Wednesday 4 December 2019

The Pressures That Be

Siena writes about the pressures on mental health during and after university, and advises that it is okay to be not okay. 
- Siena Hocking

I can be a negative and cynical person. I tend to find it difficult to see the positive side in a lot of situations. I’m not sure why this is and most of the time it doesn’t really affect me, it’s just who I am. Any sort of hurdle I’ve faced seems to get covered by a dark, self-depreciating sense of humour. I sometimes have an innate ability to see my world through a lens tinted with negativity, anger, and indifference, but at least I make it funny!

I feel bad about this. I feel like maybe I’m just being dramatic about everything and that I’m merely some sort of narcissist for constantly drawing attention to myself. I’ve not had to endure the death of a loved one, I’m not a victim of trauma, I’ve not suffered a debilitating physical or mental illness – then why then do I feel so hopeless sometimes? I try to laugh it off. But there’s only so much laughing I can do before it catches up with me again; I’ll cry on the tube, train, bus, in the gym (granted this might be due to a minor stress-induced asthma attack), in a stationary shop. It really can be relentless. I feel dramatic to admit that this constant headache is due to a trivial issue: my first heartbreak. We have all been there, and it’s not like my husband of forty years has suddenly dropped dead, but it’s still crap. I’ve also landed myself in the position of being (temporarily, let’s hope) unemployed. I feel as though I’ve been dropped back into the deep end of a dark hole that often reared its ugly head in third year of uni.

I loved university. First and second year was just a doss and a party. Third year I still loved but it really screwed with my head. I was essentially a hot mess I was always raging about something – I cried in the shower a LOT, torturing myself with Khalid songs which brought me joy and despair. But I always laughed it off – haha, cried in the shower again guys …

Third year was also when I fell in love. It’s hard to let a person see your pain and see them trying to understand it, when you don‘t even yourself. What’s wrong? What makes you feel like this? What can I do? Why don’t you seek professional help? These questions are hard to answer when all you’re feeling is numb, nothing but a dark void fills my head. I just don’t know. All I could feel was the pressure of questioning my existence, my purpose, my abilities, what do I WANT? WHO do I want to be? What am I actually good at? I’m nervous, scared, anxious. WHEN will this relentless and pointless stream of coursework, exams and grades end?

University ended well. I got what I came for and the final few weeks were pretty much a boozy bliss. Within a week of being at home, I’d landed an internship in London. I was in the place I wanted to be, and everything was great, but only for a while. Things started to fall apart and here I am now.  It feels like I’m sinking under water, the deeper I get the more the pressure starts to crush me. Luckily, I’m surrounded by people who will always be there to help me resurface, but it hurts that the hand I want, the hand I need, is no longer there to pull me out. But that’s life, stuff happens, and you have to learn to be your own lifeboat.  Every day I feel the pressures – a pressure to be strong, be impressive, be successful, find a job, become financially independent, love myself, look after myself, not to care, to care too much, get over it, move on, feel the anger, hate and sadness, put on a brave face but also to allow myself to feel, to cry, to know that not every day I will be ok. And that’s ok. My friends reassure me that I’m doing well, I’m being strong and that’s all I need.

It’s the small things that are important to consider when feeling: sad, tired, worthless, pointless, hurt. I remain positive in the hope that these feelings will fade over time.  There are days when I do feel great. I’ve got my ‘Independent Woman’ playlist on for the 1000th time, and it bangs. I’ve crushed an insanely sweaty spin class, similar to the one in Bridget Jones’ Baby – if you don’t know what I’m referring to then grow up - how have you not watched it a million times already!? There are moments of feeling empowered that I revel in.

The message I’m trying to convey is that you’re allowed to feel like utter crap. Whether it’s about love, heartbreak, stress, university, your job, your friends, your flat, anything – don’t hide from your feelings, all it does is eat you alive. Allow yourself to be upset but allow yourself to feel good about the things you enjoy and love – things that bring you happiness. Don’t abandon them. Let your friends and family see and accept your demons, no matter how painful it may be. I’m glad to know mine will always be there for me with handfuls of loo roll when I tell them I’m ok, only to have an emotional breakdown. But I know that over time I’ll be ok. If you feel anything like me, know that time is always on our side and it’ll get better.

You can find advice on looking after your wellbeing here. 

Hi, I’m Siena. I’ve recently graduated from University and wanted to share how it can be a really tough time and can really affect mental health.

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