Depression is the ugly monster that clings to the back of many students, whether they are just starting out or are stressing over final year projects. It does not discriminate and will latch onto anyone it can get its hand on. A study by the RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons Ireland) has found that “by the age of 13 years, 1 in 3 young people in Ireland is likely to have experienced some type of mental disorder. By the age of 24 years, that rate will have increased to over 1 in 2.”
I like to think of depression as something similar to a Demogorgon, yes the weird monster from Stranger Things. It appears seemingly from the walls, out of nowhere, rears it’s ugly head and tries to drag you to the grey and desolate ‘Upside Down.’
But we can escape, we can use our badass powers like eleven, although granted unfortunately I cannot make someone relieve themselves in the middle of a gymnasium causing total humiliation. Instead, we can use our powers of positive thinking and communication to help battle our demagorgon. And here are five ways you can do just that.
1. Lecturers are human.
Often this is one student out there will struggle with but it’s true. Your lecturer is like you and may have even been in the same boat at one point, as I discovered once. If you are struggling and know this semester is going to be tough, visit your lecturers and explain to them what’s going on in your life. They won’t look it as looking for any special treatment, I can see where you worry warts are headed with this!
Just, they will be aware, and if something happens in the future, it will be so much easier to explain to them why you can’t come to class today, or why you desperately need a few days more to complete your assignment. This will ease off some of the stress associated with contacting lecturers, making it seem more manageable.
2. “Uni will be the best days of your life.”
No. The best days of my life were back in playschool when we had subjects like ‘napping’ and ‘juice and cookies.’ And that’s ok. It’s okay not to be partying every day and make so many friends you could make Mark Zuckerberg jealous.
You are allowed to feel lonely, but that doesn’t mean you deserve to be. Take it in small steps, meet someone for coffee and see where it goes, or meet the friends of a friend and try to branch out. Join a society where people share your views or interests. You would be surprised where taking one small step can get you, and that goes for everyone, first years and fourth years.
3. No one is watching you
You may be avoiding going to the small tutorial groups or speaking out on what you feel passionate about in a lecture because your head is telling you that everyone will judge you the minute you do.
Here is a secret, half the people in those lectures and tutorial groups, they aren’t even listening to the lecturer or tutor. They really will not remember anything you say, indeed. This means you can score brownie points with your lecturer by making a relevant comment and make your presence known to your tutor through participation. Lo and behold none of your classmates will be any the wiser, they’re probably doing a bit of online shopping or reading some BuzzFeed style article.
4. We’re headed right into the Deadline Zone.
Deadlines. Dead is literally in the word, how encouraging. Deadlines are the bane of every students’ life, and that goes double for those suffering from mental health issues. Your demon is telling you not to care while you’re conscious brain is playing sirens and red light warnings about impending assignment deadlines.
I know it’s hard to care but try thinking of it this way. No one likes their depression or their anxiety or whatever it may be. I see mine as a separate physical being which makes it easier to tell if where to go when the important stuff comes around. I play tricks on my mind; I watch inspirational footage anything to try and grasp at some semblance of motivation.
So try seeing it this way: keeping on top of your work is a way to spite that voice in your head, a way to fight back against it. Because you can do this. Take as many breaks as you need, make some coffee, have a snack, and little by little chip away at work, you have to do. When you look back in two or three hours’ time, you’ll be surprised at how far you have come.
5. Getting up and going.
The hardest thing for me when I’m in a slump because keep in mind it’s not constant, these things come and go and just because you are okay one week doesn’t mean you can’t feel like crying all the time the next week. Well the hardest thing for me is attending. I wake up in my cocoon with Netflix and snacks all within reach. I tell myself it’s okay to miss one lecture, but then one turns into one week, then I’m behind and can’t go to my tutorials, and the spiral begins.
And it is okay to miss one lecture on a particularly bad day, but I chose to start seeing my room as a nasty place in the morning. Again with my super cool Jedi mind tricks. If I look around and point out everything I don’t like, like the way my sheets are tangling me, that I’m too hot, the smell of burnt coffee from the many mugs and cups, the clutter, the mess.
All of a sudden my room is a place I don’t want to be, I want to be out in the fresh air. And so I do, I get up and go out and take it one step at a time. I tell myself I just need to get on this bus. Then I just need to walk to this building, nothing significant. Now I need to find a specific room? No problem! And then voilà, I am in my lecture.
Whatever way you can cope, do it! It may seem like the silliest thing on earth, of course, my mind tricks are not silly at all, and neither is giving myself a pep talk while walking towards my building, chanting the familiar Dory mantra to ‘just keep swimming.’
What I’m saying is going to University is hard. Going through it while struggling with stuff going on in your brain? Extremely hard! The one person you can’t escape is yourself so embrace it. Your Demogorgon, or your demon or your darkness it’s a part of you, but that doesn’t mean it’s all you have.
I hope reading this has given someone some semblance of hope or a new way of thinking that might just help even the tiniest but because in the words of our Lord and savior, Troy Bolton. We’re all in this together. Cringe.