At first, I felt like I was just in some sort of rut, university was at a stage where the workload was steady but not overwhelming exactly, so my nights out were quite regular (minimum 3 times per week) plus afternoon drinks and trips to the Student Union bar for food or to watch sports. As well as the Ashes being on too which meant more drinking and less sleep and mixing it with junk food as well wasn’t a good mix.
Soon the drinking increased and my mood worsened. I was skipping lectures and seminars despite being awake and dressed for them. The thought of leaving my bedroom was hard enough for me, let alone my flat. Soon enough my attendance slipped to a level where I was having meetings with lecturers to discuss what was going on. The happy go lucky attitude I had on nights out where I could talk to anyone and everyone had disappeared to where I just drank to excess and to blank out the thoughts going around in my head.
The thoughts I was having were constant self-doubt, on everything from my course work and practical’s, to even just being able to socialize and be around my flat mates for any length of time. Not in a paranoid sense but more like I would begin to panic and feel uncomfortable through nobody’s fault and just need to take myself away and be on my own.
I have always enjoyed time to myself and being on my own so it wasn’t something that my flat mates noticed for quite a while. They only really started to notice when my drinking on nights started to get regularly out of hand or if I would walk back in the next morning having just been wondering about on my own. Don’t get me wrong, Lincoln is a beautiful city and it is an amazing sight to sit by the castle and cathedral to watch the sun come up but before the shops open at 8/9 in the morning there isn’t that much to keep you out so I was just lost in my own head.
The next big give away to my flat mates was me now becoming more and more cut off from everyone, going from having a vibrant social life with housemates, friends from my course and team mates from the University cricket team to myself unless others came to me and even then I wasn’t always the most welcoming person to them and this was because in my own mind I was thinking all the time; “why are they here?”, “I don’t want to spend time with myself, why would they?” and “I want to get out of here, but it is my flat”.
Thoughts like that clouded me a lot of the time over the next few years until I truly hit rock bottom and along with my housemates there was now a lot of intervention from my family and from my tutors on my course as it was now becoming visible to all that despite of how much I tried to hide it, my issues were beginning to now show themselves to everyone. This is part of what really shook me and made getting help at this point difficult. I felt like now people could see me struggling and knew it wasn’t just with the course work load or anything like that, that the paranoia grew in my mind of “what must they be thinking about me?”
The self-doubt and issues are still there in my head even to this day despite being in a better place and now I am T Total as well the issues with drink, thankfully, are no longer there now, despite the other issues with anxiety and depression, my coping methods are staying strong so the low moments and now outweighed by the high ones.
The worst feelings I had though through all of this was like I was being sucked further and further down, which consequently was more into myself and why I became more isolated and withdrawn from everyone I was so close with before I hit my lowest.
A lot of my coping at the start was assisted by medication prescribed to me by the doctor and psychiatrist at the University. It took a while for me to really feel the benefit of these as I was still in a bad place with everything. Once I started to believe what I was being told by doctors and listen to the advice I was getting from the psychiatrist and my tutor, I started to feel a real belief in myself start to grow. It took a while though, well over a year, by which point I had graduated from University and started in my first job outside of the academic world.
I have started using a lot of positive thinking techniques and lots of reinforcements to help, reminding myself of successes, either in the past or recently (in work, sport and day to day life). Reminding myself of these does help to keep my spirits up when I am feeling low but also give me that boost to my motivation I need to kick on with work/sport.
I have also found speaking with those close to me has helped. My closest friends have possibly been the biggest helpers to me in my fight against this illness. Knowing they are there to talk to but knowing as well they aren’t there all the time does help. I worried at first about who to talk to and how much to divulge as I was constantly thinking that I didn’t want to burden people with my troubles and make them worry about me if I really told them everything that was going on with me.
The best way I have found to help get through my issues have been has been to try to pick out any positive from a situation no matter how small it may seem to be. This is something I would do before but only look at it negatively, almost like thinking “wow, that’s not much to be happy about is it when I’ve failed so badly at the rest”.
Cricket has been a big help in this, being an all-rounder as well which means I get three chances in a game to make a positive impact. But in the same breath with that I have always found that if one part of my game is on song that day then the other day get raised to it as well, this may be purely psychological and be a boost to my mood and ego while playing.
Knowing where and when to stop, you don’t have to keep going until your body gives in. I used to constantly be running myself into the ground. Be it sport, university, work, my private life or just by trying to not give myself chance to think.
This was an area I knew straight away needed to change. Having nights where I would some times have 2 hours sleep because of staying out late, staying up all night to do work/watch movies/play video games, waking up earlier to go the gym before lectures/work. Was good in the short term as it meant I got stuff done or didn’t allow myself time to think but long term it did damage as I was eating junk food more as I was too tired to cook for myself and have a healthy diet and I was just becoming more generally lazy and closed off from everyone as my attention span had basically disappeared.
Setting myself a limit, I.E. 1 more game of fifa then turn the xbox off, is something I have found to help as it means I now go to sleep at a decent hour and with having a new born baby it also helps as it means I have a good amount of sleep before getting up with him in the mornings.
WHAT I WISH I HAD BEEN ABLE TO SAY TO MYSELF WHILE SUFFERING
· Do NOT close yourself, your friends are your friends for a reason. They will back you up and are there for you.
· Look for the positives, no matter how small they seem to be, they are always something to build on.
· Team mates and friends are always there and will want to be with you for a positive reason. The whole world is NOT against you.
· Look at what you are doing to your body. Lack of sleep, alcohol abuse and take away after take away are not the way to get the best out of your life, body and yourself. It also damages your brain beyond recognition at times.
· Take inspiration from role models and idols you have. They may have been through similar, see how they dealt with these issues.
· Read and listen to others who have been through what you are. They could help you deal with what you are going through.
· Set realistic targets and limits for yourself.