Guest contributor A Amir on their experiences dealing with their mental health while at university and during the Covid-19 pandemic.
When people heard I was going to university, they offered me an array of advice. This ranged from tips about making friends and shopping for food effectively to staying safe in the city. Looking back, there was one blind spot in the countless pieces of advice I was given – how to look after my mental health.
On the surface, it appeared as if I had bloomed into a new person the second I had started university. Old friends remarked I seemed like a whole different person to the nervous wallflower they had once known. I was going out, exploring the city, had a large group of friends, and was now living on my own.
Whilst I was almost taken in by this illusion myself, it wasn’t long until the wheels began coming off the wagon.
My traumatic experiences were linked to my home environment, and as the saying goes, you can’t heal in the same environment that made you sick. I wasn’t able to fully process them until I had moved out. At that point, my brain decided it was the right time to raise the trauma it had repressed for so long; I could now react to it, without any fear of backlash.
I began to have relentless and vivid nightmares about my trauma that drained all my energy and made me feel as if I had run a marathon when I awoke. I struggled with a mixture of low mood and anxiety; some days I couldn’t move from my bed as my limbs felt so disconnected from me, whilst on others I would manage to get ready, only to get to the door and become overwhelmed by a sense that something terrible would happen if I went outside, so retreated.
I felt like half of my brain had shut down. I was still expected to keep up with all aspects of uni life, whilst on the inside, it felt like I was drowning.
After the lockdown in March, I was thrust back into my home environment and forced to face my issues head-on. This felt counter-productive as if it had undone all the progress I had made in my therapy sessions.
The same traumatic experiences began to occur. At one point, I wasn’t sure I would make it to my next year of uni.
It wasn’t until a short while before I came back to London that I received the answers I had been seeking, and got the closure that I desperately needed. This, alongside regular therapy and medication, has allowed me to transform myself into a much stronger, stable, and happier person.
If you are struggling with your mental health in this increasingly complicated world, know you aren’t on your own. Things do get better. I should know, I have lived it. Bottling things up, though, can often make an issue worse – so please talk to someone. But more importantly, talk to someone who can help.
The counselling services at King’s were a lifeline for me, and you can apply for non-judgemental support on their website. Alternately, speak to your tutor for mental health support while at university, or your GP at any time – they are there to help.