THE BLOG

Freshers, You Don't Need to Face Your Problems Alone

28/09/2015 17:32 BST | Updated 28/09/2016 10:12 BST

There is no simple answer to what depression feels like as symptoms often vary in severity from person-to person. However for me, I became aware that my mood was sinking lower and lower and I began to struggle to cope with the academic pressure I was faced with.

My attendance was good, but I became preoccupied with thoughts of failure, constantly feeling that I was falling behind, despite reassurance from my tutor. As a result I became extremely stressed and spent more and more time alone in my room, ruminating about what I hadn't done and needlessly putting myself down.

Because of the way I felt, I began to turn down invitations to social occasions and family get-togethers, which was in complete contrast to my first year at university, when I'd been quite the social butterfly. I started to feel that hiding away was easier than facing the world.

But I found cutting myself off from those I love, prolonged the length of the depression and deepened my feelings of isolation. I reached a point of having no confidence left whatsoever and doubted everything I did.

Despite having a much better understanding of my own feelings today and being in a much better place, I am still struck when I look back and realise how quickly my mood sank. I remember feeling really confused by the whole experience.

Why now, at a time when all my friends were clearly having the time of their lives, was I feeling so down? And why me? All I was experiencing was an overwhelming sense of not being good enough. These questions swirled round and round in my head, which made me feel even more anxious.

Sadly, like many others I wasn't able to identify that I had become depressed. I was unaware of the symptoms and assumed, wrongly, that the way I felt was a sign of failure. As a result, my first episode of depression lasted a lot longer than it otherwise may have.

Fortunately for me, my depressed behaviour and becoming withdrawn was picked up by my boyfriend and housemates, who encouraged me to visit my GP for help. Their support continued until finally I picked up the phone and made an appointment to see my doctor.

Despite my initial reservations around talking about how I felt, my GP was incredibly warm and empathic. She listened to me and reassured me that there was a way I could feel better again. Following this I was treated for depression and found having regular contact with my GP extremely helpful.

Two months on, although I was feeling better, I still didn't feel myself and I was really worried that my mood was going to affect my relationships with my friends. Determined to work on the way I was feeling, I contacted Samaritans. Though I was familiar with the charity's name, I didn't really understand how they could help me. I was also a little apprehensive about speaking to a stranger and sharing my innermost feelings.

It took me three phone calls to find the courage to open up about what I was finding so difficult to cope with. The volunteer I spoke to didn't judge my situation, nor did she bombard me with advice, she simply accepted me for who I was and listened to what I had to say.

Having this time and space to talk through my problems, with another person, was incredibly helpful to me, I really felt supported when I most needed it.

Freshers' Week, and indeed university life in general, is often painted as a wild expedition of self-discovery, full of boundless opportunities. While starting out in higher education is exciting, some Freshers will doubtlessly be missing their traditional support networks at home. For some, like me, these feelings of isolation can be compounded by a reluctance to share their feelings and talk about the things they are struggling with.

If I had done one thing differently while at university, I wouldn't have spent all that time working through my problems alone, I would have asked for help sooner.

Samaritans taught me that when life feels tough, it's time to reach out and talk things through. For some, it can be difficult to open up at first but Samaritans is there day and night to listen and support you through a difficult time.

Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, to listen and offer confidential support when things are getting to you. Please call 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org, or visit samaritans.org to find details of the nearest branch.