*** Disclaimer: This piece was written by a beautiful guest writer, Nia Gendall. Nia has bravely shared her experiences with grief and depression to honour Mental Health Awareness Week and to remind all our readers that you will be ok. Please note that we are not equipped to give any medical advice, and everybody has different solutions, so please consult a medical specialist if you require further help.***
Shit you should care about… Dealing with the loss of a loved one.
As we all hopefully know, this week is mental health awareness week! While this means different things to different people, it is universally important to always acknowledge the struggles that we have and the struggles of those around us.
When I was 18, I lost my Dad to stomach cancer.
I left home to go to University in a different city, and my Dad was well. Two months later he was diagnosed with cancer, and five months later he passed away. The death of someone so close to you is hard to accept at any age, especially when you are obliged to listen to people telling you that things ‘will get easier.’ I used to hate people saying this to me, because nothing seemed fair, and I couldn’t see a time where things would ‘get easier.’ But, as time has passed, I learnt to live with it and found ways to help me cope.
At first, I did what most people do – I tried to carry on with my life without actually addressing the severity of what I had just been through, and slowly but surely, my mood changed. I was grumpy at everything and anyone, and little daily annoyances of life turned into huge inconveniences for me. As things got worse, I realised that I couldn’t regain control of my life on my own, so with the support of my family and a few good friends, I started seeing a psychologist.
Things started to get better. And then all of a sudden, they got worse.
The breakdown of a special friendship sent me into a downward spiral, but this time it was different. It was worse. This time, I ended up on antidepressants, much to my own disapproval. ‘They’ll think I’m being over- dramatic, they’ll think I’m weak,’ was all I could hear going around in my head. I was scared of other people’s judgements, and my own judgements, and feared I would never be happy again. But it turned out that going on medication was the best thing for me, and eventually lead to my recovery. I also now keep a journal of my feelings and things that I am grateful for in my life, and I meditate. Just short, 5-10 minute meditations really help me to ground myself (headspace is a great app for this, go check it out if you haven’t already!)
“‘They’ll think I’m being over- dramatic, they’ll think I’m weak,’ was all I could hear going around in my head.”
After going through this process and seeing the stigma surrounding mental health and wellbeing, I decided to join Student Wellbeing Awareness Team (SWAT) at Vic. SWAT hold weekly events every Tuesday in the hub, challenging people to talk about, and look after the health and wellbeing of themselves and the people around them. The journey to good mental wellbeing is more of a progression. We need to work through past events and acknowledge those things that have hurt us, made us happy, and shaped who we are. We need to know and accept ourselves so that we can get the most out of our opportunities.
Being a member of SWAT is so rewarding, with like-minded people coming together to empower and encourage people to speak out about their wellbeing and to promote healthy habits. We all know Uni is a rollercoaster of events and experiences and it’s so important to be able to share the good and the bad in a positive student community. If anyone is interested in volunteering for SWAT, flick us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also have a Facebook page where we post about events, and have just launched a ‘Humans of New York’ style Facebook page where Vic Uni students can anonymously share their experiences. The page is called “Minds Like Ours”, so feel free to check those out!
I hope sharing my story can encourage anyone who is struggling to reach out to someone you trust for help. It is okay to need extra support, and things will get more manageable! So, look after yourself in every way possible, speak openly and freely about life, remember to smile, do things that make you happy and always appreciate the small things in life!