Content warning: reference to sexual assault
This interview is part of an ongoing campaign for Disability History Month 2021, offering students the platform to share their experiences.
You may read references to ‘disability’, ‘chronic health’ and ‘long-term conditions’ throughout – all contributors were encouraged to use terminology they find to be most applicable to them.
Sophie is a first-year student at University of Leicester, who bravely opens up about her experience with her mental health.
Please detail a little bit about your condition(s).
I currently have depression and anxiety. I am medicated and in therapy, both through my GP. But, as I do not have a full letter of diagnosis, it makes it more restrictive for me to get quicker support.
How do you feel that your condition has impacted your education?
Because I am not currently registered as having a mental health condition, I do not get all the resources available to me from my educational institutions. I have to chase them myself but often do not know where to look.
“The biggest restriction my condition has on my education is the severe lack of motivation I get sometimes. I struggle to move and find it difficult to want to do my work.”
The biggest restriction my condition has on my education is the severe lack of motivation I get sometimes. I struggle to move and find it difficult to want to do my work. If it is a subject or topic I have no interest in, I will not do it – even if I know it is necessary for me to pass my course.
Then, because I have put it off for so long, it’ll always be a sprint to the finish line and then I will probably start panicking which sends me into a spiral.
Do you think having a ‘hidden’ condition, compared to one that is considered immediately obvious, has impacted your experiences and treatment?
I have found that when I start dating, they initially meet the person I am, without the depression. Loud, bubbly, upbeat and they fall in love with that person – but that’s not all I am. Then, when my dark days come along, they say they don’t recognise who I am or that I’ve changed.
I haven’t changed. This version of me is the complete version, but I am not going to show someone the darkest and deepest parts of myself in the first week, because what happens when they leave? That is another person who has taken a chunk of my heart and soul with them.
How has this impacted your interpersonal relationships?
When it comes to relationships, I have massive insecurities. I am terrified of opening up to someone and for them to just walk away when they decide that I am ‘too much’ for them to take on. Now I have a fear of being ‘too much’: too hyper, too forward, too loud, too EVERYTHING.
I have also been sexually assaulted which has had a huge impact on how I interact with men in sexual relationships. I struggle to say no even if I don’t want to do it, because I don’t want to incite any form of anger or not give them what they want.
When I discuss it after, I still feel like I’m being blamed for not being honest – or that I’m a nuisance for having another problem they have to deal with.
I have an issue with people pleasing: doing things that do not make me feel good or bring me enjoyment in order to appease my partner. I now understand the importance of staying true to myself in relationships, because it means I am still somewhat protected from the difficult aspects of relationships.
What would you like any new partner or friend to consider, in relation to your condition?
Entering a relationship is a scary process for me because I feel like I am handing part of my brain to someone who be a custodian of, even if its just a friendship. I need extra emotional support than the average person; I need the odd amount of reassurance.
There are also little things that others may not even think about. For example, I struggle when it comes to plans. I don’t like being cancelled right at the last minute because I have put that in my diary and planned other things around. Or sometimes, it takes me a lot to hype myself up for plans so if I get cancelled on, I have all this excess energy and nowhere to go with it – so I simply breakdown.
What advice would you give to your younger self, or anybody else struggling now?
Do not be afraid of saying no, I saw a quote somewhere that said ‘no is a full sentence’.
“You don’t need to explain yourself for creating boundaries to protect your mental wellbeing.”
It is okay to be alone sometimes, don’t overfill your social life to avoid it but find nice things to do in the quiet of your personal space. Those were big life changers for me.
For signposting and wellbeing advice, please visit the Leicester Union website.
Sophie is a first-year student studying BA Media, Society and Culture from Birmingham. Her biggest areas of interest in media and journalism are breaking down stigmas surrounding feminism, mental health issues and sex positivity. She also enjoys writing and painting. Find her on Instagram: @soph_mouzakitis and on her blog, The Periodical: https://www.theperiodical.uk/