Am I OK?
One of the most difficult parts of poor mental health is acknowledging that there is a problem. Once you have recognition of an issue you can pursue a strategy for coping with it, seek help, and recuperate.
Because you can’t necessarily see poor mental health manifest in people, we can end up making false assumptions about people’s wellbeing - and even our own. When someone says ‘you look fine’ or ‘you don’t look sick’, then we feel that our feelings are invalidated and there must be a rational explanation for poor mental health. This is the wrong approach to take - as is telling ourselves ‘I’ve got everything I need and want, what could I possibly be sad about?’ This implies that poor mental health is a choice; it is not, it is an illness. We ought to confront what is really happening beneath the surface, and accept that appearance doesn’t count for very much when it comes to mental illness.
Asking yourself ‘Am I OK?’ and thoroughly assessing how you feel is the first step towards feeling better. There are a plethora of mental illnesses, and each one will vary in how it affects each person. While some symptoms may be shared with other sufferers, others won’t; just as not every treatment works for every person. It is helpful to understand some of the common indications, though:
- Feeling worried or uneasy
- Lack of concentration
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling tearful
- Chest pains
- Needing the toilet more frequently
These are just a handful of the symptoms listed by the NHS. More can be found here: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/understanding-panic.aspx
- Continuous sadness
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of motivation and interest
- Having suicidal thoughts
- Moving or speaking more slowly than usual
- Lack of energy
- Taking part in fewer social activities or not doing as well at work
It’s important to note that you may have one of these symptoms, a few of them, or a myriad of varied symptoms both listed and unlisted. You may also have overlapping mental health problems such as suffering from both anxiety and depression at the same time, and thus experiencing symptoms of both. For more information on clinical depressions see: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Depression/Pages/Symptoms.aspx
- Panic attacks
- Hot flushes
- Shortness of breath
- Dry mouth
- Thoughts of fear and terror
It is said that most panic attacks last between five and 20 minutes, but can exceed this. They sometimes feel so intense that they feel like a heart attack; however, they don’t cause physical harm, according to the NHS: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Panic-disorder/Pages/Symptoms.aspx
These are just three mental illnesses from a plethora. If you are suffering, don’t suffer in silence. Make that first step. Acknowledge what barriers are in your way to accessing help – is it the stigma of mental health? Is it not wanting to accept that there is a problem? Is it not knowing where to go or what to do? Is it feeling like you’re unsure whether you actually do have a mental health problem because other people seem to have it worse? Is it because the counselling service is based at Westwood? Is it because you don’t have time to take time out for yourself and have too much work to do?
Whatever that barrier is – or barriers are – break it down into a small and manageable problem that can be solved. So, if you’re concerned that University Counselling feels so far away from central campus, for example, then there are steps you can take to ease that barrier. First, why not explore the website? If Counselling is the route you want to take (and not a route forced upon you by someone else), then try to learn about the services available.
Once you’re comfortable with the website, you could drop an email or phone up the team to talk through your options. If this is too big of a barrier, then maybe confide in a friend that you’re considering Counselling. Try to fix an appointment and write that down in your calendar. You may need time to work up to the appointment, and/or encouragement and support in attending it, so set yourself a realistic timeline. If you’re on central campus before your appointment, then have a stroll to University House Café one day to test the water with how far you have to travel. From the Students’ Union, this walk takes around 15 minutes, and is over halfway on the journey to Counselling. Once you see how easy it is to get to University House, the journey to Westwood becomes much less of a barrier to cross.
Day to day, you will also experience struggle. So, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to ‘get better’. Set yourself small goals, such as getting up out of bed, or making some lunch, and take time to celebrate every victory. Save the following image and set it as your wallpaper to remind you of the recovery you are making: