As a new academic year dawns, a mixture of feelings are bound to be creeping throughout your body, whether you’re a fresher starting off on a new adventure or a second or third year returning to another year of study.
One feeling which many of us could be affected by this year, among the nervousness, excitement, homesickness, happiness and stress of university life is depression and anxiety.
Following the sad death of comedian Robin Williams last month, the issues of depression and anxiety is at the forefront of society. But, with it affecting 1 in 5 people every year according to the Mental Health Foundation , do people actually understand either of these complex illnesses?
To help people get to grip with these disorders, The Linc spoke to a University of York student who has suffered from both depression and anxiety. Wishing to remain anonymous, the 20-year-old tells us of her trials and tribulations and her opinion regarding these issues. Read the exclusive interview below:
Q – Why did you consent to this interview…what did you hope to get out of it or how did you hope to help people?
I think it’s been such a terrible time for me that I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy and it took me a long time to learn how to cope and deal with things. Even if I just manage to spark someone just a little bit earlier on in the process then it’s worth it.
Q- With Robin Williams’ death in August, a lot more people are aware of depression/anxiety as problems but, still people don’t quite understand. Do you think this case has helped to raise the profile of mental health problems?
No… it’s sort of split people. I think some people have gone,“wow this is such an issue that such a funny man had so many problems.” But unfortunately I think it’s also shown how many people just don’t understand the condition; a lot of people I’ve known have said, “Oh, it’s just selfish of him” not quite understanding that it wasn’t his choice…this was the only choice he had.
Q – Do you think anxiety and depression can have different meanings to different people?
I know some people, particularly people who are bipolar, who’ll be happy go lucky six out of seven days a week and then, on the seventh day won’t be able to get out of bed, or I’ll know people who are low almost constantly, but not so much that it’s impossible to function in society. So yes, I do think there are lots of different types for different people.
Q – Personally, what does depression and anxiety mean to you?
To me, anxiety is a paranoia, it’s a worried state which can lead ultimately to what I suffer the most: anxiety attacks and this anxious feeling which gets so bad that you can think of nothing else. The adrenaline starts pumping, then panic starts setting in and you can’t breathe.
On the other hand, depression is almost the opposite. It’s when I can panic no longer. Depression is when you’re just feeling the way you are, but your body physically doesn’t want to do anything apart from hit the off button. To me, it’s when you’re so ultimately low – even if it’s just for an hour a day – that positivity can’t even enter your brain.
Q – So, in your opinion are depression and anxiety both two sides of one coin, or is one worse than the other?
They are both as bad as each other because both are equally as debilitating. With my anxiety attacks, I’ve had to miss out on lots of revision from recovering from them, with my depression I’ve reached such a shut-down mode that I’ve not been able to get out of bed for several days.
If anything, I reckon people recognise depression a lot more. But anxiety can seriously affect you, because your brain can literally stop you from doing anything and the anxiety attacks just make it worse and worse.
Q – What’s your story and experience of depression and anxiety?
My anxiety started a lot earlier than my depression. I guess I could always see it coming, because as I was saying before, I was always quite negative but not in a low sort of way.
I can pinpoint almost to the day when I started feeling depressed, but I can’t quite pinpoint my anxiety. I definitely think it stems from wanting everything to be perfect when I was younger, like complete perfection, and if it wasn’t going that way then my body and mind would panic.
I divide my anxiety into three different types, because I react in different ways to various things. The first one which has really taken hold of me was my anxiety over what I do, such as grades, looks… that sort of thing.
Mainly grades, mainly to do with school. It didn’t happen so much with my GCSEs but, it really affected me in my A Levels. In that, if I missed a day of revision for example to look after my siblings, I’d have an anxiety attack because I couldn’tcatch up. Then I’d have to spend a couple of hours, even a couple of days recuperating from it. And then I’d have another anxiety attack – it became a vicious cycle!
The worst ones happened in upper sixth, literally because once I have these anxiety attacks I tend to want to do the right thing. So I started going back to my revision which started the whole process again.
Then the second type of anxiety I have is one I’m definitely more focused on now – but it’s never been the worst, I’ve never had proper attacks about it, but it affects me socially. Just asking: “Oh, do these people like me?” “Am I doing something wrong?” This one is down to low self-confidence. Like everyone I just want to be liked and you want to be known as a good person. I’ve moved around so many times that it’s never been easy. I’ve never had an attack, but I had a fluttery heartbeat and this constant feeling that I was doing something wrong.
My third type of anxiety happens when I’m in relationships. I think you’re anxious in any relationship really, because when you love someone you can become a little bit paranoid.
When you’ve got anxiety turn that paranoia up to 5,000! I look back on some of it now, and I think, “Why was I so anxious about that? Why was I so upset?” because if anything it does push people away. Especially when people don’t understand why things bother you!
I had my worst anxiety attack over a little thing with a guy I was seeing in December …I don’t think he talked to me for in a day or something. I can’t even really remember what it was about. I’d had a pretty crap week anyway, and usually they happen when things haven’t been going well.
I had a huge anxiety attack. It took me a week of mainly being in bed to recuperate and I think that was the stem…
Read the rest of her story in our second installment which will be released later this week.Tweet