Mental Health

Depression And University Life: My Story

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TRIGGER WARNING: This post deals with depression and mentions self-harm.

Depression And University Life

My Degree

I studied Classical Civilisation and Ancient History at university. And during my study I became drawn to Greek Tragedy. I loved the complex stories filled with bold female characters who committed hideous atrocities because of some fatal flaw.

And during those years at university, I often felt like I had changed into one of those characters. That I was ever so carefully destroying myself because of my flaws. The flaws that I believed were plentiful.

I longed to be accepted and loved. Why wouldn’t the boys want me as their girlfriend and the girls want me as their best friend? I longed to become someone I wasn’t. Popular. 

Instead, I became the mysterious girl. I was the student who disappeared for an entire year. Every now and then someone caught a glimpse of me out with my boyfriend or at the student union. But other than that I was illusive.

And the rumour mill went into overdrive. People thought that I was pregnant, had an incurable disease or maybe I’d run off to a different country. No one guessed the truth. The prosaic answer. That I’d had a nervous breakdown in the first week of the second term of my second year. That I had depression.

My Second Year

That year was the most profound and intense year of my life. I was still technically at university but I also lived at home.

A number of personal tuition sessions helped me to write my essays. But rather than hand my essay to the lecturer to be marked. Mine was mailed in a big brown envelope.

Everyone else took their exams in a huge lecture theatre. Complete silence. No talking. Don’t even look at the person next to you.

My exams were held in my personal tutor’s office on my own. She would occasionally poke her head around the corner to make sure that I wasn’t having a meltdown.

Not your typical second year of university. And my life was very atypical. In fact, I can’t really remember that time. Moments have been blocked out or merged into one another. Memories are a blur.

I remember crying in the student union and a kind face offering a Mars Bar and uttering the words

Men are all bastards but chocolate will never let you down.

I remember nights filled with tears and pain. The pain of depression and the pain of self-harm.

My Third Year

And I remember my third year at university. Because in my third year I went into denial.

Of course, I wasn’t ill. The psychiatrists didn’t know what they were talking about.

I was fine and I knew how to drown out the pain.

Drink. Inappropriate men and self-harm.

I began to self-harm regularly. The cuts were superficial but the scars began to add up. And yet weirdly they were scars that I was proud of.

I continued to deny that I was ill. My psychiatrist would call me up on it. So I stopped seeing him.

I KNEW better. Drink, the Student’s Union and the local nightclubs knew better. I was just the life and soul of the party who was intense and often highly strung.

Yet, somehow, despite all of this, I got a degree. And a good one. A degree that I was proud of. And apart from my children, it is still the proudest achievement in my life.

After University

Then the time came to decide what to do with my life. I believed I could do anything. I didn’t even take into account that I had an illness.

So I decided to stay at university and do a Master’s Degree. In fact, I chose to do an MA by Research. A post-graduate degree where I would have little supervision and be left to write on my own.

And to top it all off, I decided that I would also go and work full-time at my local NEXT store.

I also fell in love with the wrong man.

All while pretending that I was perfectly healthy.

But I wasn’t healthy and eventually the big bubble burst. There was no use in pretending any longer. I was terribly ill and needed help.





  • Reply
    January 12, 2019 at 9:15 am

    I’m so sorry you went through this, Lucy. As you know, my daughter has BPD which includes depression, anxiety and pretty serious self harm. She dropped out of school for 2 years but is now at college and wants to go to uni in 2 years time and I’m really worried about that whole idea. Do you think being away from home exacerbated things for you? She’s in and out of hospital at times and is just about to start an intense therapy program but I think I will always worry about her, especially being away from home! How did your self harm stop in the end? My daughter’s scars are quite shocking.

    • Reply
      Mrs H
      January 17, 2019 at 2:30 pm

      I’m so sorry that your daughter is going through all this. Sending love and hugs Lucy xxxx

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