiative earlier this year, and when I was elected, my head filled up with ideas on how I can help break down this mental health stigma. I wanted to start by sharing my story with Student Minds and the extended mental health community.

1 comment:

  1. Andrew, by the sound of it, I was in a very similar position to you a few months ago. One of the university counsellors suggested I speak to the disability support office. For some reason, the suggestion just really put me back. So thankyou for sharing your story - it's really great to know I'm not on my own.