Saturday, 6 February 2021

Being diagnosed with bipolar

Natasha shares her experiences of struggling with mental health whist at University and her journey to being diagnosed with bipolar.

- Natasha Stenning

Hi, my name is Natasha Stenning. I am a 22-years-old and currently a student at York St John University. However, I am not a normal English girl. Whilst I have a British passport, I was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, and spent a couple of years in China, Tanzania and the Philippians.

Anyway, people describe me as an energetic and bubbly girl who does not stop talking and always wants cuddles. Overall, I am a friendly, kind, caring person but I was not always this way. I had a very content childhood in Kenya. I was confident, happy and had a good social, academic and sports life. However, the trouble started when I joined university.

I moved to England in August 2017 to attend University of Brighton and study a BSc in Physiotherapy. I quickly realised that I was not happy where I was. I was far away from my family, had not managed to connect with anyone and found that the UK was a foreign country to me even though I technically was British. Things got worse I stopped going to sports, lectures and meeting with friends. I was crying on the phone to my parents every night. By November I was depressed and anxious. My dad flew over from Kenya and pulled me out of university eight weeks into term.

December to March was a difficult time for me. Looking back, it was all a blur. However, by the end of March, I had this amazing job in Switzerland for the summer, working in a kid’s adventure camp for 10 weeks. Those 10 weeks changed my life. I got my confidence and personality back. During this time, I was accepted onto the BSc in physiotherapy at YSJ.

I returned to England in September. The first month was incredible. I found an amazing group of friends, loved the city, joined societies and sport teams, and loved my course. I was living the life every university student wants to lead. However, October hit and bits of anxiety started to creep in. I was starting to doubt that I wanted to study physiotherapy. I was struggling to keep up. I started finding York too small and had convinced myself I had not really made any friends. I contacted student health services and found they didn’t really help. By November reading week, I went back home to Kenya. I came back diagnosed with moderate clinical depression and anxiety and was put on medication.

I was back in the same position as the previous year, frustrated and scared cause I felt alone. I was so lost and felt I had no direction. Things kept getting worse till it got to February 2019. At this point I felt I had no one in the world. I had not been helped by the health services and had given up. I locked myself in my room for 3 weeks, avoiding my family, friends and lectures. My best friend messaged my sister. She and my sister came and basically broke down my door. They saved my life. I went home to Kenya, changed my medication and started therapy. I slowly started feeling better.

I came back to York in April to organize my life. I changed course to study a BSc in Sports Therapy. I repaired my friendships and found the most amazing boyfriend. The last few months in York had been of my best of my life. Over the next year, I tried to keep up with my studies and friends, accept I still felt something was off. After a few more ups and downs, in August 2020 I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder. I was put on different medication and my therapy changed to address the new diagnosis. Since then I have never been more settled or happy both in my own skin and my situation in life. My medication and therapy have kicked in.

I do not want this story to scare people off university. I am just sharing my own experience. Now I love university and would not change any of my experiences as I am a stronger person. However, this is why I re- started up Student Minds at York St John University. I want to help people going through anything similar. Know these feelings are completely normal. University is a tough time and you can ask for help. That is what we are for! Combating Mental Health one student at a time.

Lots of love, Tash x

Find out more about Bipolar and supporting a friend and the small steps you can take to ​look after your wellbeing.



Hi, I’m Natasha, a sports therapy student applying for an Osteopathy masters. After experiencing mental health struggles at university, I am passionate about insuring the student voice is heard. I believe mental health is a vital issue that needs to be addressed and seen as an equal to physical health.

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