Being A Student With Mental Illness.

This isn't my first time being a student and mental illness isn't anything new to me.

Even in secondary school I was struggling with my mental health, but back then I had no idea what was going on, why I was feeling what I was feeling, and I definitely did not know it was something I could open up about.

In college things got worse. I put it down to the stresses of college work and certain life events and drowned the pain out with drink and being erratic.

When I started uni back in 2008 I thought everything was fine and I'd gotten out of my "phase" of emotional rollercoasters, but I was sadly wrong. I struggled to focus most of the time, and as previously written in my blog post, '10 Years On - The Flakey Student Returns' I was very unwell and diagnosed with Psoriasis.

Just before my third year I went through a massive trauma which led me to being diagnosed with PTSD - as well as already being diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety.

Fortunately I managed to graduate but my life was spiralling day-by-day. I attempted to study a Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy and although I completed all three years I didn't get the qualification due to missed work - a result of my poor mental health.

Working in the mental health sector was wonderful and I loved my job, but again, it took it's toll on my mental health. I had a choice to make. I wanted to study a Nursing degree in mental health, but I knew that this would come with problems along the way. So, I went with my logical choice and started my MSc in Marketing.

I have definitely thrived since being back in education. I could be learning pretty much any subject and I would be happy - I just love to learn. However, it's not all been smooth sailing. I am in my 2nd semester. My course is a year long so instead of finishing around May I will be continuing in to September.

Due to my average results from studying in the past, I knew I wanted to push myself and do the best I can on this course. So, I jumped right in. .At the start of February I made some huge changes to my diet. It started as I decided to take on Sugar Free February to raise money for Cancer Research UK, but I thought I might as well go all out in an attempt to help my general wellbeing.

It worked, it really worked. I was happier, healthier, I was sleeping better and not napping, I had energy to do work, to tidy, to exercise. I had less stomach issues which meant reducing the amount of Lanzoprazole I needed to take. Everything was fantastic. The problem with this is that I knew at some point I was going to crash. To completely deflate...and I did.

The past week has been hell. I didn't even know who I was. I didn't care about anything but I still pushed myself to go in to Uni and work as much as I could. I'd hit a point of thinking, 'I can't do this, I might as well just quit'.

If there is one thing I have learnt over the years, it's that I am not a quitter. Yes, I've had hospital admissions. Yes, I've let certain events pass me by which I should have attended. Yes, I've quit jobs cause I have lost all drive. But, I am still here and I am still pushing through despite everything.

I know it sounds cliche, but talking is the key. My lecturers don't know my past, my history, but I simply opened up last week and apologised for my lack of attendance and work produced because I was battling with Depression. In the past this is something I wouldn't have been able to even mention. I would make any excuse I could - "Oh, family emergency", "I was up all night being sick", "The dog ate my homework".

I started to realise (although I know it's not true in every case), that honesty is the best policy and opening up about your mental health/illness is important and something you should be able to do from day one. If I had a physical disability/illness which meant I needed extra support then I wouldn't expect anyone to ignore me if I asked for it, so why should that be the case with mental health?

Answer: It shouldn't!

I am working hard on a few projects, most of which regarding children and young people's mental health. I didn't have the resources, the help, the knowledge I needed when I was a young student so it's something I am extremely passionate about.

Yes, studying with a mental illness is hard. I would say harder than if you don't have a mental illness, but I wouldn't know. My advice is to do it if you feel you can and choose something you want to do. Don't feel pressured to study because your family and friends have. Take breaks, take time, let yourself still have fun and enjoy your passions/hobbies. The course you choose should be important but it shouldn't be something that destroys you.

Make sure you talk. Reach out. Find out if there is a wellbeing service at the place you're studying. Be open with your lecturers, it may be scary but it's important. If they don't know what's going on then they can't support you. The most important thing is to enjoy it and remember that self-care ALWAYS comes first.

I want to complete this MSc and I know I will, but I refuse to let it break me. I will enjoy it and do the best I can, because when it comes to it, that's all I can do.

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